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Johan Berglund

"The MBALive® serves to bring reality into the program and to connect theory with practice". Johan Berglund, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, SSE MBA Program Director, SSE, Stockholm

What are the strengths of the SSE MBA Program?
Great faculty and great students. In selecting the participants we put a lot of effort into achieving a mix of people of different ages, industries, academic and cultural backgrounds.

Why is the mix of participants important?
I always tell my students that half their learning comes from the study of theories and models, while the other half comes from sharing the experiences of the other participants. The theories presented in class are weighed against the real-life experiences of the participants, and thus contextualized. While the actual testing of different textbook models offers a basis for classroom discussions, the point is not whether a certain model is false or not, but what sort of context it actually works in – or doesn't work.

How do you connect theory with practice?
The SSE MBA offers many opportunities to relate theory to practice and discuss the challenges of translating and adapting academia to reality. The MBALive® components also serve to bring reality into the program and to connect theory with practice.

How would you describe the pedagogical method used in the SSE MBA?
We differ from many MBA schools, which are in fact criticized for over-emphasis on theory and for using models that are too detached from real life. We strive for an intelligent discussion based on theory as well as the practical experiences of the participants. That's our pedagogical method.

What's the difference between a pre-experience masters program and an SSE MBA?
They are two completely different journeys. I tell my students that 'you never read the same textbook twice', by which I mean that post-experience students interpret theory in a very different way compared to pre-experience students.

SSE MBA students have many years of managerial experience and are able to filter the textbook theories through their own experiences. They are seasoned and humbled, yet with the sort of integrity and authority that can only come from years of professional experience. They have learned – sometimes the hard way – that succeeding in business isn't always a smooth sailing, and that many problems don't have an easy solution, but require reflection, which is an ability to be constantly refined and improved throughout an entire professional career. The SSE MBA is a great instrument in that process.

How do you feel that the participants have changed during the course of the program?
They tell me that their confidence has improved and that they have gained skills from competence areas outside their own educational and professional background. A common metaphor that they use is that they have learned to master a new language. They are able to talk to people from different backgrounds, using quantitative as well as qualitative reasoning in a new way and they can fill a position on an executive management team with more ease. In all, they have grown as individuals and feel ready to take on new challenges.

What's your advice to employers who plan to sponsor an SSE MBA participant?
Sponsoring organizations should actively try to benefit from having an employee in the program. Some sponsors, particularly those who have taken the program themselves, discuss cases and problems in advance, even suggesting some that the participant may tackle in classroom discussions and case projects.

The more interest and involvement from the sponsoring organization, the more both parties stand to gain from the SSE MBA program in the long run. I'd advise them to use the SSE MBA program participation to bring new ideas and perspectives to the organization.

At the end of the day, the SSE MBA isn't just about sending an employee to a course – it has a real potential for obtaining something of lasting value to the organization besides getting a more competent individual back.