; 50 years of Executive Education | London Business School

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Discovering new business landscapes is only possible if you’re prepared to take the road less traveled. Since 1966, Executive Education at London Business School has been a trailblazer – a navigator with a purpose – that leads followers into uncharted territory. Discover more about our journey over the last fifty years below.

Watch our animation to discover how we have been trailblazing through the decades.

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Training busy managers

The Britain of the 1960s needs better managers and there’s no quicker way of reaching them than Executive Education (EE) programmes – training people as they take time out from their jobs. The School’s first EE programme is the Executive Development Programme, aimed at middle managers in their 30s. The second is for senior executives in policy-making positions – the Senior Executive Programme – which is still running today. Next come programmes in finance and marketing.

  • 1966 - The start of EE

    Fifty men start the Executive Development Programme (EDP), the School’s first “post-experience” or executive education course on 2nd February. Aimed at middle managers in their 30s, the programme is 12 weeks long and requires “a very high level of application, long hours and the equivalent of a six-day week”. An underlying theme of the course is “change” and “the businessman’s role in administering change effectively in a fast-moving world”.

    (The EDP was replaced by the London Executive Programme in 1973, which was in turn replaced by the Accelerated Development Programme in 1989.)

  • 1966 - Straight to the top

    The first Senior Executive Programme (SEP) starts on 15th May with a class of 20 men (whose partners were invited to Wives’ Day). It is aimed at “the mature executive who has assumed or is expected to shortly assume a senior policy-making position”. As such it is seen as the School’s most critical programme – the quickest way for the School to have an impact on professionalising management in British business. 

    The six-week programme uses case studies from the start and includes a key simulation-style exercise on “the strategic problems of a rapidly growing electronics company”. Fifty years on the SEP is shorter (4 weeks) but still running.

  • 1967 - Instant hit

    The SEP and EDP are both over-subscribed but the School’s temporary home on Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square, doesn’t have room for any more students.

  • 1967 - Here come the girls

    Miss M A Lawrence, Group Marketing Officer for Smith & Nephew, becomes the first woman to take part in the Executive Development Programme.

  • 1969 - Marketing takes off

    The first Marketing Executive Programme is run “to assist in the development of promising marketing executives”, organised and led by William McIntosh who left his job as general manager of British operations for Mars to become the School’s first Professor of Marketing.

  • 1969 - Continuous improvement

    Changes are made to the Executive Development Programme in reaction to feedback to give participants more freedom of choice in what they study through elective elements, more opportunities to measure individual performance, and more contact with live business problems.

  • 1969 - In the pink

    An article in the Financial Times gives a favourable write up of the Senior Finance Programme, leading to an increase in requests for places on the course.

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Meeting corporate needs


It’s a tough time for any new venture to flourish as Britain’s economic troubles deepen – one of the School’s programmes is even cancelled as applications get caught up in a postal strike. But there’s an appetite for new management and finance ideas and the School increases the number of short specialist programmes from nine to 26.


It’s also the start of customised programmes, with an emphasis on innovative designs for individual companies. These range from a two-day seminar to a three-week general management programme for overseas executives in an oil company. Eleven companies sign up in the first year.

  • 1970 - Room to grow

    Following the success of the School’s programmes in the 1960’s, Queen Elizabeth II opens the School’s new premises at Sussex Place, Regent’s Park, providing the opportunity for further expansion in the School’s executive programmes.

  • 1970 - Putting economics first

    The new two-week Business Economics programme claims to be the first of its kind in the country, focusing on the economics of business rather than a more functional approach to business, and aimed at the practising non-university economist.

  • 1970 - Importing the ideas of finance

    The first Portfolio Investment Research Programme is attended by 26 senior staff from investment institutions and Stock Exchange firms. The one-week programme teaches ideas about efficient markets and portfolio theory that are taking off in America but are still relatively unknown in Britain. Visiting Professor is Jim Lorie, head of the finance department at the University of Chicago, who developed the first major historical database of stock prices at the Center for Research in Security Prices. 

    * Link to 1970 Impact Story: How we made the City slicker

  • 1971 - Managing change

    The Management of Change in Organisations launches with organising tutors Charles Handy and Professor Derek Pugh. Handy is known for his focus on the human side of enterprise and provided a powerful link between the pioneers of management thinking and the workplace. Other new programmes are Behavioural Sciences at Work, Working With Management Models, and Government & Industry.

  • 1972 - Take off

    The new two-week Civil Aviation Senior Management Programme is attended by 19 senior executives from Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Ireland, Zambia Singapore and the UK. Meanwhile the innovative one-week Production Control Policy Programme deals with the way production can meet manufacturing policy objectives and breaks down organisational silos by linking production control with areas such as marketing and accounting.

  • 1973 - Foreign affairs

    The new one-week International Business Programme led by Dr John Stopford offers an “extensive examination of some of the pressing problems confronting foreign investors today”.

  • 1973 - Testing the water

    The School starts it’s first custom programmes offering in-house training for individual organisations. It has 11 customers in its first year including the British Airports Authority, British Petroleum, ITT, Parke-Davis, Plessey and Shell.

  • 1973 - Dinner date

    Looking for new ways to spread finance ideas to people who are busy working, the School starts the highly popular Corporate Evening Finance programme offering two lectures a night, one before and one after a buffet dinner. In their heyday in the 1990s and 2000s these programmes attract 500 students a week.

  • 1975 - Tailor made

    The School creates the Centre for Management Development to look after custom programmes and to research ways of improving management education. Custom programmes “with their emphasis on innovative designs” are said to complement the School’s existing programmes and “enhance the overall effectiveness of a company’s management development programme”.

  • 1975 - Connecting education and research

     As IBM joins the client list for custom programmes, the School recognises the value of in-house training for research which can also be fed back into the teaching. “A series of programmes for a multinational company has provided an excellent milieu for a comparison of managerial attitudes, values and styles across national cultures but within a common technology and corporate identity,” it says at the time. “The build-up of data from an ongoing project such as this can be fed into the learning process of the programme itself so that education and research become purposefully intertwined.”

  • 1979 - Supporting entrepreneurs

    The School starts offering the New Enterprise Programme backed by the UK government’s Manpower Services Commission to help people who are about to start a new small business that has the potential to create employment.

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New ways of learning


The School identifies a change in demand for management education from teacher-led classes to more personalised learning and is quick to innovate. It brings in more choice for participants, more interactive business scenarios and 360-degree feedback. Meanwhile links are built with countries such as the US and Japan and training is offered to Russian and East European managers as they emerge from years of Communism.

  • 1980 - Making friends in Europe

     The London Executive Programme adds Denmark to the list of countries visited during the programme along with France, Germany and Italy. While the trips are expensive they are hailed as “an important means of building managerial bridges for greater understanding between Britain and Europe.”

  • 1981 - Real learning

    Changes to the London Executive Programme reflect “the move towards learning rather than being taught” with some 20 per cent of teaching time now designed and managed by the participants themselves. The programme aims to provide an opportunity for mid-level managers to reflect as well as to acquire new skills, countering the “widespread belief amongst consumers of management education that learning only takes place if there is an expert teacher standing at the front of the class”.

  • 1984 - Backing women managers

    Addressing concerns about the low number of women applying for shorter general management courses, the School launches its first scholarship from Executive Education funds to support a place for one woman on each London Executive Programme.

  • 1985 - Up and running

    After a campaign of radio adverts, some 900 people show interest in the 30 places available on the School’s new Firmstart programme for entrepreneurs who have already started trading. Successful applicants include an aerial surveyor using remote controlled aeroplanes and a law student branching out with a specialist handmade cheese shop. Funded by the UK government’s Manpower Services Commission, the course gives part-time training over 40 weeks.

  • 1986 - Royal Charter

    The School gets a Royal Charter giving it the same status as other major educational establishments in the UK and sealing its reputation as a leader in management education.

  • 1986 - California partnership

    The School extends its reach with a partnership with Stanford University. More than 50 people from over a dozen countries take part in the first London-Stanford International Investment Management Programme run jointly by Professor Stephen Schaefer from LBS and Professor William Sharpe from Stanford University.

  • 1987 - HR takes off

    A new four-day Human Resources Strategy programme is launched just as “the debate on international executive development is most lively. Other new programmes include Telecommunications Senior Management and Dealing with Whitehall.

  • 1988 - Next stop, Japan

    In what’s believed to be a first for any UK executive education programme, the London Executive Programme heads to Japan for nine days. They visit Fujitsu, Canon, Nissan and Mitsui and hear from speakers from the Bank of Tokyo, Matsushita, the Keidanren and the Diet, or parliament. The last night in Tokyo includes kabuki theatre, dinner and a “highly platonic” geisha show. Three faculty members accompany the trip as research for launching a separate two-week programme in 1989 called Competing Globally: The View from Japan. On this programme 20 executives spend two weeks in a “total immersion” in the Japanese business world visiting R&D labs, subsidiaries and joint ventures.

  • 1989 - New course, new insights

    Dr Rob Goffee leads the new four-week Accelerated Development Programme for talented “fast-track” younger managers in response to customer requests for shorter programmes. Based on extensive research and design, it aims to be interactive with a business game and an acquisition exercise. It builds in aspects of health and wellbeing. And it harnesses 360-degree feedback to help managers measure their impact and target their development in areas of perceived weakness. 

    The ADP replaces the London Executive Programme and quickly gets a reputation for being an innovative programme for high potential young managers.

  • 1989 - Coming in from the cold

    The general manager of Russia’s largest tractor plant and the deputy chief engineer of the country’s largest scientific instrument producer are among the 20 Russians spending three weeks on the School’s Programme for Senior Soviet Managers. The first of its kind to be held in a Western business school, the programme is funded by the Foreign Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the British Council. The managers are taken to see several UK companies to see and hear how they have undergone radical change programmes and gain lessons for Soviet industry as it faces major economic change and restructuring.

  • 1989 - Small business needs

    The School creates the Centre for Enterprise to meet the educational needs of those running small- and medium-sized businesses. It offers the Early Growth Programme and the Growth and Development Programme for businesses at different stages of evolution.

  • 1989 - Computers, chocolates and planes

    New custom programmes include an Advanced Management Programme for British Aerospace and a senior management initiative for the Mars Group in Switzerland. While a Sales and Marketing Programme for Apple Computer (Europe) is designed to reflect the organisational changes needed in the company as it grows to a $1 billion business.

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Building global companies


As business becomes global, companies rise to the challenge looking for new ways to gain a competitive edge. Customised programmes are about change management, restructuring and building corporate leaders. In another innovation, a consortium approach is developed to help managers learn from their peers in other industries.

  • 1990 - Shaping the new Russia

    Continuing links with the Soviet Union at the time of perestroika, ten faculty members go to Moscow to run a two-week programme for teachers at the Academy of the National Economy, the country’s leading training establishment for top managers and administrators. While there the group is pulled in at short notice to join a meeting of a committee drawing up part of the Soviet Union’s new economic legislation. They spend a day working through the draft Monopolies Law clause by clause. 

    * Link to 1989 Impact Story: Turning communists into capitalists

  • 1990 - Teaching policy makers

    Future policy makers in post-apartheid South Africa attend a unique course on economic analysis funded by the South African Advanced Education Project. Representatives from the African National Congress, the United Democratic Front and the Black Management Forum amongst others, discuss issues such as monetary policy options and privatisation versus public ownership.

  • 1991 - Changing business

    The School’s first major change management programme is developed for Heineken as it launches a restructure. Professors John Hunt and Rob Goffee start with a two-day seminar for the corporate board near Amsterdam with further one-week residential programmes to be held in various locations. The programme, “New Spirit of Heineken”, links leadership to cultural change. It runs for five years, training hundreds of Heineken’s senior and middle managers. Other new corporate clients include Johnson & Johnson, Wellcome and Seagrams Europe. 

     *Link to 1980 Impact Story: Refreshing the parts other business schools cannot reach

  • 1991 - New world order

    As international business competition intensifies, the new Building Global Leadership programme draws on Professor Gary Hamel’s research on how firms can build and defend global leadership.

  • 1993 - Diplomatic approach

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office asks the School to run two programmes to help diplomats develop an understanding of leadership, management style, staff development and financial management. One programme is for ambassadors, deputy secretaries and under-secretaries. The other is for senior diplomatic grades.

  • 1993 - Harnessing technology for learning

    Executive programmes adopt new learning tools to help managers move from “the ‘lone-gun hero’ image of the 1980s to the new characteristics of management: improving the sharing of knowledge by encouraging communication and creating understanding”. Managers are invited to map their views, beliefs and attitudes. While computer simulation models help them to project their ideas into the future to see how their decisions play out. The Strategy in Action programme has a “boom and bust” computer simulation game that shows the direct link which between managers’ actions and the results

  • 1993 - Backing women

    A Women Entrepreneurs Programme runs for 21 women selected by a competition run with Cosmopolitan magazine and sponsored by Royal Mail and Grand Metropolitan. They spend a week developing core managerial skills and discussing company growth strategies.

  • 1993 - Managing biotech and pharma

    As the global healthcare industry experiences major structural changes, the School joins forces with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to offer the new Medical Marketing Programme. It’s designed to help managers from pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical equipment companies to develop new analytical techniques and marketing and planning skills to suit the changing business environment.

  • 1995 - Sharing global insights

    The Global Business Consortium is launched. Designed and directed by Professor Lynda Gratton, it brings together top executives from six companies – ABB, BT, LG, Lufthansa, SKF and Standard Chartered Bank – to share their knowledge of different sectors. The first programme visits India, Southeast Asia and Europe and is led by Gratton and Professor Sumantra Ghoshal. “The executives have completed senior management courses. They are familiar with the latest management theories. They have heard the gurus. For them, the best way forward is to learn from their peers,” says Gratton. Meanwhile a new programme for global marketing directors is launched in collaboration with the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, called the International Marketing Leadership Forum. 

    Link to Impact story on Global Business Consortium

  • 1996 - Internationalism

    The School’s Principal, or Dean, Professor George Bain hails its advances in “internationalism”. Around 75 per cent of participants on the two flagship executive general management programmes – the ADP and SEP – are non-UK. While the proportion of faculty who are non-UK has grown from 18 per cent to 50 per cent in seven years with representatives from 18 different countries including Australia, Japan, India, the USA, Canada and mainland Europe. “To teach business effectively today, schools have to teach in a global context,” writes Bain in the Annual Report. The number of participants in executive education rises to 3,000.

  • 1996 - Transforming business

    When John Rose takes over as CEO of the troubled Rolls Royce its market share is below 10 per cent. London Business School designs an innovative management education programme that is credited with helping the company’s regeneration towards its 50 per cent market share today. 

    Link to Impact story 1996 The Rolls Royce of Turnarounds

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Being better


Leadership and innovation come to the fore as technology shapes a decade ending in the global financial crisis. Experiential learning takes individuals on journeys of personal discovery, tying in with ideas about authentic leadership. Managers are encouraged to experiment to find solutions for the real strategic challenges their companies face.

  • 2000 - Bigger reach

    The School becomes the seventh largest business school in the world in terms of executive education revenues. It runs programmes in Barcelona, Basel, Berlin, Delhi, Hong Kong, Munich, New York, Stockholm, Sydney and Taipei, whilst also delivering company specific programmes to international clients from 11 countries.

  • 2000 - Show your weaknesses

    Professor Rob Goffee, founder of the ADP and architect of large-scale leadership programmes, wins Harvard Business Review’s 2000 McKinsey Award for his article Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?, based on the idea that good leaders reveal their weaknesses and show their differences. Co-authored with Gareth Jones, director of human resources and internal communication at the BBC, the pair turn the ideas into a successful book published in 2006. The approach becomes a core part of executive education at the School. 

    Link to Impact story 2006 Goffee tells leaders to show their weaknesses

  • 2001 - World status

    The Financial Times’ Executive Education Survey ranks the School as Europe’s top provider of open enrolment programmes. BusinessWeek places the School’s executive education programme seventh in the world. The School now has some 170 executive education courses and more than 5,000 participants a year.

  • 2001 - Joining forces in Japan

    A new joint executive education programme with Columbia Business School is announced in Japan. With faculty from both schools teaching on the Tokyo-based programme, Fundamentals of Management: Highlights from the Core MBA Curriculum.

  • 2002 - Experiential learning

    The School launches new experiential approaches to learning, both for groups in the Discovery Method, and individuals in the Proteus programme. 

    Link to Impact Story: Why every executive should go to prison

  • 2003 - Taking on the challenge

    Start of the Developing Strategy for Value Creation programme devised by Professor Yiorgos Mylonadis. Participants are invited to come armed with a strategic challenge facing their business so they can develop an action plan to overcome it and take their organisation forward.

  • 2004 - New thinking

    There’s “tremendous feedback” for the new Market Driving Strategies programme, which encourages original thinking to cultivate groundbreaking business strategies. It leads to the development of another new marketing programme for 2005, Building the Customer-Focused Organisation.

  • 2005 - Leading edge

    The School starts its work with Danone, developing the Leading Edge programme for its top executives. It uses the Discovery Method and gets fantastic results. Eight years on, in a Danone-LBS survey of Leading Edge alumni, 100 per cent say the programme caused them to make lasting changes to their leadership style and enabled them to be more effective at work. Some 64 alumni have been promoted, four of them to the executive board. And the programme wins the 2013 EFMD Excellence in Practice award for executive development.

  • 2005 - On the up

    The School rises to three in the Financial Times’ annual Executive Education rankings. The number of participants in executive education programmes increases to more than 6,000, with new clients including Celltel, Microsoft, Etisalat and SABIC.

  • 2006 - Case study

    Professor Sumantra Ghoshal posthumously wins the overall prize at the European Case Awards for The Transformation of BP, co-authored with Professor Lynda Gratton and Michelle Rogan. 

    Link to Impact story 1994 Putting people before profit

  • 2006 - The value of experiments

    Professor Julian Birkinshaw starts working with Roche on “management experimentation”, helping them set up some 80 different experiments in innovation and new practices over the next ten years. 

    Link to impact story 2010 How to innovate from the bottom up

  • 2006 - Sharing the message

    The Nestlé partnership that initially focused on the company’s top 200 directors is extended to 2,250 employees in London, Miami and Singapore. The aim is to encourage disruptive thinking and innovation.

  • 2006 - Best learning

    The School is commended for its innovative combination of education and work-based learning at the 2006 Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF) Management Practice Awards. The prize for Best Learning Programme was awarded to the School’s custom programme for Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

  • 2007 - Big thinkers

    A list of the world’s most influential management thinkers, the “Thinkers 50”, includes Professors Lynda Gratton (Organisational Behaviour), Rob Goffee (Organisational Behaviour) and Costas Markides (Strategic and International Management) and Visiting Professor Gary Hamel (Strategic and International Management). 

    1990 Gary Hamel cuts to the core 

    2005 The who, what and how of innovation

  • 2007 - Client focus

    As more than 8,000 participants are enrolled in the School’s open and custom programmes, the EE team pledges to keep clients’ needs at the heart of their work – from programme planning to post-course assessment. Sir Andrew Likierman, Professor of Management Practice (Accounting) is commissioned to help clients measure the value of executive education.

  • 2009 - Difficult days

    As companies deal with the fallout from the global financial crisis the School offers programmes including Navigating Through a Downturn, Seizing the Upside of the Downturn, Managing Change in the Downturn, Managing People through the Downturn and Tomorrow’s Economy: Opportunities and Pitfalls.

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Looking to the future


As our interconnected world faces stresses and strains, major changes are coming to the way we work and live. Companies can’t stand still. Executive Education courses are designed to help leaders and managers think about the future of their businesses and industries and chart new paths for the way ahead.

  • 2011 - Changing times

    Professor Lynda Gratton publishes The Shift which talks about the universal trends that are changing our world – technology, globalisation, demographic patterns, limited resources, social forces - and what they mean for people in the way they work and live. The book comes out of research with her Future of Work Consortium. Set up in 2009 this group brings together trainers, human resources experts and interested parties from some 35 companies from different sectors and countries for collaborative sessions on the future of work. Professor Gratton uses the research in her teaching on the School’s Human Resource Strategy in Transforming Organisations programme. 

    Impact story: 2011 What’s the future of work?

  • 2011 - A hub for entrepreneurs

    The launch of the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship marks a tradition of teaching entrepreneurship at the School that goes back to 1976 when the late Michael Beesley set up the Institute of Small Business Management. 

    Impact story 2011 How to be an entrepreneur

  • 2012 - Building leaders in Oman

    Oman Oil Company starts a long-term leadership development programme with the School to be delivered fully in Oman, training both senior and emerging leaders.

  • 2013 - Building leaders in Kuwait

    Kuwait’s National Technology Enterprises Company appoints the School to design and lead a world-class leadership programme for the Kuwait Petroleum Company worth US$38 million. The largest executive education contract ever awarded to the School and one of the biggest globally, the programme will be delivered over five years in multiple locations with other world leading institutions.

  • 2014 - Senior women

    A scholarship is launched for a female executive to join the Senior Executive Programme. It’s funded by London Business School in collaboration with the 30% Club which started in 2010 with the goal of achieving a minimum of 30 per cent women on FTSE-100 boards.

  • 2015 - Global friends

    The Global Business Consortium celebrates 20 years of bringing companies together to share their business approaches in an idea pioneered by Professor Lynda Gratton. The six current members of the consortium are Emirates, Oracle, Mars, Nokia, GEA and DP World.

  • 2015 - New opportunities

    The School launches the five-day ASEAN Global Leadership Programme in partnership with regional management consulting firm SRW&Co. It’s designed to help senior executives in the region prepare for opportunities in the new ASEAN Economic Community.

  • 2016

    Executive Education celebrates 50 years!


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