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Columbia executive education advanced management program

Research and Practical Application Combine to Create Executive Education with Real Impact

Columbia Business School’s Executive Education is not your typical executive development offering. Take the Advanced Management Program for example, their flagship program that has been attracting senior executives for generations.

What is it that makes the Advanced Management Program special? It’s a deliberate combination of elements based on the philosophies of experiential learning and continuously refined by a combination of Columbia’s cutting-edge research and the experience that comes from the decades of teaching the program.

The over 50 faculty members and practitioners who teach in the four-week program offer a blend of classroom-based lectures and hands-on experiential learning. And rather than looking at typical case studies of other businesses, executives in Columbia’s Advanced Management Program bring their own business challenges to the program.

If you are an executive looking for a program that benefits your organization the moment you head back to the office, Columbia Business School may be the place for you.

Read on for an inside look from the program’s faculty director Paul Ingram, the Kravis Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, on the ever-evolving landscape of executive education and how Columbia Business School is disrupting the sector.

Advanced Learning for Experienced Executives

Executives who come to Columbia Business School’s Advanced Management Program are already successful business people with years of experience in management roles. That’s why the program focuses on helping participants both set a vision for their organization and inspire their people to meet this vision. Ingram notes that, “All our sessions have to play into strategy or leadership. They aim at the responsibilities of people who are seasoned and senior executives.”

He describes how this differs from other management or leadership programs: “We may have a session which is touching on the latest ideas from branding or consumer behavior, but it’s not going to be covering what an MBA might learn in a marketing class. It’s going to be saying what does a leader of an organization, a potential Executive Director or CEO, what do they need to know about using these ideas strategically”.

Learning Through Diversity

It’s more than the sessions themselves that set Columbia’s executive education programs apart. A room of executives from around the world have much to learn from each other. According to Ingram, when it comes to addressing the needs and expectations of participants, “The biggest challenge is diversity. It's probably the biggest opportunity as well.”

He explains that students are “diverse in terms of the countries they're coming from, their own backgrounds, the industries they're in, the organizations they're in, the path their careers have taken.” This means that they “have to find ways to relate their organizations to each other so they can share learning that crosses between an insurance company in Nigeria and a university in the UK.” Here, it is up to Ingram and the other faculty, coaches, and guest speakers to help participants identify their commonalities and understand how they can learn from organizations that might appear quite different from their own.

Participants begin experiencing what Ingram calls the “ah-ha moment” by the end of the first week, when they’re able to truly value their unique perspectives. They start making comments like, “The first day of the program I couldn't believe that I would be learning from this person sitting next to me who is so different in some ways. And now I can't believe the lessons I'm taking back to my own country and to my own business coming from him or her."

As with every aspect of Columbia’s Advanced Management Program, diversity is all part of the plan. “If you want the chance to really differentiate yourself, you've got to get lessons from unexpected places, and the diversity in our class is an incredible resource for that.”

Great Leaders are Great Learners

When asked about the most important qualities business leaders need to drive their organizations into the future, Ingram says, “I think the two qualities that are defining successful leaders at this moment are a capacity for ongoing learning and leading the culture.

Learning, because business is evolving, and organizations are only going to be more dynamic in the future. From the Advanced Management Program, the participants who were the most successful over time were great learners. Of course, we try to cultivate learning, but there’s also the intrinsic capacity like their curiosity or their openness that they bring with them.

Then there’s the capacity to lead cultures. I think that culture and strategy are the defining inputs, the differentiators that determine whether organizations succeed or fail.”

From the program’s beginning, a key element of the program is teaching participants methods for learning to use every day going forward. Developing good learning habits gives them “the capability to improve as a leader such that when they leave the program, their trajectory of improvement is going to be higher.” says Ingram. That’s why the “first opening session in the program is about the why and how of learning.”

“We focus on what the leaders need, the process and capacity to be a great learner throughout their career, and being effective with the difficult demand of organizational culture.” – Professor Paul Ingram

This focus on learning and leading organizational culture are woven deeply into the program’s structure. In addition to ongoing lessons on learning, participants spend a great deal of time learning about the art of leading culture by “looking at original organizations, looking at organizational change and transformation where culture is always critical."

Learning with Lasting Impact

Ensuring that Columbia’s executive education programs create long-term benefits for participants is top priority for Ingram and all of the Columbia Business School faculty. “We think about every element of the program in terms of its return on investment and its impact on the participants.”

“We're always oscillating between the fact that they will have to take the ideas and put them into action and helping them think about what they mean in the context of their organizations and their jobs.” - Professor Paul Ingram

This impact has been measured systematically over the years. “We've done pre and post tests on the leaders' capability, and [...] demonstrated the fact that they have improved in the course of the program.”, says Ingram. He adds that facilitators are constantly working to maximize these improvements based on input from participants.

The programs include some specific practices developed to ensure that participants see benefits from the program in the long term.

Daily Reflection

For years now, the Advanced Management Program has had a system in place for helping participants reflect and extract learning. This system is based on observations of program participants by Ingram and other facilitators. “In recent years, research has confirmed how important the 20 or 30 minutes that we give at the end of the day for reflection is to the long-term impact of the ideas,” notes Ingram. This is one of several areas where the Columbia Advanced Management Program has been ahead of the curve.

So what does this time for reflection look like? Ingram explains that, “In every program, we give participants the space in the class or immediately after it to think about taking the ideas back to their workplace.” This time allows them to fully extract the ideas that they have just been exposed to and think about how they can be applied in a useful way.

“The Living Case”

Alongside this reflection time, opportunities for participants to connect the program to their real-life challenges are built in on every level.

Ingram describes one facet of this: “We actually take their challenges from work and make them part of the program. Participants bring a ‘Living Case,’ a current business challenge they are facing and apply ideas from the program with the help of coaching from their peers and faculty”.

In addition to “The Living Case,” a key part of the program is focused on helping participants take experiences throughout the program forward into their day-to-day lives and career.

According to Ingram, “This is where they're planning their own arc of development, and they're thinking about how they're going to tap into resources in their class at Columbia to continue their improvements...”

Growing Generations of Executives

What’s the outcome of the Advanced Management Program? Ingram and his colleagues see “people go on to be CEOs of global organizations and really affect the world in ways that they were only dreaming of when they were in the program.” As satisfying as this is, “that's what the program is designed to do.”

For Ingram, the most moving proof of the program’s impact is when “people in the class say, ’Look, I'm here because I know so-and-so who was in your program five years ago, 10 years ago, sometimes even 20 years ago. They said it changed their life and they said I have to do the same.’”

Wondering if Columbia Business School Executive Education and the Advanced Management Program could change your life, too? See programs and available dates on their provider profile page.

Paul Ingram

Paul Ingram is the Kravis Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and faculty director of the Advanced Management Program. His PhD is from Cornell University, and he was on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University before coming to Columbia. He has held visiting professorships at Tel Aviv University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the University of Toronto.

The courses he teaches on management and strategy benefit from his research on organizations in the United States, Canada, Israel, Scotland, China, Korea and Australia, and his research has been published in more than 60 articles, book chapters, and books.

Ingram’s current research project examines the intersection between culture and social networks.  Recent papers investigate questions such as the role of value similarity to foster business networks, determinants and outcomes of individuals’ fit in organizational cultures, and influences on ethical decision making.

Last updated: 28 Jun 2019

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