Yale SOM Hosts Five-Day Executive Program at the Beijing Olympics
"East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet."
Rudyard Kipling wrote this line a century ago, his response to a lifetime spent straddling the intense divide between Europe and Asia. The Yale School of Management used the statement as a jumping off point for a unique five-day executive program in Beijing during the Summer Olympics. Titled the Yale Global Business Leadership Program at the Olympic Games, the series of discussions and lectures brought together more than a hundred CEOs, journalists, and government leaders from around the world, plus some of SOM’s top faculty to discuss the state of global business and the rapidly growing role of China as an economic power.
SOM was the only American business school to hold an executive educational program at the Olympics, a sign of Yale’s long-standing relationship with China and SOM’s unique ability to pull together some of the most important and influential global leaders in business, government, and the media. Speakers included Steve Schwarzman, CEO and founder of Blackstone; Andew Liveris, CEO of Dow; Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; Maurice Greenber of CV Starr; Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the United States Olympic Committee; Ji Xiao-An, chairman and CEO of one of China’s largest retail chains; Rui Chenggang, director and anchor for China Central Television; Yale University President Richard Levin; and William Donaldson, former SEC chairman and founding SOM dean. They were joined by senior SOM faculty James Baron, Zhiwu Chen, Ravi Dhar, Jonathan Koppell, Barry Nalebuff, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, and Victor Vroom.
Bill Crocker, executive director for corporate education at Yale SOM, said the idea had initially been to run one of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute Summits, day-long discussions for top corporate leaders that have been held twice a year since 1989. “But we decided to take it a step further and create a full curriculum utilizing Yale SOM faculty," he said. "We saw an opportunity to create something truly memorable and rewarding for all involved."
With the Olympics as a metaphor, discussions and panels explored the history of China and what it means for its future; leadership styles and how culture influences leadership; the steady conversion of Chinese state-owned enterprises and its implications for foreign investment; the influence of technology on creating brands across cultures; and mitigating the social impact of globalization. Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for executive programs and the Lester Crown Professor of Management Practice, said the unique setting allowed for a level of discussion that went much deeper than anyone had expected. "There is something special about China’s new role in the world order" he said. "It really is a center for commercial opportunity, social impact, and controversy, as well as for diplomatic promise. I was struck by how candid speakers were on all the panels. They talked not just about their triumphs, but their setbacks as well. The Olympics proved a magnet for tremendously influential leaders and a catalyst for authentic educational discussions. It created the perfect learning opportunity to blend scholarly insight and the leadership frontiers of global commerce."