Jonathan Lehrich: Global Organizations Lab brings the MIT EMBA to Leading Companies

Jonathan Lehrich, Director, MIT Sloan Executive MBA Program

Working full-time while earning their MBA, students in MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA Program are constantly applying what they learn in class to their jobs. There is a compounding effect in that the more times they apply what they learn, the more they accumulate knowledge and expertise in their toolkits.

However, it’s a big world out there and a lot more can be learned when they have an opportunity to apply that knowledge outside of their own companies. After all, there are only so many experiments you can do in your own company before you bump into barriers.

MIT Sloan’s Global Management Lab, known as GO-Lab, requires students to use their new knowledge in a different environment. Acting in the role of executive advisors for multinational companies around the world, students address specific business challenges such as expanding to new markets, optimizing information flow among global offices, and improving supply chain to meet international demand.

This lab goes much deeper than what is typically offered in other EMBA programs. It’s not business tourism. These are real projects for real firms that make a real impact.

As GO-Lab runs in the final semester of the program, teams of second-year students recently began working on 13 projects around the world. Right now, they’re in the first stage in which they are talking to managers and employees to better understand the problem, conduct research, and review and analyze data.  Midway through the project, students make a site visit – and in some cases this means multiple sites — to get a better sense of what is going on and to run tests to see how their initial recommendations turn out. After they return, they work toward their final recommendations, which are shared with the host company as well as the class.

So why do we require students to work with multinational companies? MIT Sloan’s mission is to prepare students to be innovative leaders who improve the world, and ‘the world’ means more than North America. We want our students to have broad business experience and our action learning approach requires that they are involved in actually making a difference.

To this end, our students are collaborating as executive advisors with host companies to produce things that the companies haven’t yet been able to achieve without this new perspective. Our students bring a diverse range of experience and backgrounds to come up with innovative solutions for complex business problems. When they hand the recommendations over to the host companies at the end of the course, the companies are well equipped to move the recommendations forward.

GO-Lab is the kind of course that sets MIT Sloan’s EMBA program apart. We don’t just study a company or visit it. We thoroughly dive into its problems to make a difference, which provides a deep and powerful learning experience for our students and a valuable service for the host companies.

Jonathan Lehrich is the program director of MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA Program. He is currently lining up host companies for next year’s Go-Lab

Read more about the EMBA program, “Fresh experiences in the field”, in the Financial Times (photo from the FT) 

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