Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The creation of European management practice: Differences between different parts of Europe

Concerning education the programme has primarily categorised different regions in Europe according to how they have responded to the influence for the American system of management education (Engwall and Zamagni, 1998). It is those parts of Europe that first developed their own indigenous traditions in business education that show the largest resistance to the American model. The pre-eminent example is Germany, with its own tradition of business economics. In Germany the modern MBA programmes have not gained any strong influence in the German business schools (Handelshochschulen). Another example of a country that has shown resistance to the US system is France.

Countries where the American model has been regarded as a challenge to university education constitute another group. Italy and Spain are among those countries. A third group consists of countries where the American model has contributed to change a German model. The Nordic countries have gradually adopted the American business administration model within an organisational setting based on the German model. Also the Netherlands show a dual pattern by adopting both the German and American models within university structures. Finally, the last category is the late adopters of the American model. UK plays a significant role within that category, since UK is the country where the MBA programmes have expanded most rapidly in Europe.

Since media is a highly heterogeneous field - general and specialised newspapers, academic research publications (books and journals) and university textbooks, magazines, popular books, etc. - the strategy of the CEMP research has been to examine in-depth three countries of different European business systems:
- Denmark (as representative of Nordic business systems),
- The United Kingdom, and
- Italy (complemented with data from France and Spain as representation of the Southern European system).

Regarding the structure of the field (types of media and relationships among types), it seems remarkably equivalent across business systems. In each of the countries studied there are one or two well-established newspapers specialised in business and economics with significant circulation, and a number of other specialised periodicals selling far fewer copies. All the important general newspapers carry sections on management. In each of the countries studied there are also one or two weeklies or monthlies usually patterned both in layout and content after the US examples of Business Week or Fortune.

The United Kingdom is the only country whose periodicals enjoy a wide readership in other European countries, de facto becoming, European publications. However, they never reach the circulation of the national business newspapers. At the same time they act as role models for the national business periodicals in terms of design and content. Similarly, in book publishing there are some trends towards the emergence of a few dominant European actors such as Pearson.

Despite national ownership of most media companies there are some indications for the increasing similarity of content. Business, management and economic matters have become an important part of the information available through the press, both daily and periodical. In the three countries explored, the “explosion” of the importance of these topics occurred in a similar point in time (mid-1980’s), with an ideological celebration of market forces and a sort of popular capitalism, both through entrepreneurship and through easier access to stock exchanges. In sum, there is a very high structural equivalence in the media, and increasing convergence of content across European business systems.

In terms of the consulting field, CEMP research has revealed considerable differences in terms of the supply and the consumption of consultancy services in different parts of Europe. The results suggest broadly a North-South divide, with Germany, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and the Untied Kingdom showing a significant level of consulting activities relative to their GDP. Among the southern European countries consulting activities appear highest in Spain. This means that large companies in these countries have fairly easy and rapid access to new management concepts through the consultancies - a fact confirmed by case study research. In terms of convergence, we also need to take into account factors determining the speed and extent to which these concepts are subsequently diffused throughout these economies. Here we need to look at the concentration of consultancy markets (where a low level indicates the presence of many small, usually locally based consultancies) and the reach of the consultants (where a high value suggests that consultancies also count many small and medium sized companies among their clients). According to these criteria, new management concepts can be expected to diffuse most widely in Germany, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Italy.

Combining these two observations, we can therefore conclude that new management concepts will disseminate quickly and widely in Germany, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. In the United Kingdom and Spain, they will also be received fairly rapidly, but their use will largely remain confined to a few, especially international companies. The situation in France and Italy is somewhere in the middle, because new management concepts are likely to reach them later. In the Italian case, though, subsequent convergence is likely to occur fairly quickly, especially in the more developed regions of the country, due to the presence of many small, locally based consultancies.

Overall CEMP research shows that there are certain differences in the speed and extent of the convergence process in the various parts of Europe.

The results indicate that these differences are mainly driven by
- The existence of global management knowledge institutions, and
- Language capabilities in a given country.

The United Kingdom therefore has particularly advantageous conditions for the adoption of new management concepts and ideas. Due to its strong position in management education and publishing the London based institutions are spreading new ideas inside and outside Europe.

Concerning other parts of Europe, the Scandinavian countries appear to be fast to adapt new management ideas due to a high fluency in English and the existence of global actors. In middle Europe, Germany and the Netherlands are also rapid to acquire new ideas due to the presence of global actors, mainly consultants, and the availability of local translators. In France, however, new concepts appear to be adopted later and to a lesser extent. The southern European countries also show a diverse picture. While in Spain business schools and consultancies diffuse new ideas to the large companies, there are doubts regarding the diffusion to small companies. Like France, Italy seems to be less influenced by global management ideas, although there are regional variations.

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Lars ENGWALL
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