As the Manchester Business School brochure put it
“Brazil was chosen by Manchester Business School as the base for its South American operations. Sao Paulo, where the majority of South American workshops will be held, is the largest financial centre in Brazil, and is the 10th richest city in the world.”
It was fitting that for the very first MBS workshop in Sao Paulo in September 2010, the topic was Global Events and Leadership. This is the front-end of the Global MBA from MBS. The tutors arrived with a Case Study on Manchester United Football Club, and its so-called Theatre of Dreams. They even arrived on a plane with the evocative name of The Magic Red Carpet.
It is an exaggeration to say that Sao Paulo was gripped with election fever when we arrived [September 10th, 2010]. Paulistas have a lot of other things besides politics to occupy them. But as everywhere else around the world, a relatively small number of student activists can make a lot of noise. And in Brazil you can add 100% to the decibels per student. The national election had its own regional flavour. I particularly liked the marginal candidates, a few with distinct chance of getting elected as a result of TV exposure and the voting system.
Our partners in Brazil are the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), one of the leading and largest distance learning institutions of Latin America. Their well-equipped campus and staff provided great help in the inevitable start-up challenges facing any new venture. FGV classrooms are equipped with state of the art communications technology. But it was comforting to note that there is still scope for ‘chalk and talk’ alongside wireless and web-access facilities.
My personal view is that students who sign up for a new programme are likely to be particularly willing to try out new ideas and be entrepreneurial. That was certainly the case in Sao Paulo (and as a matter of fact also in Miami, our next global post of call). There were business people who had founded and were already running successful businesses of international reach. There were also senior executives from private and public organizations. While the temptation to revert to Portuguese for project-work was understandable, the presentations confirmed that the levels of English were more than those required.
The Global Events and Leadership (GEL) module starts the new Global MBA with a two-day workshop. Teams work on different cases each dealing with an issue of global interest. The MBS tutors provide an experience of the Manchester Method. The process essentially is one which holds to the principle that some learning can only be obtained through experience. This means that explaining the method without that experience is very difficult. So I won’t try to give a complete account of it. Let’s just say that the approach falls under the wider umbrella of experiential learning. Students become personally involved in a case so as to revise their own deeper understanding and beliefs.
The project teams all successfully passed this first assessed part of their MBA. As part of the course, information was collected on the team dynamics, leadership and performance of each team. A data-base is being set up to examine similarities and differences of teams from the eight centres around the world offering the MBS MBA programmes.
A Magical experience
For the tutors. the journey ended on the magical red carpet bound for Miami and then back to Manchester. It could hardly have been a more fitting mode of transport.