Developing Global Business Capabilities in MBA Students

“Developing Global Business Capabilities in MBA Students” was published by W. Alan Randolph, University of Baltimore, in Online First in Journal of Management Inquiry.

Professor Randolph reflected upon the experience of writing this article in his answers below.

Who is the target audience for this article?

Professors who teach international business courses, but the method described could also have value for corporate programs designed to prepare managers for assignment abroad.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Back in the mid 1990s, I realized that our MBA students, who were mostly part-time students with full-time jobs and often with families, needed to develop from international experiences if they were to be able to succeed in the global world that was just developing. I know from personal experience that living abroad was the best method for learning, but I also know that our students could not take time for a semester abroad – they needed something that was impactful but in a short period of time. I set out to create a course that would give them this experience with about a week-long study abroad experience

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The most surprising finding was that students could really be impacted with such a short abroad experience. Many students that I took abroad for the 10-day experience had never even had a passport, nor been abroad. Over and over again, they told me that not only had the experience been an eye-opener, but for many it was a life-changing experience. I felt that the key was that the study abroad experience had a targeted purpose – collecting data for part two of their three-part project – part one focused on understanding the home market in Baltimore, part two on understanding the foreign market, and part three focused on developing a business proposal linking the two markets. With international cases analyses completed, development of a report for part one, and preparation for their analysis for part two, they were really primed for the trip – they knew that had to collect data and learn about the culture so they could complete parts two and three of the project. The learning that I saw really amazed me, and when I began to analyze the learning based on the Mintzberg mindsets, my gut feeling was confirmed in the quantitative and qualitative data that I collected.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Mainly I hope that my work will inspire other faculty members and schools to find ways to help students have an international experience. I feel that developing global capabilities is essential for managers of the future, and I think that international experiences are the best way to develop these capabilities – because the learning involves all of the senses in a real-time experience. Secondly, I hope that other authors will want to extend my work in ways that help us to better understand how to best develop global capabilities in our students.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

I have been teaching international business classes that involve study abroad components since the mid 1990s. I feel that study abroad opportunities are vital learning experiences for MBAs who need to be ready to lead in settings that involve international business challenges. Since our MBAs are mostly part-time students with full-time jobs and families, we have had to create short but intense learning opportunities abroad, but I feel these short, focused experiences can be very powerful if well planned and orchestrated.

How did your paper change during the review process?

My paper changed significantly during the review process. The two reviewers were most helpful in guiding me to re-frame the paper in a way that makes its contribution much clearer. In particular, the first two tables provide a very clear understanding of how I have developed a protocol that helps students develop the five Mintzberg global mindsets.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

Nothing really. I feel that the work I have conducted over the last 15 years has finally come to the point where I can document the impact of the course I teach and hopefully inspire other faculty members to design courses that will help their MBA students develop global capabilities.

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