January 2021 | 

Learning and Growth: Why Executive Education Works

Learning and Growth: Why Executive Education Works

How many times have you heard (or read) an indispensable piece of advice or business practice that promised to make you more influential and drive better outcomes? You vowed to put it to use immediately. Then you got back to work, and your day-to-day concerns took over.

If you have a long list of personal leadership adjustments, strategy insights, or financial tools you learned but never got around to applying, you’re in good company — and the problem isn’t with you. Adult-learning theories make clear that reading a great insight in a book (or hearing it once in a webinar) isn’t going to make it stick.

Putting Relevant Knowledge to Use — Immediately

Applicability is a critical tenet of the theory. For knowledge to benefit the student, it has to immediately relate to a current challenge and offer a way to overcome it. By design (appealing to as many people as possible), general business learning rarely meets that need. By contrast, Wharton Executive Education offers a personalized consultation to elicit participants’ desired learning outcomes and to suggest the best program or programs to meet them. In addition, faculty often ask for personal input before the program begins so content can be adapted to respond.

For Amar Pandit, CFA, CFP, and founder of Mumbai-based investment platform Happyness Factory, that happened in Strategic Marketing for Competitive Advantage. He “needed a program that not only focused on the WHAT of marketing — the tactics — but also on the WHY. I wanted a strategic view that included the impact of various decisions and how best to integrate decisions in areas such as customer segments, go to market, price, channel, and communication. I went back to work with a very deep understanding and specific actions to take. I not only shared what I learned but also implemented some of the key learnings quickly. The payoff from the program has been enormous just four weeks after I completed it.”

Todd Ingenito, director of corporate sales operations at SHI International Corporation, had a similar experience in Customer Analytics for Growth Using Machine Learning, AI, and Big Data. “The very first presentation, on the first day, hit the nail on the head for me. It was about segmenting your business and customers, and running customer lifetime value data to understand who’s contributing the most to your company and why. Just a couple of weeks prior, my colleagues and I had been talking about the need to figure that out. So, it really resonated with me and was immediately applicable to what we were working on. I took a ton of useful insights from the program that I have applied and continue to apply.”

Gaining Cutting-Edge Knowledge

As the world’s first business school, Wharton has been meeting the mounting demand for new ideas, deeper insights, and transformative leadership for over 135 years. One of the largest, most published faculties in the world shares research in the classroom months and even years before it reaches the public. As volatility and the rate of change continue to increase, understanding the latest developments and insights helps keep leaders a step ahead, offering unparalleled opportunities to develop competitive advantages. Executive Education is your direct link to these developments and insights.

Margeaux Sullivan, senior consultant at FMG Leading and venture partner at Syndicate 708, chose Wharton for that reason: “Continuing education gives me the tools to be a more effective leader and team collaborator. There is only one school that is number one in finance, so it was an easy decision to apply to Private Equity: Investing and Creating Value. I was impressed with the pedigree of the professors — they are the same ones who teach in the MBA program — and the subject matter was perfect because I had pivoted my career into the world of private equity and venture capital, and I wanted to keep my knowledge base current. Professor Bilge Yilmaz rationally explained the reasons behind the challenges that private equity firms are now facing in terms of deal structure, due diligence, and deal flow.”

Gloria Tai, head of strategy and execution, capital, and resolution planning at Credit Suisse, attended Leveraging Neuroscience for Business Impact. “When I saw the program, it piqued my interest and I did some research on the professor, Michael Platt. His medical school appointment and cutting-edge research on the intersection between leadership and the brain were impressive.”

Learning through an Immersive Experience

One of the “stickiest” learning theories is transformational learning, which aims to help learners transform existing frames of reference using problem solving, experiences, and self-reflection. These techniques are even more powerful when used both individually and in groups, which is why Wharton intentionally fosters learning communities in its programs through collaborative group assignments, team coaching, experiential learning, and simulations. In addition to making the learning stick, this group work offers participants the opportunity to learn different perspectives from their peers from other industries, cultures, and geographies and to expand their personal network.

Raj Kiran, VP of engineering infrastructure and customer experience at ThoughtSpot, says he enrolled in the Mergers and Acquisitions program to prepare to launch a startup. “The course was amazing, and gave me a lot to think about. I valued being with the other participants. The questioning and comments, and the projects that we did together, really helped me understand the concepts more deeply. I’m thankful for their openly sharing their knowledge and wisdom with others in the room. I would definitely recommend the course and have already done so with some of my colleagues, as well as a few of my employees.”

Developing an Enterprise Mindset

Advancing in your career often means the source of your success as an individual contributor must be replaced by a more strategic enterprise mindset. That means developing an understanding of the business as a whole, creating synergies between business functions, and developing a future-oriented perspective. Wharton’s comprehensive programs, including the Advanced Management Program, Executive Development Program, and General Management Program, help participants make that critical mindset shift while developing the necessary knowledge and skills.

That was the experience of Dianne Fox, chief operating officer of North America Life and Annuity, when she attended the Executive Development Program. “One of my biggest challenges that I wanted to overcome was my dependence on my subject-matter expertise to build my confidence level in decision making. This occasionally prevented me from making quick business decisions where I wasn’t the expert in the subject area. This was made more apparent to me during an invaluable exercise, which included a business simulation where we needed to make a quick business decision that I had very little knowledge about while under immense pressure to meet deadlines. No one in my group was a subject-matter expert — we were all starting on equal footing. I was quieter at the beginning while I assessed and became more familiar with the business. My coach and peers helped by encouraging me and others to make decisions with very little information and benefit from taking risks and challenging one another in a safe environment. It was a great opportunity to fully engage, without any downside. The EDP has helped me become a better leader, as it gave me the opportunity to self-reflect and understand how to navigate my own self-imposed barriers.”