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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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SMU-ExD's unparalleled customer-centric approach to education

The development of tomorrow’s workforce involves embracing both the critical human component as well as the necessary digital tools to help see them through the fourth industrial revolution.

Global and local fuse perfectly at the core of Singapore Management University (SMU)’s educational approach which blends age-old principles that made Asia an economic powerhouse with emerging trends and technologies in the international arena. Backed by 350 faculty and a pool of industry experts and trainers, SMU remains one of the most sought after institutions for equipping today and tomorrow’s leaders.

With longer lives and more job switches resulting in a greater demand for education, today’s universities are expected to cater to more non-traditional students who also come from diverse age groups and have various learning needs. Dr. Katharina Lange, Executive Director, Executive Development (ExD), SMU, says that this is a happy issue, one that directs schools to provide more specific, experiential learning that leverages students’ work and life experience.

In addition to demographic shifts, the education industry also faces sweeping digital transformation that changes the way humans teach and learn. Across all industries, the word customer-centricity has become a household word, and SMU-ExD has adopted the same concept in repackaging its programmes. With customer-centricity in place, universities are able to listen to what learners really need. “The learner relationship is central to anything we do. Impactful course design is the result from listening to clients and customizing skilfully,” Dr. Lange added.

SMU-ExD works closely with corporations to develop executives’ strategic and leadership agility and sharpen their business acumen through research-based insights. Dr. Lange adds that their role is that of the “intelligent switch”, which means translating actual business imperatives into impactful learning designs. Being a research-heavy university, SMU is able to share key insights to help organisations. One of its recent publications tackles Cultural Transformation in the Digital Age.

Divided into two major categories called Public Programmes and Customised Corporate Programmes, SMU-ExD’s offerings deliver returns beyond what individuals and organisations have invested. It continues to create technology-enabled learning ecosystems reflecting the demands not only of the contemporary workplace, but also of the future working environment. Traditional classroom interaction is blended well with interdisciplinary, experiential, and virtual learning formats.

The Customised Corporate Programmes are custom-fit to address specific organisational and business issues, knowing that every learner is different and every organisation faces different challenges. At SMU-ExD, the learning journey starts with a capability assessment administered before a learning intervention, which helps in tracking the progress the individual or organisation makes. Along the way, students are enabled to unlearn old habits and put on new ideas and principles that will help drive transformation.

Meanwhile, Public Programmes look at the professional capabilities of individuals and identify areas that may be enhanced, such as their ability to collaborate with others and transform their organisations. These Public Programmes include Advanced Negotiation Strategies, Excel Leadership Programme, Digital Culture Corporate Transformation Workshop, Executive Skills for Board Members in Challenging Times, International Corporate Coaching, The Lead Programme on Effective Teams, and Women and Leadership Programme, among others.

SMU-ExD places primary importance on agility, resilience and systems thinking as key future skills that will usher in new business models and greater industry disruption. To bring these about, responsible leaders will also need strategic thinking, empathy and problem solving capabilities that SMU-ExD educators and participants demonstrate very well.

A number of SMU-ExD’s participants come from large, multinational corporations with headquarters in Asia and around the globe. SMU-ExD effectively addresses its diverse student body by combining Asian traditions with Western perspectives and methods and integrating these into global partnerships and collaborations to develop solutions that exceed the global benchmark. The university has partnered with Corporate Learning Alliance and is currently a board member at UNICON - the consortium for university-based executive education.

“The learning intervention for adult learners needs to be immediately relevant, answers the “Why” first and embeds any content into a corporate context. Executives learn best with a problem-based approach. They don’t want to meander around theory – they need tools they can apply immediately to their problems. As part of SMU, we support the university’s mission to create meaningful impact – through impactful programmes for a very impactful target group,” says Katharina. “We give you a clear return on your investment.”

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