Academics learning lessons from successful enterprises

Updated 2017-10-17 13:30:54 China Daily
Eric Thun, a professor at Oxford University, conducts a lecture about China for EMBA students. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Eric Thun, a professor at Oxford University, conducts a lecture about China for EMBA students. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Professors from leading Western business schools are increasingly using Chinese companies for their written case studies.

This is because they have garnered global attention through their unprecedented growth levels as they become dominant players in their fields.

Big names, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Xiaomi Corp, WeChat, and Didi Chuxing - the Chinese-equivalent of Uber - are increasingly quoted and scrutinized in leading business school journals.

"I find it interesting to analyze innovative Chinese companies such as Xiaomi as they champion new business models," said Robert Burgleman, a professor of management at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

"It is also interesting to research how some Chinese companies first achieve scale in their huge domestic market," he added. "And how they might build on the advantages of achieving that level of scale to gain competitive advantage in competing abroad."

In a business case Burgleman co-wrote with colleagues about Xiaomi, he closely analyzed the Chinese smartphone maker's incredible journey.

It was valued at more than billion three years after it was set up in 2010, a valuation that was almost twice that of BlackBerry at the time.

Chinese companies did not have such a strong presence on the syllabuses of Western business schools in past decades.

China Europe International Business School in Shanghai led the way in 2013 with a China-focused MBA case study platform in collaboration with 13 MBA schools globally.

It has now officially accepted more than 500 cases.

Harvard Business School's China center in Shanghai, which opened in 2010, now extensively supports the university's top researchers in conducting China-focused research and case study development.

New York University Stern School of Business in the United States has established a China Initiative to help grow China-focused research and discussions. These facilitate talks between the faculty and other academics, students, alumni and the wider local intellectual community.

Jennifer Carpenter, an associate professor of finance at NYU Stern, started the initiative.

She said studying China's businesses is incredibly challenging and rewarding because it requires academics to engage with facts and data through a completely different perspective.

"China is often hard to understand because it's a totally different system. You cannot run China data through a U.S. model," Carpenter said.

Historically, most of the academic theories taught at business schools have been U.S.-centric. Now, the different economic growth model and Chinese businesses' innovation strategies are prompting scholars to question their inherent assumptions and find alternative approaches, Carpenter pointed out.

Her research delves deep into China's financial system's controlled process of reform and opening-up, and how that influences the country's stock market, capital market and financial regulations.

"Because China is very different from the U.S., it prompted me to question why is the U.S. capital market structured the way it is," Carpenter said. "Studying China also allowed me to understand the U.S. better."

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