Business schools are rolling out intensive education programs that seek to deal with the challenges thrown up by the recent turmoil but don't keep executives away from the office for too long. New short courses in key areas ranging from finance, marketing and managing people to organisational psychology, risk management and leadership are all proving popular with corporate high-flyers keen to update their knowledge.
Macquarie University's new Behavioural Finance for Risk Managers intensive course targets workers at the core of the economic meltdown.
The two-day course is aimed at analysts, company secretaries, risk consultants, actuaries, portfolio managers, security and market strategists.
"I'll be bringing up a large number of examples from the global financial crisis," Associate Professor Frank Ashe said. "For example, a number of the regulators have pointed out that one common failing among banks was that they might have been doing their stress testing but they didn't really believe it.
"What really went wrong with the mathematical models is that they were misused . . . to lose $50 billion you've got to be really badly managed."
Professor Ashe said businesses had "stumped up" the cash for most of the 25 places in the course, which runs in May 2010. "People want to come along to understand all this non-quantitative stuff," he said.
The University of Adelaide's new Emergent Leadership short course promises to equip executives with the mental hardware to respond to future global economic, social and environmental crises.
Course convenor Sam Wells said the course responded to a more complex business environment.
"If you talk to most senior people in any organisation they will say, in one way or another, the thing that taxes them most is the increasing complexity of their working environment," Mr Wells said.
The two-day course shifts the idea of the typical business leader from "hero" to something approaching balletic.
"In a complex environment you have no way of being certain how the system will respond to an action," he said.
"It responds one way today and one way tomorrow to the same action, so ultimately it's about learning how to dance."
Leaders in the not for profit sector are also getting special attention.
The University of Queensland's Advanced Leadership for the Not for Profit Sector course aims to arm executives with the weapons to battle tough economic times.
Corporate education director Jim Nyland said: "We focus pretty strongly on things like managing stakeholders from the public and private sector, funding sources, marketing and branding in some depth." He said there was an expectation that leaders ran not for profits the same as private organisations or public organisations.
"Although they're called not for profit, they're 'not for dividend' organisations. They run for profit but plough that profit back," he said.
According to Mr Nyland, demand was "huge" for the course, which ran for the first time over five days in September.
All 60 places were filled and there was a waiting list of 35.
It included modules on strategic leadership, media relations and executive coaching, and featured a highly practical teaching method.
"We had a site visit to BDO Kendalls, which is a private [accountancy] company but one that works in a very big way with the not for profit sector.
"They took us out to their boardroom, spent half a day with us and brought in their senior partners," Mr Nyland said.
"We had a not for profit network lunch and we opened that to 50 additional guests who are leaders in the not for profit world to give them a real example in which they were able to partner with people for the public private and not for profit world."
At the University of Western Australia academics are urging leaders to be braver.
The two-day Courageous Leadership program has units on the role of mindset and positive thinking in coping with heavy workload, management difficulties and poor staff performance.
Business school alliance director Suellen Tapsall said the course gave corporate and public sector executives "safe space to demonstrate what it means to make decisions when you're in the spotlight".
The teaching methods borrow more from Shakespeare than the sharemarket.
"We use actors to do what we call real plays," Ms Tapsall said.
"There are certain scenarios where the parts will work through what will be similar to a real world situation and they would get immediate feedback on how they behave.
"In a sense the leader gets to live the moment before they have to and get to replay it and see how the situation changes if they alter the way they behave."
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