Korean consumer electronics and appliance company LG Electronics had a stated goal of becoming one of the top three electronics and telecommunications companies worldwide when they approached Thunderbird in 2010. The Seoul based company generated annual revenue of more than $35 billion and was already the world’s largest producer of CDMA handsets, residential air conditioners, optical storage devices, and home theatre systems.

Dr. Sang Seub Lee, LG’s manager of Global Leadership Development, said the company specifically selected Thunderbird because of the school’s No. 1 ranking in training global leaders. “When you’re talking about international management, there’s only Thunderbird,” Lee said.

Thunderbird Approach

Young-Kee Kim, executive vice president and head of LGs Human Resources Division, said the company was investing long-term in customized MBA programs to nurture talent and groom the next generation of top managers. The company has more than 72,000 employees working in 77 subsidiaries and marketing units around the world. “Today, LG is truly a global company with 80 percent of its revenue generated outside of Korea. Therefore, we need to raise next-generation leaders to manage our enterprises all around the world,” Kim said.

The executive education department at Thunderbird went to work to develop a customized MBA program for 150 LG managers. “Once we met with LG executives and assessed their growth plans, we were able to design a program based on what training and skills they would need to take their company to the next level,” said Dr. Graeme Rankine, academic director of the program. “We developed a truly solutions-based program by focusing the content around LGs global strategy and vision, their products, industry, and competitors.”

Impact for LG

Sidong Noh, an LG Electronics executive and member of the first class, said interactions between Thunderbird professors and students were vigorous throughout the program. “Personally, I’ve got more insight into global strategies and grew better able to view opportunities and threats from the global perspective,” he said.

The long-term impact for LG participants will be seen in the company’s ability to continue to navigate the extremely competitive and ever-changing consumer appliances market.

  • By summer of 2012, the company had begun mass producing so-called in-cell panels, a new display technology that is widely expected to be used in Apple’s next generation iPhone.
  • LG had also developed the world’s first 84-inch ultra-definition 3D television.
  • The company’s smart appliances, such as refrigerators interconnected with smartphones, smart TVs featuring voice and facial recognition, and other home appliances with innovative, intuitive interfaces had begun to dominate some western markets.