Skills to be learnt
Stef de Jong, academic dean at EU Business School, Switzerland, holds postgraduate degrees from the Graduate Institute of International Studies and the Graduate Institute of European Studies. He has taught at a number of universities, and his publications span Marketing Research, Corporate Guidelines, Federalism, and Transborder Dataflows. His corporate career includes posts in executive search with Boyden International, retail with Minit and Galenica, private banking with Lombard Odier, and private equity/M&A with Equitys and Temonan Geneva Holdings.
How does the current generation of international Master’s students learn most effectively? What inspires them, and what is it that helps them grow as mature and successful professionals?
The world changes fundamentally every decade, but students change faster. Academic titles bring some continuity: a Bachelor seeks alliances, a Master creates, a Doctor cures – likewise in business. In the Middle Ages, you needed be a Master to brew beer, a skill subject to quality controls and craftsmanship. The Master title qualifies you to exercise skill. The desire to master a skill – digital, design, entrepreneurial, our specialisations – is reborn. No more “management”: middle management is about to disappear. Master’s students aspire to professionality, an applied science.
How should prospective students, especially when coming from so many diverse educational systems around the world, prepare to make the most of their Master’s learning experience?
Every student brings something different to the institution – nobody is equal, all are exceptions. Our support programmes align knowledge and skills, sometimes surprisingly new ones such as sustainability, certain tolerances, ethical values, and often basic, like the ability to calculate faster than the other party, faster and better data analysis, financial engineering, or the talent to convince and write.
Who do Master’s students learn from best today?
Master’s learn from real experience. The classic models are ageing. The marketing mix, PESTEL, Porter’s, internet – all are half a century old. Today is about neuro-behavioural and big data analytics, digital intelligence, deep learning, and remote socialising. To learn these takes real-life examples, taught by business people who were exposed to these evolutions when they happened 10 or 15 years ago. It also takes hands-on action by the Master’s students, when they run projects themselves.
What is the essential skill set and mindset that students need to build in graduate school, and how future-proof is it in the long run?
The mindset is creativity, “open thinking”. When I ask students whether they learnt anything, open thinking comes up frequently. Business is professional, the skills of which can be learnt and practised – the famous 10,000 hours, the virtuosity of which can be developed and revealed.
What we learn now may already no longer be true at commencement. We learn to learn, as survival is not for the fittest but for those who proactively reinvent themselves: we all have to reinvent again and again.
Proactivity is the mastery of good luck. Remember Darwin? The black insects that year on the white birch tree were eaten. Had they known, they would have flown.
Theory, practice, and/or networking? How do you determine the right mix when designing Master’s programmes?
Theory is not what we learnt; it is methodical curiosity, beyond the box, no box. Is what we see true? Is the inverse true? Is there a new way – not disruptive, breaking away, but “proruptive”, linking forward?
Let’s find alternative ways of thinking, not critical but different. Can we now do it, make it happen? Networking is not who you know – if so, you would already be at the top. It is the relations you create. These three dimensions – learn, do, act – underpin our specialisations, constantly under revision, as programmes and as seminar content, adapted to those present, within the unity of the programme.
How do the curriculum and teaching methods anticipate the needs of the real world of business and social entrepreneurship? Where do EU Business School graduates make a difference after graduation?
We learn more from the future than from the past. Observe all the futures in forecasts, strategies, inventions, films, dreams, politics, your own future, and many more. We can then devise how we want to get there.
In econometrics, I learnt that if you can predict the present on the basis of the future, your model is kind of right. EU Business School graduates share that entrepreneurial spirit to go forward, to do business. How to prepare? Developing models together, simulation exercises, business games, interaction – let’s call it proximal, there are any number of terms in educational design.
How does the learning experience differ between campuses, and how can students take advantage of multi-campus studies?
Why choose if you can have them all? A semester in Montreux is like a bath of private care; study in Geneva and absorb global internationality; take the Barcelona Mediterranean splash, and proceed to Munich’s solidity. A mix of coaching, discovery, friendships, and relation building, seasoned with multiple cultural exposure and crowned with partner university diplomas and, of course, ours.
What is the role of online and remote learning today in international education?
You can laugh about everything, but not with everyone, the French say. Education is similar: you can learn everything, but not everyone will learn what was taught. The very purpose of education is to develop all intelligence – logical, emotional, social, and digital, thinking with your hands, etc. Some we learn from books, other approaches from in-person teaching where the spark lights the brain; sometimes we learn from our understanding, feelings, intuition – online certainly has its place in there, education is a very hybrid activity. Online teaching is both art and science, while online learning requires thorough management. Research proves that online education widens the success–failure interval. Our online tools are developed to reach success – a decade of experience that complements presential life experience.