Gordon S Barrass explains that LSE’s Executive Master’s on ‘Strategy in an Age of Global Risk’ gives today’s diplomats the vital skills they need to operate at the highest levels of international relations.
World leaders are increasingly seeking senior staff who can think strategically in an uncertain world. This is particularly good news for diplomatic high-fliers in London as the London School of Economics (LSE) is running a unique course on ‘Strategy in an Age of Global Risk’ that prepares them to do just that.
In a nutshell, on this one-year, part-time Executive Master’s we not only coach participants to think strategically, but we also boost their performance in their present jobs. Just as importantly, the course has been tailored to meet the needs of people who have demanding responsibilities – as a result, they only need to be away from their office for just over three weeks, two weekends (one at the historic Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park) and 20 evenings.
In the past two years, the course has attracted an impressive range of people who value what they can learn from others, something that is not easy to do when everyone has at least 10 years of professional experience. Amongst those dealing with national security and defence are officials from Britain, China and Japan; policy advisers from Turkey, Kazakhstan and Germany; along with three British ambassadors, plus other diplomats and officials from the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.
The corporate and financial services sectors are also strongly represented by experienced specialists from EADS, the BG Group, Ingersoll Rand, Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered Bank, AXA Fund Management, Lloyds of London and the Financial Services Authority, as well as business people from Iran, Argentina and Germany.
One of the reasons members like the course is because Professor Michael Cox (its Director and one of LSE’s most engaging speakers) ensures that they have plenty of contact with him and the other internationally renowned academics teaching the course.
While several courses offer distinguished guest speakers, ‘Strategy in an Age of Global Risk’ gives its members extensive contact with several distinguished practitioners. These include former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, former British Ambassador in Washington Sir David Manning and former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee Sir Richard Mottram, to name a few. These contacts are valued because they provide a rare opportunity for members to ask about the challenges that these top officials faced as they moved into higher positions and gain insights into what helped them through difficult times.
From the first day we stress that there is more to strategy than fighting and winning wars. Plenty of time is devoted to helping members use the art of strategy to keep the peace and resolve problems of mutual interest.
A key element in this whole process is ‘getting inside the minds of others,’ for the simple reason that we are all prone to making unfounded assumptions about the attitudes of others. So we have put a lot of work into looking at the ways others think – EG China, India, Russia, Iran, Brazil, the US and the EU – and the implications for both diplomacy and strategy.
A related priority is gearing-up members to be sceptical about conventional wisdom and agile in challenging it. We do this through an innovative mix of lectures and exercises that introduce them to new techniques for producing better assessments of events and trends. That in turn enables members to gain a deeper understanding of the ‘drivers’ that have shaped the world today and anticipate future events.
We are very pleased that our teaching methods have encouraged people to continue their discussions after class – either socially or on-line. As Gani Berkenov, a policy adviser from Kazakhstan, said recently: ‘I never thought that a course on such an important subject could be so much fun.’
Unlike most executive courses, we take no more than 30 people a year. Although the course costs £24,000, the participants and the institutions sending them regard it as being exceptional value.
‘A bold initiative to train serious thinkers in how to make tomorrow’s world more manageable.’
Xu Wei, Staff Officer, Chinese Ministry of Defence
‘The wealth of knowledge and experience shared with us was priceless.’
Alper Ozden, Office of the Turkish Prime Minister
‘An enormously valuable source of practical advice and ideas.’
Edward Ferguson, Director of Strategy, Ministry of Defence
‘I now have the analytical tools necessary for making sense of today’s world and that has enabled me to formulate better policy.’
Michael Munch, Advisor to the CDU/CSU in the German Parliament
Full details of the MSc International Strategy & Diplomacy course: ‘Strategy in an Age of Global Risk,’ and how to apply for the next course beginning in late September 2013, can be found at www2.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/teaching/ExecutiveProgramme/home.aspx