ISL study tours differentiate themselves from industrial tourism by a strong focus on deep level learning. Participants are active players in the meeting with host companies, and are encouraged to reflect on applications to their own organisations. See an article on deep learning from study tours.

Participant learnings on study tours include:

  1. How leadership practices and systems adopted by leading companies differ from those of less successful companies.
  2. Identify a range of important measures for organisational success that go beyond the traditional triple-bottom line.
  3. Learn to differentiate between honeybee and locust leadership practices and systems.
  4. Understand how the basic thinking about an enterprise differs in honeybee-led firms.
  5. Learn from senior managers of the host companies how these practices and systems deliver significant competitive advantage in the case of honeybee leadership and why they are self-destructive in the case of locust leadership.
  6. Understand how and why honeybee leadership makes organisations more resilient and delivers superior organisational outcomes over the long term.
  7. Understand why it is that honeybee organisations can outperform locust organisations in diverse national contexts and under different ownership structures.
  8. Why it is so difficult for locust managers to copy the honeybee leadership model.
  9. Gain a better understanding in how your own organisation differs from leading honeybee organisations.
  10. Reflect on opportunities for improvement.
  11. Improve your intercultural and global leadership skills through in-depth exposure to the Germanic cultures of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
  12. In addition to learning about strategic leadership practices and systems, learn about high-performance HR practices, customer relationship management, managing intellectual property and knowledge, environmental and social responsibility, and innovation management.
  13. Develop connections and links to European organisations.
  14. Understand why countries that are more accepting of honeybee leadership consistently outperform countries that are more beholden to locust leadership – on a range of metrics.

Read past participants’ testimonials in this scrolling list:

I found the program of work and the tour gave me an enormous amount of perspective and insight in the strategy and operations of organisations that have invested time, resource and energy into developing leadership capability and practices as a source of sustainable competitive advantage that directly effect shareholder wealth in positive ways. I would recommend this tour to leaders who are looking to make long-term, positive influence in and on their organisation. I would also recommend this to C level executives, looking for ways to impact their business beyond the next reporting cycle and develop an edge that is difficult to replicate without the right knowledge.
Matthew Ball, Microsoft
This is applied learning, rather than just theory. The companies we visited were genuinely interested in the perspectives of the participants on tour, and specifically the briefing papers prepared on their respective companies. The opportunity to present our research and findings in a professional forum to senior executives of the target companies was a rewarding experience. It was also enlightening to understand and appreciate the alternative perspective of sustainably led companies versus the Anglo/US style we are all generally familiar with. To witness this business philosophy as it is implemented and espoused in these European companies was testament to the fact that we often have blinkered vision as to the view of the world we work in. Also understanding and being aware of alternative philosophies is part of learning. It was also interesting as part of the research undertaken, to uncover some of the initiatives already established in my organisation, that I wasn’t even aware of. I am fortunate now to also have been invited to participate in some of these working groups.
Greg Byrne, Deutsche Bank
For many of us the opportunity to see in action what we learnt in books and to compare reality to research was something that is academically invaluable. In most cases when we visited the host companies, we were received with such graciousness by each company, which I believe was largely due to the strong working relationships that both Professor Avery and Dr Harry Bergsteiner were able to foster and establish with these organisations. I can’t imagine that our visits were as beneficial to the hosts as it was for us to see in action what makes these organisations successful and the standout elements of the organisations.
Jackie Choi, Medtronic International, ASEAN
I would like to thank Professor Gayle Avery and Dr Harry Bergsteiner for organising and leading the 2006 European study tour. I have gained invaluable insight about the German and Swiss companies. I have also learnt a great deal about the German and Swiss cultures and people in general. The study tour has left quite an impression on me. I was particularly interested in the Swiss organisation, Migros. I wanted to know how a highly profitable organisation can still be ethically, socially and environmentally responsible. Visiting Migros gave me an even better insight into the organisation. Thank you again and I hope you will continue to organise the study tour for future participants. It has been an invaluable experience.
Dr Yvanne Diep
The European Study Tour introduced to me a new paradigm in doing business, namely an alternative approach to running businesses that mainly focuses on short-term results. Given the pressures of the current financial turmoil and economic conditions, it is especially timely that today’s business leaders shift their attention to this alternative and learn more about it. Doing the European Study Tour has broadened my views in strategic business planning and its implementation, which is and will be useful in my work. Furthermore, it is learner-focused, meaning, I get to research about topics of my interest and what I want out of the tour rather than the other way around. It was an amazing learning experience for me. And finally… who can resist German beer and sausages?!
Jacklyn Fong
I would thoroughly recommend the European tour to all students studying at MGSM. One of the strengths of MGSM is that our student base is comparatively experienced in the realities of managing complex business streams within dynamic environments. This participant-experience is precisely what made the tour such a positive learning process. We delved into some of the most cutting-edge organizations in Europe confident that we were of sufficient calibre to ask the “right” questions. And we were met in return by some of the most senior managers available who were hungry for our perspectives and questions concerning their business. Furthermore, the chance to travel and be involved so closely with like-minded, motivated colleagues is indeed a rare one, which pushed me to contribute (and thereby extract in return). This was a demanding undertaking – but one well worth the effort.
Jim Garraway
If you are looking to expand your perspectives on management, and on leadership in particular, then the European Study Tour is a “must do”. I found the preparation before hand to be quite intensive (in researching the companies that I visited), but these preparations made for a richer experience when we met the senior leadership of these companies. What I found most valuable was meeting with the CEOs and supervisory teams of the various companies in Germany and Switzerland. This gave me insights that I would not have gained if only speaking to the company’s PR spokesperson. Most of the people that I spoke to who went on the tour said that they felt a similar way. Expect to find yourself challenged in your thinking, particularly when you compare the prevailing orthodoxy within most Australian firms of what “leadership” actually is. This study tour showed me first hand that Sustainable Leadership practices can work, and work well, whilst also being highly profitable. I would not have thought about this study tour as much as I have, (nor its implications for my management style) if I was simply reading about it from a textbook. Given the current “jitters” in global stock markets, taking time out to consider different points of view, including a long-term perspective to management is absolutely essential. The study tour was a great opportunity for me to “think outside the square”. I made extensive notes from the 8 company visits that we made on the Study Tour, and I have started to implement some of these strategic approaches in my workplace.
Will Huckel, Salvation Army
The European Study Tour on Sustainable Leadership was the best subject I undertook on my MBA. I was pleasantly surprised by the commitment of the firms visited, highlighted by the seniority and calibre of people that we met with. The tour also provides unprecedented access to two outstanding professors in their field of endeavour and richly developed my understanding of sustainability and its integration into all of a firm’s being.
Todd Hulbert, MBA 2008 and winner of the Vice Chancellor's Award for Academic Excellence
The European Study Tour offered the whole package: a strong academic component, a hot topic in my personal list such as Sustainability, and the experience of learning with other talented team mates in great European locations while visiting high performance organisations. The tour challenged my thinking which was in the stream of conventional business models; it allowed me to put myself out of my area of comfort, learning more about my behaviour, experience intense teamwork and explore more about those aspects of my profession that can be more meaningful. After returning home, I have changed aspects in my role and added targets of waste measurement and waste minimisation that are particularly important for the place where I work and for the way that I see things now. I cannot think of many other subjects that offer such a comprehensive learning experience: a strong and interesting academic activity, as well as a unique life experience and constant exercise of social skills. If you feel curious about an alternative business model that offer long term insights of economic perfomance, social responsibility and environmental friendliness, this study tour might be for you.
Roger Lemus, Production Plant Supervisor
All of the theory really came to life for me on the European Study Tour. It’s hard to put a price on the chance to spend a full day with the most senior executives of global organisations like Allianz and IBM. Perhaps of even greater value though was the chance to learn from the people who work on the floor in organisations like BMW and Aesculap, and to see how some of the world’s most progressive strategic leadership concepts are actually understood, embraced and implemented by the employees who work for them. Studying the companies in preparation for the tour, then being immersed in the Rhineland experience for an intensive two weeks has changed my understanding of the real meaning of sustainable leadership, in a way not possible through research and case studies alone.
Michael Morgan, Participant turned Tour Mentor
The 2004 European study tour provided excellent opportunities to see theory in practice within a broad range of organisations and industries, and to participate in frank dialogue with senior executives of host organisations. It was fascinating to observe (and learn from!) the diverse cultural interactions within the companies visited and, with participants from Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore, within the tour group itself. The academic aspect of the course allowed me to explore my keen interest in corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line accountability, and to see many interpretations of how companies operating under different leadership models incorporate such issues into strategy and operations. The practices observed were often quite astounding for people from predominantly shareholder driven Australian companies. The tour is exceptionally well organised: Gayle and Harry go to great lengths to ensure everything runs smoothly. I strongly recommend participants adopt the ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy and take full advantage of the bicycle rides, beer garden visits and beautiful mountain walks on offer.
Tracy Morgan, Morstone Management Solutions
A friend of mine went on the 2003 European Study Tour and encouraged me to apply for 2004. What an amazing decision it was! It’s not just the wonderful friendships that I have made or the opportunity to interview senior executives in companies that I would not normally be able to visit, but I think it was also that I was able to apply all my previous learnings in a practical way. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t have missed.
Katherine Owen, Participant turned Study Tour Mentor
The Leadership study tour has given me a unique opportunity to analyse, visit and interact with overseas companies, who are leaders within their business fields and surrounding community. These companies demonstrated successful business achievements gained through a longer-term business focus and by utilising their resources in a more balanced way than the shorter-term business view environment we current operate in. This tour has given me new insight into leadership theory and overseas business practices that I am now able to use for points of reference and comparison in areas such as corporate governance, business processes and new ideas, which were observed during the tour. It confirmed that the challenges we face in our own corner of the world are not unique, and are common throughout the globe. During the time spent interacting with the company hosts participants were able to discuss both the challenges for the future and strategies for business success. The host companies were very generous with their time and sharing of knowledge.
Nicole Pearce
The study tour provided an opportunity to learn about some leading European organisations in their own settings. The true sense of corporate social responsibility (the Rhineland model) was well and truly alive in these businesses; most importantly I discovered the significant value that this can provide an organisation with. In an idealist way I had always believed in this balanced approach, however in my experience, I had not come across any real implementation. The experiences on the study tour really challenged my ingrained views and forced me to realise that such an approach is possible and can provide a business with a real differentiator. From an academic, professional, social, cultural and networking perspective the tour was truly an unbelievable and fantastic experience. It provided new experiences, knowledge, challenges, fun, friendship and laughter that I will take away with me for life.
Anna Pleadin
As CEO and Director of small business, there is no doubt that the study tour has been highly valuable for me. My depth of knowledge, appreciation and understanding about many topics is far greater as a result. In particular, I enjoyed the opportunity to consider how I might be able to apply some of the learning to my own business, and with my clients’, and what approaches and benefits would transcend boundaries, while admiring the strategic approach these organisations took even when faced with considerable challenge and change. It was great to have time to reflect and discuss with other peers how many of the organisations we visited were so different and yet, in essence, were using a similar model or approach. The benefits of these approaches led me to continuously ask “Why could we not do that where I work now?”. The management of the tour was excellent and went far beyond my expectations. Clearly, everything from travel routes to accommodation to any other organised activities had been carefully thought through beforehand and meticulously planned. There was a good mix of activities and free time and the many informal discussions with peers over dinner was invaluable, insightful and often challenged my own perspective. The variety of industries and companies visited allowed for both similarities and differences and sparked more reflection and discussion. I would welcome the opportunity to attend another tour, so well organized and ably led, at any time in the future.
Wendy Poyser, Director, Better Off With Learning & syncHRonicity Human Resources
First of all one of the main reasons for me choosing MGSM was after hearing about the European Study tour from one of my colleagues at work. The study tour not only allowed me to see the various models and theories studied during the course of the MBA in real life but also enabled me to meet an impressive group of people and build some great friendships. Thanks to Professor Gayle Avery and Dr Harry Bergsteiner we were able to meet the most senior executives in some world-renowned companies such as Audi, B. Braun and Kärcher. The plant tours and presentations really opened the minds of all the students in the areas of leadership and sustainability.
Shehan Silva, Coca-Cola Amatil
I had been in senior management in the Australian subsidiary of a fortune 500 Healthcare company for a number of years. I’d had a lot of opportunity to travel within the company and seen lots of great leadership and outstanding corporate social responsibility, but my sense was that the European Study Tour, with its focus on Sustainable Leadership would broaden my horizons. I could not have been more satisfied with what I have learnt and the experiences I had. The tour requires lots of preparation and whilst on tour the program is pretty intense. But Professor Gayle and Professor Harry have been running the tour for ten years now, and they have got the structure just right. We worked hard, but had so much fun. During the day we found ourselves engaging CEOs of large and successful companies, who were very happy to spend time with us and share their knowledge. In the evenings we discussed the day over a nice meal and a refreshing ale. Sometimes that ale would be in a centuries old castle or in a beautiful beer garden. I could not recommend the tour more highly, if you are looking for a learning experience that gives you access to great companies doing outstanding things in the field of Sustainable Leadership, as well as the opportunity to grow your network whilst having a really fun time – then the European Study tour is for you.
Craig Smith, Finance Director ANZ at Allergan
The opportunity to participate in a European Study Tour is an opportunity not to be missed. Your life will be enriched from many perspectives including academic, cultural and personal. This is possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only get inside some of the world’s most successful organisations but also to meet with members of their senior management team and other staff and ask some hard hitting questions. Of course the added bonus is you get to travel through Europe enjoying the wonderful sites and cultural experiences. The academic content is challenging and rewarding and well supported by Professor Avery. I would highly recommend the European Study Tour to anyone wanting to put some additional spark and excitement into their learning.
Rob Thomsett
It was an eye opener for me throughout the study tour in 2007. The new revelation for me was to see first hand how these corporations can simultaneously address the social and environmental issues and achieve profitability in the long run. They have used these issues to strategically innovate across the board in their business operations. What is inspiring for me is to see companies not giving in to short terms demands of the financial markets but be steadfast in practising sustainable leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to sit with company executives to inquire and share leadership and management ideas and thoughts. The non-threatening and friendly atmosphere of such a learning experience allowed me to reflect upon my own leadership and challenge my traditional mindset. I look forward to putting into practice what I have seen and learnt as I take on this sustainable journey in my company. Thank you for organizing the tour to work so efficiently. It was well planned and everything went smoothly. I am sure it did not happen by magic. Appreciate you for looking after all the details and it was the close attention you provided that made the tour a success. Please do not stop what you have been doing for the last 14 yrs.
Ling Wong, Head Light, Leading Light in Leadership
The European Study Tour was a great experience and is a fantastic opportunity to test academic theory with leading European headquartered international organisations. The tour gave me the opportunity to meet face to face with Directors from many of Europe’s most successful organisations, all of whom were very open to discussing their sustainability practices and strategy. The tour was hard work, but fun, well organised and gave us an insight into business practices in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – an amazing cultural experience.
Roger Woodend, Optus