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EMBA Students Attend First Field Trip in Japan

Innovation meets Tradition: Building a global network abroad

A worldwide network is mandatory in today’s modern business world. Building a global network is a cornerstone of the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA program (EMBA). Admission to the program gives participants instant access to international business experts. 

Each EMBA class comprises around 70% of international students with 14 years of work experience on average. The 2022 Financial Times top-ranked German EMBA program is also known for its extensive network with around 65,000 alumni in their global network.

Immersive international programs round out a student’s experience. Taking part in a visit to Japan in March, the Kellogg-WHU EMBA students expanded their personal and professional development in a country that seamlessly blends business innovation and traditional culture.

“I must admit, I have been waiting for this trip since the very first day I joined the program,” EMBA student Marina Voudouri, a Global Issues and Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Bayer relays excitedly. 

Through a cultural awareness workshop, students learned the importance of Japan’s food and manners traditions, encompassing nature, simplicity, balance, and harmony.   

“In the cultural awareness workshop, we learned everything follows a path, a way, a ‘Do,’” Marina explains. “Perhaps this explains Japan’s resilience and apparent optimism, respect, and calmness.”

The week-long agenda was rich in visits to internationally renowned businesses such as the Development Bank of Japan, McKinsey Japan, Asahi Kasei (R&D/Intellectual Property), Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Sun Metalon (a start-up known for 3D metal printing), and the 500+-year-old Sake Brewery: Kenbishi. In total, 12 companies were visited, spanning the entire business field of knowledge.

Visiting top business companies, such as Eisai Co Ltd., a business leader in healthcare, EMBA student Gustavo Fabrino, a Global Business Development Manager at Transnorm, shares: “Mr. Naito, the CEO of the company, gave a wonderful insight into the importance of patient (customer) satisfaction and the need to set long-term goals which still include remaining innovative.” Marina adds, “It is expected by all employees to spend 1% of their working hours with patients to emphasize their thoughts and emotions and see the situation from their perspectives.”

The authenticity of the 500+-year-old Sake Brewery, Kenbishi, also stood out in Marina’s mind as an example brand customers prefer. “I could never imagine that a factory in Japan distills sake with methods from previous centuries. It is one of the companies that follow an original process that provides continuity and increases customer satisfaction.”

Bringing together the worldwide Kellogg-WHU network in real-life circumstances, the week also included a dinner with the Kellogg Alumni Club of Japan. Sightseeing in both Kyoto and Tokyo rounded out the cultural aspect of the trip. Noticing clean architecture and traditional buildings helped cement the Japanese understanding of innovation and tradition in the students’ minds.

Proving to build an excellent team bond, the trip did not disappoint. “When you are in a foreign country, you are more open, and you build more connections because you are experiencing new unknown things as a group…lifelong friendships and networks are built that last forever.” (Fabrino, Voudouri).

Proving to be a mix of culture, practical business insight, and networking, a cornerstone of WHU’s immersion trips, the time in Japan will be a takeaway for many students in the importance of blending spiritual traditions, technological innovation, and progress. Marina states, “These forces point seemingly in different directions but ultimately advance society onwards, into the future.” Considering these factors helped participants think about the importance of blending Eastern and Western ways of doing business and the importance of finding a synergy between the two.

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