The IMPM at 25: Celebrating the five mindsets of business leadership

Ron Duerksen

Founded by McGill University Professor and world-renowned management guru Henry Mintzberg, the International Masters Program for Managers (IMPM) goes beyond the typical MBA or EMBA. The programme offers a global business education which focuses on developing attitude as much as aptitude, with partners in Brazil, Canada, India, Japan and the UK. Celebrating its 25th anniversary earlier this year, we’re speaking to the programme’s global executive director Ron Duerksen.

Ron’s career has taken him across the best of the business and academic world; from time spent with global retail giants such as ALDO and L’Oréal, as well as working with various NGOs concerning sustainability, climate change and global development, to roles with some of the world’s best-known business schools. He was the Chief Strategy Officer at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, IMPM’s founding partner, before moving to France to take on the role of Executive Director at HEC Paris, overseeing Executive Education.

Now, back to his Canadian roots, we discuss the challenges facing modern global business education and what makes IMPM stand out…

Tell us about IMPM – How does it differ from other business education programmes?

Other schools may choose to focus on topics, case studies and building practical skills, but the IMPM approach invites participants to consider a set of key managerial mindsets. By doing this, we hope to reflect what it’s really like to be a leader in business today, to learn, and to offer a practical dimension which is not always a given in business education.

The aim is for participants to learn to solve complex problems through new ways of thinking and action learning – putting into practice what is learned from professors and peers in the classroom. This allows for immediate impact of the IMPM experience to the organisation.

First, we consider a reflective mindset at Lancaster University in the UK. Here we want to challenge and enhance participants’ thinking on how best to facilitate engaging management and leadership in their own roles. Answering very pertinent questions like:  What kind of manager am I? What kind of leader do I want to be? How can I motivate my team better? This feeds well into developing an analytical mindset at McGill University in Montreal. We go beyond simply teaching techniques for analysis, to making data-driven decisions, and to consider people management and organisational behaviour when making these decisions.

The worldly mindset at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, takes what has been discussed and learned, and applies it to the bigger picture:  Where do I and my organisation position ourselves within the community, our country or region, and a global context? How can we contribute to a better, more sustainable world? Worldly means looking at the world through open eyes, wanting to constantly learn and improve.

In Japan, at Yokohama National University, we move from analysis to culture, investigating the different attributes that build a collaborative mindset in a business.  Looking at questions like: How do I capitalize on diversity to drive innovation? How can I use collaboration rather than competition to drive a successful and sustainable business?

We then examine how an action mindset at FGV-EBAPE Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, can prepare participants to operate and lead in an ever-evolving and rapidly changing world. This is done best by putting into action what participants have learned throughout the programme. After all, what is strategy without execution?

Because we approach our teaching and learning not as a science but as an art and craft to build, the foundation from which our students experience their studies is very different from any traditional approach to management education.

How did the IMPM come to be?

Henry is renowned for his critiques on traditional MBAs, which is ironic because they’re now taught everywhere! The IMPM takes Henry’s vision, along with lessons learned from his landmark book “Managers, Not MBAs” and uses them to offer students a fresh approach to management education. This is especially pertinent for executives with many years of experience behind them. Their contributions and their knowledge are as important to the learning as is the latest research and excellent teaching from our professors.

In my opinion, business education still focuses too heavily on the ‘science’ of business management, but not enough on its creative aspects. Rather than emphasising analysis or enquiry, the IMPM uses real-life managerial problems to show the complexities that simply can’t be addressed only by conventional academic teaching.

The program aims to challenge traditional management teaching and set a new standard. One that is based on learning by doing, and that’s how the application of different mindsets came to be.

Inspired by the IMPM, McGill has successfully translated this unique mindset approach to our International Masters for Health Leadership and even to our Executive MBA (McGill-HEC Montreal).

Going beyond the organisation, the mindset approach can even be applied to address global challenges like climate change and failing healthcare systems. If anyone wants proof that this concept can transform individuals, organisations, and systems, just look at any number of our alumni.  They are out there making a real impact not only in their organisations, but in their communities, even helping transform broken systems.

Who is the IMPM for? How do you address diversity and inclusion?

The IMPM is for senior executives, often with over 20 years of experience and 10-plus years of managerial experience. But sometimes slightly younger executives with exceptional accomplishments–like having started their own global business or non-profit–can add a lot to the cohort learning experience.

More than that, I think a key attribute of our candidates is a sort of worldly “value system”. Our candidates tend to be globally aware or want to be more so. They are highly intelligent (not just in the traditional academic sense), committed to continuous learning and have an open mind. They want to perform better and help their organisations excel, but they often also want to be better human beings and help make the world a better place.

We hand-pick our candidates, and each must demonstrate a unique contribution to the learning. We attract executives from every region of the world and pretty much every sector or industry. And that is what we want–maximum diversity and varied experiences. Not just in the traditional sense of demographics, but in different ways of thinking, in cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.  Which is one of the reasons we provide scholarships for certain regions or demographics that otherwise might be left out. In my opinion, this broader definition of diversity makes the IMPM much more interesting and “worldly” than any of the top global EMBA programs. How much socio-economic and cultural diversity can you have in an EMBA that costs over $USD 150,000? Some of these EMBAs are essentially a collection of rich folks, often just trying to get richer.

Beyond this, our program is customisable, so there is no required or specific background our participants must come from. They must all be intelligent beyond academic standards, open-minded, wanting to learn and prepared to share their own profound experiences and delve into their own challenges they may have faced.