IMD International


How to Combine Content with Context and Emotion: The IMD Guide

Written by IMD Faculty; Editors: Paul Strebel and Tracey Keys

Driving High-impact Learning

You pay for executive education. But does it stick? Does it produce results? How do you identify executive education that really can deliver high impact?

Mastering Executive Education offers a new way to design and deliver executive learning. Based on the practical challenges executives face, not around academic theory. Learning from the thousands of executives who attend its programs every year, and recent research into how our brains learn, IMD has identified what drives great learning experiences. These take a holistic view of the individual's development needs: extending beyond the purely rational and intellectual to include the emotional dimension and opportunities for application.

High-impact learning is underpinned by four key drivers: emotional highs, energizing roles, real-world context and 3-dimensional learning. The learning script, a roadmap for combining these drivers and the key phases of learning, generates the potential for sustainable changes in workplace attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. A host of practical examples offer insights into how to go about implementing these findings effectively.

Mastering Executive Education helps executives tackle their real world challenges and build corporate value by mastering both the emotional and rational dimensions of management.

For the first time, executives can clearly identify the characteristics of executive education experiences that generate impact in the workplace - and target their time (and spend) most effectively.

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The next generation of managers and organizations will need to think in new ways. Take diverse perspectives. Lead with courage. Execute smarter. Executive education can help – if it sticks. But too often it doesn’t. What’s the solution?

Mastering Executive Education offers a new way to design and deliver executive learning. Based on the practical challenges executives face, not around academic theory. This approach is underpinned by four key drivers:

  • Emotional highs – engaging executives emotionally and intellectually;
  • Energizing roles – actively managing relationships and roles amongst the participants and the educator;
  • Real world context – reflecting ‘real’ business challenges that executives are facing daily in the content and context of the learning process; and
  • Three-dimensional learning – integrating intellectual awareness, emotional awareness and action based application to embed learning.

The learning script, a roadmap for combining these drivers and the key phases of learning, generates high-impact learning, sustainable changes in workplace attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

High-impact learning is not just about learning facts. Content must be linked to the learner’s own context, both ‘hard’ rational challenges and ‘softer’ emotional ones, like building the relationships and networks that are so critical for success in today’s world. But it can’t stop at simply generating awareness. Our own experiences tell us that what finally anchors new ideas and approaches are ‘hands-on’ opportunities to try them out. The key to learning that sticks and drives real change back on the job? Combine challenging content, emotional engagement and opportunities to try new approaches out in real-world situations.

Mastering Executive Educaton demonstrates that real value and sustainable impact come from understanding what drives an effective learning experience. For the first time, executives can clearly identify the characteristics of executive education experiences that generate impact in the workplace. For educators, these insights, supported by a host of practical examples, offer new ways to add value to businesses.

The executive learning insights and scripts described in this book represent best practice across IMD's portfolio of programs. More than 60 of IMD’s experienced Faculty and Staff have been directly involved in generating these insights, while our extended learning community and participants, have provided an outstanding “learning laboratory” for testing and pushing the ideas further. Our contributors are:


  • Gordon Adler
  • Armande Boichat
  • Henri Bourgeois
  • Andrew Boynton
  • Gavin Brown
  • Bettina Büchel
  • Bala Chakravathy
  • Robert S. Collins
  • Carlos Cordero
  • Carlos Cordón
  • Robert Crawford
  • Rhoda Davidson
  • Jean-Philippe Deschamps
  • Joseph J. DiStefano
  • James C. Ellert
  • William A. Fischer
  • Thierry Gachat
  • Xavier Gilbert
  • Georges Haour
  • Melanie Hammond
  • Robert Hooijberg
  • Kazuo Ichijo
  • Claire Jewell
  • Karsten Jonsen
  • Jean L. Kahwajy
  • Kamran Kashani
  • J. B. M. Kassarjian
  • Victoria Kemanian
  • J. Peter Killing
  • Jan Kubes
  • Nancy Lane
  • Petri Lehtivaara


  • Benoît F. Leleux
  • Beverley Lennox
  • Peter Lorange
  • Lindsay McTeague
  • Thomas Malnight
  • Donald A. Marchand
  • Martha Maznevski
  • Seán Meehan
  • Ivan Moss
  • Mopesola Ogunslire
  • Elizabeth O´Halloran
  • Gianpiero Petriglieri
  • Vladimir Pucik
  • James Pulcrano
  • David Robertson
  • Adrian Ryans
  • Joachim Schwass
  • Ralf W. Seifert
  • Janet Shaner
  • Leif Sjöblom
  • Mike Stanford
  • Annie Tobias
  • Dominique Turpin
  • Els van Weering
  • Marianne Vandenbosch
  • Thomas E. Vollmann
  • John Walsh
  • John Ward
  • Ellie Weldon
  • Maria Wilhelmsson
  • Jack Denfeld Wood

Mastering Executive Education The IMD Way!
October 2005

Driving Learning That "Sticks"
Training Journal International Opinion article by Paul Strebel & Tracey Keys
September 2005

Add Emotion, Learn Much More
Australian Financial Review
Interview by Kate Marshall
15 August 2005

"A great contribution. Illustrates how to deliver executive education that creates value. Pragmatic, with interesting new insights from all of the relevant dimensions. If you’re in executive and leadership development, this book is required reading."

Matti Alahuhta, President
KONE Corporation and Chairman, IMD


Mastering Executive Education is organized in five parts. Parts I and II focus on the drivers of high-impact learning and the learning scripts that bring them to life. Parts III, IV and V provide real examples of how these can be translated into effective executive education – “Learning that Sticks.”

Overview of the Contents



Why Should You Want to Master Executive Education?

Chapter 1 High Impact Learning by Paul Strebel and Tracey Keys

Part I: Drivers of Great Learning Sessions

Chapter 2 Emotional Highs Contributions from: Jean L. Kahwajy, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, Paul Strebel

Chapter 3 Energizing Roles Contributions from: Andrew Boynton, Carlos Cordón, Elizabeth O’Halloran, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, Paul Strebel, Ellie Weldon

Chapter 4 Session Scripting Contributions from: Joe DiStefano, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, Paul Strebel

Part II: Drivers of Great Learning Programs

Chapter 5 Real World Context Contributions from: Gavin Brown, Kazuo Ichijo, Petri Lehtivaara, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, Martha Maznevski, Paul Strebel, Annie Tobias, John Walsh

Chapter 6 3-Dimensional Learning Contributions from: Gordon Adler, Robert Hooijberg, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, Nancy Lane, Paul Strebel

Chapter 7 Program Scripting Contributions from: Carlos Cordero, Georges Haour, Victoria Kemanian, Tracey Keys, David Robertson, Leif Sjöblom, Paul Strebel, Thomas Vollmann

Part III: Developing Learning Materials and Methodologies

Chapter 8 Writing an Effective Case for Executive Programs by J. B. Kassarjian and Kamran Kashani

Chapter 9 Real World. Real Learning. Real Video! by Peter Killing

Chapter 10 Developing a Suite of Cases for Nurturing Corporate Entrepreneurship by Bala Chakravarthy and Peter Lorange

Chapter 11 Learning for Leadership: The “Engineering”and “Clinical” Approaches by Gianpiero Petriglieri and Jack Denfeld Wood

Chapter 12 On Coaches, Counselors, Facilitators and Behavioral Consultants by Jack Denfeld Wood and Gianpiero Petriglieri

Chapter 13 The Hidden Agenda of Management Development: Coaching Managers on Project Teams by Xavier Gilbert

Part IV: Learning Scripts for Sessions Building Intellectual and Emotional Awareness

Chapter 14 Scripting Approaches for Cross-Cultural Effectiveness by Martha Maznevski and Karsten Jonsen

Chapter 15 Teaching General Managers About the Business Value of IT – Making the Invisible Visible! by Don Marchand

Chapter 16 Adapting a Case Learning Script to Different Purposes: The Example of a Fierce 'Product Battle' by Jean-Philippe Deschamps

Chapter 17 Running Effective Group Assignments by Ralf W. Seifert and Dominique Turpin

Chapter 18 Beyond “Fun and Games”: Outdoor Activities for Meaningful Leadership Development by Gianpiero Petriglieri and Jack Denfeld Wood Driving into Action-Based Application

Chapter 19 Negotiation Simulations: A Dynamic Learning Tool by Bettina Büchel

Chapter 20 Client and Participant Initiated Projects to Facilitate the Transfer of Learning to the Working Environment by Robert S. Collins

Chapter 21 Entrepreneurship at the Core: The MBA and EMBA Start-up Projects Experiences by Benoît Leleux and Jim Pulcrano

Chapter 22 Learning by Doing through International Consulting Projects by Jan Kubes and Mopesola Ogunsulire

Chapter 23 Applying Theory to New Worlds: Executive MBA Discovery Expeditions by John Walsh Part V: Learning Scripts for Programs Open Programs

Chapter 24 Scripting a CEO Roundtable by Peter Lorange

Chapter 25 Engaging Families in Business for Insight and Action by John Ward

Chapter 26 Fundamentals for a World- Class Leadership Program by Jack Denfeld Wood and Gianpiero Petriglieri

Chapter 27 How to Build and Run Long Executive Education Programs by Robert Hooijberg

Chapter 28 Scripting a Top MBA Program: Focus on Leadership Development by Seán Meehan and Janet Shaner In-Company Programs

Chapter 29 IT Business Consultancy, Partnership and Appreciation: A Proposal to Firm X by Andrew Boynton and William Fischer

Chapter 30 Company-Specific Program Design Supporting the Roll Out of a New Corporate Strategy by Seán Meehan

Chapter 31 Multi-Module Program Scripting: Canon by Vlado Pucik

Chapter 32 Developing Winning Marketing Strategies in Real Time by Adrian Ryans

Chapter 33 Robust Learning from Project-Based Programs by Xavier Gilbert and Rhoda Davidson

Chapter 34 From Emotions to Solutions: Generational Transition in Family Business by Joachim Schwass

Appendix: IMD’s Executive Education Portfolio

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