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Monday, November 12, 2007

Tomorrow’s business leaders will need to be astute global strategists, able to anticipate and create opportunities across time and space while delivering focused and high quality customer service as if they are the proprietors of the corner grocery. Preparing business school students for these prospects seems a daunting challenge, the idea being to cram as much wit in their heads as possible and praying that as they prosper that they also gain a sense of wisdom and commitment to ethics.

Fortunately, the gap between the developed and developing world is closing as developed world businesses continue to be obsessed with reducing costs. This has been a boon for some economies in the developing world. I am increasingly optimistic that trade in the opposite direction will balance out, as revenues from outsourcing provide opportunities for profitable value added activities.

Well trained and ambitious business students have options: take the well beaten path which is to get a corporate job, albeit with the understanding that corporate life these days is transient at best. Or they can consider a less obvious trajectory: start their own businesses where they are now. Reaching the developed world from the developing world has never been more possible. Our students will need to skilled at understanding how to do so profitably.

Business is nothing if not values laden. In some places, a businessperson’s handshake is binding. In others not even the most exquisitely worded legal agreement can bind the deal. The problem has been that business in most places continues to be dominated by the usual suspects. This, in turn, means that most of the cases we teach in business school deal only with the experiences of those already in power. I get excited about helping to train new businesspeople; whether they aspire to be corporate CEO’s or create the world’s next great business from scratch. I often long for textbooks and cases in which the scenarios and actors more closely resemble those I teach.

One of the best things about working with business students in a nation like Jamaica is that one gets the sense that as more and more students go forward, that the possibility exists that this and other societies can be positively transformed. Yes, learn all you can, I tell my students, but don’t forget who you are and from where you come.

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