Murray Orr

With more than 25 years of experience in international investment banking, Murray Orr didn’t need to jump-start his career.

But Orr thought something was missing.

“I really felt I needed a software upgrade,” Orr said.

Even though he wasn’t looking to change jobs, Orr started researching ways to gain a fresh perspective. He was particularly interested in learning from the experience of people in other industries. He was also strongly attracted to going to a U.S. business school given his predominantly British education.

Orr enrolled in Duke University’s Advanced Management Program (AMP). The course is designed for executives with 15 years or more of experience. Participants spend two sessions of two weeks each in Durham, North Carolina. In between, the learning happens virtually as classmates interact online and take what they’ve gained back to their companies.

“Given the varied backgrounds of the other participants, there was no discomfort with sharing experiences, and in fact, there are real learning benefits of having a free and open dialogue amongst a small group of similarly motivated senior executives,” Orr said.

Perhaps the lesson that sticks with him the most involved rolling up his sleeves and pretending to be on a pit crew. The class members divided up into teams and were timed as they changed the tire of a race car. The groups were told not to compete with each other.

“Of course, the competition started immediately despite that warning,” Orr said.

His team clocked in at three minutes, a time which most certainly would cost a driver a race. The instructor then asked the teams if anybody had bothered to consult the car’s driver, who would have had experience in changing the tire.

“None of us had thought to speak with the driver about the most efficient way to change the tire,” Orr said. “It was a powerful lesson about engaging other perspectives in leadership.”

Orr’s team cut their time very significantly in the next attempt.

“Ultimately the client service business is based to a great extent on whether you can trust the person on the other side of the table,” says Orr. “The AMP provides you with a much broader perspective coupled with a greater understanding of your own skill-set and how to better utilize it.”