IE, the Madrid based business school, has taken a radical step in what it sees as creating a disruptive new force in customized executive education. The school has spun its custom program division out into a new 50:50 joint venture with the Financial Times. Launched this month the FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance looks to build on IE’s existing successful custom program provision through collaboration not only with the FT’s content and its marketing reach, but also close partnerships with other business schools around the world.
The initiative is headed by VanDyck Silveira, formerly CEO of IE’s Executive and Corporate Learning division and now of the FT-IE CLA. He is excited at the added potential the collaboration can create to evolve executive education provision in the corporate sector. Silveira sees the partnership with the Financial Times bringing a range of benefits. While the commercial and administrative interaction with IE is being led exclusively from the Financial Times business, the alliance also enables access to the FT’s owner, publishing giant Pearson Group, and so the powerful resources of Pearson Education, which describes itself as “the world’s leading learning company”. Key amongst Pearson Education’s competencies is the investment and expertise it has acquired in learning assessment and measurement that Silveira is keen to harness in the customized engagements CLA will have. No doubt Pearson’s global marketing reach has an added attraction as well.
However, to our mind at IEDP, the real innovation of the CLA is not so much the marketing muscle and assessment expertise that Pearson Education can bring, but the innovative content that is now available to the programs through access to the FT’s industry experts and data libraries. As Silveira notes, business schools have long been tapping scientists and researchers to bring in-depth knowledge to their programs and participants, and while these thought-leaders often have deep expertise they can also often lack the ability to quickly express and synthesize that information in a useful and relevant manner for business executives. Leading journalists on the other hand are required to be knowledgeable and insightful and also be able to identify and explain the key relevant factors in any situation. Leveraging this knowledge and skill for the benefit of executive development program participants is a powerful additional resource to bring to the executive education process.
Interestingly the first institution to have tried to harness the teaching power of leading journalists for executive development is the FT’s partly owned title, The Economist. Economist Education was launched in 2011 to offer an expanding suite of entirely online programs utilizing content and expertise from the magazine’s writers and researchers. Three years on, their range of online programs has not spread beyond the ‘emerging markets’ portfolio that it began with. This hints that engaging large western corporations with fully online programs is still a challenge – and so potentially places the FT-IE partnership in a better place, for as Silveira explains they see their delivery ranging from the 100% traditional face-to-face engagements through to 80% online; though he expects the vast majority of clients to be seeking blended solutions of higher touch, face-to-face interactions with IE faculty and other experts, that on occasions will include leading FT columnists, alongside the online delivered content with the access to online learning content. All of which can be wrapped in the closely measured and assessed format that Pearson Education already operates.
While the CLA is wholly owned by IE and the FT it has brought in key ‘intellectual partners’ – collaborations with various business schools across the world primarily in China/Far East and Latin America – which indicates where they see the greatest potential for growth; and also with Yale School of Management in N. America. Yale has a world-class teaching reputation, though notably it has not as yet played significantly in the corporate education arena.
The FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance is a model that we may see evolving across the sector in coming years, being collaborative and as much content as marketing driven.