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Executive Development

Developing Leaders

Issue 21: 2015




t a time when talent development is critically important for competitive

advantage and there are significant opportunities for business school

executive education providers to partner with corporate universities, the

opposite is occurring. Corporate universities are increasingly moving away

from forming partnerships with business school executive education providers. Recent

studies suggest that while corporations are increasing their spending on corporate

learning, the business school share of that spending is decreasing.

In 2014, the authors conducted an independent research study, supported by UNICON

(The International University Consortium for Executive Education), to explore the state of

corporate university and business school executive education relationships. Why do some

of these relationships work well while others end in mutual frustration? What are the

barriers to forming great partnerships and strong synergies? What are the misconceptions

and misunderstandings that exist between corporate universities and business schools

that often leave the two operating in the same solar system but in different orbits?

Our research revealed a number of significant challenges that present barriers to forming

strong partnerships. However, our study did uncover opportunities for building bridges

between business schools and corporate universities based on mutual respect, flexibility,

and trust, as well as new models of collaboration that can address the learning needs of

executives in today’s complex business environment.

At a High Level, What Looks Like Alignment…

While today there are over 14,000 corporate universities globally, this expansion is a

relatively recent phenomenon, dating to the 1990s, although GE’s famous Crotonville

dates from the middle of the last century. As they have developed, corporate universities

have moved well beyond a traditional training organization. Offering a breadth of learning

initiatives, including executive development for the highest levels of the organization,

the CLO has migrated into the ‘C suite’. During this same period, executive education

in business schools, strong since the 1950s, has evolved from primarily supporting

leadership succession plans and business competencies toward a focus on custom

programs for mid- and upper-tier executives designed to achieve strategic organizational

goals and success in change initiatives.

Our survey research data indicate that factors important to corporate universities

in evaluating a learning partner fit well with factors identified by business school

executive education leaders as important for them to be able to provide to corporate

university customers.

By Marie Eiter, Jim

Pulcrano, Jenny

Stine, Toby Woll

Same Solar System,

Different Orbits

Opportunities and Challenges in Executive

Education and Corporate University Partnerships