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IESE and Japan’s Shizenkan launch MBA course on future of capitalism

Guest speakers to include formerly homeless children and former child soldiers, as well as top executives, entrepreneurs, policy makers and activists

January 26, 2021

IESE and Japan’s Shizenkan University have joined forces to deliver an MBA course designed to help students critically observe the current state of capitalism and explore the roles of business leadership required to create a better future.

The course is being launched in cooperation with the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL), India, and Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV).

It will explore the key issues society faces within the capitalist system today, and invite students to reflect and come up with a plan on how business (and themselves as future business leaders) can have a more positive role in society. At the end of the course, students will present their own vision for a more equitable form of capitalism to a group of prominent business leaders and CEOs.

The Future of Capitalism is an optional MBA course open to second-year IESE MBA students, as well as MBA students at the three other participating schools. The three-month-long course kicks off on Jan. 26 with 82 students from 23 different countries.

It is crucial that business works for the good of every one of us, not just a select few.

Franz Heukamp

Dean of IESE

“It is crucial that business works for the good of every one of us, not just a select few,” said IESE Dean Franz Heukamp, who is co-Academic Director of the course. “In the past, many business programs have not done a great job overall with the ´why´ of business. Many have been very good for the most part with the ´what´ – the technical, managerial, entrepreneurial education of business leaders. But most schools would probably admit that they have not gotten their best grades when it comes to purpose, to business ethics, to teaching people how to use their powerful positions in order to make the world a better place.”

“That is why we are happy to partner for this innovative MBA course, which enables the next generation of business leaders to think about these issues in the first person, and gain insights on how to reshape the future of capitalism to have a more positive impact for all,” Heukamp said.

Guest speakers 

During the course, students will engage in virtual conversations with a variety of guest speakers from around the world, including people dramatically affected by our current capitalist system, such as formerly homeless children and former child soldiers. They will also hear from top executives, entrepreneurs, policy makers, activists of various backgrounds, and academics, among others.

Some of the sessions include:

  • Hearing from former child soldiers in Uganda who were kidnapped and forced to participate in military actions. This session will be coordinated in cooperation with Shingo Ogawa, President of Terra Renaissance, a Japanese NGO that offers vocational training for former child soldiers in Uganda.
  • A dialogue with formerly homeless children in Bangladesh, coordinated in cooperation with Shubhashish Roy, Founder and CEO of Ekmattra Society, a Bangladeshi NGO promoting the advancement of underprivileged children.
  • A discussion about capitalism, democracy, and the role of the media with Mark Thompson, former CEO of New York Times and Director-General of the BBC.
  • A session discussing climate change and environmental sustainability with Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Students to develop own vision of capitalism

The program has been designed and led by Tomo Noda, Professor and Chair of the Board of Trustees at Shizenkan University, and IESE’s Heukamp. Together, they, along with the other co-academic directors, will lead and facilitate the discussions in class.

Throughout the course, students collaborate in teams to work on a final output, where they develop an outline of how business can build a bridge between the current status quo and their future vision of capitalism.

Two finalist teams will then present their outputs to a group of prominent business leaders who are supporting this MBA initiative. These include:

  • Paul Polman, Honorary Chair of International Chamber of Commerce and former CEO of Unilever;
  • Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings;
  • James Higa, Executive Director of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and former Senior Director of Office of the CEO at Apple;
  • B. Muthuraman, former Vice Chairman of Tata Steel and Chairman of Tata International;
  • John Elkington, Founder and Chief Pollinator of Volans.

The business supporters and academic directors will then discuss the findings in a roundtable discussion with the whole of the class.

In addition to teamwork, each student is also expected to reflect upon the responsibility of business leaders, and translate the inputs from the sessions into a personal commitment for the betterment of society and an actionable plan to bring about changes to their future professional environment, further boosting the impact of the course.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic creating logistical difficulties for meeting in person “this initiative also show how we can continue to bring together relevant people from different parts of the world to deliver educational experiences across the globe,” Heukamp added.