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The Americans Are Coming — to Europe’s B-Schools

(originally published by Booz & Company)

In the last two years, the London Business School has recruited more than 30 new full-time faculty members from the United States. Of those, more than 90 percent are U.S. trained. This Americanization of European business schools has also caught on, in recent years, at the U.K.’s Cambridge, Cranfield, Oxford, and Imperial business schools, as well as at France’s INSEAD, Switzerland’s IMD, and Germany’s Mainz.

European business schools are also attracting more top American MBA students aspiring to careers as global executives, and U.S. companies are looking to European schools for research and executive education.

Some Europeans may swallow hard as more Americans cross the Atlantic. But most recognize that Europe now participates in a global economy in which the influence of American management styles — specifically, a focus on results and systematic problem-solving — is shaping the competitive environment. These changes in the composition of European business-school faculty simply represent a straightforward answer to a forward-looking question: What’s the best way to learn American methods? Through America-trained teachers.

More imported teaching resources means that the character of the leading European business schools is changing inexorably, and for the better. It’s a fusion of the best academic styles of the United States with the academic strengths of the rest of the world. The American focus on rigorous research — the kind of study that leads to publication in prominent journals, which, in turn, leads to academic promotion and tenure — is foreign to a European community of business scholars inclined to be less systematic and ideological than their American colleagues. Indeed, the inherent variety within European
universities can lead to a scholarly approach that’s more pragmatic and less bound by beliefs in one right way to do things. (It’s no coincidence such creative global thought leaders as Gary Hamel, Sumantra Ghoshal, and Charles Handy developed their work in Europe.)

The new European focus on rigor, pragmatism, and creativity — coupled with the continent’s de facto multiculturalism — is beginning to intrigue some U.S. companies. Lucent Technologies Inc., for one, saw the wisdom of choosing two European schools, INSEAD and LBS, to lead the effort outside the U.S. when it created a global research program to examine the impact of mobile technologies. INSEAD and IMD are also capitalizing on the fusion of European and American teaching and research strengths to attract U.S. and European companies to their executive education programs.

The proportion of American students in European programs has become another measure of global stature. At the London Business School, 23 percent of the MBA student body is from North America — a figure that outnumbers the British. The proximity of continental Europe also means students can undertake field study and projects in multiple countries with ease. Globally renowned American business leaders — among them Michael Dell, Tim Koogle, and Bill Gates — drop by to speak with students.

Ten years ago, the faculties of business schools in Europe were almost all European, and most often locally trained. European academics who traveled west across the Atlantic to teach at America’s most prestigious universities included Austrian-born Peter Drucker, the strategist Igor Ansoff from Vladivostock, the Romanian quality champion Joseph Juran, and Ted Levitt, the German-born marketing thought leader.

For the next generation of business-school students and faculty in Europe, it appears the migration to the east from the United States will continue. And faculties will include not just Americans, but young non-American faculty who are U.S. trained. It’s a natural progression for business academics who know they can’t be global thought leaders, or serve their customers well, unless they maintain a significant presence in both North America and Europe.

George Yip,
George Yip spent 23 years at U.S. business schools and consulting firms.
He is now professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School.

Chris Voss,
Chris Voss is the director of the Centre for Operations Management, the deputy dean of programmes, and the foundation professor of management, technology, and learning at the London Business School. He taught for two years in North America.
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