But while the captains of industry are still willing to pay out several hundred pounds a head to sit at the feet of the gurus, there is a growing desire to learn from doing rather than listening.
Ashridge Management College, which recently interviewed senior executives at companies employing more than 1,000 people each in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries, reports organisations are using fewer structured, 'expert-driven' courses. Instead, more than half said they were increasing their use of programmes tailored to their needs.
Among companies' priorities for these courses are such issues as organisational and cultural change, total quality management, speeding up decision- making and cost savings.
Since companies increasingly believe that management development can play an important part in achieving competitive advantage, spending in this area is likely to rise.
While the human resources departments or senior management tend to authorise spending on customised programmes, decisions about other forms of external training are likely to be made only by senior line managers or directors. Ashridge says it is responding to this by developing its portfolio of executive programmes.
Peter Beddowes, dean of Ashridge, said: 'Increasingly, companies are using results-focused development programmes that require active participation and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own jobs.
'The research has also identified trends towards shorter, sharper programmes, modular and distance learning 'through' the job.'Reuse content