The economic slowdown has not hurt the market for cross border mergers and acquisitions, which have become a mainstay of the global economy. Their number and value have continued to rise as companies strategically pursue M&As, increasing their ability to operate in international markets. Leveraging such opportunities while managing the inherent risks takes not only strong business acumen, but a global perspective and understanding of diverse approaches to leadership.

Knowledge alone doesn't get you halfway there, says Peter Fader, Wharton Professor of Marketing and academic director of the Executive Development Program. In the EDP, the real learning happens with the participants, who come from Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. In fact, only about one in three is from North America. They represent many different industries, positions within their organizations, and business disciplines. We designed the program to maximize the opportunities for them to learn from each other.

Ginger Kelly, a senior manager at Ernst & Young, agrees that the program offers invaluable interaction with business managers from other cultures. I gained a more global perspective after two weeks in Philadelphia than from all of the years I've traveled to our European subsidiaries. A site visit doesn't open up another culture. In the EDP, I worked with executives from Japan, Nigeria, and Portugal. My base of understanding is now broader, and I continue to put what I learned to daily use.

Three-pronged Approach

The EDP is presented in three parts, Fader points out. It includes classroom sessions, simulations, and a leadership workshop. It's not enough to simply present people with information. It needs to be integrated and brought to life. The three parts work together to make the program one of the crown jewels of Wharton Executive Education:

1. Business acumen. Many executives have highly specialized skills, making it difficult to break out of the silo and into a leadership role. Sessions on globalization, finance, marketing, and strategy give them the tools they need to move forward in their careers.

2. Simulations. Organizational dynamics move from classroom discussion to performance as participants put what they are learning to work. They share ideas, forecast costs, negotiate, and strategize. For Rebecca Schechter, senior vice president at State Street Global Markets and recent EDP participant, the simulations were the highlight of the program. Some of the classroom sessions I'll never forget, but the simulations brought it all together in a way that made the information highly applicable.

3. Leadership Workshop. To truly learn and integrate the lessons, you need to bump up against your limitations, advises Fader. The third piece of the program is designed to foster tension and doubt for the participants, the teams on which they're placed, and across teams. The program's controlled environment is designed to teach participants more about themselves, their management style, and how they work within a social system.

The Application Is Immediate

When Rebecca Schechter completed the EDP, she returned to work to integrate a company her bank had recently acquired. It already felt familiar to me because of the simulations we did in the program. I was comfortable with a certain level of chaos. I understood we had two different cultures, and didn't get frustrated when things didn't go smoothly. I was able to anticipate the feelings and thoughts that arose instead of being surprised by them.

Ginger Kelly agrees. Back at work, the program resonates. I constantly think about how to leverage other opinions, and think more creatively about best practices. The idea sharing - industry to industry, and culture to culture - was so valuable. I integrate this knowledge into my business interactions on a daily basis.

Global Perspective

EDP was the most diverse situations Ronnie Starling, director of the Airborne Information Management System Project at Northrop Grumman, has experienced. I had limited exposure to other countries and cultures, but came away from the program with a better understanding. Meeting and working with people from other countries was so different from reading about them. I have been inspired to continue my work on diversity and inclusion in my company.

Peter Fader emphasizes that each session of EDP represents a balance of regions. Working in a global economy in which borders are becoming more fluid demands a different executive with a broader perspective. The Executive Development Program responds to that demand strongly. We not only provide the education and the environment, but we assure that participants will be a part of a dynamic peer learning experience.


Peter S. Fader is the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise is the analysis of behavioral data to understand and forecast customer shopping/purchasing activities. He works with firms from a wide range of industries, such as consumer packaged goods, interactive media, financial services, and pharmaceuticals. Much of his research highlights the consistent behavioral patterns that exist across these industries and other seemingly different domains.


David Heckman is the Director of Senior Management Programs at the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his role at Wharton, he led sales and marketing learning and development for a global telecommunications company for nearly10 years. He also held a variety of sales, services, operations, engineering, training, consulting and management roles with a start-up diagnostic test equipment manufacturer and a large U.S. nuclear utility. He travelled extensively to work with clients in Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Latin America, China, Europe and North America.

Mission Statement:

Wharton Executive Education
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania-founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school-is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. Informed by in-depth academic research and extensive industry experience, Wharton Executive Education programs offer a supportive and challenging context where participants gain the skills necessary for their next level of executive development. In open enrollment and customized programs, participants from a diverse range of industries interact with Wharton faculty, who are the most cited, most published faculty of all top-tier business schools. With a profound influence on global business, Wharton faculty are the trusted advisors of corporations and governments worldwide.