Net Log

Lessons From a Business School Perch

John Makulowich

By John Makulowich

Two weeks ago, I spent three days on the campus of Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz. I attended classes, met with faculty and spoke with students through a media fellowship awarded by Thunderbird and managed by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Aside from its unusual enrollment — about 1,500 students from 80 countries — its master of international management degree program, and its status as the world's oldest and largest graduate school of international management, what sets Thunderbird apart is its recognition as one of the best schools for an education in global business.

Its curriculum, based on integrating the study of global business, international affairs and modern languages, seems to make its graduates among the perfect candidates for the growing body of corporations aching to expand their businesses overseas.

The continuing attention that e-commerce and globalization receive in the media and among organizations sparked my interest in the fellowship. Thus, the areas covered by the award fit the bill: a survey of topics in global corporate strategy, cross-cultural communication and emerging market investment.

I came away with several major lessons for my approach to writing about information technology and about trends that are shaping the direction of business and business schools. First, aside from a handful of daily publications, most media gloss over the defining characteristics of specific countries and give the impression that making cars and using technology in China are not much different from pursuing those activities in New York or Dallas. Focusing only on the market size — 1 billion people in China or 850 million in India — leads to disastrous results.

Second, while the case method is alive and well in business schools, the faculty's use of computer technology, if Thunderbird is an indicator, falls squarely in the laggard category. The overhead projector is de rigueur, and the white boards are full of professorial chicken scratching. On the bright side, students are more sophisticated in technology use and are pushing faculty to measure up.

Sitting in the commons, where students congregate, demonstrated the change. Huddled around a table pursuing a team assignment, six students peered at each other over their laptops and busily pecked at keyboards. All were connected via ports to the local area network and intranet on the campus.

Third, the role of the IT channel — systems integrators, software developers and value-added resellers — is likely to change dramatically over the next few years. From a strictly business school viewpoint, the channel will need to bring more and better management skills to the table to be competitive.

For example, customers will demand more awareness of the different markets for hardware and software and how likely any given product will be to sustain its market share as well as its flexibility in meeting the needs of the corporation of tomorrow.

Further, the channel will need to remain circumspect in those companies with which they partner, both in the companies' willingness to commit to customer-driven business models, as well as their ability to adapt to the market conditions that the Internet, e-commerce and e-business are revolutionizing.

Next week: More lessons learned.

You can send John e-mail at; his Web address is

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