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March 24, 2013

Q&A with IESE’s Dr. Kimio Kase

I had the pleasure of meeting IESE's Dr. Kimio Kase in February.  While that conversation was off-the-record, Dr. Kase was kind enough to answer my questions below.  Dr. Kase has had extensive experience assisting Japanese applicants with IESE's MBA program.  While his remarks below will be of particular interest Japanese applicants, I believe anyone considering application to IESE will find his insights quite useful.

Dr. Kase's official IESE biographical summary is as follows:

"Prof. Kase participated in the joint UK-Japan research project on the corporate-level strategy, which was conducted under the aegis of Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Manchester University. He was visiting professor at the prestigious China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai in 2001  and taught at Japan’s International Christian University (ICU) in 2006/2007, Peru's PAD, Korea's Yonsei University and Japan's Rikkyo University in these last years. He also served on the faculty of the International University of Japan, where he taught strategy for two years.

Prof. Kase has extensive corporate experience in the fields of global trade and management. He started off by working for a Japanese global trading house, where he specialized in industrial marketing. He was later appointed director of Price Waterhouse European Firm. Another firm on his curriculum is the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC.

Prof. Kase has written and contributed to several books and articles, published both in Spanish outlets and international journals such as the International Marketing Review and Harvard Deusto Magazine. 2005 saw the publication in the UK of a book he co-authored, titledTransformational CEOs: Leadership and Management Success in Japan, the Japanese version of which was published in November 2006. He also co-authored the books, CEOs as Leaders and Strategy Designers: Explaining the Success of Spanish Banks, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2007, Asian versus Western Management Thinking in 2011, etc., etc. Prof. Kase has also drawn up numerous case studies on a wide range of companies and organizations.

As a member of IESE’s Center for Sport Business Management, Prof. Kase conducted extensive research on business and sports activities. His current research, however, mainly centers on knowledge management in collaboration with Hitotsubashi University's Professor Ikujiro Nonaka.


Adam: What makes IESE unique amongst MBA programs?

Dr. Kase: Caring attention to every detail and every human relationship is one main characteristic of IESE Business School and its MBA Programme (and other programmes of ours, too).

Support staff, professors, etc., are always ready to hold out a helping hand to the students.

Regarding more academic aspects we may point out that this is a general management-oriented programme. Functional knowledge is fully taught but the integration of various functional fields to foster the general manager's attitude and aptitude is our hall-mark.

Adam: I know that you have the opportunity to meet many applicants to IESE, what would your advice be to those who are considering applying to IESE?

Dr. Kase: First of all they should shop around and get as much information as possible. For that I suggest that they talk to the alumni and current students.

In a school such as ours personal contacts to get the real "feel" of the environment and the content of the programme is essential. There are things that cannot be explained on paper. The "tacit knowledge" is the key for the decision-making if the applicant to come to IESE.

Of course they can contact me personally and I will be more than happy to oblige them by giving my advice. Moreover from this autumn on we will count on a Japanese MBA graduate based in Tokyo to represent IESE, whom applicants will be able to contact.

Adam: I know you are very involved in IESE's recruiting efforts in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.  Based on my observation, IESE has been incredibly successful at building a reputation amongst Japanese applicants.  Why is that?

Dr. Kase: The fact that somebody liaises the applicants and IESE offering palpable contact points could have been one factor for IESE's success. We may call this more personalised attention or human-centric approach. This was made possible thanks to our alumni network in Japan. Also, I am glad to express my personal satisfaction that I may have been part of all this.

IESE does not use advertisements on the media to increase the awareness of our possible "clients". In lieu of it we at IESE prefer to give something warmer and more humane through personal contacts and attention.

Rankings on various magazines of reputation have been also instrumental as a first approach to potential applicants.

Adam: As a faculty member at IESE, I wondered if you could give my readers, your perspective on the role of the professor within the IESE classroom.

Dr. Kase: The level of lectures and classes is a result of the combination between the expertise and skills of professors and the willingness to learn on the part of students.

In Zen Buddhism there is a nice concept that quite well explains this: sottaku doji (The hen should start pecking at the egg only when the chick is starting to peck its way out). In order to break the egg-shell both the chick from inside and the hen from outside have to peck it together at the same time.

In a similar way, professors help their students to learn how to define problems and set in place a framework to analyse them, based on their academic and professional bagage and the inductive case method, but the students also have to render as much effort as possible.

Therefore the learning takes place in the classroom as a consequence of the sottaku doji phenomenon between the professors and students.

Adam: IESE's first year curriculum is well known for being amongst the most challenging, what if any "survival tips" to do you have for those who are planning on attending IESE or other top MBA programs?

Dr. Kase: For Japanese students my usual advice is to study together with other non-Japanese colleagues to lessen the cultural bias we may have in approaching problems and analysing cases.

In the case method a way to analyse a given situation may have some basic direction (though it may not totally converge on one exclusive way of analysis). Only by getting mixed with other people from other cultural backgrounds you may live to learn it, namely, the mixture of deductive Westerners and inductive Asians (See my 2011 book, Asian versus Western Management Thinking: Its Culture-Bound Nature on the topic).

Other more prosaic tips are: to take a good care of one's health, to consult one's mentors as soon as one encounters with any problem, not to seclude oneself from other students, etc.

Adam: What role do you see and/or hope to see Asian IESE alumni playing in Japan and more generally?

Dr. Kase: For me this is the essential purpose of getting students from Asia, especially from Japan.

After a couple of decades of stagnation Japanese corporate system is in dire need of leaders who can change the existing paradigm.

I hope changes brought about by our graduates trickle down to other organisations and the society in general.

As to Asia at large the bringing-in of most updated management knowledge (which one can get from any other excellent B-schools in the US or EU) assimilated and integrated as practical and implementable skills will help Asian countries to catch up with other advanced nations and to consolidate their positions in the century of Asia.

Adam: I recently had an opportunity to attend IESE Dean Jordi Canals' presentation here in Tokyo. One point he made was that ethics are incorporated into all the courses at IESE.  What role do you think ethics should play in a business education and how do you personally bring ethics into the classroom?

Dr. Kase: Insofar as managers are not machines, their behaviour will not be judged only by economic results (which are essential) but also by their ethic of work and ethics.

For a business school to manage to instil 100 percent in the mind of students the code of behaviour and ethics in two years will be next to impossible, but it may sow the basic ideas of what ethics is expected from them.

Students may also learn it not only from classroom discussion but from the interaction with their classmates, professors, support staff, etc., etc.

I guess in this the selection process must be very important. Students willing to learn it may be encouraged to join IESE.

I want to thank Dr. Kase for taking the time to answer my questions.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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