Avoiding the valley of death in educating strategists

Rafael Ramírez, Nicholas J. Rowland, Matthew J. Spaniol, Andrew White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Billions of dollars and hundreds of millions of hours are invested every year in executive education. However, much of this investment dies in a familiar “Valley of Death” (VoD) wherein what is learned in the classroom is not applied when the strategist returns back to work. Based on 30 in-depth interviews and live observation, we investigate the architecture of an executive education program designed to avoid the VoD. In the observed program, senior partners of a strategy consulting firm, and their key strategist clients, are brought together to co-learn strategy associated with scenario planning, and, at the same time, improve their ongoing business relations. We find that adopting a “paired learning structure” and utilizing “live case content” results in “group-level co-learning” (or the co-production of knowledge) that, participants report, avoids the VoD. This research contributes to the scholarship on learning architecture in executive education by establishing linkages to the literature on client-partner relationships, modelling the student, and service co-production in knowledge-intensive organizations, and, in the end, provides a blueprint that professional service firms and business schools, seeking to produce more value for their participants, can jointly emulate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102000
JournalLong Range Planning
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


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