Differentiation through impact part I

Business Impact: Differentiation through impact part I

How are Business Schools making a positive impact on the economies in which they operate?

The way Business Schools compete is changing. Those institutions which can demonstrate their positive influence on society are increasingly able to stand out from the crowd, in the eyes of prospective students, employers, and other stakeholders.

Business Impact set out to learn more and share examples of how Business Schools across the global BGA network are striving to make a positive impact on their graduates, communities, and the natural environment.

This article considers how Business Schools are making a positive impact on the economy/economies in which they operate. Interviewee respondents represent business schools in France, Japan, Egypt, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada. 

How is your Business School making a positive impact on the economy/economies in which it operates?

Steven De Haes, Dean, Antwerp Management School: The participants in the educational activities of Antwerp Management School (AMS), as well as our business partners, are actively engaged in one of the central components of our mission: sustainable transformation. We aim to develop a mindset and a business model where sustainability becomes a clear strategic advantage to all stakeholders. In this way, we make an immediate and substantial long-term impact on companies and organisations, as well as on the professional careers of individual participants.

At a School level, we set up a Dean’s Club meeting with all the CEOs of our partnering organisations two times per year. During these meetings, the focus is on society and we discuss and demonstrate collective leadership in progressing our shared sustainability agenda.

Sherif Kamel, Dean, The American University in Cairo School of Business: The American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business provides high-quality academic degree and executive education programmes which guarantee providing the market with high-calibre graduates, including promising leaders, entrepreneurs and change agents that contribute directly towards enhancing the economy.

The School demonstrates a direct impact on the economy through its creation of employment opportunities by incubating startups at its accelerator – The Venture Lab. It also impacts policy through interdisciplinary research endeavours conducted by its different research centres and offering a diverse portfolio of services through community development projects.

Kenji Yokoyama, Dean of External Relations, NUCB Business School: One of our educational features is to provide students with practical analytical and execution abilities through the full-fledged case method. [For this reason] NUCB Business School is regarded as a Business School which supplies society with managers who can analyse situations and solve problems and issues in a practical manner.

Yasmina Kashouh, DBA candidate at Ascencia Business School and Faculty Member at Collège de Paris International: Strong Business Schools are vital to the health of our regions and local communities. With more than 220,000 enrolled in Business Schools in France in 2021, business students provide billions of dollars to the national economy each year through student spending on fees, housing, products, and services that support businesses and employment both on and off campus.

Collège de Paris Group is helping shape growth by supporting regional policymakers and driving economic growth through employment, investment and student income; the School is developing skills and talent for high-value jobs; promoting new startups and small businesses; It is also helping improve productivity and innovation across all types of private and public sector organisations.  

And finally, it is making a substantial contribution to the local economy by connecting locally, nationally and internationally with businesses and communities, in addition to its core objectives of teaching and research.

Nicola Jackman, Head of Academics, Geneva Business School: At an institutional level, we are an active player in finding solutions not only for the current and future challenges that the global economy is facing, but also identifying potential future challenges that could appear on the table.

To achieve this, Geneva Business School has deep connections with a number of external stakeholders who sit on several of our committees and share their experiences and knowledge through our Industry Insights programme.

This article is part of a series and has been adapted from an article which originally appeared in Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: May 2022-July 2022).

Developing dynamic capabilities

Business Impact: Paragraph: Change block type or style Change text alignment Displays more block tools Developing dynamic capabilities

The recently established Faculty of Economics at Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University is moving to meet growing demand in business and economics with an emphasis on preparing students to adapt to the unpredictable. Tim Banerjee Dhoul talked to Gabor Zemplen and Judit Fortvingler to learn more 

Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) is steeped in history. Originally founded in 1635 in Nagyszombat (today, Trnava in Slovakia) it moved to Buda in 1777 (the historic capital of the Kingdom of Hungary which, since 1873, comprises the western part of today’s capital, Budapest). In 1950, it acquired its current name, in homage to the renowned physicist and faculty member, Loránd Eötvös. Today, ELTE counts four Nobel Prize laureates among its teachers and alumni, and the number of students is roughly 33,000. 

The establishment of its Institute of Business Economics (ELTE IBE) and the transition, last year, into the Faculty of Economics – ELTE’s ninth faculty (ELTE FE) – are more recent developments, born out of the rapid growth of students studying economics and business at the university. 

Business Impact talked to faculty members, Gabor Zemplen and Judit Fortvingler, to find out more about this rising level of interest and gain insights into ELTE Faculty of Economics’ pedagogical approach and outlook.

How healthy is the current market for business education in your country, and the surrounding region, and what are the main challenges?

The number of international students in the region is increasing rapidly, and in Hungary, state-funded scholarships for students from developing countries also help with the recruitment of young talent. Naturally, recent events have upset the current trends. With an influx of refugee students from Ukraine, many of whom come from Africa, ELTE is able to provide for their continuing education during the crisis. 

At the national level, business education is very popular among students, and is probably the field with the highest number of competitors: more than 30 universities offer such education, and students themselves help in ranking these institutions through their choices. We have the highest number of postgraduate (and MBA) applications and students, and we are in the top two for undergraduate excellence, with an increase of more than 60% in the number of applicants
who ranked ELTE as their first choice for next year. This is a huge success, given that the overall number of higher education applicants has decreased this year. 

Has the Covid-19 pandemic influenced your School’s long-term strategy? If so, how?

We had used certain IT tools to support our master’s students’ learning experience even before the pandemic started in 2020, so it did not hit us dramatically. The new external circumstances forced us to extend the use of available systems to bachelor’s-level programmes and to widen the scope of IT solutions in teaching. 

After a smooth transition to an online environment in spring 2020, the School’s management started to consider the future: after overcoming Covid-19, should the faculty return to ‘traditional’ teaching tools, or should it implement a combination of pre-Covid and pandemic tools? Our approach differentiates us from other leading Hungarian universities and is twofold. 

On the one hand, we have realised that certain tasks (for example, consultations, the oral entrance exam at master’s level, and project work presentations) could be implemented more efficiently online. In addition, our students – especially master’s students who work [in conjunction with their studies] – favour this channel because of the time factor. 

On the other hand, we have abandoned paper-based assessments. Certainly, the first steps to eliminate printed tests were necessitated by the pandemic, but then it became part of our long-term strategy. In autumn 2021, we opened an exam centre with a capacity of about 200 students per timeslot, which is unique in the region. 

Another lesson learnt from online teaching was that students’ learning methods have changed, and they are accustomed to relying on video-recorded lectures to extend their knowledge. Consequently, we have just opened a video library on campus where students can book a computer station in advance and watch the recording of any bachelor’s or master’s lectures or seminars of the semester (term).      

I understand that programmes at ELTE FE aim to incorporate other disciplines, such as psychology and computer science. Why is this mixing of disciplines important to students of economics and business?  

We have realised that, due to the availability of the internet, factual knowledge has become less important in the past decade while certain 21st-century soft and transversal skills, like critical thinking, negotiation skills, people skills, organisational and IT skills, have become indispensable for future businesspeople. It is these skills that we aim to help our students acquire to ease their transition into the business world and to prepare for the integration of the not-yet-known and the ever-changing world around us. 

These days, we offer several courses to bachelor’s students that have become increasingly important for practising business professionals, including law and advanced IT skills. By teaching students about human behaviour and communication, we also help them develop a growth mindset. We even have courses specifically targeting meta-expertise (for example, ‘Transdisciplinarity and expertise’) as it is not hard to see how technological change impacts expertise quickly in the fields of finance, marketing, and so on. Reacting to the dynamic development of IT in the fields of accounting and finance, for instance, we have just launched a new course on ‘Finance and Accounting Informatics’ for our bachelor’s students.

In a recent interview, Dean of ELTE Faculty of Economics, György Andor, described the School’s vision as being ‘to train open-minded, versatile, and creative economists’. Why are these characteristics important in the world of business today? 

Economics students learn about the nature of business cycles and the occurrence of periodic crises that have challenged the world in the past. Having the previous patterns in our mind, we emphasise and teach the importance of planning in business. However, in the past few years we have faced new, hardly predictable circumstances that one has to adapt to, such as the pandemic, or the war in Ukraine. 

No one can find a precise description in a textbook of what to do and how to settle into new situations, both in business and our private lives. We train our students to be creative, versatile, and open-minded, which means that, based on the relevant acquired factual and applied knowledge, they can tailor a solution to any new scenario. We also help our students understand the viewpoints of both an employer and employee, and multinational and national companies, given the macro and micro interests. Our priority is to develop students’ dynamic capabilities to be proactive or reactive, as is required.

ELTE FE offers English-language degrees at undergraduate level. Do you have any figures on the proportion of international students that are normally enrolled in these programmes? How popular are they with domestic students in comparison to the bilingual and Hungarian degrees?

We started with four bilingual undergraduate degrees (English and Hungarian) in 2018, and from 2019, we have also offered two of these as English-only degrees (Finance and Accounting, and International Business Economics). These are becoming increasingly popular among Hungarian students with an approximately threefold increase [in admissions] in the last year. For the coming year, we already know that around 300 more prospective students have applied, compared to last year. The ratio of international students is around 25% this year, and for the coming year the applications are still open.

What were the reasons behind last year’s launch of ELTE’s Doctoral School of Business and Management? 

Since its foundation, ELTE Faculty of Economics (previously, the Institute of Business Economics) has aimed at offering the full range of higher education, from bachelor’s to PhD studies. We are a young faculty with talented and experienced staff. 

The story goes back to 2017 when a cohort of 40-50 excellent tutors with outstanding academic performance, supported by the senate of ELTE, started work on building the Institute. Most of these tutors had been working together at bachelor, master’s, and doctoral levels for about 15 years, so it was evident that we had the expertise to obtain accreditation for each of the three levels. 

The rapid growth in the number of students we received initiated the transition from an institute for business economics to a faculty of economics and was eased by the PhD programme accreditation. In other words, the intention and experience to run a PhD programme was present, but we first had to reach maturity by running relevant postgraduate programmes for consecutive years.  

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their communities. Can you give an example of a new event, activity, or initiative with this in mind? 

Community-building has certainly not been eased by Covid-19, and one present initiative aims at forging international relationships with similar institutions outside Budapest and Hungary to help like-minded students form groups, cohorts
and alliances. 

For example, our students have been actively involved in case study competitions, which serve as a bridge between knowledge acquired at university and real-life business experience. One student from our bachelor’s in finance and accounting has been awarded second place at an international competition organised by Baker Hughes and the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). Currently, we are working on a business game project together with the ACCA, where a group of students solve a case study under the guidance of mentors.  

The most recent initiative, however, responds to the largest crisis in our region in years, whereby ELTE Faculty of Economics has allocated 40 new guest studentships for refugees from Ukrainian universities for the 2022 spring term. Tuition fees for the term are waived and while half of the quota is reserved for Ukrainian or Ukrainian-Hungarian citizens, students of other backgrounds from Ukrainian universities are also welcome. Guest students wishing to continue their education at the Faculty of Economics beyond the spring semester can do so as fee-paying students after going through the regular application and admission process. 

What does ‘responsible management’ mean to your School? 

Our vision is to educate students who, on graduation, will be successfully integrated into business life, either as an employee or an entrepreneur starting their own business. One core objective of responsible management is to help our students acquire the necessary skills and applied knowledge to smoothen their transition to real life. We receive direct feedback from our students on whether their perception of service quality in teaching is in line with our expectations. 

Our faculty cooperates intensively with companies through guest lecturers and traineeships, so we serve as a bridge between our students and the employers. Based on this experience, the School’s management has a clear understanding of trends in the labour market.   

Moreover, faculty management is accountable to the provider – which for our university is the central government – for the funds used. Responsible management includes not only the use of resources in accordance with the applicable rules, but also the implementation of the so-called ‘three Es of management’: efficiency, economy, and effectiveness. Through our performance-reporting system, there is ongoing monitoring of how tutors accomplish the key targets.

In short, managing a faculty is an opportunity to educate talented youngsters and a significant responsibility to make the best use of funds while achieving our targets.

What plans does your School have for the next three years? 

We aim to maintain and stabilise our achievements on the national market with moderate growth with respect to international students. We plan to pursue our ACCA accreditation and the BGA membership. 

In turbulent times, it is exceedingly difficult to have reasonable predictions about the future environment, but we hope that our adaptability to change will help us maintain our current position on the market as the leading provider for master’s degrees in economics (we run around 30% of the national market for these programmes), and as lucky tutors teaching many of the brightest undergraduates
in Hungary.

Gabor A Zemplen (pictured, left) is Vice Dean for International Affairs, and Professor at the Department of Argumentation Theory and Marketing, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Economics, Hungary. 

Judit Fortvingler (pictured, right) is Director of International Affairs, and Assistant Professor at the Department of Finance and Accounting, ELTE Faculty of Economics, Hungary.

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: May 2022-July 2022).

Teaching the new generation of business leaders

Business Impact: Introducing the new generation of business leaders

Programmes at POLIMI Graduate School of Management (POLIMI GSoM) are being redesigned to be purpose-led, training a new generation of business leaders to rethink the part they can play in society. David Woods-Hale talked to POLIMI GSoM’s Dean, Federico Frattini, to find out more

How would you define ‘the new generation’ of business leaders? What skills, qualities, capabilities, and mindsets do they need?

Becoming aware and taking control of our mental processes is critical to our ability to choose our purposes freely, rather than being reactive. Members of the new generation will need a developed awareness of this inner dimension, so they can inspire and energise others, and be committed and purposeful in everything they do.

Another important skill is active listening. Being a great listener doesn’t just mean reflecting back what is said, or being patient and accepting pauses and short periods of silence. Being a great listener means being able to amplify ideas and energise the person you are listening to. In short, great listeners are a launch pad for their interlocutors’ thoughts. 

POLIMI Graduate School of Management (POLIMI GSoM) is creating a ‘New Generation MBA’, designed to enable a new generation of leaders to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century. Can you tell us more about this?

The intersection between innovation and business is clearly one that greatly shapes the MBA experience at POLIMI GSoM. That’s why, together with The Mind at Work, a company which looks to strengthen the performance of teams and organisations, we decided to realign the purpose, values and culture of POLIMI GSoM itself. 

This included redesigning our full-time MBA – our flagship programme. For the first time, this New Generation MBA integrates two important dimensions. On one side, it provides the hard competencies and skills needed to perform. On the other, MBAs are exposed to cutting-edge tools to elevate their performance by developing their awareness of themselves and others.

In addition to teaching core topics from a traditional MBA, POLIMI GSoM’s new full-time programme aims to teach students how to generate and sustain higher levels of meaningfulness, motivation and effectiveness in themselves, their teams and their organisations. Can you share more on this? 

We want to help our students pursue a higher purpose. The programmes at POLIMI GSoM are being redesigned to be purpose-led, to train this new generation of business leaders to rethink the part they can play in society, and to go further than the idea of profit as the sole goal. 

The full-time MBA will prepare future leaders to succeed, give meaning to their success, and help them to contribute to building a better future for all. 

In the past few years, many organisations and business leaders have realised that they will need to rethink their purpose around the role they wish to play in society. Profit, equity, sustainability, and inclusion must co-exist, and these are values we wish to instil in our students. 

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

I believe that universities and Business Schools need to play a strong role as agents of change, with sustainability at the forefront of their agenda. Business Schools have recently been criticised for their inability to contribute to training a new generation of leaders who are able to combine shareholder value with making a positive impact on society. 

Our new MBA programme is an unprecedented response to this criticism, and has the potential to pave the way for a new approach to management education that is suited to the challenges confronting society, such as climate change. Sustainable initiatives are at the heart of the philosophy we endeavour to pass on to our students – they act as a compass guiding our choices.

What do you think sustainable leadership looks like?

The perception of what constitute essential qualities in leaders has changed a lot in recent years. Until a few years ago, Business Schools typically prepared students to become knowledgeable about functions – education was very much based on hard skills. 

However, both the world of business and wider society are going through sweeping changes. When considering what is required in response to these challenges, managers point not only to hard skills, but skills such as the capacity to engage people, to understand motivation, and to connect with emotions – especially in highly charged situations. Sustainable leadership involves genuine personal and professional growth, a personal journey of discovery – not just so that you can make a difference, but so that you can become the difference.

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

Business Schools have a responsibility to instigate change, and they cannot teach sustainability if they do not put it into practice themselves. At POLIMI GSoM, we are committed to propelling sustainable initiatives. The Business School has been awarded the B Corp Certification – a prestigious recognition of an organisation’s commitment to sustainable development and building a more inclusive society. 

POLIMI GSoM is the first Italian Business School – and the only European School – to have been accredited, and is one of just a few worldwide. B Corp companies form an international community of organisations with the common goal of combining profit with a search for the collective wellbeing, and caring for the environment and society as a whole. 

POLIMI GSoM intends to use its status as a Certified B Corporation to accelerate as a sustainable organisation, enhancing educational methods and training programmes on the topics of purpose, sustainability and inclusivity, while continuing to work with companies to achieve the same goals.

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

Despite the pandemic, 2021 represented an important year for our School, as it laid the foundations for some big news. In 2021, our School expanded nationally, starting from the Milano Bovisa campus, our nerve centre, giving life to local hubs in the Veneto, Lazio and Puglia regions. The goal is to enhance our vocation for innovation and offer students and professionals places to train, study and meet up . The process will reach its peak this year, with the inauguration of a new branch in Milan’s Navigli district. 

The most important lesson, however, has proven to be that the new generation needs to be ready for change. This is a lesson that Covid taught us in the hard way. Things can change unexpectedly, and organisations should learn to be adaptive, changing the way they work, encouraging people to be brave and innovative. Students need to see change as an opportunity to explore, not as an obstacle to override. 

Do you think recent events have moved us to a more democratised approach to business education? How can you see this evolving? 

The commitment towards people, society and the environment should be typical of all Business Schools: parameters linked to sustainability must be included in the organisation’s mission as a core competence for tomorrows’ decision-makers.

Aspiring leaders should be prepared to learn and educate themselves continuously, and be extremely adaptable to change. We know that the future of work is going to be more agile and flexible, and far more reliant on digital technologies. It is therefore essential that aspiring leaders keep up to date with these ever-changing developments in order to stay relevant and ahead of the game.

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

In our modern world, it is crucial that businesses embrace digitalisation, so that it is easier for managers and professionals to access material. Digital tools allow people from anywhere in the world to learn, interact and participate in meetings, conferences, and work environments by replicating the same experiences, and offering the same takeaways that they would get from physically attending.

I imagine a ‘phygital’ future, which seamlessly integrates the online and on-campus experiences. In fact, at POLIMI GSoM, technology has always been something that we have embraced. 

It started back in 2014, when we launched the first Executive MBA in digital learning in Italy; a few years later, it resulted in a wide portfolio of blended programmes – providing digital expertise that proved to be essential during the pandemic – and in FLEXA, a continuous learning platform appraised by AMBA as one of the most innovative worldwide.  

Thanks to top-notch technologies, today we offer our students a blend of on-site activities and online classes, creating an holistic experience which is both immersive and responds to students’ increased need for flexibility. 

That’s why the new campus, which will be inaugurated in the Navigli district, is designed to create a seamless experience between on-site and online learning – both for students and professors. 

Considering the importance of lifelong learning, what is your strategy for enabling continuing learning among your alumni networks and why do you believe this is important? 

FLEXA is a programme that is not only available to current cohorts and professors, but to our alumni as well. Providing access to free continuous learning is another example of how we are trying equip everyone to have a positive impact on society. Alumni can share their background and career plan with the digital mentor.

Analysing their hard, soft and digital skills, FLEXA will identify their current profile and the gaps that need to be filled to bring alumni closer to their goals. 

After six months of progress, alumni will be able to carry out a new assessment and reset their training pathway, if necessary. With continued access to FLEXA, they can log in again months down the line and receive up-to-date knowledge in a range of topical areas.  

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

What motivates me is the idea that Business Schools can have a strong impact on society. I believe I have a responsibility to shape a better future for all, and am determined to generate meaning in all of my initiatives. Meaning matters and, as a leader, if I can project that among my colleagues and community then that is one of the greatest incentives. It is important that I can give people a purpose beyond their everyday jobs, so that they can then go on to project these values to others – positive influence is key.

What are the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools?

I think that the biggest challenge that Business Schools are facing, and one of the trends in higher education we’ll see over the course of 2022, is innovating and transforming educational methods so that Business Schools can help future business leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs to understand that profit should not be the sole goal of an organisation. Business Schools must increasingly underline their strong role as agents for change committed to building a better and
more inclusive society. 

My advice is to find your own ‘why’ and to design a path that is meaningful for you to follow. And that’s exactly the point of our New Generation MBA. A fundamental part of our approach is to help our students know how to recognise and choose purpose, to harness their will consciously, embrace authentic values and strengthen their inner compass. 

Inner work complements, empowers and enriches everything you do in your job and in your life. Our New Generation MBA gives candidates the tools to choose to pursue something more than success and profit – the tools to find their own path.

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

I truly believe that the number of Schools which go further than just promoting a successful career to promoting a wider, collective, elevated impact of an individual will increase in the next decade. This realisation from companies has been a long process, and it is not one which will be completed overnight, but we are now seeing an increasing awareness about prevalent issues within society. However, it has been difficult for companies to achieve these goals by themselves. In order to make significant changes, businesses schools, alongside the government, NGOs, public administrations and civil society, need to join forces to make a significant impact. 

Federico Frattini is the Dean of POLIMI Graduate School of Management (POLIMI GSoM) where he is also Full Professor of Strategic Management and Innovation and a member of the management committee. 

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

Educating 21st-century corporate leaders: eastern and western perspectives

Business Impact: Educating 21st century corporate leaders: eastern and western perspectives

How is the shift to the Pacific region reflected in the development and success of current Business School models? We explored this and related questions at a webinar bringing together experts from China, Europe and the US. Ellen Buchan reports

Introduction by Bodo B Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA, and Alexander G Welzl, President of the China Data Analysis and Research Hub.

Educating the next generation of leaders is a difficult task, and Business Schools around the world carry a substantial part of the responsibility for getting this task right. However, deciding on the right way to educate 21st-century leaders is riddled with uncertainties. 

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation. For Business Schools, it has opened new and exciting avenues for remote teaching, but also raised uncertainties by calling into question how we teach and what we teach. The digital transformation has also changed the competitive environment for Business Schools, as future leaders can tap into digital educational offers from suppliers around the world. For students, this means more choice; for Business Schools, it means more competition. 

More important than the way of delivering knowledge and skills is what we teach. Content is king, but do we know what future leaders need? What type of knowledge and skills will be critical in solving future societal and business challenges? 

There are new types of jobs on the horizon, but we may also need fundamental changes, affecting the responsibilities and purpose of companies in society. Climate change illustrates the need to move towards sustainable circular business models. 

In light of the profound transformations and grand challenges of world societies and economies – namely anthropogenic climate change, digital transformation, demographic changes, urbanisation, and resource depletion – the skills to be achieved by corporate managers are far from being focused solely on economics. 

This is especially true for CEOs, members of boards and middle-management in multinational firms in manufacturing, the service sector, financial industry, and many other fields of private and public enterprises.

The pandemic is just a prelude, and kind of global stress test for governance systems, societal concepts, economies, and people at the dawn of the worldwide impacts of climate change in the coming decades. 

Against this backdrop, mutual learning is needed. In the end, coming up with novel sustainable lifestyles, governance systems and economic performance cycles is a question of survival for the generations to come.

Managerial capabilities are at the heart of this challenge. Therefore, the question of how Business Schools address their educational responsibility in their curricula, philosophies and core values is of utmost importance. 

Undoubtedly a new balance between competition and co-operation, as well as a sense of the delicate line between legality and legitimacy, is necessary for the coming generations of corporate managers. 

Do western and the Chinese cultures influence education at Business Schools and management styles in different ways? How is the shift to the Pacific region reflected in the development and success of current Business School models? Can we expect a growing importance of innovation in managerial education in Europe, China, and the US in the coming times? 

At any rate, evidence-based development and the innovation of Business Schools will be crucial for the emergence of a planetary patriotism in the 21st century.

Earlier this year, AMBA & BGA, in collaboration with the China Data Analysis and Research Hub (CDA), hosted a webinar bringing together experts from China, Europe and the US to share their experience, visions and ideas on educating 21st-century leaders. 

Here are some highlights from our speakers. 

Lars Y Terenius, European Chair, CDA Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), and Professor, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

If you looked 25 years ahead in a crystal ball, I think you’d find that medicine had changed quite considerably. You would have new information due to machine learning, doctors would look at patients’ symptoms remotely, and there would be new ways to register and tools that people could use at home. I think we will see a revolution in medicine, while another lesson we will learn is the need to think globally. We need to introduce these technologies and work out how to help people in less-privileged countries.

Hong Yongmiao, Dean and Professor, University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences School of Economics and Management, Beijing, PR China

Our future leaders and talent need to understand how the digital economy drives changes in the economy and wider society. We need to understand how to maintain steady economic growth in China, while improving income inequality and solving other social problems.  

We also need to learn to compete and co-operate while enhancing a harmonious international community. We would like to have our Chinese students know how artificial intelligence (AI) impacts economy, business, and society, while having an international vision; knowing how to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds and knowing how to solve conflicts in a way that benefits all parties involved.

Pamela Mar, Executive Vice President, Fung Academy, Fung Group, Hong Kong, PR China

The future of the supply chain is going to be digital, and data driven. You will be able to run it from your dashboard. It’s going to be sustainable and certified. It’s going to be geographically agile and fully traceable from end to end. This is very different from cheap and cheerful, which is what the supply chain used to be.

Gao Xudong, Professor, Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, Beijing, PR China

We believe in the importance of innovation – we are always improving our capabilities so we seize future opportunities and deal with the challenges.

Wu Xiaobo, Dean and Professor, Zhejiang University Faculty of Social Sciences, Hangzhou, PR China

In China, with the sharing of knowledge and interaction between academia and enterprises, with greater co-operation, we could see China enter the fourth industrial revolution. From catching up, China could move ahead. We will see the restructuring of ecosystems, and very close relationships and interactions between industries and universities. 

Wang Zhongming, Professor, Zhejiang University, and President, Silk-Road Entrepreneurship Education Network, Hangzhou, PR China

In China, we try to do three things among the Business Schools in terms of capacity building. First, it’s about bridging the psychological distance to set up sustainability mindsets and building that into MBA programmes. Second, we try to integrate digital transformation with green development. Third, we empower corporate leaders with sustainable management.

Gunther Friedl, Professor, Technical University of Munich (TUM), and Dean, TUM School of Management, Munich, Germany

We need to shift our educational programme. We take an interdisciplinary approach where we bring together business students with science students, with engineering students – and have them collaborate in interdisciplinary teams to get a better understanding of what is going on in their respective areas.

Amitava Chattopadhyay, Professor at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France

For us, lifelong learning has become a watch word and it’s something that now cuts across degree programmes and executive education programmes.

We are evolving to say that it is no longer the case that you study for the first 20-odd years of life and then live off that for the rest of your career. Rather, you constantly refresh your life as the world changes.

I think that virtual reality offers a real opportunity to present stories and let students understand them. I think that is a super important learning experience for students.

Josep Franch, Professor and Dean, ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain

[In the past] our obligation as Business Schools was not only to play a key role [in globalisation] but to provide education with a global perspective, involve faculty in global issues and to share best practice and experience through international partnerships.

Our students have developed a different set of competencies – more resilience, more crisis management, more living with a distributed team of people. We’ve learned what VUCA really means.

Scott Stern, Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management, Boston, USA

I take a global approach to management education, to make sure that the lessons we are teaching students in one location are adaptable and have a broad framework that can apply across many regions. We need to make sure that we’re not putting a square peg in a round hole by misapplying what might be true in one location to another around the globe.

Srilata Zaheer, Dean and Professor, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, USA

We have a range of partnerships, and each one of them has been hugely beneficial in terms of being able to bring views from around the world into our own classrooms for our own students. 

These partnerships have exposed our own American students to what happens around the world and what happens in China – to the best thinking and the best students out there. That has been an absolute joy. 

It has changed how our faculty think and what they teach, it changed what they do.

Bodo B Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA

VUCA has become the norm – the traditional Business School model is undergoing changes. It is very important to come together and focus on ideas we have in common and exchange ideas, so it is a great pleasure to bring together Chinese and western perspectives, because knowledge is much more evenly distributed than ever before.

We have to think about whom we should collaborate and compete with, to the extent that we have to question our own business models. In terms of changing technology, Business Schools, and deans in particular, are taxed with very new decisions, as regards which technologies to invest in. 

  • What do we outsource or invest in ourselves? 
  • What are the teaching tools? 
  • What about the personalisation we offer? 
  • These are all challenges deans did not have before.

Alexander G Welzl, President of CDA

As an independent, non-partisan senior European think tank, we are convinced that the education of the coming generation of managers and corporate leaders is decisive for tackling the challenges lying ahead of us. 

We deeply believe that evidence-based decision-making, and a systemic and systematic learning process between cultures and nations, are the basis for peace, prosperity, and collaboration in the 21st century.

We at CDA are convinced that the future route to go is that we all try together to develop planetary patriotism and a planetary awareness, and this is especially necessary, from our point of view, for future leaders and corporate managers.

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

The importance of building strategic and rewarding partnerships

Business Impact: The importance of building strategic and rewarding partnerships

Exploring the benefits of networks and collaboration in the business education sector

Business Schools have created links with the corporate world, building networks that allow them to come up with innovative solutions for some of their biggest challenges. 

This includes attracting talent, as well as sourcing advisors and partners that will champion the Business School with strategic alignment and cross-industry collaboration. After all, creation is an act of collaboration. However, Schools still face mounting challenges that have been amplified by recent global events in an ever-changing world.

Enabling strategic collaboration

A session at the AMBA & BGA Business School Leaders Summit 2022 brought together organisations that share AMBA & BGA’s passion for building networks and have adopted a proactive, innovative approach to strategic collaboration.

Mireia Giné, Director of International Initiatives, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS), opened the conversation, saying: ‘I think we can all recognise the potential benefits of building networks, and a portfolio of partners, to help businesses in different dimensions: business development, innovation, and responding faster to client needs.

‘It’s important for partnerships to find a “wow factor”; something you couldn’t do alone. It’s important to find the creativity that lights up and allows the potential to offer new services.

‘The important motivators for a partnership are co-creation, focusing on customer experience and bringing something different, enhancing scale-related issues, and fundamentally exchanging expertise,’ she added. ‘But it’s important to be clear on objectives and have owners on both sides to push forward. It’s important to have trust and common values, to deliver something for both sides.’

In terms of identifying partners, Ralitza Iordanova, Vice President, Global Partnerships, Luxury & Premium Brands, at hotel chain Accor, said: ‘We’re seeing that people don’t want to move forward with tactical offerings and want to be surprised by collaboration and organisations coming together. We need to consider the value of bringing organisations together, as well as ensuring we’re ensuring we’re partnering with like-minded brands to ensure our values are reflected. 

‘In short, this is a must, and should be at the core of any partnership or collaboration. The people behind the brand are vital and stakeholders need to have aligned objectives and KPIs.’

Antonio Schuh, Senior Advisor, Arthur D Little Telecoms Practice, and former Director of Development & Projects, Strategic Alliances, Telefonica, added: ‘At Telefonica, in terms of partnerships, we identified a need and then carried out an analytical stage to ascertain organisations that were compatible with our ambition. This took 12 years, and after this we approached the [chosen organisations] with a joint proposal.’

He explained that these proposals comprised issues around recruitment, procurement and sales, and included other elements such as idiosyncratic behaviours. ‘The second part was an exchange of expertise,’ he said. ‘We needed to anticipate changes in the market, so we got together to exchange knowledge and identify challenges.

‘Ideation is important because we’re all providing different perspectives and points of view from organisations at different stages. We can identify needs we’re not aware of, and ways of fulfilling our needs – this is true co-creation.’

Iordanova went on to outline some challenges she’s faced. ‘Stakeholder management and aligning expectations is a challenge,’ she acknowledged. ‘We work across the world, so it’s vital to build partnerships that are flexible and adaptable to local market needs. There can be aligned goals, but when the rubber hits the ground, we rely on local teams, and they need to see the bigger vision. We need buy-in from every single stakeholder, not just at executive level.’

Sophie Trueman, Head of Business Development, Too Good To Go, also shared her experience. ‘Coming into a partnership as a scale-up is hard,’ she said. ‘It’s difficult to get a seat at the table. But partnerships must be done in collaboration, and there has to be a mutual benefit for both parties. Winning a partnership helps us, as a brand, to scale our offering, but offers our partners a sustainable method for food redistribution and attracts new custom. 

‘Ask yourself “what is the mutual benefit? What can we both get from the partnership?”’ she advised. ‘For me, the sharing of knowledge and expertise is vital for a winning formula.’

Chair
Mireia Giné, Director of International Initiatives, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS)

Panellists
Ralitza Iordanova, Vice President, Global Partnerships, Luxury & Premium Brands, Accor
Antonio Schuh, Senior Advisor, Arthur D Little Telecoms Practice and former Director of Development & Projects, Strategic Alliances, Telefonica
Sophie Trueman, Head of Business Development, Too Good To Go

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

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.

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