Northwestern University
Dean Blount's Blog
  Here I am welcoming our full-time students
  I look forward to many robust discussions over coming years as we determine Kellogg’s global play for the twenty-first century.

Exploring Global Plays for the 21st Century
September 30, 2010

The bustle continues—another week full of travel and meetings in Chicago, Evanston and other key U.S. cities. I met some terrific alumni at a dinner in Minneapolis on Monday night and held my first faculty meeting yesterday at the Allen Center. One of the questions that keeps coming up in all of my discussions, both on and off campus, is that of Kellogg's global strategy—what will it be?

Globalization is an interesting thing—as I far as I can tell, in every sector but higher education, it is basically over and done with, a fact and foregone conclusion. As Tom Friedman so aptly noted several years ago, the world is flat now. But in the educational domain, it's still a bit hilly, if not mountainous. Different universities and business schools around the world are trying out different models—bricks and mortar investments and cross-university partnerships being the most popular. While schools have successfully implemented these models, both approaches are difficult to execute well, with money, cultural differences and organizational barriers to creating a truly integrated educational approach being the biggest challenges. Flying faculty all over the world is expensive for the university and tiring for the faculty. And it's pretty clear that the twentieth century semester abroad exchange model (where schools essentially trade students for a semester), while a viable approach over the past several decades, will not be a robust answer for this century.

The biggest conceptual challenge in my mind is how to globalize not just the student classroom experience—which we've got pretty good models for—but also the faculty research and teaching experience in ways that are affordable. In my former job, where I did a lot of work at the university and college levels on global strategy, I spent time talking to partners in different management consulting and other professional service firms who were known for their broad, global footprint. I wanted to learn what strategies they were employing to break down the organizational silos between their different national practices around the world. I also wanted to learn what strategies they were using at the individual level to expand their employees’ mindsets to think beyond their own day-to-day cultural sphere, to make them more globally aware. In those conversations, every one of the partners conceded that a) there is no perfect solution and b) all of the answers are expensive to execute. There's a lot of flying people around the world to meet and talk that's involved—time that's not "billable," so to speak.

The bottom line: globalization imposes a significant cost on expert-knowledge-based entities to execute effectively, and the benefits of taking on that cost cannot always be easily measured. In that way, this domain is quite different from the manufacturing sector.

Thinking about how to truly globalize U.S. business schools and universities is one of the most interesting aspects of my job. Despite the inherent challenges in establishing new models, there are huge intellectual benefits to be gained for humankind that make this exploration incredibly worthwhile and exciting. I look forward to many robust discussions over coming years as we determine Kellogg’s global play for the twenty-first century.

I welcome your comments, feedback and ideas at

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