Bridging politics and business by degrees

Insead is training executives for a world where public and private sectors work more closely together.

Insead, a leading international business school in the capital, will offer dual degrees in business and government in response to a growing global trend towards public-private partnership. "What has happened over the last couple of years is a dramatic increase in the size and importance of sovereign wealth funds, the increasing ownership of business by government and an increase in regulation," J Frank Brown, the dean at the school, said yesterday on the sidelines of the Insead Leadership Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Current and future leaders of companies and governments needed to be trained to manage aspects of the growing relationship between businesses and states, Mr Brown said. "Our view is that business people have to be much more knowledgable about government, much more able to work with government and vice-versa for government workers," he said. Instruction at Insead's Abu Dhabi campus has emphasised the interaction between the Government and private business. That emphasis has been a key element in the executive education Insead has provided to managers in government funds such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Mubadala Development.

The Abu Dhabi campus is soon to graduate its first class of 20 government employees, who have been studying entrepreneurial leadership, a topic that Peter Jadersten, the executive director of the campus, said was particularly relevant to government employees in the Emirates. Governments across the industrialised world have intervened dramatically in their economies in recent years, in many cases taking majority stakes in businesses facing collapse.

In Asia and the Middle East, where governments have traditionally played more central roles in their economies, state-backed businesses have become corporate titans and sovereign funds have become major actors on the global stage. The result is that the relationship between managers and government bureaucrats is often as important as that between management and shareholders or customers. Insead's emphasis on the government-business link is a departure from mainstream business education of recent decades, which emphasised a central role for the private sector and a minimal role for government.

Insead, which is headquartered in France, is in discussions with a number of public policy schools to offer a combined Master's in Business Administration and Master's in Public Administration, targeted at the public and private sectors. The business school, which also has a campus in Singapore, planned to launch the combined course within months, Mr Brown said. Joe Saddi, the chairman of the board of directors of the management consultancy Booz and Co, said the move by business schools to rethink teaching in light of increased government involvement in the economy was not a surprise.

"There are sectors that are highly impacted by what the Government does - think of the financial sector, of the healthcare sector," he said. "There are plenty of industries where what our clients are now looking for is our ability to understand their reality, but also to understand what government decisions or perspectives mean for their industries. This is now very important." @Email:tgara@thenational.ae