Cosmopolitan Managers: Executive Development That Works

Can executive education meet the needs of a diverse talent pool?

In a recent FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance event, a diverse panel* and audience of educators, executives, journalists, policymakers and HR specialists discussed how executive education can develop cosmopolitan managers and meet the needs of a diverse talent pool. Conclusions from the wide-ranging discussion, included the following:

  • Executives should be trained to see the world through others’ eyes. Diversity and even quotas are a means to the end of getting teams to ‘think collectively but independently’.
  • Companies should encourage their ‘dissidents’: diversity isn’t just a matter of ethnic or gender balance but of ensuring that a range of opinions challenging senior decision makers can be freely expressed.
  • Business leaders might achieve more diverse thinking by hiring talent with completely different skills and backgrounds from other team members. A firm grounding in humanities is important, as is a balance between science and humanities. Learning a language is another, simple way to open up new perspectives especially for executives working abroad.
  • Journalists have proven to be highly effective educators. The Corporate Learning Alliance has found that combining journalistic knowledge with academic theory and practical business experience can produce diverse perspectives in corporate learning.
  • The corporate world expends too much effort trying to understand the so-called clash of generations. Millennials are not so different from their older colleagues.
  • Companies and business schools can streamline the recruitment process (especially when the applicant ratio is extremely high) by using digital games that match students’ passions and skills with the job requirements. Such an approach might also eliminate some unconscious biases.
  • Measuring the impact of diversity on learning is extremely difficult. Ultimately, the learner must decide how much he or she wants to learn and apply the lessons at work. But even if an executive absorbs and uses just one single insight from a programme, this can be counted as a success.
  • Business school satisfaction surveys shouldn’t focus on future salary; personal happiness factors would change how students view the benefits of learning, underscoring a broader approach to business education.


  • The Rt Hon Baroness Usha Prashar, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords
  • Kai Peters, former Chief Executive at Ashridge
  • Michael Skapinker, Financial Times columnist on business, language and society
  • Amber Wigmore, Head of Careers at IE Business School
  • Moderated by Santiago Íñiguez, President of IE University and author of Cosmopolitan Managers: Executive Education that works (Palgrave Macmillan 2016)