The focus of many executive education programs is to give individual participants a short lesson in real-life business topics. The theory is that by attending an intensive five-day program in an area such as strategic thinking or being a corporate entrepreneur, executives will be equipped with the knowledge to instill change in their organization while enhancing their career. Larry Wilson, for one, finds this theory of executive education somewhat lacking.
As cofounder of the Chicago Executive Program (CEP), Wilson believes executive education needs to be a collective experience for any meaningful organizational change to occur. “Leadership is composed of more than one person,” he says. “If a group goes, there’s multiple power to instill change because a group shares the experience.”
To feasibly attract groups of busy executives from the same company, the CEP consists of seven half-day sessions held monthly from April to November. (For more information, see www.thecep.com.) Led by well-known faculty, including Warren Bennis, Jay Conger and Stan Davis, each of the sessions revolves around change management and is geared toward groups of executives from the same company. In addition to the academic leaders, each session also includes input from a senior executive directly involved in the subject matter. Wilson believes that this two-pronged academic and practitioner approach lends credibility to the CEP. “Having people who have actually brought about cultural change in their organizations adds a dimension to the lectures,” he says.
Besides the sessions, CEP members have access to online assessment tools to gauge their skills against experienced leaders. Participants can also join a learning team of six to eight people who discuss the content of each session in-depth.
At $3,600 (with discounts available for larger groups), tuition is cheaper than programs offered by Wharton and Babson, but Wilson isn’t keen on pitching CEP as a lower-cost alternative. The advantage, he says, is the cooperative learning that the group format provides.