The Aalto Executive DBA, beneficial for business - and fun

The decicion creates a ripple effect of benefits for the entire company.

Joanna Sinclair, 08.06.2016

“When an executive decides to take on a top-level academic challenge and obtain a business doctorate at Aalto University Executive Education - a DBA - the decicion creates a ripple effect of benefits for the entire company. This is an important motivator for the individuals enrolling in our DBA program. Another selling point is the fact that the Aalto Executive DBA makes research and methodology fun. This is no small matter for the top business leaders we attract with our DBA program,” says Sami Kajalo, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at Aalto University School of Business. Kajalo is in charge of quantitative methodology courses for DBA and master’s students.

“After finishing quantitative and qualitative methodology courses, our DBA students are equipped to make the most of research - both their own and others,” affirms Ilona Mikkonen, Ph.D., who works side by side with Kajalo at Aalto University, teaching DBA student qualitative research methods, as well as academic reading and writing skills.

You can’t buy culture

Learning quantitative and qualitative approaches to methodology at a doctoral level creates a solid foundation for their research, and also gives DBA students an added business benefit: a strong methodological toolbox makes them better buyers of consulting services, marketing research and other expert services, which include in-depth analytics.

The buck of business benefits does not stop here. DBA students also become better skilled at utilizing business research at work, a talent that can very likely boost a company’s competitiveness. Mikkonen and Kajalo remind that while a manager can buy many things: the best advertising, consulting, and equipment, they cannot buy culture or charismatic leadership.

“Business research is an underused resource in most corporations. There are not many people who can make the most of existing research, with deep enough academic expertise to be able to pick out vital findings and necessary experience as a business leader to know how to make the most of the information to best help a company. DBA students are changing this situation, and enjoying the process,” Kajalo adds.

“In this sense, a top executive with a DBA is a rare exception. She can expertly filter relevant academic findings to enhance her own leadership skills and help her company find competitive edge,” Mikkonen sums up.

Mastering methodology makes research fun

Aalto University Executive Education started offering its fully tailored, individual DBA program in 2012 as the first in Scandinavia. DBA students are coached individually throughout their studies. Most participants plan on completing the three to six year doctoral program alongside highly demanding careers, focusing their research on issues directly relating to their own business.

Kajalo and Mikkonen explain that one of the great strengths of the Aalto Executive DBA is that it makes doctoral research applicable, relevant for business, and - perhaps somewhat surprisingly - fun.

“Most DBA students have years of practical leadership experience from the highest ranks of large companies. They are very motivated, extremely qualified professionals, who are used to working with complex issues every day. They enjoy learning and they enjoy results. I think one of the greatest kicks the DBA students get is realizing just how well equipped they are to create meaningful research,” Kajalo ponders. 

“DBA students usually come to Aalto EE with a specific research question or at least a quite exact research area in mind. What surprises them is how fast they can create or find relevant insight on that matter, new knowledge that can benefit both them as a leader and their company,” Mikkonen describes.

“Customer loyalty programs, employee satisfaction surveys, various company databases, you name it. DBA students often have very rich data at their disposal and for the DBA, the biggest concern is often how to use this data. When they are equipped with methodology skills, this opens up an entire new world for them and that is when the fun starts,” Kajalo says. “I have analyzed data from a DBA student’s company together with the student in our very first quantitative methodology lesson and we immediately found interesting results, and came up with relevant ideas for the DBA student’s business.” 

“I often show DBA students a picture where qualitative and quantitative methodologies are depicted as yin and yang: they can complete each other nicely if you have a chance to use both in your research. Qualitative and quantitative research answer different kinds of questions, your questions often define the best way to search for an answer,” Mikkonen explains.

“Social media and online consumerism are opening new interest in qualitative methodology amongst top leaders pursuing DBA degrees. Ethnographic studies are a good example of qualitative research that is currently spreading rapidly into business and intriguing DBA students with a world of possibilities,” she adds.

Everybody wins with a DBA

“The DBA is not a journey where there is a grand prize only at the end after years of research, benefits start rolling in fairly soon,” Kajalo emphasizes. “The DBA studies inevitably affect the DBA student’s work as an organizational leader and through this, the organization’s operations as well. Everyone knows it pays to get a good education, but in the DBA the payoff has a broader group of beneficiaries. The DBA truly creates win-win benefits all around - for the executive investing considerable effort and time in the doctorate and for the employer typically picking up the bill.”

Kajalo and Mikkonen remind that the order in which course work is completed is fully up to the DBA participants, as all course work is tailored to fit their demanding schedules.

“DBA students seeking to benefit their company from day one, however, should strongly consider starting with methodology courses,” Mikkonen says.

The Aalto Executive DBA is a structured program in Business Administration for talented individuals with considerable managerial experience who wish to make a significant contribution to the enhancement of professional practice in their key areas of interest. It has both real world relevance and academic rigor and focuses on the relevance to the employer and the professional development of the candidate. The program is organized by Aalto EE Helsinki. Read more about the program.

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