Asian b-schools form alliance
Joint course ‘Doing Business in Asia’ explores region in depth
By Michael Korver
Many business schools around the world have “doing business in …” courses that focus on a particular country or industry sector.
Recently, three leading business schools in East Asia have formed an alliance to launch what is believed to be a one-of-a-kind endeavor to provide an intensive course titled “Doing Business in Asia” (“DBiA”).
Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, Seoul National University and the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy (ICS) at Hitotsubashi University are members of the “BEST Alliance”.
The BEST moniker stands for BEijing, Seoul and Tokyo, the locales of the three member schools. Each institution is a leader in business education in its respective country.
Recognizing the increasing integration of the economies of China, Japan and Korea, BEST was formed this year to advance scholarship in business issues faced by companies based or operating in the three countries as well as provide business education to managers working in the region.
The Doing Business in Asia course will be offered to students enrolled in the three BEST member schools as a for-credit, intensive course held during the summer with the inaugural program commencing this August.
Initially, 10 students from each school will live, study and socialize together for a three-week period, equally divided among the three cities. The program is designed to provide a range of valuable learning opportunities to the participants.
First, students will be offered case studies of companies originating in each of the three countries that have operations across the region. For example, the Beijing module of the inaugural program includes a case study of Lenovo, the China-based global leader in personal computers.
The Tokyo module includes a case study of Fast Retailing, a Japan-based “fast fashion” retailing giant, which owns and operates stores under the “Uniqlo” brand in all three countries.
Second, students will study a foreign company with global brand recognition that operates in the regions. Starbucks, the proprietor of the world-famous coffee shop chain, will be the case study for the inaugural program. Students will have the opportunity to learn how a foreign multinational localizes its strategy and operations in each of the three countries.
In the case of Starbucks, students will study why and how a multinational with a seemingly homogenous “look and feel” to its operations nevertheless must adjust to the unique business environments in each of the three countries.
Third, the program will address how businesses in the three countries are attempting to confront and deal with emerging social issues that are particularly acute in the region.
For example, one issue that is likely to pose serious challenges as well as provide new opportunities for business is the rapid aging of populations.
Japan is the first of this cohort to achieve “senior citizen” status with 25 percent of its population forecast to be over the age of 65 in 2013. However, Korea is not far behind, and in terms of rate of aging, China is the world leader due to its one-child policy.
Managers of companies operating in the three countries will need to address both the challenges and opportunities of this phenomenon in the not too distant future. It is hoped that Japan will lead the way in providing the world with models about how business can adapt and, moreover, profit from this highly disruptive demographic shift.
As populations age, companies must learn to continue employing and maintaining the productivity of employees past the traditional retirement age of 60.
The biggest challenges will involve motivating older employees in order to maintain their productivity and to adjust compensation and organizational schemes to better reflect employee productivity and capability rather than simple seniority. This is a particular challenge for traditionally age-conscious and hierarchical Asian cultures.
Aging will also create opportunities for businesses to respond to new needs and to changes in consumption patterns. This will require companies to make adjustments in their product lines and marketing strategies. New demand will also provide opportunities for market entry by innovative and entrepreneurial companies, challenging the incumbents.
Fourth, students will have the opportunity to learn something about the culture of the three “mega-cities” during the program through field trips and case studies.
It is expected that the global economy will increasingly be dominated by such mega-cities. It is hoped that established mega-cities such as Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo can provide models for sustainable economic growth and human development for those in the emerging economies.
Finally, students from the three institutions will undertake projects together in diverse teams, which will give them the opportunity to work in a collaborative and cooperative environment with participants from different cultures.
The program will be conducted entirely in English, giving participants the opportunity and the chance to test their skills in communicating in “global English” and working together in culturally diverse teams.
Academic research in team dynamics demonstrates that successful teams must effectively harness individual emotions. Students from three countries in East Asia where differing historical views may engender mutually antagonistic emotions will need to confront head-on such issues if they are to optimize team performance and work together to advance the prospects for business in the region.
Michael Korver is professor at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University.