HBS Students Face Real-World Challenges Across the Globe

During their time participating in Harvard Business School‘s Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development program, or FIELD, successful students find they must learn to let go of preconceived ideas and step outside of their comfort zone when they work with partner organizations in emerging markets.

A feature story published this week in the Harvard Gazette takes a look at how this innovative program, now in its third year, offers first-year MBA students an opportunity to test their skills and find out if what they developed conceptually in the fall will actually work in practice during FIELD’s eight-day immersive component in January.

Felix Oberholzer-Gee, the Andreas Andresen Professor of Business Administration, says the idea for the program came about as a countermeasure to research showing that companies often face great difficulties replicating their success when they expand internationally.  The unfamiliar environment and different business etiquette require an adjustment both in expectations and in practice if companies hope to duplicate their local success.

The article notes that about 149 companies in 16 cities participated in the project in South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa, ranging from the almost fully developed Shanghai and Mumbai, India, to the delicate and struggling economies of Accra, Ghana, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While students do a lot of research in the first phase of FIELD, they often arrive overconfident about their ability to make an impact.

“It teaches HBS students something for which they’re not exactly well-known, and that is humility,” says Oberholzer-Gee. “You have to go into these markets, and you have to be quite humble about what works and what doesn’t work and how much of your previous experience is applicable to a particular market.”

This year’s FIELD teams wrapped up their visits last week, and will share their team projects and experiences with their home sections when they return to campus on January 27th. The article describes in detail each of the phases of the FIELD program, and offers a great snapshot of this unique element of the first year experience at Harvard Business School. Check out the original article in the Harvard Gazette for more information.



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