What I learned at London Business School

Business school is a logical step for anyone looking to pursue a business-related career. Plus, going back to school can also be a great way to develop skills to advance your career if you’re already a working professional.

However, with so many different business schools to choose from, it can be tricky to know which institution will offer you the largest opportunity to learn and grow. Thankfully, being an alumnus of two business schools – London Business School and Harvard Business School – I know exactly what it’s like to navigate the world of higher education as a business professional.

London Business School (LBS) is well known for churning out fantastic leaders. But, what exactly do you get from attending LBS? Is it really worth the time and money?

Up next, I’ll give you a glimpse into what I learned at London Business School.

What Is London Business School (LBS)?

Founded in 1964, London Business School (LBS) is a constituent college of the University of London. Although it has a similar name, LBS is an entirely separate institution from the London School of Business and the London School of Business and Finance, both of which are for-profit institutions.

LBS has a great main campus in London located next to Regent’s Park and the London Zoo. The school also has a second campus in Dubai that offers a variety of Executive Education programs, as well as the Dubai EMBA.

From their main campus in London, LBS offers a number of different programs that are designed to prepare students for the global business industry. The school is also highly connected with the London business community, which is a great perk for LBS students. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Degree Programs. The school offers master’s degrees, PhDs, and Executive Education courses, which are designed to fit the needs of a wide range of new and experienced business professionals, alike.
  • Academic Prestige. LBS is on par with Harvard Business Schools and other well-known business schools, despite being a relatively new institution.
  • Sloan Fellows Program. The school is also one of only three institutions that offer the prestigious Sloan Fellows MBA, alongside Stanford and MIT.
  • Partnerships. LBS has partnerships with other top-tier business schools, including Columbia University and the University of Hong Kong.
  • Diversity. The 2021 MBA class profile includes almost 500 students from 66 countries, of which 38% identify as women.
  • LBS Teaches To A Global Market. Even though the school is located in London, only 8% of the 2021 LBS MBA class is from the United Kingdom. LBS students hail from all over the globe, which gives the school a truly unique and global perspective on the world of business.

My Experience At LBS

I attended LBS in 2020 as a Sloan Fellow, which is a master’s program aimed specifically at highly experienced business professionals. The Sloan Fellows program was founded in 1930 at MIT, but has since expanded to both Stanford and LBS.

It is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading management training programs for business professionals. The Sloan Fellows program includes numerous Nobel Prize winners, Fortune 500 Company CEOs, and world leaders among its growing list of alumni.

At LBS, the Sloan Fellows program is known as the LBS Sloan Masters in Leadership Strategy. It is a 12-month program that brings together business executives and leaders with an average of 18 years of work experience. The Sloan Fellows program at LBS has three main themes: leadership, strategy, and business fundamentals.

During my time at LBS, I was lucky enough to study under some of the most brilliant minds in the business world, including Jessica Spungin, Dan Cable, Richard Jolly, Julien Birkenshaw, and Harry Korine.

I also attended an exchange program at Columbia Business School in New York City, where I studied globalization under Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joe Stiglitz. During the program, I even got to do a remote course in China to study the future of the growing Chinese economy, so I really god a well-rounded look at the world of business as a whole.

What I Learned At London Business School

My time at LBS greatly shaped the way I operate as a leader in the business world. Here are some of the key things that I learned at London Business School.

LBS Helps You Improve Your Business

Before I went to LBS, I was very people-focused in my work. But, LBS and, in particular, Professor Dan Cable, showed me that the people you have in your organization are critical if you want to gain an advantage on your competition. Dan showed me that valuing your employees can truly help your business become a leader in your industry.

I was able to implement some of the key takeaways from Dan’s lectures as soon as I got back to my company in Calgary after the program ended. I immediately implemented a people-focused strategy, which made us a great company to work for. In fact, we were named one of Canada’s 50 best employers from 2011 to 2015, all thanks to what I learned at LBS.

LBS and the Future of Globalization

When I started my exchange course at Columbia, I thought globalization was going to dominate the business world. But, at LBS I quickly realized that this was a misguided assumption. In reality, globalization is not as pervasive as we think.

Many big-name companies struggle even within their own country. For example, in the US, Target has a much better presence in the western part of the country than it does in the east. Conversely, Walmart is a dominant force in the eastern US that just can’t seem to get a foothold west of the Rockies or, for that matter, internationally.

LBS helped me realize that a lot of the value of a company comes from delivering products and services targeted specifically at meeting a local need. International companies struggle to do so because they don’t fully understand markets in other countries.

This fact was further emphasized in our class discussions. With such a diverse cohort of students in my program at LBS, it was easy to see how people from different cultures could look at the same problem in so many unique ways.

At the end of the day, there is so much nuance in each of our cultures, that it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all approach to a problem. This simple concept showed me why it’s so hard to grow a company internationally. Company culture and values often just don’t translate well between cultures.

LBS And Personal Leadership Development

Some of the classes I looked forward to most during my time at LBS were Richard Jolly’s. Richard’s classes focused mostly on personal leadership and organizational behavior, two things that are often overlooked in a world of balance sheets and cost-benefit analyses.

Before Richard’s classes, he asked us to complete readings that were incredibly enlightening. During class, he helped open our eyes to the importance of emotional intelligence for business leaders, whether they’re in the midst of a high-stakes negotiation or they’re looking to institute organizational change.

LBS Professors Are Some of the Best

Students at LBS are fortunate enough to be taught by some of the brightest minds in the business world. My biggest influence as an LBS student was Jessica Spungin, a former McKinsey Partner and my thesis advisor.

Under Jessica’s wise tutelage, I had the opportunity to think deeply about business strategies and how they can affect a given company. I even wrote my thesis on different growth strategies for professional services firms, focusing on how we can maximize business growth by focusing on one thing at a time.

David Arnold was another one of the fantastic professors at LBS. His ability to show us the real-world implications of marketing was highly beneficial. Much of this was because he gave us the opportunity to engage with marketing leaders in London, who then joined the class to share their professional experiences in a discussion-based format.

The time I spent at LBS with superb professors, like Jessica and David, really helped shape my approach to business strategy and growth in my professional life.

LBS Remote Programs Provide Global Perspective

As part of the Sloan Fellows program at LBS, we did a remote program in Shanghai, under the direction of Andrew Scott, professor of economics. The course focused on the future of the Chinese economy, which proved to be incredibly valuable.

During the program, we were lucky enough to be able to speak directly with LBS alumni in China, who gave quality insight into how the Chinese economy is shifting and changing. This helped me learn more about both the positive and negative aspects of China’s economic success.

Through this course, I gained a comprehensive understanding of how the global economy works. Even if your business doesn’t operate internationally, this global perspective is critical for staying on top of economic trends that might affect your industry.

LBS’ Location and Campus are Fantastic

LBS is located in one of the most incredible cities on Earth. As a major business hub, London is a fantastic place to go to business school. The city of London provides endless opportunities for personal growth and professional development outside your academic life at LBS. Plus, London is a vibrant city with plenty of great places to see and explore in your free time.

LBS Alumni and Students are Top-Notch

LBS might be a fairly young academic institution, but its alumni and students are at the top of their game. Students at LBS are highly energized, super engaged, and deeply motivated. They are all excited to live in London and to learn alongside their peers.

Should You Go To LBS?

The time I spent at LBS was a great experience and I highly recommend the program. LBS might not be as well known as schools like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and INSEAD, but it consistently ranks among the best institutions in the world. Recent LBS rankings include:

While LBS is a highly-ranked institution, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s quite young as far as universities go. Founded in 1964, LBS is almost 50 years younger than Harvard Business School and is nearly 70 years younger than the London School of Economics (LSE).

While half a century might not sound like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, the relative youth of LBS means it doesn’t quite have the brand name that you find at other schools. This is particularly true in North America, where LBS is often confused with LSE.

In reality, if you’re looking to start out in the business world in either the USA or Canada, a US-based school, like Stanford or Harvard might be better. Since LBS just isn’t very well-known, a bigger brand name school might be better for jump-starting your career.

London Business School FAQs

Here are my answers to some of your top questions about London Business School:

Which Business School Is Better: LSE or LBS?

Thanks to their similar names, people often confuse LBS with LSE. This is especially true in North America, where LSE has a well-known brand. While LSE is a fantastic school with a much larger brand, it just doesn’t have the same caliber of business-specific programming that you’d get at LBS.

Despite their name, LSE isn’t actually a business or economics school. LSE actually offers over 40 undergraduate degree programs in the social sciences, including everything from anthropology to sociology.

LBS, on the other hand, focuses solely on business education. They offer an assortment of masters, MBA, EMBA, Ph.D., and executive education programs for business professionals. So, if you want a business education, LBS is the better choice.

How Competitive Is London Business School?

LBS is one of the top-ranking business schools in the world. So, unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the most difficult to get into.

Successful applicants to LBS generally have a very high GMAT score, substantial career experience, a well-rounded application, and a solid interview. For reference, the average GMAT score for the LBS MBA Class of 2021 was 701 and the school will not accept any scores below 600.

Additionally, most successful applicants to LBS enter their program with over 5 years of work experience. So, LBS applicants are competing for limited spots against some very highly qualified peers.

Forbes estimates LBS’ acceptance rate to be about 20%. This is on par with other top European schools, like HEC Paris (18%). That being said, LBS’ acceptance rate is slightly higher than Wharton’s (14%) and much higher than Stanford’s (6%) for their 2021 MBA classes.

At the end of the day, getting into LBS is not easy, regardless of which program you choose. LBS is a highly-ranked institution that’s filled with exceptionally qualified students who each bring something unique to the table.

How Is LBS Different From HBS?

LBS and HBS are both outstanding institutions. But, they’re quite different. First and foremost, HBS is considered a premium brand, while LBS is relatively new to the world of higher education.

In reality, both schools have very highly ranked programs with intelligent students and world-class professors. But, the biggest thing I noticed during my time at both schools is the difference in culture at both establishments.

At HBS, there’s more of a competitive atmosphere, while the culture at LBS seemed more collaborative. While I wouldn’t say that there’s a pervasive feeling at HBS that your peers need to fail for you to succeed, it was clear that this wasn’t the case at LBS. This made the whole program a highly rewarding experience.

Part of this, perhaps, was due to the fact that LBS brings together students from a wide array of backgrounds. At LBS, the fact that most students come from outside the UK means that everyone in the program is discovering a lot about themselves as they try to navigate life in a new culture. Ultimately, this leads the cohort to develop some pretty strong bonds throughout their time at LBS.

Does LBS Have A Strong Alumni Network?

Since LBS is a newer institution, it has a smaller alumni network when compared to what you’d find at a more established US school. But, LBS’ alumni network is very valuable, especially because it is so global. Additionally, LBS’ emphasis on collaboration means that if you reach out for help, the network will respond.

Final Thoughts on London Business School

LBS is a great school, full of world-class educators with a diverse, interesting student population. People choose LBS because of it’s global focus, and being stuck in the centre of London means you have access to not only business thought leaders, but thought leaders on almost any subject you could imagine. I cherish my experience at LBS, and often wish I was back there.

If you want to learn more about my thoughts on LBS, connect with me on LinkedIn!

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