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A View From INSEAD

INSEAD and Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries Have Pioneered a Unique Initiative to Boost the Brazilian Economy…

“Great expectations have been set for Brazil,” says Felipe Monteiro, professor of strategy and director of the INSEAD-CNI programme, Strategic Management for Business Leaders. “And here at INSEAD we are striving to help Brazilian executives meet those expectations. There is still so much room for improvement, that we are genuinely in a position to make a difference through Executive Education.”

Brazil has reached a stage in its development where a more international perspective is essential. “Since the stabilisation of both its democracy and its currency, Brazil’s economy has reached a new level,” explains Paulo Mol, CEO of IEL. “In order to become more competitive in the global market, it is important to prepare our leaders for the world’s competition.”

IEL is the educational arm of the CNI, Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries. It partners with INSEAD, The Business School for the World®, in running Strategic Management for Business Leaders on the school’s Europe Campus in France. The one-week intensive programme has now been running very successfully for nearly 15 years. As Professor Monteiro explains, “We run it once a year with 40 places and feedback from participants is excellent.”

Seizing the opportunities

Monteiro’s enthusiasm for the opportunities offered by his native Brazil is clearly evident. However, whilst seizing the opportunities he believes that outsiders and insiders alike need to adjust their expectations in order to achieve them. “After it became a BRIC country, it was considered almost fate that Brazil was first in line to become the next economic colossus,” he says. “At the same time, there’s no doubt that Brazil still needs fundamental reforms. It has a brutal tax structure for companies, infrastructure investment is well below comparable global averages, education is lacking and a protectionist mindset over business and industry is holding it back from its full potential.” 

In short, insists Monteiro, Brazil is far from becoming a developed country. “However, those making money there know this,” he says. “And they aren’t waiting around for it to happen.” 

Strategic Management for Business Leaders is designed for those who want to seize the opportunities today. As Paulo Mol puts it, “The programme was created to develop Brazilian leaders to better understand the global market and its context, to discuss the latest theory and tools available, to learn from best practice from the world’s leading companies, and to implement an entrepreneurial culture.”

An inclusive approach to globalisation

The focus of the programme is primarily on medium-sized companies, arguably the most important engine of growth for the Brazilian economy’s current phase of development – but whose leaders may get less international exposure than their big-corporation cousins.

Most Executive Education programmes at top international business schools are run only in English, but the INSEAD-CNI collaboration is unique in being bilingual in English and Portuguese, thereby opening up a top tier business education to a wider audience.

The sessions currently cover: cross-cultural management; new challenges in operations and services; the global challenge of growing from a team to become an organisation; and the importance of fair process in management – as well as, perhaps most topically of all, managing high-performance teams in turbulent conditions.

Innovation and competitiveness are the keys to continued growth

Crucially, developing the curriculum is a collaborative process involving experts at CNI and INSEAD. It has evolved significantly over the years to meet the changing needs of Brazilian businesses. Today, for example, there is a major emphasis on innovation. As Paulo Mol says, “Our economy has grown in a very sustainable way – socially, politically and culturally, as well as economically. But the biggest challenge of all, with which many companies are struggling is innovation.”

The other big focus is competitiveness – which is the flip side of global opportunity. “The more global competition you have, the bigger the difference that each half-a-percent increase in your competitiveness makes,” says Professor Monteiro.

Competition is not only about sales, however. It is also about talent development and retention. Paulo Mol sums it up starkly: “The war for talent is a global reality and Brazilian companies must implement new strategies to succeed in this context.”

Building bridges that cross continents

“By coming to France you gain the intellectual distance to see Brazil from the outside,” says Professor Monteiro. “It’s the balanced view INSEAD offers that’s the biggest attraction. When things were good in Brazil, people thought they were even better than they really were. Now that growth has slowed, people think things are worse than they really are.” By coming to INSEAD, he insists, business leaders gain humility but also optimism – a realistic vision of what’s possible along the bumpy road to becoming a fully developed economy.

It’s also important to note that INSEAD and CNI are long-term partners, with a fully collaborative and innovative approach to business education. As Monteiro says, “We’ve been working with and for Brazilian companies for nearly 15 years. And Brazil is a cause and a culture that’s very close to my own heart. We’re not just there for the World Cup!”

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