Democratising education and developing responsible leaders to solve Africa’s most prevalent problems

Business Impact: Democratising education and developing responsible leaders to solve Africa’s most prevalent problems

In January 2021, Chris Ogbechie took up the role of Dean of Lagos Business School. A year on, David Woods-Hale talks to him about the challenges of leading through a pandemic and preparing students to tackle Africa’s business and societal challenges

Could you share some insights into your leadership journey and the challenges you’ve overcome?

I was appointed Dean of Lagos Business School (LBS), in Nigeria, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, at the point when we were coming out of the first lockdown and dealing with the impacts of the virus.

A year before Covid struck, leaders at the School had gathered to discuss the future of work, and remote learning was something we were already researching and working towards implementing. This meant that, when the pandemic hit, we immediately shifted to remote learning, even before the Nigerian government announced a lockdown.

Our executive programmes were negatively impacted by the pandemic. There was a significant drop in enrolment and revenue as many organisations cut their learning and development budgets. Some of our executive programmes had a 60% decline in enrolments, while even the best-performing ones saw a 40% drop.  

Our MBA programmes, on the other hand, were not disrupted for a single day. Due to our proactiveness in offering online learning, we had the knowledge and experience to switch to it and were able to do so easily. However, a few students dropped out as they couldn’t afford to pay their fees. 

Some faculty members were already teaching virtually, so our focus was on training their colleagues to do the same. Luckily, we already had a Learning Management System in place and the Modular EMBA was being run as a hybrid programme with 60% of teaching in person and 40% online – so moving to 100% online was simple. Members of the marketing team also needed training to explore other marketing and sales channels, which included utilising more digital marketing, as they were used to face-to-face selling.

Our revenue dropped dramatically in 2020, forcing us to cut our budget and expenses. We were able to minimise losses by reducing and prioritising expenses. In order to carry everybody along, we had to embark on extensive internal communication to let staff know the challenges we were facing and the plans we had in place to keep the School going. We had to accelerate the use of technology, and we embarked on co-production of knowledge through collaboration with other institutions, consulting firms, Business Schools and corporate academies.

How have you adapted your strategy to continue to thrive during the disruption caused by Covid-19?

With the uncertainty and disruption in the business environment caused by the pandemic, we ran a series of free webinars to support the business community and help it through the unprecedented times. These webinars covered subjects including operations, supply chain management, strategy, marketing, and human resource management. We benefited from this as it re-established LBS as a thought leader and provided us with insights into the needs of business. 

We discovered our customers’ pain points and used what we learned to create a hybrid learning option, redesigning existing programmes, and introducing new ones. We realised that the entrepreneurial mindset and critical thinking that drive innovation are vital to success in the ‘new normal’. We stressed this in our programmes, and introduced the concept of building ecosystems through collaboration. We also reinforced the message of social responsibility among all our students.

At the end of 2021, our performance was slightly above our pre-Covid performance of 2019, and twice the level of our 2020 performance. In addition to our international awards and accreditations, in 2021, we became the first tertiary institution in Nigeria to receive the ISO 9001:2015 certification, which further validates the effectiveness of our Quality Management System, aimed at ensuring a pleasant participant experience. 

Our Sustainability Centre came top out of 36 international Business Schools in the 2021 Global Business School Network’s (GBSN) ‘Going Beyond’ Award. This was in recognition of the Centre’s initiatives in strengthening society, demonstrating community impact and embodying the spirit of inclusive and sustainable development. Two MBA teams also took first and second place in the GBSN Africa Business Concept challenge, which involved 56 teams from 15 countries.

Is the business education sector responding quickly enough to ongoing disruption and what advice would you offer to other deans?

Yes, the response has been quick. My advice is to evolve with the technology, and pay more attention to customers: understand their pain points and design tailored programmes for today’s business leaders, providing a better experience. Your eco-system should influence your research direction; research should help address the business, social and institutional problems of the society. Experiential learning should be prioritised, and there should be better collaboration between Business Schools. For Business Schools in emerging markets, it is important to democratise education through technology, to make it accessible.  

In Nigeria, new industries are emerging and the business managers in these sectors require more customised management programmes. At Lagos Business School, we offer bespoke management programmes to meet the unique demands of players in various sectors. For example, we have the Agri-business Management Programme, tailored to the unique needs of this sector, and we are developing a programme for techpreneurs in financial services, healthcare, and entertainment. We are also looking at how best to prepare students for a world where artificial intelligence and robotics will alter our daily lives. We need to keep up with technology, deliver relevant content and improve the quality of the programmes we offer. 

It is imperative to finetune programmes periodically and to seek partnerships, as we do at LBS. We have partnerships with more than 15 international Business Schools and other institutions in the areas of research, programme design and delivery, and student exchange, in order to develop African business leaders with a global perspective and experience.

Can you offer some examples of innovations your School is developing to future-proof its postgraduate business programmes? 

LBS offers only postgraduate programmes. As one of Africa’s top Business Schools, we value innovation and make it a priority in our content delivery. We established the LBS Sustainability Centre to drive the sustainability agenda and develop responsible leaders more than a decade ago, before other African Business Schools.

We have been promoting responsible management as a means of driving sustainable economic development across Africa. Business ethics and sustainability are mandatory courses on all our programmes. We have become champions of financial inclusion in Nigeria through the work being done by our Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services Initiative.

We took a strategic decision to review our curriculum and to use the most current pedagogical techniques in teaching and learning. To cater for distinct target markets, we divided our programmes into different categories: blended (asynchronous and online), fully online, hybrid, and in-person programmes (which are our high-value programmes).

Our international exchange programmes, and immersion trips with leading Business Schools in Europe, America and Africa, help our students to experience other cultures and business environments.

We recently rolled out a five-year strategic plan with five pillars for LBS. Pillar one is delivering a remarkable participant experience and preparing participants for the future of work. Pillar two is significant research that solves business, social, and institutional problems, and pillar three is about enhancing engagement and nurturing partnerships with stakeholders. Pillar four is targeted at people, processes, systems, culture and values, and involves strengthening our internal process. Pillar five aims to increase our internalisation, maintaining all accreditations, research, programme design, faculty and student exchange with other international Business Schools.

What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing international Business Schools? 

Technology is transforming our way of life, as well as how we learn and access information. There has been a rapid change in the way people learn due to technology and the impact of Covid-19. Hence faculty at Business Schools need to adopt new technology and incorporate new ways of teaching to meet the changing needs, tastes, and preferences of students. Business Schools must embrace and champion innovation to keep up with pace of technological advancement, which is changing consumer behaviour and our way of life. Investing in technology is expensive, so the budget must be increased. 

Climate change is a challenge for the entire world – and Business Schools are no exception. The effects of climate change have already started to affect businesses and industries. Business Schools, as knowledge hubs and breeding grounds for business solutions, must rise to the occasion and proffer solutions for stakeholders. 

There is increased competition in the learning space as customer preferences change and technology disrupts the industry. Business Schools must strive to remain relevant to students, business managers, executives, corporate organisations, and governments.

For us in Africa, massive youth unemployment is a challenge. We need to develop entrepreneurs who will go on to birth new organisations and industries that will create jobs for young people.

You have a very strong sustainability mission at LBS. Business students are passionate about people, profit, purpose, and planet. How is LBS addressing these needs and focusing on developing responsibility and sustainability-centric leaders?

Business ethics and sustainability have been part of the curriculum on all our programmes from their inception. We believe that business leaders will only build organisations that succeed in the long run when they go beyond the financial bottom line, focusing also on their social and environmental impact and performances. 

In our MBA programme, first-year students are taught to be changemakers through the mandatory Sustainability and Personal Social Responsibility (PSR) Course. This core pillar of their learning experience aims to build a mindset of professional ethics and service to society through the implementation of PSR Projects to solve specific social problems faced by target communities. These projects focus on sustainable development themes such as ‘zero hunger’, ‘quality education’, ‘health and wellness’, ‘economic empowerment’, ‘environmental conservation’, and so on. The PSR projects create opportunities for future managers and business leaders to work with players in the nonprofit sector as well as participants of the LBS Nonprofit Leadership and Management programmes.

As an institution, we are constantly seeking ways to help organisations and executives enhance their business performance, and improve their social and environmental impact. In 2010, we established the Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre – the first of its kind in Nigeria – to drive capacity building, knowledge-based dialogue, and collaboration between various stakeholders to find solutions to sustainable development challenges in Africa. The Centre brings together theory and practices on sustainability by building organisational capacity, developing tools and resources, collaborating and supporting initiatives by businesses, government, development organisations, civil society and academics. In addition, the Centre also provides customised management training programmes, open enrolment programmes, seminars and workshops, plus social impact assessment and sustainability reporting services.

We also work with organisations to address sustainable development challenges, incorporate sustainable practices into their operations, and to develop innovative products and services that transform their communities. while simultaneously generating economic value. We have initiatives such as the Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services Project, Building Youth Capacity for Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and the recently launched Innocent Chukwuma Social Impact Youth Chair and Fellowship, supported by organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. We are glad that our students and alumni continue to follow our institution’s example of making a difference in our larger community, national development and in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Having completed your MBA and PhD at AMBA-accredited Schools in Europe, you lead a Nigerian Business School and work closely with another in Kenya as a visiting professor. You have written extensively on business strategy in the region as well. Can you share some insight into the exciting and fast-growing business education sector in Africa?

Africa’s business education sector is expanding rapidly, with programmes aimed at providing solutions to African business problems. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is opening up Africa as one single market, which will provide tremendous opportunity for African businesses. It will lead to the free flow of information and money across the continent, and Business Schools need to develop managers who can operate across the continent and assist organisations to work effectively in the new single market.

To equip the investors, entrepreneurs and executives with the requisite skills, competencies and insights to take advantage of the emerging opportunities, we have developed the Doing Business in Africa programme. The course provides practical guidance and knowledge on the cultural nuances of the various African markets and the political and macroeconomic environment, as well as policy, risk, and regulatory conditions. The course gives an overview of the critical aspects of running business in Africa. It improves participants’ awareness of the structure and nature of the continent’s economy, and also provides in-depth knowledge of how African businesses operate, and the business strategies required to effectively collaborate with African partners. 

As the African business landscape continues to change, there is an increasing appreciation of business research and the insights that Business Schools provide to inform better decision-making. LBS has always been Africa-focused and this course has come at the right time.

What are the next steps for yourself as a leader and for your School?

A key step is putting the customer first and providing an excellent learning experience. Our theme for 2022 is ‘Delighting the customer’, so we plan to continue to improve the customer experience for all our stakeholders, ensuring they have a pleasant and memorable experience. We want to sustain our relevance to our stakeholders, so we need to attract students and participants from around the world, and provide an enjoyable learning experience.

At LBS, entrepreneurship is important: 20-25% of our MBA students start their own businesses after graduation. To increase this number, we are working with a leading development bank to set up an Entrepreneurship Innovation Centre. This will be a hub where budding entrepreneurs can experiment with ideas, and birth innovative solutions to problems. We intend to leverage one of our partnerships to establish an angel funding platform, connecting entrepreneurs to investors. We are also developing new partnerships. One thing is certain: we will continue to develop responsible leaders who will go on to solve Africa’s most prevalent problems. 

On a personal note, I plan to continue writing research papers in the fields of strategy and business management. Although my main responsibility is in administration, I must ensure I continue on the path of developing a body of knowledge on doing business in Africa.

What differentiates the MBA programme at LBS? 

Our values, professionalism, emphasis on business ethics, sustainability and value creation – all of which are integral components of our MBA programme – help us to stand us out in this market. We also adopted the UN PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education) initiative into our MBA programme to ensure our students gain competencies required to balance economic and sustainability objectives.

We have a world-class MBA programme with international accreditations and a robust network of Business Schools, corporations and associations. Our Alumni Association is made up of prominent professionals in the socio-political and economic landscape in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world.

We have an award-winning faculty who are also industry practitioners with business experience in Africa. They offer academic and practical insights, ensuring that our students have a well-rounded understanding of the African and international business environments.

Our MBA programme is global in its approach, but local in relevance, and tailored to the needs of African businesses, with a deep understanding of the unique challenges they face. We develop our students into world-class business professionals with the requisite capabilities to solve African problems. We have adapted some of the best methods from around the world to the African setting so that our students receive a global education tailored to their immediate environment. 

And finally, do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

I am very optimistic about the future of Business Schools, businesses and the economy. As the economy rebounds from the pandemic new opportunities will emerge. 

The pandemic has already changed the work culture; working from home has become the norm, and technology will usher in new developments. New growth areas and new challenges will arise, and Business Schools are preparing their students to meet these challenges.

Responsible leaders are needed in the world of economics and business, and these professionals will come from Business Schools, which are the masters of developing skilled management professionals, preparing future leaders, and fostering a better understanding of the fundamental challenges the global economy faces. 

These things spell an exciting future for business, Business Schools and the economy.

Chris Ogbechie is Dean of Lagos Business School (LBS) a Professor of Strategic Management, a visiting professor at Strathmore Business School, Nairobi, Kenya, and the founding Director of LBS Sustainability Centre.

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Mission possible: interview with EADA Dean, Jordi Díaz

Business Impact: Mission possible: interview with EADA Dean, Jordi Díaz

EADA Business School created the first master’s degree in sustainable business and innovation. Its Dean, Jordi Díaz, spoke to David Woods-Hale about further embracing sustainability and addressing the ‘reskilling revolution’

In 2022, it will have been 20 years since you joined EADA. What have been the biggest changes in business strategy that you’ve observed? 

EADA was founded back in 1957 as an executive education institution with a clear emphasis on personal development. When I joined the School in 2002, EADA was inaugurating its first edition of the International MBA in English. Today, all our full-time programmes are offered only in English, attracting around 350 participants a year from more than 60 different countries, with an impressive 90% international student body. 

Nevertheless, I would like to stress that this remarkable level of international growth and recognition has not changed the ‘boutique’ spirit of the School. Quoting the late Sumantra Ghoshal, ‘the smell of the place’ is still very familiar, with close to an obsessive focus on our participants’ experience. 

We were founded to be – and still are – the place where businesspeople grow. This ‘growth’ today cannot be understood without paying greater attention to sustainability, leadership and innovation, which are the three pillars that guide all what we do at EADA.  

It’s also coming up to your two-year anniversary as Dean of EADA – a role you took up during a global pandemic. Could you share some insights into your leadership journey and the challenges you’ve overcome? 

I accepted this challenge with responsibility but also with a high level of energy and motivation. We are living in unprecedented times and I feel that business education can be a clear catalyser between a working world that anticipated the change and the huge number of professionals who need to learn, unlearn, and relearn how to be ready for this accelerated change. As a leader, you must focus on business today and of tomorrow. 

The big challenge for a leader is looking beyond the pressures and demands of today’s world – especially under the daily stress of a pandemic – while also looking into the future. For example, we started our digitalisation process a few years ago, but after Covid-19, we had to speed up – and really ramp up – our online offering, and it was an enormous challenge. 

The policies you put in place as a leader must have the next game in mind; in this case the post-pandemic era. Looking into the future is your critical role as a leader. 

Is the business education sector responding quickly enough to this ongoing disruption, and what advice would you offer to other deans?

Our industry’s response to the pandemic has been remarkable. We went fully online overnight, prioritising the health and safety of our teams and our participants, many of whom were away from home. Like others in this industry, we offered support way beyond education. For a lot of participants we were their family at a challenging time. When the unexpected first wave of Covid-19 hit, our industry started to offer hybrid teaching with face-to-face and online participants in real time. While much needs to be refined in hybrid teaching, one thing is clear: there is no way back to a single way of teaching.  

When thinking about disruption beyond the pandemic, I believe our industry needs to fully embrace the ‘reskilling revolution’ (a term coined by the World Economic Forum). 

We need to stop thinking about a linear programme of education with two stops (Bachelor + Master/MBA) and start thinking of education as a never-ending lifelong learning game where we have to enter into partnership with non-academic partners such as technology platforms, corporations and governments.  

What innovations are you developing to future-proof your School’s postgraduate business programmes? 

Backed by our three-pillar strategy (sustainability, leadership and innovation), we have launched several programmes and academic initiatives to accelerate our role as change-maker ‘multipliers’. We were pioneers in this area when we created the first master’s degree in sustainable business and innovation. It’s a full-time programme that we launched three years ago, and no other top-25 Business School in Europe had an equivalent. 

Students might end up working for the United Nations, NGOs, and leading corporations, or become social entrepreneurs and innovators. We see a huge need from both young people wanting to change the world and the concept of globalisation, and from senior leaders who are switching towards a new mindset, which is putting both technology and sustainability at the centre of their thinking.

Your background in the corporate world and your master’s focused on HR strategy. Having been involved in the world-class HR delivery at Ritz-Carlton, do you think there are lessons Business Schools need to learn in terms of delivering a customer-service focused experience to students and alumni? 

Absolutely! In our industry, there is often unnecessary debate around the way we view our main stakeholders: as students or customers? In my view they are both. In an exam they are definitely students but during the rest of their interactions with us, they are customers; we not only have to meet their expectations but anticipate them. To do that, the second most-important lesson I learned at the Ritz-Carlton is the concept of ‘lateral service’. 

When 900 guests on a cruise were arriving at the hotel at the same time, the entire team (general manager included) helped to offer a speed check-in. In exceptional situations such as this, there is no time to hire temporary staff; we all had to be ready to support each. These experiences, help to generate a clear sense of team spirit. 

At EADA, we have incorporated this concept of ‘lateral service’, and it has helped us to make the impossible possible during the pandemic, when we have faced the unknown on a day-to-day basis. 

Returning to your own experience in international programmes and relations. the pandemic and climate agenda are putting increasing pressure on Business Schools to remain international, but in innovative ways. How will EADA ensure it maintains an international footprint?

EADA has a clear mission: to be the place where businesspeople grow. We’ve been operating since 1957 and have always served the business community and contributed to its development by being on top of the corporate world’s needs. 

Our mission has transformed into our purpose – it’s what drives what we do and makes us so flexible and relevant in today’s society. Barcelona is one of the most cosmopolitan cities, and our location is an outstanding factor. 

We have a cluster of world-class Business Schools here, making it one of the top-three European cities for business education. In our case, 90% of our full-time programmes are attended by participants from over 60 different nations.

Your own research focuses on reskilling and upskilling leaders in Business Schools through an innovative executive education ecosystem for the fourth industrial revolution. Can you tell us a little bit about your findings and theses in this area? 

We are moving into an era of lifelong learning. Research suggests that we will have to ‘recycle’ ourselves every five years. The old model, where you just did a bachelor’s degree for three-to-four years, will transform, and Business Schools have to understand that they will need to serve students consistently throughout their careers. 

Universities and Business Schools need to accept that external partners will begin to be part of this educational experience and can bring a lot of value. I strongly believe in business education innovation ecosystems. 

We have to embrace co-operation, not only among universities and Business Schools, but beyond the industry. Working together, technology companies, corporations, governments and others can offer the best experiences to the talent of tomorrow. 

What role do you see for new education ecosystems in satisfying the need for reskilling and upskilling?

At the 2020’s World Economic Forum it was said that, by 2030, more than one billion people would have to reskill in the face of changing technology, growing automation, some jobs becoming redundant and new jobs being created. 

In reality, we probably won’t be able to wait until 2030, we will need to fast-track this goal to 2025. The imperative to reskill and upskill the workforce is a global phenomenon. Business Schools should be the engine of this transformation and need to propose something that is totally different. We need to build a business education ecosystem that includes stakeholders such as Google or Amazon. 

If tech companies do it on their own, there will be more of a consulting approach: if you have a problem, tech companies will give you the solution. This is why educational institutions should be involved, since they are able to provide the knowledge and understand the way to approach solutions whenever a problem arises. This is the difference between consulting and training. In class, we don’t tell our students what to think but how to think. We believe more in problem finders than in problem solvers and this is unique to the education profession. 

What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing international Business Schools? 

Without a doubt, the most urgent challenge is sustainability. As Business Schools, we can accelerate the pace of change in this regard. We have an enormous responsibility here because, in our classrooms, current and future leaders refine their own decision-making processes. They will make decisions that will affect people, companies and wider society. If, during their business education experience, the triple bottom line (people, profit, and planet) is not always present, it will not be present in real life. In a way, we can be multipliers of positive impacts as well as multipliers of negative impacts. We have to be part of the solution. 

Business students are passionate about people, profit, purpose, and planet. How is EADA addressing these emerging needs in its delivery, and how is the School focusing on developing responsibility and sustainability-centric leaders? 

All our faculty and academics in research have combined their interest in this. We’ve also set out alliances with the two main movements in these areas. We collaborate with B-Corp, the movement for certifications that consider financial profitability, but also sustainable impact on the planet and people. And we have partnered with Ashoka, the leading organisation for promoting and supporting social entrepreneurship. They are both now part of our business education ecosystem. 

What are the next steps for you personally, as a leader, and for the School? 

To keep learning! If we don’t adopt a must-have growth mindset nobody will. I am working on a book around the reskilling revolution and its implications for Business Schools because our sector has a critical role to play. 

An institutional level, we are facing an historic moment with the launch of our first ever ‘bachelor’s’ programme. Our entrance into the undergraduate market is in response to our conviction that business education –underpinned by sustainability, leadership and innovation – is needed as early as possible. We are definitely becoming a full-service Business School; our origins are clear and solid, and the future is unknown but very exciting.

Do you feel optimistic about the future?

I am an optimist by nature, so you have to take my answer with caution. I don’t think we fully understand what we have gone through with this pandemic that has disrupted our lives. I think such a crucible moment will lead to a period of post-traumatic growth but that we will not forget the things we have learned the hard way. 

In terms of business education, face-to-face learning will be as reinforced by online education. The question lies in when we should use one option and when the other works better. In terms of the economy (as well as any major issues we face; for example, climate change) one thing is starting to  become clear: collective responses will be required. Ecosystems will be needed more than ever; this will be the only way to deal with the complexities that we will face over and again. 

Jordi Díaz has been Dean of EADA Business School since August 2020. He holds an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration from École des Ponts Business School and a master’s in HR management from EADA Business School.

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Developing ‘business transformers’ to create a more inclusive and sustainable society

Business Impact: Developing 'business transformers’ to create a more inclusive and sustainable society

France’s Emlyon Business School aims to develop leaders that are able to adapt, anticipate, and transform. Executive President and Dean, Isabelle Huault, spoke to David Woods-Hale about its ambitious strategic plan

You’ve been in the role of Executive President and Dean at Emlyon Business School for over a year now. Can you share some highlights? 

I was appointed Executive President and Dean in September 2020 and my assumption of duty was not ordinary, given this period of great restrictions and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. Not being able to meet physically with the School’s teachers and staff, or with the students, alumni, or partners of emlyon, was difficult, but it still proved to be a great learning experience. I was able to observe and measure the teams’ commitment to the School, the courage of the students who faced this crisis – and who are determined to continue to adapt as the situation evolves – and I experienced the support of our partners in such a complex context.

Thankfully, the situation has calmed down, and energy and excitement are alive again on our campuses. Over the past year, we have also built a new gender-balanced, high-level team, which is complete and ready to implement our strategic plan: ‘Confluences 2025’.

Do you think the Business School community has been fast enough to innovate during the pandemic?  

Covid-19 has accelerated digital innovation. We had already begun the digitalisation process of training sessions before the crisis hit, so once restrictions were put in place, emlyon Business School was ready. Both our professors and students were already familiar with the tools. Stimulated by the emergency, the School immediately improved its digitalisation process, and turned the crisis situation into an opportunity to innovate in our pedagogy, course delivery methods, and knowledge assessments. For some courses, both professors and students felt it brought more value to the programme. For example, it enabled them to devote less time to travelling while still allowing them to engage with experts from all over the world for a truly enriching educational experience, even from home. 

However, after this period of isolation and distance, it has become very clear that elements such as a physical dimension, human contact, and in-person meetings are also essential components of higher education and research. We still need places to discuss, share and collaborate.

What are the next steps for you as a leader and for the School? 

With our newly appointed leadership team and the support of the supervisory board, we’ve launched an  ambitious strategic plan entitled ‘Confluences 2025’. Our goal is to become one of the leading global business universities in Europe according to three main strategic priorities: commitment to social and environmental issues, academic excellence through hybridisation, and networked internationalisation. 

First, as CSR forms the guiding thread for all the School’s training programmes, the skills repository of all training programmes will be reviewed in line with the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To promote social inclusion, emlyon is launching a proactive policy of equal opportunities, scholarships and the development of apprenticeship training. The School is also set to consolidate the scientific quality of both the faculty and its research output by recruiting 10 new teacher-researchers in various disciplines each year until 2025. 

To reinforce the hybridisation of its programmes, emlyon will sign numerous partnerships with renowned higher education institutions in the fields of art, design, social sciences, and engineering, both in France and in other countries. Our international expansion will involve the development of our campuses abroad and 20 more double degrees with global institutions of excellence until 2025. 

Finally, the Lyon Gerland campus will embody the best of this strategy and welcome the community of Emlyon in 2024. 

What do you think sustainable leadership looks like?

At Emlyon, we train students to transform business models – becoming ‘business transformers’ – and to be social change makers who have an impact on their environment and organisations. We also encourage them to exercise an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial mindset in the organisations in which they’re involved – whether these are a small companies, Cotation Assistée en Continu (CAC) 40 companies, or consulting firms. 

Ultimately, our students will become leaders able to adapt, anticipate, and transform. In addition to being effective, these future decision-makers will be enlightened, responsible, aware of the social and moral consequences of their actions, and know how to combine efficiency, justice and sustainability.

The Bigger Than Us movie directed by Flore Vasseur is a good example of sustainable leadership, and it’s the backbone of the 2021-2022 year at Emlyon. This documentary was filmed all over the planet and it shows young people fighting for human rights, the climate, freedom of expression, social justice, and for access to food and education. Presented at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, it has been previewed by the 3,650 newcomers enrolled in our programmes to put their ideas into action.

How important do you think sustainability is, and in what ways have Business Schools adapted this into their programmes? 

Social and environmental issues are at the heart of our project. Our students are asking, ‘how do I find meaning in my career?’  This focus, and the pandemic, has led us to review our courses to see how we can help students answer this question. 

We have started to revisit our training offer, and all of our teaching units, according to the UN’s SDGs. By the end of 2022, nearly 60% of our training offer will have been reviewed and, within two years, it will be 100%. 

At emylon, our social and environmental commitment is already renowned.In the 2021 EMBA Financial Times ranking, emlyon is ranked fourth in the world and first in France in the criteria Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). This is because we are deliberate about incorporating sustainability, corporate and social responsibility, and ethics within the executive MBA programme. Working with professors, we have developed a set of 35 competencies related to these topics, which are diffused into every course in the programme, and also link to the UN SDGs. 

Our marketing course focuses on the ethics involved when marketing to children; our strategy course shows how companies can create sustainable business models, and our governance and compliance course shares best practices from companies relating to these topics. In addition, we have a number of courses such as ‘business for positive impact’ and ‘corporate and social responsibility delivered’ which focus exclusively on topics around corporate social responsibility, and incorporate real-world company and NGO challenges. Our goal is to develop responsible leaders, ready to contribute to improving business, society, and the environment.

Given the climate emergency, do you think Business Schools have a role in helping communities to respond to, and recover from, natural disasters?  

Having a positive impact on the planet is a very ambitious goal which mobilises our entire faculty and all programme departments. The School’s objective is to hone students’ skills so that they can meet social and environmental challenges. For example, today we cannot deliver a marketing course without addressing the issue of responsible consumption, or programmed obsolescence, which definitely have consequences on pollution and global warming. We plan to create an ‘SDGs Inside’ label to emphasise the focus on issues surrounding social sustainability, ethics and ecological transition. 

Business Schools have to be exemplars in their day-to-day operations to inspire students. On our French campuses, we will realise [and measure] our carbon footprint by December 2021. Energy performance plans have already been signed with services providers for our Paris and Lyon campuses in order to promote energy savings. We have also implemented a waste-sorting policy and moved to ‘zero single-use plastics’ with the elimination of food consumption plastics (cups, cutlery, and so on). A zero-waste box was distributed to students in all our programmes (reusable cup, box and bamboo cutlery, etc.). 

Our new campus, due to open in 2024, will be exemplary in terms of environmental responsibility. A 9,000m² landscape park will allow us to restore nature and biodiversity on a site which was, up until now, a brown-field site. The bioclimatic building design will allow to optimise energy consumption; the building is going for the French HQE™ Excellent certification, and the BREEAM ‘very good’ rating.

In July 2021, Emlyon became a certified B corporation (B Corp). Could you tell us more about this? 

We reached a major milestone last summer: Emlyon Business School became a B corp on 26 July, after its supervisory board voted to approve the change. 

The School’s mission, now defined in its mission statement, is: ‘To provide  life-long training and support to enlightened individuals able to transform organisations, for a more inclusive and sustainable society’. 

It’s a structuring and unifying project that was initiated upon my arrival in September 2020. We worked on it with all of our stakeholders: students, faculty, staff members, partners, and of course, our supervisory board. It’s the result of a participatory process that has enabled us to formulate our social and environmental objectives clearly. It’s the starting point for the School’s strong, long-term commitment. 

The School is making SDG 10-Reduced Inequalities a core focus and launching a mandatory ‘climate action’ course as part of the MSc in Management – Grande Ecole programme. How might this impact your MBA curricula? 

This year, we offered our new students a ‘back-to-school’ under the sign of CSR, dedicated, specifically, to the UN’s SDG number 10, which aims to reduce inequalities between and within countries. On this occasion, the new cohort was able to attend an inaugural conference with a prestigious speaker, Pascal Canfin, President of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety at the European Parliament, which focused attention on to the climate issue.

In September 2021, we also launched the compulsory course ‘Act for the climate’ in the Grande École Programme (MiM). This introductory cycle is planned over 10 weeks at the rate of one seminar per week. The first five sessions will allow students to acquire all the fundamentals to understand the context and the principles of climate emergency. Over the following five sessions, students will learn how to explain big issues to the different [decision-makers] and how these actors take or should take initiatives to act.

As a result of achieving B Corp status, the School has adapted its vision and goals. Could you tell us about these?

As required by the French law ‘Pacte’, the management of our project will be regularly monitored by an independent organisation. Our social and environmental engagement must flow through all of our activities. Using a precise grid, the audit company will be responsible for evaluating our actions and commitments. We would lose B corp status if we did not follow the ambitious objectives that we have set ourselves. This underlines the fact that the decision we have taken is obviously very [important to us].

What are the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools? 

I guess the biggest challenge for international Business Schools is to educate our students to address significant new challenges in a changing world. The biodiversity and preservation of the planet are the main issues going forward. It requires the radical transformation of our programmes and of our research. 

Learning trips have heavy carbon footprints, but it is not about questioning our global strategy, but rather avoiding short journeys to the other side of the world. We have reflected on this subject, particularly in terms of our MSc, and for scientific conferences. There is no question of giving up international openness; we consider that essential to the multicultural and learning experience of our students and members of Faculty, but to arbitrate on the question of mobility in a reasonable way.

Political, economic and social inequalities tend to generate extreme violence. Business Schools have to fight against discrimination and violence and promote openness and mutual respect. We have launched an online reporting platform, called ‘speak up’, where anyone can report instances of discrimination, sexism, or sexual violence. The platform is open to the school’s staff, and to Emlyon’s French and international students.

Developing diversity, and providing equal opportunities, is one of the main responsibilities of Business Schools. At emlyon, we support access to higher education for young people from underserved or priority education districts and rural areas, in association with volunteer students. 

Over the past 15 years, in a number of middle schools, high schools and preparatory classes, we have implemented two systems aimed at lifting students’ self-censorship: tutoring and preparation sessions for oral examinations have helped high-school students to identify a wider range of career options, to think more ambitiously regarding their desired professional project, and, ultimately, to integrate successfully into the best Business Schools. More than 4,000 high-school students and 800 preparatory class students took advantage of these social programmes, and 180-plus students have joined the top eight Business Schools in France; 80 are at Emlyon.

What do you think differentiates Emlyon Business School in the business education ecosystem?

We value ‘management’ because we consider it to exist at the crossroads of a wide variety of disciplines. It fits into society and the economy in general, and is a cornerstone for other diverse disciplines such as engineering sciences, artificial intelligence, humanities and social sciences.

An open application process is integral to our other key value: entrepreneurial spirit. Beyond entrepreneurship, we instil and encourage a spirit of initiative through our on-demand programmes, our Makers’ labs and other world-class facilities, and through our commitment to empowering community life.

It is our early makers pedagogy – according to which we ‘learn to do and do to learn’ – that is our great differentiator. This real-world approach enables leaders to be equipped to face the challenges of both today and tomorrow.

These values were ultimately captured in our mission statement, and are what distinguish us as both a School and as a benefit corporation.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

Let’s stay positive. There will certainly be a decline in GDP both in France and internationally, but also growth prospects. New activities will continue to be created, while others have already grown around digital services, and some entrepreneurs may cease their current activities to invest in new ones. The coming months will cause worry, and that’s normal, but new opportunities are likely to appear too. For example, the Covid crisis has also led to a collective awareness about climate emergency and fostered global solidarity.

In this context, Business Schools have a role to play in developing knowledge that allows us to innovate, take action, reinvent, and develop. What is essential is to provide knowledge and skills that allow individuals to adapt throughout their professional lives. It’s about having both fundamental knowledge and soft skills – the vital interpersonal skills that we do not always possess inherently, but must learn. 

And finally, it’s about having the capacity and skills to prepare and respond proactively to emerging models that do not currently exist. Let’s imagine them here and now.

Isabelle Huault became Executive President and Dean of Emlyon Business School in September 2020. She was President of Paris Dauphine-PSL from December 2016 to 2020, having been a Professor at the School since 2005. 

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Finding your unique voice: uncovering an identity with which key audiences can relate

Business Impact: Finding your unique voice

For Mikko Laukkanen, Academic Director at Aalto University Executive Education, Business Schools and their leaders must develop a compelling narrative around the big topics of the day, and provide students with a journey of personal transformation. Interview by David Woods-Hale

As climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, education technology, and globalisation dominate the business education agenda, how can Business Schools innovate in the face of unprecedented disruption – and what needs to change? Mikko Laukkanen, Academic Director at Aalto University Executive Education, offers his perspective.

What are the biggest challenges facing international Schools?

Broadly speaking, the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools all have to do with finding our own voice. Schools and individual E/MBA programmes need to have an identity with which our various audiences can identify and to which they are drawn; generic generalists will have a hard time in the future. 

Similarly, just as consumers expect companies to demonstrate their values, Business Schools and their leaders must be brave enough to express an opinion about the big topics being discussed in society – even when these discussions seem not to link directly to operations, or you fear a backlash. 

As well as these, there are, of course, smaller challenges around having the right organisational competences to take advantage of new technologies, resourcing issues around one generation of faculty retiring while the younger generations are sometimes too burdened with publishing pressures to teach in our programmes, and challenges stemming from shifts in the market – from degree programmes to shorter engagements.     

What do you think differentiates the MBA at Aalto University?

Our MBA and Executive MBA programmes build on the unique strengths of Aalto University, which brings together business, technology, and design. This means we can complement our more business-oriented topics with rich perspectives from technology and design, as well as having dedicated content around topics such as artificial intelligence (AI) or sustainable design. 

Along with this interdisciplinarity, we value the personal development of each participant, and the programmes are designed around the idea of a journey of personal transformation. Finally, and maybe this relates to our Finnish heritage, we place a lot of focus on equality, openness, and fairness in our programmes. Taken together, these elements build a unique programme identity and compelling narrative. 

How did the Covid-19 pandemic change your School? 

The long-term impact will likely be around how our participants, faculty, and other stakeholders view online and offline delivery. We must be ready to justify why certain elements of a programme are delivered in a classroom, some online, and others in a hybrid format. During the pandemic, the justification has always been that we are simply adhering to the guidelines set by the authorities. Now, we must be more detailed about the reasoning and should expect some criticism from participants if we were to bring them on-site for something that would have made more sense as an online delivery.  

During the pandemic, there has been some great ‘myth-busting’ around what you can and can’t do in online delivery. For example, we used to think that online group work was somehow superficial and cumbersome, but when you design it well and use the technology to its full potential, you can actually have more impactful breakouts online than in a classroom setting. 

It was also commonly believed that deeply personal and emotionally engaging topics need to be covered face to face, but we’ve found that some of these topics are actually easier to discuss when people are joining from their homes or offices (and can turn off their cameras if they need a bit of privacy).  

In a previous interview with AMBA’s Ambition magazine, you spoke about your study tours to Silicon Valley and Tehran. How have you worked to adapt these elements of your programme?

We still do a study tour to the Bay Area, but, increasingly, attention has been shifting from Silicon Valley to also other technology hotspots around the world. Cutting-edge technology and associated business-model innovations are not found exclusively in California. Indeed, we are also welcoming quite a few study tours from other Schools to Helsinki, where we can combine academic content with exposure to the unique startup ecosystem that has formed around Aalto University and the great examples of Finnish companies leading digital transformation in their own contexts. 

In Tehran, we used to have an EMBA programme which we delivered with a local partner, but that had to be discontinued due to unfavourable political and economic developments in recent years. We look forward, one day, to being able to return to working with our friends in Iran and to serving those wonderful participants. 

How do you believe technology will continue to impact and disrupt the Business School environment? 

Technology will continue be the driving force impacting the delivery and content of the programmes Business Schools offer. On the delivery side, this means transforming the way we bring content to our audiences – not only in the form of online teaching, but also as it relates to asynchronous elements: videos, online tutorials, and simulations. As geographical boundaries become less important, we can reimagine who our audience is and engage with faculty in entirely new ways. 

The same also holds true for all other Schools, so the marketplace of Business Schools will look very different in a few years’ time. Regarding the content of our programmes, technology is transforming businesses and the ways businesses operate. Business Schools need to review the content of their programmes proactively to make sure it is still relevant and valuable. The key is not to think that everything we knew before is now obsolete, rather to gauge carefully how technology has impacted the underlying assumptions and ways of working in different contexts.  

What innovations are your School developing to future-proof its postgraduate Business programmes? 

Future-proofing is fundamentally about critically assessing what remains important, what needs to be amended, and what is no longer relevant, as we transition out of the pandemic into whatever the future holds. 

We have processes in place for ensuring that this is being done for all the core disciplines, such as finance, accounting, and marketing, while simultaneously bringing in larger chunks of new content into our elective portfolio. 

We’re fortunate that within our organisation, along with our degree programmes, we’re constantly running dozens of customised executive training and development programmes for leading organisations, and reflecting the topics being covered in those against the topics being researched and taught by E/MBA faculty is great way of making sure we don’t miss any important developments.   

How important is it that Business Schools are ahead of the curve and what more could they be doing?

Please excuse the slightly tortured mix of metaphors, but I like to think that it’s our job to be above the curve, as opposed to ahead of it. Especially in the field of technology, some of the industry will always be pushing ahead faster than university research can keep pace – that’s just built into the way we do research. 

Consultants and ‘technovangelists’ will sell their new solution as the most important discovery for the future. It’s our job to take the 10 thousand foot view, provide context and put new things into perspective. As well as with technology, management fads and pseudo-scientific self-help concepts can make a sudden big splash in business discourse. It’s the role of the Business Schools and their faculty to serve as a filter of the most useless ideas and an emergency break for the most dangerous ones.     

Is the business education sector as a whole, responding quickly enough to this disruption?

Clearly, we’ve been slow to change how we deliver content and embrace technology more broadly. We’ve been talking about digitalisation of the business education sector for decades, but it took a global pandemic to get us to start taking some bigger steps. 

We’ve made more progress in the past 18 months than in the previous 10 years, but there’s still ways to go and every player in the market will have to find their own way of operating in this more digitised business education sector going forward. 

But I go back to finding your own voice: for some, the right way to go will be to move fully to online offerings, while others may find ways to use technology to get even more value from classroom sessions.

The initial step was to move the classroom to Zoom, the next step will be to design programmes that integrate technology and teaching in new ways. I like to compare our situation to online banking, where the first step was to move some services from the bank teller to an online channel. This was decades ago, and it was only much later that service providers started experimenting with online services; we’re only just seeing some entirely novel applications. 

As Business Schools, many of us are at the first stage, while some have started to move beyond it.     

In 2018, you discussed the international approach Aalto takes to its MBA programme with AMBA’s Ambition magazine. As globalisation and consumerisation have become trends in business education, how has your strategy changed? 

We still believe wholeheartedly in a better world through better leadership, as our slogan states, and continue value our international programs and partnerships.

Our strategy focuses on leveraging the unique strengths of Aalto University to have a global impact. We know that the impact a single institution can have – especially one coming from a rather small home market – is dependent on the partnerships we have around the world. We partner with others to deliver programmes in different locations and to engage the best faculty. 

For us, being international is built into our DNA, and we shy away from looking at topics as being either domestic or international, as for us they are always both.    

Considering the importance of lifelong learning, what is your strategy for enabling continuing learning among your alumni?

We’re constantly developing new ways to engage with our alumni, as well as those who are not yet part of any of our programmes. Lifelong learning is about finding ways to connect with people throughout their careers. Our participants don’t have episodic or linear careers; rather, their careers have become more splintered and ambiguous. 

The role of a Business School can’t be limited to the start of their career (undergraduate studies) or to a pivotal point mid-career (post-graduate studies). We must be able to have relevant and valuable interactions with our people at various points throughout their careers. Those interactions can sometimes be entire MBA programmes or, indeed, much shorter; for example, in the form of a symposium on the most current developments in a subject area tailored for alumni.     

How important is sustainability, and in what ways have Schools innovated in this area?

Sustainability is a cornerstone of Aalto University’s strategy and central to everything we do in the MBA programmes. Personally, I think sustainability and climate issues need to be present in all our content. We are currently reviewing our content and looking for ways to integrate the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in as much of it as possible. 

It’s been encouraging to see how issues of sustainability require less ‘selling’ every year, as almost all participants see their value before starting our programmes. Our job is then to give them more information and to show them how they can have a positive impact. This development has been partly helped by many of our client companies seeing the business potential in sustainability, while, of course, recognising its importance for the planet.    

Given the climate emergency, do you think Business Schools have a role in helping communities recover from natural disasters?

Absolutely. As I referenced earlier, many of the companies for whom our participants work are extremely active in this space. Businesses can often move faster than national governments and international organisations. 

At this point, responding to the climate emergency is largely about how fast we can move towards zero carbon and stop our most harmful activities. Businesses will have to be a part of the solution and Schools have a role to play in multiplying the impact of those businesses doing the right thing by taking their message across industries and regions. If we, as Business School leaders, are not actively part of the solution, we’ll have look back and admit that we were part of the problem.   

Aalto is a triple-accredited School. What would your advice be to other School leaders aiming to achieve the triple crown – as well as for other Schools that have it already?

I get asked about accreditation quite often and that would be a whole other discussion, but let me take one key point here. Accreditation is useful for getting you to look beyond great individuals.

Business Schools are full of smart and capable people. One potential risk when you have an organisation packed with smart people is that issues are easy to solve on an ad hoc basis between individuals – just put the people you need in a meeting room, and they’ll figure out whatever issues you’re having. 

This, is problematic in the long run when people leave your organisation, or you expand into new areas. Accreditation forces you to detail the processes, steps, and responsibilities that are part of your quality management and quality assurance. Hopefully, you’ll still have smart people working for you in the future, but even they will be more productive when you can offer them clear process maps and instructions.

When aiming to gain accreditation for the first time, make sure you have all your processes detailed and responsibilities clearly defined. So, to put it bluntly, more boxes and arrows is always better.    

What are the next steps for yourself as a Business School leader? 

We saw the first impact of Covid-19 on our operations in the early months of 2020. The 18 months since have been quite a ride. I’m proud of the way our organisation has been able to respond to the constantly changing situations and ensure continuity of operations without making any compromises on safety and wellbeing. 

Now, I feel that both the organisation and I need to take a breath and reassess where we are and start building a foundation for an interesting future. For me, that means reconnecting with colleagues and customers in the office and in other social settings, taking time to decompress and reflect, and exposing myself to new ideas and perspectives – usually through reading and meeting interesting people.    

Do you feel optimistic?

Yes. A seismic event such as the pandemic is always a chance to reset – to stop doing things that don’t work and reassess what is truly valuable. US President Joe Biden talks about his ‘build back better’ plan. If businesses, Business Schools, and even us as individuals, all decide how we can build back better we could be in for a genuinely better (and more sustainable) future. 

Mikko Laukkanen is Academic Director at Aalto University Executive Education (Aalto EE). He teaches and consults actively for Aalto EE’s corporate clients and conducts research at Aalto University School of Business on topics of strategy, innovation management, and the executive education sector.  

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

The impact of scholarships on a Business School and its stakeholders

Business Impact: The impact of scholarships on a Business School and its stakeholders

How do scholarships benefit a Business School’s community as well as individual recipients? MCI’s Leena Saurwein and Susanne Lichtmannegger outline the value of initiatives aimed at allowing international students to pursue their studies and make a difference

Growing up in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria, Benedicta always showed interest in the field of women’s health, in particular dysmenorrhea [also known as period pain]. At a young age in 2016, she founded the Girls Health and Education Foundation with professionals and volunteers to provide sexual and reproductive health education to school-age girls, impacting more than 3,000 students.

Alongside this, Benedicta also engaged in creating products, such as reusable sanitary pads, to make it possible for girls to attend school during their menstruation. Currently, her foundation is partnering with Denmark-based OrganiCup on a survey of young girls and women across six states of Nigeria to assess the acceptance and usage of modern period products like the menstrual cup.

Benedicta’s dedicated engagement and commitment to the UN SDGs qualified her for the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship offered by MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® (MCI) and she is now doing her master’s in international health and social management at the institution in Innsbruck, Austria.

For Benedicta, it’s a dream come true. The scholarship is an opportunity for a deserving student like her to pursue postgraduate studies without taking on serious financial burdens. It’s also recognition and reward for her academic and meaningful accomplishments thus far.

Scholarships as triggers for change

The Ban Ki-moon Scholarship was established in 2020 by MCI together with the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens (BKMC) located in Vienna. This scholarship is specifically designed to support students who pledge to engage in, and put into the action, the UN SDGs.

‘In 2021, we had the opportunity to award the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship at MCI to two outstanding changemakers from Nigeria and Pakistan, who were selected to attend a master’s programme starting in September 2021, dedicated to the SDGs and global citizenship,’ says BKMC CEO, Monika Froehler.

‘It is the BKMC’s strong conviction that the world needs a generation of global citizens who act with passion and compassion, who value solidarity and diversity, and who can spot challenges and find solutions to transform their communities, regions, nations and the world,’ Froehler continues.

In a similar vein, the Jean-Claude Juncker Scholarship has recently been created under the patronage of the former President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. This scholarship allows students engaged in the ideas, principles, values and future of the European Union as well as the economic, technological and social development of the European continent to pursue their studies at MCI and continue their involvement and contribution to democratic values and human rights.

Scholarships promote motivation and inspiration

These two scholarships, which carry the patronage of two influential world leaders, have had a positive impact on various levels.

They pioneer young, talented and committed persons to live their ambitions of contributing to society. They facilitate aspirants to study in a different country and provide them with global exposure as well as enabling them to set themselves a path for personal and professional success.

Moreover, these scholarships are an important motivator for students. Scholarship holders like Benedicta serve as markers of academic motivation. When they realise that their accomplishments have been recognised, it boosts their confidence to pursue their goals. They also become more aware of their potential, fostering the growth of this potential at the same time.

For MCI, these scholarships are an opportunity to attract and support young talent from all over the world in realising their ambitions. MCI aims to create room for these inspiring scholarship holders as well as for these captivating visions to be present among its students and its academic community. The scholarship holders also serve as a role model to other students and can encourage them to get involved in working to address societal challenges.

Paving the way for international talent adds to the understanding and engagement of MCI’s student community. Students benefit from each other and are not keyed into their own realities. They, in turn, learn to value different perspectives.

Such scholarships induce a ripple effect not only on persons and on the institution as a whole, but also strongly influence the industry and the network affiliated to MCI too. In addition, industries are keen to appoint committed students and students, for their part, are likely to experience a strong connection with companies that share their visions.

MCI is strongly committed to its mission of international outreach, engagement and commitment. Helping its scholarship holders to grow personally and professionally, demonstrates the institution’s commitment to mentoring motivated individuals like Benedicta.

MCI remains firmly committed to its responsibility towards society. Its scholarships are designed to spur students on to engage themselves avidly in resolving societal issues. This, in turn, increases brand awareness with the public, as such philanthropic acts often resonate with members of society. In this manner, MCI strives to live up to societal expectations and to stay relevant to its stakeholders.

Leena Saurwein and Susanne Lichtmannegger are members of the MCI International Relations Office. MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® aims to bring the best of science, economy and consulting to the unique concept of an international Entrepreneurial School®. For more information on its scholarships, click here.

Main image credit: MCI/Kasper.

Co-designing education with industry to meet the challenges of the future

Business Impact: Co-designing education with industry to meet the challenges of the future

At Macquarie Business School, the emphasis is on making business education truly relevant to industry, government and future society, explains Eric Knight, Executive Dean and Professor of Strategic Management. Interview by David Woods-Hale

In 2021, Macquarie Business School at Macquarie University in Sydney, became one of four Schools in Australia to be accredited by BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA.  

The School, which was established in 2019 and is the single point of delivery for all business, management and economics teaching and research activities at Macquarie University. Its Global MBA programme was launched in response to the changing demands of the global MBA market and draws upon new learning technology. As such, the School is known among employers and students as the place to be for real-world application and employer-relevant skills. 

In this interview, Macquarie Business School’s Executive Dean, Eric Knight, discusses the innovation and achievements of the School, its plans for the future, as well as his own thoughts on the economic climate and opportunities for business education.  

What are the biggest challenges facing Business Schools?

Business Schools will be impacted by the changes in the global economy and global/local jobs markets. In that respect, the kinds of challenges facing businesses map against those of international Business Schools as they tailor their offerings to where students need skills. It is important that Business Schools can respond to the challenges to ensure the next generation of business leaders can manage through these changing times. 

The employment skills required for professional success are changing: effective communication, data analytics, critical thinking, and problem solving are all now valued. That is why we devised our Global MBA, in partnership with Coursera, around a set of skills rather than traditional disciplinary domains. That programme has proved very popular and has just been ranked second in Australia and 19th globally by QS in the 2021 Global Online MBA Rankings, after launching in 2019. It is also ranked first in the world for ‘class experience’.

The nature of learning is also changing, and it is now essential that Business Schools provide a quality online experience for all students. Students are also looking for shorter learning experiences and life-long learning opportunities that allow them to build successful careers. Macquarie Business School is responding to the challenges with courses that are co-designed with industry to help students get the very best education they can. 

For example, our partnership with the Australian Financial Markets Association offers micro-credentials that feed into our master’s of applied finance programme. With workplaces and the future of work evolving so rapidly, careers options for our students are very different to just five or 10 years ago. This is our great responsibility and privilege – to help students find their way into the world.

What do you think differentiates the MBA at Macquarie Business School?

Quality. We have a solid foundation of high-quality teaching and research and our long-term vision is to focus on relevance in the world and to industry and government, for whom we prepare the future workforce.

Our MBA provides a transformative learning experience, building strategic business acumen and leadership capability to accelerate career progress within or across industry. It is tailored to student learning, work and career needs by addressing: 

• Essential and contemporary business discipline knowledge and skills. 

• The integrated application of business disciplines in key units, culminating in the MBA capstone unit.

• Business disciplines in practice via the Industry and Alumni Partnership Program integrated in the curriculum.

• Business disciplines applied to student work and career needs through the Career and Coaching Program. 

• Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles integrated in the curriculum.

Our Global MBA is built around six future-focused capabilities: adapting, analysing, influencing, leading, problem solving, and strategising. It is designed to meet the changing needs of the labour market, where increasing tech-driven disruptions redefine and create new opportunities for work. It is modelled on a stackable concept where you determine what you’ll learn, how much you’ll learn, and when you’ll learn. 

For both, we work in collaboration with our alumni and corporate partners to provide a world-class education that is applied and engaged in the challenges we face in society and in our economy. Business and business education are being disrupted as never before by globalisation and rapid technological change. 

How are you future-proofing your School’s postgraduate Business programmes? 

The year 2020 was a challenge for us all, and at Macquarie Business School, we saw exceptional efforts from staff to deliver high-quality teaching and student experience, despite the challenges presented by the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

Our courses are co-designed with industry, meaning our degrees are reflective of industry realities and future demands. Students graduate with the skills and knowledge they will need to meet the current and future challenges of their chosen profession. 

We work to create innovative, engaging, and impactful learning experiences for our students. This includes work-integrated learning at scale, flexibility in delivery, future-focused curricula and an enriched and engaged student experience.

Our focus on work-integrated learning at scale has been affected by Covid-19 interruptions. There are now opportunities to extend employability, mentoring at scale and with alumni, and more work-integrated learning using digital modalities and technology.

In response to the global challenge of finding ways to provide access to digital skills learners from around the world, Macquarie Business School created a set of courses on Excel Skills for Business. The seemingly mundane topic remains a key skill to acquire for anyone looking for work. With the surge of interest in data analysis, Excel remains a critical digital ‘door-opener’ skill in a rapidly growing segment of work. In partnership with Coursera, we launched four Excel Skills for Business courses that have since attracted more than 150,000 learners from across the globe.

Do you think the business education sector, as a whole, is responding quickly enough to this disruption?

Last year meant a rapid move to online learning for our students. Our staff made a tremendous effort and commitment to achieving a positive experience for our students. Across the sector, in response to the disruptions we have experienced, there is significant work underway to provide students with the skills necessary to manage through disruption. 

The interface with Technology and STEM is crucial to the future of business research and education. This is why we offer a Master of Business Analytics which is cross taught between Macquarie Business School and our Faculty of Science and Engineering. It’s a great programme, and shows the power of multi-disciplinary education as we begin to think about the education of the future. 

How is technology continuing to impact Business Schools in the wake of Covid-19? 

Covid-19 has prompted a reimagining of how, when and where we deliver education to our learners. The opportunity now is to move to a hybrid model, capturing the best of online and in-person, synchronous and asynchronous learning, while also optimising student engagement, connection and collaboration.

For example, Macquarie Business School is partnering with Forage to deliver in-curriculum virtual work experience to students on our post-graduate courses. Covid-19 has meant that many students have had difficulty accessing work experience in the real world. Forage bridges a critical gap by providing a platform that allows organisations to bring real-world career experience to students through bite-sized virtual experience programmes.

Is there a reluctance on the part of Business Schools to introduce too much change into their programmes? 

Not really. We have increasingly given responsibility to course directors to guide us on where programmes need to head, and our academic colleagues apply their judgement across disciplinary context, commercial understanding, and student need. 

MBAs care about sustainability and climate change. How important is sustainability, and in what ways have Business Schools adapted this into their programmes? 

Sustainability and social responsibility are embedded throughout the curricula of our MBA and GMBA. The GMBA also has the standalone subject ‘Global sustainability and corporate social responsibility: Be sustainable’. In alignment with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, other subjects in the degrees pick up on critical themes such as resilience, diversity, inclusion, and meaningful work.

The publication of Industry and Higher Education – Case Studies for Sustainable Futures positions Macquarie Business School as a thought leader in sustainable business education. The book investigates how industry and higher education can work together to create sustainability in business, and analyses international cases of industry and university interaction as a mutually beneficial symbiosis, promoting innovative and sustainable business practices.

Given the 2020 fires in Australia, do you think Business Schools have a role a play in helping communities to respond to natural disasters?  

Business Schools have an essential role in equipping our student community with the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with such disasters, and to face the challenges of our world. 

Macquarie Business School works hard to give students the skills to solve real-world problems. Our students will need agility and resilience to deal with shocks that occur to the economy and to respond to these effectively.

What do you think sustainable leadership looks like?

I think of sustainability of others, and sustainability of self. Sustaining others means linking into the central, enduring, and distinctive aspects of people’s motivation to be part of the organisation. Sustainable leaders need to tap into this and nurture it. Sustaining the self means being clear about one’s values and managing time carefully to maintain one’s health and mental energies.

As a leader in the field of design-led strategy, could you tell us about your work and research in this area? 

Design-led strategy represents a fundamentally new way of thinking about strategy, which brings customer perspective into the boardroom. It’s the opposite of traditional strategy, which starts with the hypotheses (and sometimes the biases) of top management. 

This way of formulating strategy is more relevant to our modern age where there is need for enhanced data from customers, and increased ways of collecting it. 

We need new approaches to strategy, informed by speed, agility, and the ability to work at the intersection of business, science, and engineering. Design-strategy, and my course on Coursera covering this, offers a way to respond. 

Given ongoing VUCA disruption, do you think the concept of ‘strategy’ we adopt in businesses around the world needs to be reconsidered and replaced? 

One of the most dynamic and exciting fields is that of strategy. Strategy, by definition, is about the future. Modern strategy now calls for something more: the ability to think and feel, to analyse and intuit, and to act and react.

We are beginning to realise that strategy is more than what you intend to do. It is just as much about how you respond to the unexpected. Covid-19 has put this in sharp relief, but it is by no means the exception. 

Every crisis, whether it be an environmental disaster, reputational threat or financial precarity, must be understood in terms of the preparedness of the executive – how well have they already considered all possible outcomes, intuited the future, covered off all contingencies and unpredictable ‘black swan’ events?

Therefore, design-led strategy is important – now more than ever. Design-led strategy is one approach that executives can adopt to ensure they stay relevant to customers, both today and tomorrow. 

We need new approaches to creating strategy that keep up with the fruitful and dynamic intersection of business, science and engineering, and are informed by speed and agility.  

Do you think the events of 2020/2021 (from Covid-19 to geopolitical upsets and environmental crises) will lead to short-to-medium term changes in how businesses need to be run? 

I think organisations are determined by the energy and motivation of the people who staff them. 

The biggest challenge of 2022 will be renegotiating the organisational-staff relationship, as staff (hopefully) return to offices around the world, and also rethinking the nature of flexible work, team building, and remote and digital communication. 

How does your School facilitate career opportunities for international students who wish to stay on and work in Australia after graduating?

Our MBA Careers Team provides a range of initiatives to help all our MBA students make important decisions about their career. We provide services such as personalised careers coaching sessions and career development workshops. The aim is to help students develop an individualised action plan to achieve the career they want. We also work very closely with industry partners, prospective employers, and recruitment agencies to bring more internship and employment opportunities to our students and alumni post-graduation. 

An example is our LIFT mentoring programme for graduates. This is a free, flexible, and online flash mentoring programme that allows our alumni to engage in multiple mentoring partnerships with our dynamic 90,000-plus Business School alumni.

And what are the next steps for yourself as a Business School leader? 

As flagged above, being present for staff as we work through change and recover from Covid-19 is the big issue of 2022. As an education leader, this is also an important issue for our students coming back onto campus. 

Getting this right, and making people relaxed, comfortable, and excited to reconnect as we recover from Covid-19, is the top priority. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

Absolutely. The great privilege of university life is to come to work every day and look down the pipeline of the future. 

We have extraordinary challenges facing our society and economy, but also incredible discoveries. Business Schools play such a vital role in these, offering the economic, financial, communication and organisational skills to realise ideas into action. 

Any student wanting to run an organisation, found a company, or be a good colleague will always find something of value and use in a Business School education. 

But I also think a business education should be had in combination with other disciplinary knowledge and other worldly skills so that our next generation emerge from their university education as all-rounded, resilient, and multi-disciplinary citizens.

Eric Knight is Executive Dean and Professor of Strategic Management at Macquarie Business School.  Previously, he was Professor of Strategic Management and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research – Enterprise & Engagement) at the University of Sydney. He earned his DPhil from the University of Oxford, before working for the Boston Consulting Group for several years. 

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Reaffirming the value of a global outlook

business impact: Global-city-in-the-sky global outlook in business

IBS-Moscow was quick to return to offering an in-person international module as part of its EMBA programme earlier this year. Programme Director and Associate Dean, Ashot Seferyan, explains why. Interview by Tim Banerjee Dhoul

Amid continuing uncertainty over international travel, the Institute of Business Study Moscow (IBS-Moscow) was able to run an in-person international module for its executive MBA (EMBA) students in April. The decision was a ‘difficult but very powerful’ one for the message it sent the business community, according to the School’s Associate Dean and Programme Director, Ashot Seferyan.

As an established provider of business education in Russia, the decision taken by IBS-Moscow seems significant in showcasing the importance the country places in the value both of international and in-person experiences at this level of study. 

IBS-Moscow is, after all, Russia’s oldest Business School and forms a principal part of Russia’s largest educational institution – the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). Its EMBA, of which Seferyan is the Founder, was launched almost 20 years ago.

In this exclusive interview, Seferyan tells Business Impact why the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t removed the need for a global vision in business and outlines IBS-Moscow’s approach to forming international partnerships with other Business Schools. This includes factoring in how a country’s particular strengths and expertise suit the skills that are currently most in demand from managers in Russia. 

The EMBA programme at IBS-Moscow RANEPA includes a compulsory international module. Why do you feel it is important to offer your students an international dimension to their studies in this way? 

In a global world, you must have a global vision. There is only one way to truly gain insights into the economic and cultural peculiarities of a country or region – you must travel and learn from the citizens of that country or region. And we always choose the best Schools as partners. This philosophy was taken as a core ideology from the beginning of the EMBA programme at IBS-Moscow.

In April, you were able to offer an on-campus international module in Dubai, in spite of continuing restrictions in many parts of the world. How did the School go about this and what lessons did you learn for offering this type of module, as the problems associated with Covid-19 continue?  

The decision to have an international module this April was a difficult but very powerful one. At that point, ours was the only programme in the world to take a risk in providing an overseas education and to take on the responsibility that this involves. On one hand, this decision sent a message to the business community that strong leaders can overcome even the difficulties of the pandemic. On the other hand, sharing the experience of how to behave in the ‘new normal’ has been essential for all our students and has given them some new ideas of how to reshape their businesses.

Global experiences are often said to improve a person’s understanding of the world around them and their appreciation of cultural differences. Can these experiences also help Business Schools to develop more responsible and socially conscious leaders in your opinion? If so, how? 

The social responsibilities of a leader are based mostly on cultural heritage. Good examples from outside a country could inject a much broader understanding inside a society but it is also a responsibility of a Business School to bring these ideas into its educational programmes and promote them among alumni and the wider community.

London Business School is the latest School with which you are partnering on the international module, but in past years this module has been held at leading Business Schools in Switzerland, China and Spain, among others. Why has the School chosen to vary the international School host rather than to keep one established partner? 

People differ and countries differ too – their culture, history and vision create a unique experience. This is why we have to change venues from time to time. 

Another reason is much more economic and managerial. In different countries, you can learn a different approach. For example, Italy is famous for its entrepreneurial spirit, the Netherlands for having strong SMEs, China for its tremendous transformation from socialism, and the UK for its global vision on strategy along with its heritage. 

Taking our students to different countries gives them an option to get the best experience. But when you change venues because the economic situation in your country demands specific knowledge, then you can benefit even more.

Aside from international exchange, do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address domestic industry needs, post-Covid-19?

Life is global and the economy is global too. The pandemic did not heavily change this situation. Local economies have probably gained some advantages because of lockdowns and specific logistics. But, on the whole, businesses are competing on a global level. So, Business Schools must attract professors and business experts who are knowledgeable of both local and global issues.

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business School, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Have you observed any similar impact from the Covid-19 pandemic? 

At IBS-Moscow, we have definitely noticed an increase in demand for our programmes. But I would not link this upward curve just with a financial crisis or Covid-19. Taking our EMBA programme as an example, I can say that the increase in enrolment started in 2017. One of the reasons was the big infrastructural projects taking place inside Russia at that time because of the forthcoming FIFA World Cup [held in summer 2018]. 

Later, global economic changes supported the demand for managers to retrain and upskill. Covid-19 has most probably added to this demand. Previously, we enrolled about 60 EMBA students a year but, since 2018, we have enrolled about 100.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind? 

I do not think that Covid-19 has had such a big influence. Having lockdown and other barriers in our usual life, we had to transform our behaviour inside our networking communities. 

In many cases, Business Schools have used the fact that people are working from home – and therefore, have got additional free time while not travelling to and from their offices – to offer a number of short educational products. This is giving them a means of offering continued education and could also be an opportunity for our Business School.

What’s next for the EMBA programme at IBS-Moscow? A return to fully in-person classes as soon as possible or a hybrid format of in-person and online learning?

As the Director of an EMBA programme, I am aware that education at this level is very much based on networking and the sharing of an experience among students. This is why we returned to in-person classes in June 2020. 

Of course, we could use online formats for masterclasses and other forms of additional short meetings with businesspersons or interesting speakers. But our core programme is, and will be, delivered only in person.

How has the School been working to boost the global profile of management education in Russia and what remains to be done in your opinion? 

As a leader inside the country and an active member of international education networks, IBS-Moscow is trying to bridge these two sides. While bringing best practices from the west, we are at the same time promoting our local experience to the world. 

Ashot Seferyan is an Associate Dean at IBS-Moscow and the Founder and Director of its Executive MBA programme. Seferyan is also a member of the Board at RABE (the Russian Association for Business Education). He holds a PhD in managerial sociology. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: August-October 2021).

A better Business School for the world


At France’s Audencia Business School, having a positive impact on society and the planet lies at the heart of its strategy. David Woods-Hale spoke to Audencia’s Dean, Christophe Germain, to find out what this means in practice

In 2021, Audencia Business School in France launched its strategic plan. At the time, the School’s Dean, Christophe Germain, said the objective ‘wasn’t to become the best Business School in the world, but to be a better Business School for the world’. 

The plan, which is called ECOS 2025 in reference to the Greek word for ‘our Earth’, is organised around four main axes, with the overarching objective of having a positive impact on society and the planet. It includes the creation of Gaïa – Audencia’s School of Ecological and Social Transition. 

The strategic plan carries an ambitious global vision, strongly influenced by its values of environmental, economic and social responsibility. Audencia set itself the task of reinventing its very model: to develop more virtuous ‘citizens of the world’, who share humanistic values, with the conviction of sharing a common destiny. The plan is for alumni to use their hybrid skills and capacity to innovate in transforming both business and society, and by working towards the common good on a planetary scale.

This interview with Christophe Germain seeks to find out more about the facets of the fresh strategy, and his hopes for his Business School at a global level. 

What are the biggest challenges currently facing international Business Schools?

Schools’ biggest challenge is to train future managers for jobs which do not yet exist, and which will require skills from several fields of expertise. This is why, at Audencia, we have developed numerous hybrid programmes.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic change your School for the long term, and what have been the most important lessons? 

The main lesson learned from lockdown, since the start of the pandemic, is that students’ experience on campus is irreplaceable, in the same way that international study trips are the only way for students to experience intercultural immersion.

Given the growing climate emergency, do you think businesses– and by extension, Business Schools – have a role to play in helping communities to respond to, and recover from, natural disasters?

Yes, absolutely, because Business Schools train managers who, through the future decisions they make, will have an impact on major societal issues, including the ecological and climate emergency. It is the duty of Business Schools to ensure that these managers acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to grasp the complexity of these issues and act upon them.

You feel strongly that Business Schools should not just strive to be the best in the world – but be the best for the world. Why is this worldview so important in the business education landscape?   

A Business School must contribute to the common good, whether directly through its research, and work with companies, or indirectly via the training of future managers. Business Schools can influence institutional contingencies, change organisational practices and commit to sustainability, and in doing so, define new ways of leadership that integrate economic, social, and environmental dimensions. At Audencia, for example, we have identified the following three challenges that will guide our strategic achievements over the next five years:

• The creation and use of responsible information and technology.

• The development and adoption of managerial approaches that promote inclusive organisations and societies.

• The design and implementation of sustainable business models and growth (with a focus on carbon neutrality objectives).

What underpins Audencia’s objective to invent a new Business School model, involving training ‘citizens of the world’, sharing humanistic values, with the conviction of sharing a common destiny?

Audencia’s ambition is to accelerate the transformation of individuals, organisations and society for good, to contribute to the restoration of major balances (economic, social and environmental) which are essential to the preservation of our oikos (the Greek root of the ECOS prefix which is the name of Audencia’s 2025 strategic plan).  

Could you tell us more about Gaïa – the first School launched by a Business School that is entirely dedicated to training in positive impact managerial strategies and practices, in line with sustainable development objectives?

Audencia has defined four strategic axes. The first is the creation of Gaïa – a School dedicated to ecological and social transition. This is an internal, experiential, and immersive School. 

All Audencia’s students will be trained there using teaching methods tailored to each programme via extra courses, learning by doing, career advice, entrepreneurial projects, and research projects focused on tomorrow’s challenges, with a focus on sustainable development issues. 

Gaïa will rely on a large network of experts and partners (NGOs, private companies, trade unions and public organisations). It will house an incubator and will also provide free training. 

Your objective for 2025 is for all your students to have hybrid skills that meet the needs of the market. What do these skills comprise, and how will you work toward this goal? 

Our objective is to turn Homo Audenciens (Audencia’s students) into managers with three types of skills: societal, behavioural, and professional. 

To this end, a ‘KEYS’ (Know and Engage for Your Success and Society) passport will be implemented. The KEYS passport will be based on the unique ‘Competencies For Impact’ (C4I) skills reference framework, and will formalise all the steps for defining, developing and validating the student’s career path.

Each project within ECOS 2025 will be created to maximise the School’s contribution at a behavioural, professional, societal and environmental level. Why is this so important to the world of business education and beyond? 

Business Schools must be actors of the societal transitions that are unfolding. If they are not, they run the risk of becoming, like the statues on Easter Island, the remnants of an ancient world.

The School will readjust its academic and research activities so the societal impact of the research will be measured against several aspects. Could you share some more information about each of these aspects and the importance of impact-centric research?

There are three main aspects. 

1. The creation and use of responsible information and technology.

Nowadays, there is an abundance of information in networks and servers about individuals, businesses, and countries. At the same time, the fast development of artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, 5G, and so on, have a huge potential to impact our lives. They open up unlimited opportunities but also expose us to threats. 

In terms of cybersecurity, it is key to ensure the ethical exploitation and safety of everyone’s data and the ethical sharing of the benefits among all interested parties. An ethical framework must be built around the development and the impacts of AI, and managing the inequalities it can produce, as well as mitigating against the potential harms posed by big data, 5G, the Blockchain, and fake news. 

All these elements, and others, will deeply impact our future, and we plan to address them by engaging in a scientific dialogue and training on these issues, while producing research and pedagogy across disciplines. 

2. The definition and adoption of managerial approaches that promote inclusive organisations and societies.

Gender and racial inequality, social exclusion, and other impediments to a fair and equal society, are still present. Businesses need to evolve and consider the wider needs of societies. They must promote the interests not just of their shareholders but also of those of surrounding communities, employees, and stakeholders. 

Our research is strongly focused on these aspects and not only identifies the problems of inequality, exclusion or optimisation functions that are not sustainable, but also proposes solutions for inclusion, equality, and sustainable business models. Our research also aims to promote business structures and entities that share benefits more equally, and have clear objectives consistent with wellbeing, sustainable business and key performance indicators.

3. The design and implementation of sustainable business models and developments (in line with carbon-neutral objectives).

Here, we move from the strategic to the more operational aspects of business and the impact it has on society and the environment. To address the major challenges, we will produce work on the sustainable use of resources, neutral carbon footprint, general waste management, plastic pollution, hospital waste management, water waste management, sustainable supply chains, farming, and so on.

The gap between academic research and real-life solutions has narrowed in recent years, and top journals require research that addresses practical problems and most effectively helps policy makers and decisions makers. At the same time, they wish to have an impact on a wider audience and require information that can be easily understood and disseminated via both social and traditional media. 

At Audencia, we promote scientific dialogue in the context of research and support communication for the science community. We also wish to have our say in the wider dialogue with: 

A) the business community, via our chairs and the practical output they deliver based on scientific research results, as well as those involved in professional bodies, roundtables, joint projects, business audits, etc. 

B) society, by producing relevant research that has a direct and indirect impact, participating in task forces, public projects, and consortiums for the common good, producing reports for policy makers and organisations, observing, and working on societal issues including poverty, financial illiteracy, microfinance, gender inequality, corporate social responsibility, and so on. We also aim to promote and disseminate our research in formats that are accessible to the general public.  

Can you share any examples of the real-world impact that the Business School’s recent research output has had?

We are implementing a research project that aims to drive a paradigm shift on data protection and enable citizens to participate acively in their own security, privacy, and personal data protection, whatever their gender, age, or technology skills. 

The research outputs will be tested and validated through real-world large-scale user cases, involving 6,500 European citizens. It will involve three apps, for e-learning, e-voting, and e-health, that are also linked to potential future pandemic risks.

In 2020, Audencia launched a Multi-Capital Performance Chair. The Chair is creating a new accounting model which considers financial but also social and environmental capitals. 

The Chair has also produced reports that are being tested in SMEs, and participates in a European Task Force project to prepare for enhanced reporting that goes beyond purely financial terms.  

A research project on Social Impact Bonds (SIB) was converted into a think tank report, and the author of the report was part of the SIBs launch alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of Economy. An online event for practitioners was also created with the French Agency for Environmental Protection (ADEME). Audencia acted as an expert interface between project leaders and ADEME, allowing for the launch of a dozen SIBs focusing on environmental protection and the circular economy.

Another example is a research project promoting efficient and circular water use in European Process Industries, fostering resource efficiency awareness and delivering integrated solutions for industrial applications to reduce waste to zero and overall water footprint. The results are being tested in six case studies involving eight industrial actors, six EU countries and one associated country.

Are there any other areas within the new strategy pertinent to the development of more responsible technologies, a more inclusive society, and more sustainable business models, about which you are particularly enthusiastic? 

We are actively working towards a more inclusive society. To this end we have launched two social outreach programmes that will help young high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to become Audencia students.

Considering the importance of lifelong learning, what is your strategy for enabling continuing learning among your alumni networks? 

A project called Token is being launched to allow each of the School’s stakeholders to recognise the value of their contribution. Based on the Blockchain technology, this virtual device allows alumni, in return for their impactful actions, exclusive access to Audencia’s training programmes. 

What do you think sustainable leadership looks like?

Sustainable leadership is leadership that fully recognises its responsibility to society and the common good. Leaders with a sustainable mindset will be key to helping solve the societal and environmental challenges that the world is increasingly facing.  

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

Yes, absolutely. Who could claim today to have predicted, anticipated, and been prepared for the current global pandemic? As the writer Albert Camus said, it is the lack of modesty of men which is to blame. Modesty invites us to show moderation, restraint, and humility in our assessment of ourselves in relation to the world. And it has been forgotten. The current crisis is first and foremost a crisis of equilibrium, which affects the way in which spaces, objects, living beings, people and so on, coexist in the world. 

For the ecological equilibrium to be maintained, the transition to clean energy needs to be accelerated and our natural environment needs to be protected. The balance between local and global dimensions also needs to be addressed, as it is essential to reconcile the distribution of wealth between countries. The balance between timelines also needs to be addressed; we must not sacrifice the future on the altar of impatience and short-term interests. 

Finally, the balance between the economy and society is fundamental because the development of the former (normally) feeds the latter, and the solidity of the latter is indispensable to the former, all of which must contribute to the harmonious development of society. The list is long but getting all these balances right is essential. This is the major challenge facing humanity  and it must be approached with determination and optimism. 

Audencia, through its new ECOS 2025 strategic plan, is committed to being a major actor in the transition towards these changes for the common good of society.

Christophe Germain is General Director of Audencia, and General Director of Shenzhen Audencia Business School in China. Since 2019, he has also held the position of Vice President of Business Schools at the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles. Christophe has been Professor of Management Control at Audencia for 19 years, and has also held the positions of Deputy Director of the Grande Ecole Programme (2002-2007), Academic Director (2007-2015), before becoming interim General Director of the School in 2016.  

This article originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

The place of culture in offering holistic experiences

Here are multiple falling books in a closed pale green room. Business Impact article on the place of culture in offering holistic experiences.

UPF Barcelona School of Management’s Dean, Oriol Amat, and its Director of International Relations and Accreditations, Jordi Rey, discuss the importance the School places in culture and the humanities

Since the School was founded in 1993, UPF-BSM has worked to build international partnerships and networks – but equally, it has focused on building social responsibility and culture, notably by encouraging its students to study classical literature as part of their MBA studies. 

This interview with Oriol Amat, Dean of UPF-BSM and its Director of International Relations and Accreditations, Jordi Rey, seeks to find out how the School nurtures an appreciation of the humanities and how this can widen the perspectives of tomorrow’s business leaders.  

What do you think differentiates UPF Barcelona School of Management?

Oriol Amat (OA): Our School is focused on ‘management’, rather than just ‘business’. This means that apart from typical business programmes, our portfolio includes programmes and research related to public management, health management and cultural organisations, among other subject areas. 

The School also has a strong commitment to culture and the humanities – all students and programmes have some activities and courses related to culture and the humanities as well as to social responsibility and ethics. Finally, in alignment with the wider Pompeu Fabra University’s objective of generating and transmitting new knowledge about the concept of ‘planetary wellbeing’, UPF-BSM thinks that leaders must be prepared with a global vision and social commitment in a public-private setting. These competencies will be necessary to cope with the challenges that we are going to face in the coming years to improve people, organisations, countries, and the planet. 

Accreditation plays a crucial role in ensuring the implementation of our value proposition and having our organisational management systems ready to overcome any unexpected challenges. AMBA, for example, will help us to have our EMBA and MSc in management programmes more prepared for the current global challenges, and those which are yet to come. 

UPF-BSM is renowned for having a strong focus on humanities and culture. How would you define ‘culture’ and how does the School cultivate this? 

OA: ‘Culture’ is a way of life – it encompasses knowledge, arts, laws, beliefs, capabilities, and the customs of a society. As French author, André Maurois, said: ‘Culture is what remains after having forgotten what was learned.’ 

The humanities and culture are present in all of the School’s activities that take place during an academic year: programmes, research, publications, and events. To give an example of the cultural dimension’s importance at UPF-BSM, each year we give a classic piece of literature as a Christmas present to all students, faculty and staff – The Tempest by William Shakespeare this year, The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli last year, Candide by Voltaire two years ago. UPF-BSM also has a blog, ‘Micromégas’, that is named after the Voltaire novella and which is devoted to culture.

You’re keen for students to understand and appreciate classic literature – why is this important in aspiring business leader?

OA: Good leaders read a lot, and we feel that there is a lot to learn in classic literature. Reading the classics provides a lot of perspectives that allow a person to better understand other people (co-workers, managers, customers, suppliers, bankers, trade unions, and so on) and to gain a broader outlook, empathy and assertiveness. Another outcome of reading is that leaders improve their communication skills.

What are the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools?

Jordi Rey (JR): I foresee two types of challenges for Business Schools. The first type is about facing what we already know. The second type is about being prepared for what it is to come, but that is as yet unknown. The first type requires evolving our organisations and becoming ready to take advantage of the opportunities brought by global challenges, like the pandemic. 

For Business Schools, not travelling that much and the remote working, or remote learning, is breaking some physical barriers and helping us to become more global and more digital than ever before. We need to take advantage of distance learning, e-commerce, digital transformation, health management or supply chain management – all these areas where Schools have new opportunities. 

This requires agility – something that is also related to the second type of challenge. If you do not know what is coming next but are prepared to respond quickly to new challenges, you will keep a competitive advantage, whatever your industry. 

To overcome these two types of challenges, it’s important to have an external view of what your Business School does. External evaluations help institutions to benchmark internationally with best practices. They also strengthen the School leadership, foster a global mindset and define better processes [that can result in] having a faster decision-making organisation. 

Finally, it is important that Schools act as role models and inspire companies for a continuous transformation context where change management seems to be the new normal. 

The business education arena – like the business world – is being disrupted as never before by globalisation and rapid technological change. What innovations are being developed at your School to future-proof its postgraduate business programmes? 

OA: We are developing a more flexible educational model where students will be able to learn strategic and operational competencies with some special components, like culture or humanities.

Our portfolio is being simplified to have fewer programmes but more tracks, this ensures that the education is more adapted to the profile and needs of every student. 

Our programmes are considering new modalities where face-to-face, online or hybrid forms are becoming more integrated, with new methodologies like flipped learning being introduced. Some innovations are also being developed to teach and assess soft skills in a distance setting. 

Our learning experience is becoming more global with a more flexible approach: study trips, mobility abroad, visiting professors, COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) initiatives or double degrees are options to provide this additional global perspective of management. 

Social commitment, ethics, culture, and innovation are components that are being increasingly embedded in our programmes to prepare future leaders who will overcome the global challenges that the planet is facing. All the transformations in our portfolio are necessary to be more sensitive to planetary wellbeing. 

Do you think the business education sector, as a whole, is responding quickly enough to this disruption?

JR: The business education sector is responding fast, but transformation process outcomes depend on the starting point of each institution. 

Unfortunately, not all Schools are prepared for a distance learning setting, for example. At the same time, not all regions in the world have the best facilities to provide a high quality of distance teaching. 

However, Schools that have similar facilities are competing in a global context where the quality of the learning experience can be the same no matter where you are delivering the content from. 

The higher education sector as a whole is becoming more and more competitive. In addition, new content providers are now playing a role. The options are becoming more open and if you want to keep your competitive advantage, it is also important to provide additional added value through high-quality professional career services, student tutoring, networking, and alumni services. Because of this, Business Schools need to go beyond the traditional lecture and offer a more holistic experience in the new digital student journey. 

How is technology continuing to impact on the Business School environment? How important is it that Business Schools are ahead of the curve here and what more could, and should, they be doing?

JR: Business Schools play a leading role in our society where public and private initiatives might want to meet and develop innovations in a controlled setting. Business leaders are being prepared in our Business Schools, which means that if we want to infuse technological innovations in organisational management systems, School operations should also be digital and ahead of the curve. We need to walk the talk. 

We can also offer room for new tech-based startup platforms in our institutions where people can find the right talent and resources to develop these types of innovative solutions. In addition, Business Schools have the opportunity to open the spectrum and work with institutions from other disciplines – for example, those in engineering or the humanities – to prepare more holistic and digital leaders. 

Do you think there is a reluctance on the part of Business Schools to introduce too much change into their programmes? 

JR: All Business Schools want to keep their identity and, at the same time, a good position in the higher education industry. The need for change depends on the position of a School’s brand and how the School is perceived in international markets. 

Change is good but radical change for [the sake of] change might not make sense if there is no need to. On average, the perception is that incremental change is more welcome than radical change. Change in this sense may centre on the continuous improvement of what is already working and on implementing focused disruption in relation to specific programmes that need to be revamped. 

Nevertheless, the highest-ranking universities and Business Schools are invited to create trends and introduce innovations in their programmes to keep their leading position. If they do not, a School’s value proposition can become out of date in the long run. 

Students care about sustainability and climate change. How important do you think sustainability is, and in what ways has your Business School adapted this into its programmes? 

OA: Sustainability and climate change are directly related to planetary wellbeing, to which UPF-BSM is fully committed. This is a commitment to improving the quality of life for people, organisations, countries, and the planet itself. 

Our programmes also include ethics as a transversal and core component. It means that every student is equipped with a sensitivity to help the planet become more sustainable in the long run. 

What do you think ‘sustainable leadership’ looks like?

OA: In 1970, Milton Friedman (winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976) said the unique social responsibility of a company was generating economic wealth for its shareholders. Today, this is not acceptable, and companies must generate value in three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Today’s leaders must care not only about its shareholders, but also all other stakeholders, the public and the planet.

What are the next steps for yourselves as Business School leaders?

JR: Our next steps are to keep working with our colleagues to create added value for the AMBA network through our contributions and help our students to become better people and better professionals. 

OA: The School is proud to be part of the AMBA & BGA family and we expect to help our institution to become a world-class School of Management, in line with the reputation of Pompeu Fabra University. The final outcome in this is to generate scientific and social impact in our society, in order to generate more wellbeing. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

OA: We are still suffering from the Covid-19 crisis, but because of the effectiveness of the vaccines, it is now possible to see the end of this crisis. I think that by the end of this year, there will be a great economic recovery at the global level. In the case of Europe, a full recovery will be a reality in some countries, especially in central and northern Europe. In the case of southern Europe, it is possible that the recovery will arrive a bit later, in 2022 or 2023. This will have consequences for Business Schools. 

I have seen the evolution of Business Schools in the past decades and the sector has grown both in years of economic expansion and in years of recession. During recessions, companies reduce the budget for education, but individuals invest more in their education as a strategy to face the crisis. All things considered, I feel very optimistic about the future. 

JR: The future is unknown, but it is also a place to be created. Right now, business, Business Schools and the economy are going through another wave of transformation like the industrial revolution. At that time, artisans had to reinvent themselves and now we are also facing a moment of overall change. It is about adaptability and capacity for change. It is all about evolution.

Oriol Amat is Dean of UPF Barcelona School of Management, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF-BSM) and Full Professor of Financial Economics and Accounting at Pompeu Fabra University.

Jordi Rey is Director of International Relations and Accreditations at UPF Barcelona School of Management, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF-BSM), where his role focuses on the School’s accreditation and internationalisation strategy.

This article was originally published in Ambition (the magazine of BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA).

Strategic Business School partnerships

Two diverse hands are shaking. One hand has a long white sleeve, and the other has a silver bracelet with a black shirt sleeve—Symbolic to partnerships and diversity. Business Impact article on Strategic Business School partnerships.

Representatives from AccorHotels, Telefónica and Blue Prism offer advice and insights on the best way to forge mutually beneficial relationships between the worlds of business education and industry 

Business Schools’ links with the corporate world enhance action learning, recruitment, strategic alignment, and collective innovation. Arguably, in a business market defined by disruption and uncertainty, such forms of collaboration between business education and industry have never been more important. But Schools face mounting challenges in terms of understanding needs and expectations, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships.

With this in mind, a session at the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence brought together a panel of experts to discuss the benefits of partnerships and how to ensure that ‘win-win’ situations are achieved. 

Steef van de Velde, Board Member and Chair of AMBA & BGA’s International Accreditation Advisory Board (IAAB) and Professor of Operations and Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), explained: ‘Corporate partnerships are crucial for Business Schools. It’s clear that many of our faculty have personal relationships with executives in corporations for, say, research, teaching, or case writing. But often, Schools might like to institutionalise these relationships for the longer term and leverage those relationships for internship recruitment, projects, executive education, or other purposes. 

‘Very often, the expectations from Business Schools are clear, but what about the expectations from our counterparts from corporations?’

Alignment and approach 

Jon ‘Jet’ Theuerkauf, Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer at Blue Prism, outlined some facets they were looking for from Schools: ‘When we speak with Schools, it’s really important that what we are able to convey to them is taken seriously because we are in the market and working with more than 2,000 major organisations and their customers. So, we understand what the needs [of these organisations] are going to be and we can see where trends are coming from. 

‘We believe that when we’re speaking to institutions and making recommendations to them, that they are building [this] into every student’s curriculum and gaining an understanding of evolving technologies. When we look for partnerships, we’re looking for Schools and institutions with which we feel an alignment because they’ve recognised that the world is evolving and that change is being pressed onto us at a speed unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.’

Picking up on this theme, Ralitza Iordanova, Director of Global Partnerships and Luxury Brands at AccorHotels – which is responsible for hospitality brands including Mondrian, Raffles, Orient Express, and Banyan Tree – added: ‘From an organisational standpoint, in my experience, we have typically been the ones approaching Business Schools versus the other way around and I think a couple of key things come into play – the values behind a School and innovation – being able to adapt quickly to the current marketplace. 

‘A perfect example is the current Covid-19 context. The hospitality sector is in a situation where we have an excess of global talent available in the marketplace,’ she continued pointing out that 70% of people in the sector have either been furloughed, made redundant, or are on temporary leave. ‘There are a number of different scenarios, but for maybe a year or two years, this talent will be sitting in the marketplace – not necessarily engaged because no one is hiring – and it’s extremely difficult. 

‘The big opportunity – both from an organisational standpoint and for Schools – is looking at the approach to partnerships. There are other areas that come into play, such as geography, rankings and so on, but I think [good partnerships are based on the level of] collaboration with which the Business School wants to come to the table, to co-create new programming and new kinds of innovation together, to attract talent and then to develop existing talent. 

‘Ideally, we should be doing this on an ongoing basis, and it shouldn’t take a crisis to get us in shape for that, but [the key is] what kind of a mindset the leaders behind a Business School come to the table with, and how they’re willing to shape and work with organisations to make something impactful beyond the typical access to talent of interviews, apprenticeships and databases.’

Getting the full picture

Antonio Schuh, Director of Partnerships at Telefónica, also had some words of advice for Schools wishing to build relationships with corporates, based on his experience: ‘To create something relevant for both organisations involved, it’s important for a strategic relationship to be at a higher level with a broad base. Then, you should make an effort to gain the full picture and identify the people that need to be consulted – even if informally,’ he said.  

‘By having the full picture, you will develop more opportunities to understand what’s going on on the other side [of the partnership]. I’m talking from experience because it took a long time for us to structure our partnerships at Telefonica. We have dealings with other telecoms companies, and [together] we have built thousands of [initiatives] – for example, international roaming, or wholesale joint presence in communities for inter-standardisation technologies. This can be super complex but once you have a clear picture of the multiple activities that you’re both working on, this can indicate a pattern and an intention, and this will put you in a much stronger position to use that information
and do something productive.’

Chair: Steef van de Velde, Board Member and Chair of the International Accreditation Advisory Board (IAAB), AMBA & BGA; Professor of Operations and Management, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) 

Panellists: Ralitza Iordanova, Director of Global Partnerships and Luxury Brands, AccorHotels; Antonio Schuh, Director of Partnerships, Telefónica; Jon ‘Jet’ Theuerkauf, Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer, Blue Prism

This article was originally published in Ambition (the magazine of BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA).

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