Relationships, Context, Scale: Notes from Global Network Week

When Diana Aitova ’14 arrived in São Paulo for FGV’s Global Network Week course on the Brazilian business environment, she was welcomed like a family member. After a few days, she says, she realized that in addition to making new friends, she was coming to understand how Brazil’s relationship culture directly impacts business partnerships and opportunities there.

During FGV’s course, for example, Aitova learned about Natura, a company that grew a successful brand and sales model built on relationships similar to those established by Mary Kay representatives, where personal touch leads to increased sales. “I think Brazil really highlighted just how important those relationships are,” Aitova said. “You make decisions based on that in business all the time. Do you invest in a startup or a founding team just because you believe in the way they think?”

Aitova was one of  470 students across the Global Network for Advanced Management who traveled during two weeks in March to participate in intensive weeklong mini courses focused on topics such as behavioral economics, innovative Latin American business models, and the prospects for the European Union. The event was the largest since the Global Network Week launched at 5 schools a year ago, with students taking classes at 12 institutions in 11 countries.

FGV’s course focused on sustainability and large-scale sporting events like the World Cup and Olympic Games, coming to Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Understanding the impact of such events requires more than a basic knowledge of sports and marketing, Aitova says. “Take the World Cup alone. You may know everything in the world about soccer, but you can’t understand the event in Brazil unless you understand what it means for the country economically, politically, and environmentally.”

Connor Cassis ’14 spent his Global Network Week studying innovative business models at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile. He says that the experience allowed him to benefit from the faculty’s expertise on the Latin American economy; for example, he learned about the particular business strategies that fit the Chilean culture.

“There are subtleties that aren’t always present everywhere else and you see that the models developed in the United States don’t always fit,” Cassis says. “Understanding how these countries are developing and their perspectives creates a much broader and full picture.”

Another concept that became clearer to students through their travels was the differences in scale and pace between different economies. Frederico A. Meira ’15 traveled to China for a joint program hosted by School of Business, Renmin University of China, and Fudan University, where, he says, it wasn’t uncommon to see a real estate developer building not one or two small complexes in Beijing, but perhaps several towers to accommodate a growing urban population.

“A place like China just has so many opportunities because what’s happening is so much larger than what is going on here [in the United States],” Meira says. “The week really expands your vision.” Meeting students from around the Global Network supplemented the learning he did in the classroom, he adds. “The people provide an additional context to everything you see and experience.”