A View From INSEAD

International Management in Asia Pacific

Michael A. Witt

Programme Director & Affiliate Professor of Asian Business and Comparative Management

"The objective of this programme is simple: to help enable senior executives to drive business success in international business in Asia Pacific. This programme provides in-depth and actionable knowledge for the region."

What is the importance of having a programme focused solely on the Asian region?

We know that there is great demand for this kind of programme because companies and their executives have often found it challenging to realize hopes for the region. Consistent with this, Boston Consulting Group a little while back did a survey that showed that precisely 0 (zero) percent of the multinationals responding thought they have the capabilities needed to succeed in emerging markets. We aim to help build these capabilities.

How does the programme help executives adapt to the challenges in the Asian region? 

This program is the culmination of some 40 years of INSEAD engagement in Asia Pacific. At one level, the nature of the challenges has changed quite a bit, as both multinational firms and local enterprises have become more sophisticated.

At a higher level, though, the challenges have remained remarkably constant. The key to success remains a deep and practical appreciation of how various business aspects differ across countries. These differences run the gamut from areas such as culture, institutions and politics to questions of competitive landscapes, customer expectations and needs, and innovation processes. Together, they make up what researchers call “liability of foreignness.” Decades of research have shown time and again that liability of foreignness is the leading reason for failures in international business. A central objective of IMAP is to help reduce this liability drastically.

How does it differ from other Asian management programmes at other schools?

Every school has its unique strengths, and there are other schools that offer good programs on doing business internationally.  That said, we have some unique advantages that we can bring to the table and leverage to create value.  I cannot enumerate all, but the one I would like to underline is experience. The faculty teaching in this programme have worked on Asia-related topics for a combined total of more than 70 years, and they have spent more than half of this time physically living in Asia. As a result, we have a very deep understanding of the challenges multinational firms and their executives face in the region and what it takes to address many of them.  We are obviously not all-knowing, and not all challenges have solutions, but there are few topics we have not encountered and thought about before.

What is the ideal profile?

This is an ideal programme for senior executives who are taking a first formal position in the region or have successfully run operations in an individual market of Asia Pacific and are taking on wider geographic responsibility in the region. For instance, anyone coming to Asia Pacific as a head of a regional headquarters would be an ideal candidate and, in my view, benefit a lot.

Our participants usually are members of regional top-management teams or reporting directly to a member of a regional top-management team. The precise level obviously varies by firm size and levels of hierarchy in a given firm. Some of our participants are in charge of individual, large markets such as China or Japan, but many lead their businesses across several Asian markets. The need for experience and seniority means that the average age of our participants is around 40 years, though we sometimes have very high-potential participants in their early to mid-30s.

*To find out more about the International Management in Asia Pacific programme, click here.

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