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).

How Business Schools should harness their power to make change

Business Impact: How Business Schools should harness their power to make change

Business Schools must be a force for good, supporting students to be more effective global citizens, writes Barbara Majoor, Vice Dean of Nyenrode Business University

We often underestimate how much power we hold in terms of being able to make a difference. As an organisation, political body, business or Business School, as an individual or as part of a group, we are all capable of contributing to bettering the world in one form or another. 

However, it is one thing to understand what we are capable of achieving, and another to put this knowledge into action. Business Schools have the capacity to educate, to inform, to put knowledge into good hands, but also to be the leaders of change themselves. Being able to harness this power holds much potential. 

I am Vice Dean at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, where I am determined that the Business School is a force for good – not just talking the talk but demonstrating how to walk the walk too. At the forefront of all Schools’ agenda should be the need and willingness to adapt to today’s environment and support students in being more effective global citizens. Everyone has to keep learning and developing continually in order to remain relevant. 

At Nyenrode Business University, we have adapted our teaching to incorporate this idea of constant change and life-long learning – interdisciplinary learning, where students are offered multiple perspectives on the same subject. This also calls for the development of both the rational side of people and their creative, intuitive, emotional side. It’s not just about business, or having the toolkit to generate a lot of money or profit, but giving students a meaningful purpose; a way to use this toolkit to change the world for the better.

Meeting students’ needs

There are several options available to meet students’ needs at Nyenrode Business University, as these are at the basis of every course and programme. It starts with a continuing dialogue with stakeholders to understand what is going on in the outside world and what issues are at stake in practice. 

It is important to bring these issues together in the classroom, to discuss them, and to understand the impact on society. We advocate bringing research and practice closer together to get a better understanding of the impact on society and to seek solutions. For example, we bring our research output together in impact cases, which describes the impact of our research on society.

There are both long- and short-terms implications to the global shift towards sustainability-centric Business Schools. We currently find ourselves in the fourth industrial revolution, with disruptive technologies and applications such as artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, virtual reality, quantum computing and Blockchain. 

This fourth industrial revolution is characterised by the blurring of the physical, digital and biological world. We also realise how physically connected we are to each other, and our social awareness is growing. Internationally, there is a growing level of awareness of sustainability, diversity, inclusion, humanisation and meaning. This all brings with it great changes for students and participants, businesses
and educational institutions.

In fact, there are five major trends which are having an impact on society. We have ensured that they are also therefore the leading principles in Nyenrode’s strategy. They are: 

• A sustainable society is everyone’s responsibility. 

• Technology is changing every organisation.

• Exponential change calls for continuous adaptation of people and organisations. 

• Ecosystems are the cornerstone of future growth. 

• Organisations are becoming more people-orientated.

Yet the future of education and learning is practical, experimental, personalised, continuous and lifelong, so it is increasingly difficult to predict what knowledge and competencies will be needed in the future. Everyone has to keep learning and developing continually in order to remain relevant. 

As I mentioned, we have also adapted our teaching to incorporate this idea of constant change – interdisciplinary learning, where students are offered multiple perspectives on the same subject. This also calls for the development of both the rational and the creative, intuitive, emotional side of people.

Transformative education

Our strategy is transformative education: the transformation of people, organisations and society. The full impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) themes on society are unknown. Unknown risks cannot be managed; you must recognise them before you can get started with them. 

These themes show complex patterns in which hardly any structure can be applied. Facing this requires an open mind, self-knowledge, wisdom and curiosity. 

We want to contribute with research and education to understand this complicated societal challenge, and to help identify a solution. Creative thinkers and practical problem solvers are also key to finding an educational solution.

There are many different practical steps Schools can take to implement these key issues within their programmes. For example, putting green issues into the curricula or working with sustainable and ethical employers. For Nyenrode, it took the form of embracing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in its 2020 – 2024 strategy. 

Our primary focus is on the UN SDG 8: ‘Decent work and economic growth.’ Inclusive and sustainable economic growth can drive progress and generate the means to implement further sustainability goals. The pandemic has led to the loss of more than 255 million full-time jobs. 

Although economic recovery is under way, it will take several years to fully build back not only the economy, but society as a whole. In addition, this SDG has sub-goals that include labour rights, inclusion and equality at work, and access to financial services. 

Nyenrode Business University strives to be an inclusive organisation, with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We believe it is important to be transparent around how we are incorporating this goal with our community, in the hope that it may create a snowball effect for other Schools or companies. 

One practical step we are taking is to incorporate the SDG into education and targeted impact research which allows us, simultaneously, to strengthen the societal impact we are having. Our valuable in-house knowledge is actively shared, in order to enhance results in terms of meeting all the sustainable development goals. By showing leadership and taking the initiative at an organisational, team and individual level, we are working towards a sustainable future. This goal ties in with our purpose (serving society by shaping responsible leaders), origin, and strategic focus, and is underpinned by our core values: leadership, entrepreneurship and stewardship.

In this way, studying at Nyenrode Business University encourages critical thinking that focuses on how to deal with current and future societal challenges. We even help to develop practical solutions by building knowledge centres with business partners, and solving challenges together. Further examples of the work Nyenrode Business University is doing around the sustainability agenda relates to SDG 17, which involves ‘strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development’. 

These days, serving society goes beyond organisational and national boundaries. It requires co-operation with partners in ecosystems. We strive to be a hub where people and organisations make new connections and create social impact jointly. 

Sustainability in our ways of working

We simply cannot ignore sustainability in our way of working any longer. This means we are investing research, time and money in our sustainable future. This has been put into practice in our facility services and the way we maintain our estate. 

We have been voted one of the top 10 most amazing Business School campuses in the world. We are set in a serene location between the River Vecht and the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. It comprises a 13th-century castle and a lovely setting that’s rich in wildlife and woodland. Our campus is home to many animals. 

So, next on our list is to start thinking about how we incorporate the natural environment of our estate into our buildings. It goes much further than just providing tools or knowledge on how to make the world greener. We want this to be mirrored in our campus too.

Business Schools are often in a unique position in that most of their students work in, or have a close connection with, the business world. Students’ connections with business practice are key to their educational philosophy. Students bring the issues from their daily working reality into the classroom, and are offered the tools and mindset to make a difference as responsible leaders.

ESG challenges, in particular, also demand an approach based on an integrated chain of responsibility. All parties must work together to resolve these issues. The chain is production as well as consumption. It starts with understanding the knowledge and awareness of the issues by all parties in the chain. 

It is key to bring these parties together in the classroom to discuss these issues and to understand the impact on society. We advocate bringing research and practice closer together to gain a better understanding of the impact on society, and to seek out solutions. For example, we bring our research output together in impact cases, which describes the impact of our research on society.

The challenge for future leaders is to avoid looking at interests in isolation, and to deal with the increased complexity in a balanced and informed way. Education should be focused on bringing the various perspectives and interests of different stakeholders together in a learning environment. This requires human skills such as logic and emotional intelligence, creativity, and intuition. 

Shaping future leaders to be socially engaged

At Nyenrode Business University, we focus on the leadership, entrepreneurship and stewardship values which create future leaders who are socially engaged and undertake social and inclusive initiatives. They deal with society and the environment in the most sustainable manner possible in order to contribute to a circular economy. In my opinion, all Business Schools need to focus on helping to build a better future.

To sum up, the world today is moving at tremendous speed and it can be challenging to keep up with changing environments, new challenges and all the uncertainty that comes with unfamiliar territory. However, if we are to shift our lens slightly – to see not obstacles but opportunities – we have a chance to make a change. 

This is our perspective at Nyenrode Business University – that the current challenges of sustainability and climate change are a chance to come up with new, innovative solutions; things that haven’t been tried before, things that are ‘outside the box’. 

It’s a chance to give companies and businesses a new purpose, to instil a sense of meaning and thoughtfulness into their initiatives, and what they want their outcomes to be. 

Rapid digitisation is providing us with new tools and ways to learn and should be championed instead of shied away from. This is certainly a perspective that we support and encourage at Nyenrode Business University – and one that we advocate to all Business Schools. 

Of course, as individuals, we all have the ability to create change; however, together, Business Schools have the capacity to influence future generations of leaders – and to lead themselves.

Barbara Majoor is Vice Dean, Professor of Accountancy, and Director of the Center for Accounting, Auditing & Control at Nyenrode Business University.

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.

Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs seeking social impact

Business Impact: Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs seeking social impact

Business Schools must ensure they provide the support needed to those wishing to launch ventures that can contribute to a more sustainable planet, says Xavier Arola, as he outlines the work of GBSB Global Business School’s startup hub

To be a business leader, you must be able to instigate real change. Innovation must be at the heart of your motivation, and that is why GBSB Global Business School believes that it is vital to give future business leaders the platform to grow and develop their ventures.

Through our ‘G-Accelerator’ startup hub, we aim to engage with individuals concerned with bettering the world and society by employing sustainable business models that are not only socially responsible, but also financially and environmentally sustainable too.

Early-stage support for ‘Triple Impact’ ventures

With a strong focus on both innovation and technology, the G-Accelerator targets next-generation entrepreneurs, particularly those with disruptive ideas that intend to launch businesses that will help contribute to a better society. The aim is to allow entrepreneurs to reach their potential by providing solid support and the necessary resources to succeed.

Once a year, the G-Accelerator has an ‘Impact Call’, a six-month pre-accelerator programme that provides training, mentoring, networking, and financial support services to early-stage entrepreneurs focused on developing a venture with a ‘Triple Impact’ – i.e. ventures that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

The Impact Call offers a roadmap of 20 weeks from the first steps of ideation to the market, from product development to managerial skills and acquaintance modules. As such, the G-Accelerator aims to source and support those who want to develop their own business in a short but highly efficient timeframe.

The support, training and networking opportunities are invaluable. Those with access to the hub have access to a network of other entrepreneurs during and after their programme that spans not only across Spain, but also across the world. There are different profiles and development stages between the entrepreneurs and startups in this programme, and the exchanging of insights, concerns and results are of clear value.

Projects with the potential to create value for society

In partnership with the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) and the University of Northampton’s Institute of Social Innovation and Impact (ISII) in the UK, the G-Accelerator’s Impact Call is sponsored by the Catalan Government’s Ministry of Business and Labour and the European Social Fund.

Our shared mission with these partners is focused on promoting the impact economy. So, we look for projects where the creation of added value for society is the central element of the business model. By doing this, we intend to promote the circular economy and focus on real needs under the principles of sustainability, viability and feasibility.

Over the years, numerous successful ventures have developed through the G-Accelerator programme. The first is MIN Organics – an e-commerce platform that specialises in selling organic menstrual products in bulk, allowing women to overcome stigma and customise their menstrual cycle according to their individual needs. Founded by Anna Comas, MIN Organics [formerly, MYOX Organics] won Best Startup in the Pre-Seed & Seed category of the G-Accelerator Impact Call Programme 2020-2021 edition.

Then there is Orpheus – an enterprise focused on monitoring air quality and other criteria to improve people’s welfare, energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions while minimising costs. Orpheus won Best Startup in the Early-Stage category of the aforementioned Impact Call edition.

There is also Agua NEA – the first 100% plastic- and BPA-free mineral water brand in Spain, offered as an alternative solution to the hospitality industry’s massive plastic consumption. This startup is another beneficiary of the G-Accelerator Impact Call 2020-2021 edition.

Whether the idea is in its infancy or has already received partial funding, GBSB Global Business School invites individuals to apply to the programme in order to get expert mentorship and guidance in seeing their dreams become a successful reality. In a world where input is needed at a rapid rate to slow down the effects of climate change, we believe all Business Schools and universities should provide the support needed to those wishing to launch a venture that can contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable planet.

Xavier Arola is the G-Accelerator Programme Director at GBSB Global Business School, which has campuses in Spain and Malta. Xavier is also Head of Careers & Entrepreneurship Services, and a Professor of Investments and Entrepreneurial Finance at the School.

The role of Business Schools in driving equality

Business Impact: The role of Business Schools in driving equality

Educators must reach out beyond the walls of their institutions and address the most important issues facing society, writes Ellen Buchan

According to UNICEF, almost half of the world’s population – more than 3 billion people – live on less than $2.50 USD a day. This problem is exacerbated by the sharp divide between these extreme levels of poverty and the extreme wealth that exists on the other side of the income spectrum. Data from the World Inequality Report shows that inequality is rising, or staying extremely high, nearly everywhere. Since 1980, the share of national income going to the richest 1% has increased rapidly in North America, China, India and Russia, and more moderately in Europe. 

Before Covid-19, in the US, the top 1% controlled 38% of the total assets in the country – which is 16 times the total wealth of the bottom 50% combined. Other countries show similar patterns. 

The pandemic has only expanded these differences. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that while the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is clearly seen in the numbers – 120 million people pushed into extreme poverty, and a massive global recession – some data shows an increase in another extreme: the wealth of billionaires.

This inequality has moral consequences for the structure of our global society. Inequality exacerbates social differences and reduces upward mobility – leading to greater stratification within communities. This, in turn, tends to lead to greater crime and social instability. The Equality Trust reports that rates of violence are higher in more unequal societies and goes as far as to suggest that more permanent decreases in inequality would reduce homicides by 20% and lead to a 23% long-term reduction in robberies. Political participation also suffers as the ‘have-nots’ struggle with daily needs and the ‘haves’ entrench themselves further. Nationalistic and nativist narratives harden.

Another consequence is the impact on sustainability and the planet. The have-nots are forced to live off the land, leading to deforestation – the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests being examples of this. These individuals are less likely to be able to access alternative energy solutions and thus rely on fossil fuels. They are both contributors to, and victims of, climate change. As a global Business School community, it is imperative that we should reach out beyond the walls of our institutions and address the most important issues facing our society, especially when these relate so closely to why we do business: to provide a living for ourselves and those around us in a global marketplace. 

But can Business Schools also be considered contributors to the current state? They are the producers of talent for the financial and consulting elites. The aim of corporations is to maximise shareholder value; asset stripping, private equity or suppressing wages are sometimes in the best interests of the firm.

To tackle these issues and more, AMBA & BGA, in association with Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), hosted a roundtable with Business School leaders. The ensuing discussion sought to delve into the role of Business Schools in addressing global inequality, to examine what’s changed and how far the points above resonate with decision-makers in higher education. Here are some highlights from that conversation. 

Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)

As a Business School community, we have to change the conversation from one that puts the needs of shareholders and capital first to one that also looks at social, environmental, equity and social issues. A shift from the shareholder primacy view of business to a multiple stakeholder model. We should certainly do the tactical things – recruiting and admitting more diverse classes, creating the appropriate curriculum – but we need an intellectual framework around the role of business that goes beyond the Friedman model of shareholder primacy to one that is more inclusive in terms of environmental and social equity. Who else will build this framework if not the university?

The other thing is that technology has fundamentally changed how we deliver education. Education is no longer reserved for those who can put two years of their career on hold and afford to travel to a western, high-cost city for an MBA programme. Technology has enabled us, as Business Schools, to deliver in different ways, to create a flatter meritocracy or a more distributed, democratised form of meritocracy. This creates more equality of opportunity which can lead to equality of outcomes. After all, it does not seem that we can truly address equality if only a certain elite – economic or dynastic – however well-intentioned, is going to create a level future for all.

So, if we can do these two things simultaneously (build the intellectual framework for what capitalism looks like out into the future, and use technology to democratise or spread the creation of the meritocracy) then that contribution can be huge, changing the value of business education as we see it today.

Catherine Duggan, Dean, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

When I think about the role of Business Schools, I am always reminded of a quote from a Nigerian writer, Ben Okri. He writes: ‘We can redream this world and make the dream real’. I think those two elements are exactly what we do at a Business School: we are reimagining what the world could be and equipping ourselves and our students with the tools and skills to implement that vision.

Both parts are critical as we make a case for business education. We have an opportunity to re-dream things, but we also have a responsibility to pair that process with the tools to make things real; to make them work. Fundamentally, I think that, at Business Schools, we teach our students how to think about things in new ways, under new conditions. 

When I talk to our alumni, they don’t point to specific skills as the things that they continue to draw on from their MBAs. Instead, they point to the way they learnt how to see the world – particularly the way they learnt how to see new opportunities and spot new risks.

That’s what I see as our role: giving our students new analytical tools and ways of thinking about things, then helping them to put those tools together with their own experiences and unique worldviews so they can see things others don’t. I think that’s how you find new opportunities for social impact.

Johan S Roos, Chief Academic Officer, HULT International Business School

Inequality is a big theme. There is always going to be inequality in a competitive world, and a world without it is a utopia. Socialism and communism have tried to eradicate inequality and that just doesn’t work. George Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm illustrates the fact that some people will always consider themselves more equal than others. 

Inequality is – to some extent – a driving force for societal progress and personal improvements. But we need to make sure that people can beat inequality and enhance their living conditions. The key thing is [to ensure] that the economy and social structures are dynamic, not static. People stuck in poverty or misery without opportunities to improve their lives makes inequality a very complex problem with no easy answer. The world is unfortunately full of examples of this. 

What can we do in higher education to help drive society towards the dynamic scenario rather than the static one? We can ensure that students and faculty talk openly about inequality and the problems it causes, but also about how everyone can gain equal opportunities to improve their lives. At the same time, we need to cultivate and protect one of the key success factors of successful business, economies and society; meritocracy. The challenge is that a meritocracy is inclusive, so that we all have a chance to compete and succeed based on our merits, regardless of how we look or how we chose to live our personal lives. An inclusive and ethical meritocracy should be a powerful driving force to making the world a better place. 

Business Schools should be reinforcing the idea that people must be able to work, progress, and live meaningful lives within society – within the moral and legal boundaries provided by institutions and the law, of course. To keep the topic hot, we should also make sure we can discuss existing knowledge about inequality, debate and develop new ideas, and encourage students and faculty to engage in the public debate. I often tell my faculty members that they have a responsibility to engage in public debate about things they understand and have views on. 

Donna M Rapaccioli, Dean, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University

We must ensure that access to the highest quality of education is available to everyone. I am concerned that high-potential individuals who lack resources to fund their education are being guided into training programmes instead of educational institutions. 

While these training programmes provide a cost-effective opportunity to emerge from poverty, society needs more. To really impact income inequality in the long term, we need holistic education, which equips individuals with the knowledge and mindsets needed to reach the highest levels of organisations. We have to figure out how to enable all members of society to experience an education that prepares them for leadership.

One key point to be transparent about is the kind of School you are. Fordham is a Jesuit Catholic School; our mission is to educate compassionate global business leaders who will make positive societal change. That is how we present ourselves, so there is a predisposition in terms of the type of students who apply to our School. I believe that Schools have a responsibility to be truthful about who they are; if social justice is at the heart of your mission, you need to say that up front.

Clearly articulating your mission in your messaging is one way you can curate the composition of your student body. Once students are enrolled, they should experience your mission in their learning opportunities, the curriculum and co-curriculum, the cases assigned by faculty, and the speakers you invite. These will reinforce one another.

It’s not easy, but many Schools are realising that an holistic education, which thrives on a diverse, engaged learning environment, can be transformative. Many Schools are also now looking for activists and changemakers – you want them on your campus because you want that passion. The creativity and drive they bring will amplify your efforts at creating a truly dynamic learning environment that educates for leadership.

Chair 
Andrew Main Wilson, CEO, AMBA & BGA

Panellists
Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
Catherine Duggan, Dean, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business
Donna M Rapaccioli, Dean, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
Johan S Roos, Chief Academic Officer, HULT International Business School

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

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.

Innovating for success in business education

Business Impact: Innovating for success in business education

How should Business Schools harness learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic and position themselves in a digital landscape?

The world of business education looks very different to the way it looked at the beginning of the pandemic, with remote learning becoming a new normal.

Just like businesses, educational institutions have had to adapt in order to comply with lockdown restrictions, while maintaining a quality service. Although this has been challenging, Covid-19 has created opportunities for digital innovations within Business Schools and wider education.

Digital technology has played a vital role for faculty and students alike. Platforms such as Zoom and Teams have replaced the traditional classroom, and the tech industry has been quick to come up with solutions. From startups to multinationals, these companies are working to improve the world of online learning, developing education technology at a rapid pace. 

This gives Business Schools an opportunity to reflect on how innovations will affect the day-to-day delivery of teaching going into the future. It falls on Schools to continue to be flexible and to adapt to the post-Covid-19 world, taking the valuable skills and lessons learned and developing them further.

Adapting to the digital landscape

In a session at the AMBA & BGA Business School Summit 2022, a panel of experts pondered the future of Business Schools in the digital landscape, and discussed how leading Schools should position themselves in a changing environment.

Kicking off the conversation, Simone Hammer, Head of Marketing for Learning Experiences at Barco, commented that although ‘lots of organisations tried to “run faster” during the pandemic’ others took the opportunity ‘to step back and analyse, without getting exhausted. In saying that, innovation and creativity come out of urgency’, she pointed out.

Tiffany Monaco, Global Business Development and Innovation Leader at IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) highlighted the move to partnership working. ‘The world changed very quickly last year, but if we want to change the way we work by 2030, we need to take action now,’ she said. ‘This pandemic has also sparked a lot of collaboration. Boredom demands creativity, so in the past two years, I’ve had more collaboration and more creativity with my colleagues.’

Meanwhile, Miika Makitalo CEO of HappyOrNot, explained that, in his opinion, the pandemic has revolutionised the behaviours of consumers. ‘The pandemic gave us the opportunity to stop asking “what is the winning strategy?” We’ve been building a clear focus on what we’ve been doing and asking how we can add more value,’ Makitalo added.

‘By combining data and partnering with other organisations, we’ve explored things we’ve never experienced before. We had more time to think, more time to focus and more time to collaborate. In the marketplace, the ones that are innovating are winning.’

But Makitalo stressed that ‘there is great value in failure. Success is a terrible teacher. We have always had an upward trajectory of profit, which started to plateau, so we began to shift our way of thinking and boost innovation. I would say there’s always room for improvement in terms of how organisations approach failure, but having psychological safety and empowering people to be humble is really key. That mitigates risk. 

‘If you’re afraid to embrace your failure, you’re more inclined to hide it and this leads to a snowball effect. Instead leaders can create a culture of accountability; embracing failure; and moving on.’

Hammer advocates asking for help and nurturing a culture of trust. ‘Looking out for collaboration – next to failure – is really important’, she said. 

Maria Luciana Axente, Responsible AI & AI for Good Lead at PwC, concluded: ‘Finally something has happened that we’ve been predicting for a long time. For years, we’ve been preaching to our clients that they will have to digitise. Before the pandemic organisations could cover their lack of digitisation with people skills, but now there is a huge opportunity to develop digital infrastructure. 

‘In the uncertainty that will follow the pandemic we have an opportunity to optimise our processes. Digitisation can replace repetition and empower innovation. No innovation can be realised without infrastructure, and this allows us to make a sustained and profound impact.’ 

Chair
Simone Hammer, Head of Marketing, Learning Experiences, Barco

Panellists
Maria Luciana Axente, Responsible AI & AI for Good Lead, PwC
Tiffany Monaco, Global Business Development and Innovation Leader, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group)
Miika Makitalo CEO, HappyOrNot

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

Sustainability: understanding and broadening awareness in business 

Business Impact: Sustainability - understanding and broadening awareness in business 

How should future leaders and their organisations respond to the climate crisis?

Sustainability and CSR is an approach to the management of organisations which is focused on long-term economic, social and environmental value.

It is a response to the challenges of the modern world facing organisations from all sectors, and people from all walks of life.

A business can be a force for good if its purpose is not just about the bottom line, and it is willing to serve its community and satisfy societal needs sustainably. There is a growing consensus that business leaders have a responsibility not only to shareholders, but also to wider society: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and the environment. But how does this affect business education? Understanding the impact of decisions and barriers to progress are steps in the right direction towards the development of sustainable and socially just economies.

Today’s leaders are in a privileged position, as technology and their global reach give them more power to create social and sustainable value than ever before. A movement for a green-based recovery that will deliver superior returns over traditional fiscal stimuli has gathered real momentum.

Embracing sustainability

During a panel discussion at the AMBA & BGA Business School Summit 2022, two leaders who are making real change in their technology-driven organisations discussed how they think organisations need to respond to the climate crisis. 

Chairing the session, David Woods-Hale, Director of Marketing and Communications, AMBA & BGA, set the scene in his introduction: ‘If COP26 taught us anything, it’s that the solution to the climate emergency is not going to lie solely with politicians or individuals – a big part of it has to come from businesses. Those who are in Business Schools now, doing MBAs or postgraduate qualifications, are going to be the people coming into organisations and making the difference.’ 

He went on ask the panel what they thought would be the triggering point for all business to become more sustainable. Currently, despite the bleak news surrounding the climate emergency, many organisations are still slow to develop sustainable practices. 

Rita Monteiro, Head of Net Zero Programmes at Amazon, tackled the question first: ‘I think sometimes we look at sustainability in very specific verticals, but we need to look at it more holistically,’ she said. ‘The public and private sector need to come together to accelerate the technologies that we need to decarbonise. 

‘It’s not just about new leaders that are coming into business. Of course, the new generation has much more of an awareness around sustainability and social responsibility – which is great because it will become part of the DNA of ethical business behaviour. But there also needs to be the realisation in tenured leaders that sustainability is about innovation, and it is about survival.

‘Even if someone refutes the science (which I would be very surprised about) sustainability is about survival; you have to make the change to survive. Businesses are having to make that shift. I would be happy to see more policy, as it helps to bring everyone forward together at the same level. It’s not about independent action but consolidated work,’ Monteiro concluded.

Adam Hall, Head of Sustainability at Internet Fusion Group, added his own thoughts to this. ‘You also need to see that action from customers,’ he said. ‘They need to support responsible businesses to keep that momentum going. But I strongly feel that business should take the lead here.’

Wrapping up the session, Hall gave advice to organisations on how business should connect with climate change: ‘Sustainability has to be delivered across all departments,’ he argued. ‘It is not one department that delivers it for everyone. In most situations, it’s the co-ordination of multiple departments trying to make their elements more sustainable. We need to change the perception of sustainability, it’s a practical function of a modern business. Operational efficiencies come along with sustainability, as well as cost savings. 

‘Sustainability needs to be delivered through practical and pragmatic efforts that are put across very simply, he continued. ‘I think one of the areas we are not great at is trying to make this realistic and achievable. We are guilty, as a sustainability community, of using terminology and explaining it in complex ways – it shouldn’t be, it must be recognisable in every single department. For us to really get some momentum going, sustainability has to be understandable, communicable and achievable.’

Chair
David Woods-Hale, Director of Marketing and Communications, AMBA & BGA

Panellists
Adam Hall, Head of Sustainability, Internet Fusion Group
Rita Monteiro, Head of Net Zero Programmes, Amazon

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

How Business Schools can bridge the political divide: part II

Business Impact: how Business Schools can bridge the political divide

Business Schools can no longer afford to ignore the intimate interrelationship between business and politics – and they must go beyond layering ESG perspectives onto standard business thinking – says Joe Zammit-Lucia

From pressures to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, to how we deal with climate change, to the rise of what some have called ‘political consumerism’, to the changing nature of globalisation due to new geopolitical tensions, political questions are increasingly integral to continued business success.

ESG modules are insufficient

Yet, layering ESG modules onto business-as-usual curricula, as many Schools do, is an insufficient response. ESG is but a part of the political aspects of business, aspects that go much deeper to reach the very way we conceptualise what business is all about.

If students go away believing that it’s ok to keep thinking how we’ve always thought, keep doing what we’ve always done, and that today’s context asks only that businesses are a little bit nicer about it and tick all the boxes around ESG, then these modules could end up doing more harm than good.

In today’s new era, businesses must accept that they are part of our panoply of political institutions and to become increasingly reflexive about their political roles. This requires a deep understanding of the political way of thinking and its incorporation into all aspects of business purpose, strategy and operations. Business School students need to be prepared for this new reality.

Politics drives performance

Let us look at some examples of how political thinking is driving business performance. When former US President, Donald Trump, slapped tariffs on imported steel, Harley-Davidson (Harley), an icon of US manufacturing, decided to shift some of its production out of the US – a business decision. US workers were going to lose their jobs. 

One worker, interviewed by the media during this process, understood that he might lose his job and was asked whether he thought Trump had made the wrong decision in imposing tariffs (the business view). His response surprised the TV interviewer. ‘Yes, I know I might lose my job. But it was still the right decision. We must stop others exploiting America through unfair competition.’ 

His ire, in as much as there was any, was reserved for management rather than Trump. At the time, the Financial Times also interviewed a number of Harley employees and, in June 2018, reported: ‘Many of Harley’s own employees, interviewed this week in the Financial Times, said they supported Mr Trump’s policies.’

Why? Getting back to our previous quote, from the University of Edinburgh’s Christina Boswell, politics is about, ‘tapping deep-rooted values and beliefs, rather than invoking objective self-interest’. Trump tapped those values whereas management might have imagined that the workforce would blame the President for a bad decision while considering their own decisions perfectly ‘rational’. A perfect example of the difference between thinking in narrow financial terms and thinking politically. What seems right from one perspective seems utterly mistaken from another.

In the Harley case, so-called ‘business-focused decisions’ went against the value system of its employees. In other cases, employees’ political views end up driving business decisions. In 2018, Google took itself out of the Maven contract with the US Department of Defense after a staff outcry against the company agreeing to let its AI technology be used for military purposes. Yet more politics. Dropping out of the contract put paid to potential future work that could have earned Google some $10 billion USD over a decade.

Earlier that year, employees at both Microsoft and Salesforce had protested against their companies’ work for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in opposition to President Trump’s policies that separated children from their parents. 

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella (an MBA alumnus of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business) issued a memo to employees with an explicitly political title: ‘My views on US immigration policy.’ In it, he denies that Microsoft was working on anything that related to the child separation policy. 

The memo opens with politics: ‘Like many of you, I am appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the southern border of the US.’ He went on to describe the government policy as ‘cruel and abusive’.

These are examples of a reactive approach to political issues. Managers are forced to address political questions related to their businesses because of employee pressures. Others react to investor pressure. Others still are finding that, in what has been described as a ‘politicised brandscape’, their customers are choosing brands based on the political meaning – is it ‘green’, does the supply chain use forced labour, is the company contributing to social wellbeing?

Some companies and brands have had political thinking embedded within them for some time, maybe it has even been the basis on which they were founded. Patagonia, for example, was founded on the basis of a love of the outdoors and the consequent environmental activism of its founder, Yvon Chouinard. Environmental politics is built into the company’s DNA.

Patagonia runs regular events in its stores, focused on environmental issues, and supports the production of activist films. It focuses obsessively on reducing its environmental footprint from how it manages its supply chains to a focus on the durability of its clothing to reduce over-purchasing and consequent waste and resource use – a stance that is, or at least was, nigh-on heretical in the fashion business. 

It has launched a programme called Worn Wear, encouraging its customers to buy used clothing rather than new and offering to fix worn clothing for nothing to discourage people from buying new. It ran an initiative that connected its customers to environmental groups. Patagonia has even refused to sell its clothing to corporations that do not prioritise the planet.

In 2017, when former President Trump decide to shrink the size of his predecessor President Barack Obama’s national monuments, Patagonia’s website was changed to feature an explicitly political statement upfront which declared ‘The President Stole Your Land’. During the 2020 US election campaign, Patagonia doubled down on its political assault on climate deniers by adding labels to a line of shorts stating, ‘Vote the Assholes Out’. The tagline was not new, but it had particular relevance during the 2020 election. Pictures of the hidden label went viral on social media and the politically labelled shorts sold out in no time.

These are only a few examples. From the geopolitics of operating in China, to the politics of climate change, to diversity, human rights, and many other issues, politics is becoming all pervasive.

How some Business Schools are adapting

In the era of the new political capitalism, Business Schools can no longer afford to ignore the intimate interrelationship between business and politics. Their duty is to prepare students for the reality of the world they will be operating in once they leave the sheltered world of academia. And some are stepping up.

Stockholm Business School and Copenhagen Business School offer courses on business and politics. HEC Paris has recently announced a collaboration with Sciences Po to bring expertise on geopolitics to its business teaching. Others are also moving in this direction.

To address the relationship between politics and business, Business Schools need to go beyond layering ESG perspectives onto standard business thinking. What is required is a wholesale re-think of how the very concepts of ‘business’ and ‘markets’ are looked at.

Markets, local or global, are political constructs, not economic or commercial constructs. This is because markets as we know them cannot operate without a set of rules that are politically determined and that chime with prevalent social mores. The fiction of the ‘free market’ must be banished from business teaching.

Similarly, the fundamentals of what a business is and what business is for also need to change. The shareholder value model is past its sell-by date. The role of business is, like all other institutions, to participate in the process of creating a better society. What that looks like is politically determined.

Politics, therefore, is not an optional add-on to standard business teaching much like, for some companies, going green is just a thin veneer layered onto business-as-usual. Politics needs to permeate every aspect of Business School curricula and give students a true picture of what the 21st century business environment looks like. Hint – it’s deeply political.

This is the second of a two-part series. For a fuller understanding of the roles of ‘politics’ and ‘business’ in our societies, please click here to read the first part of the series.

Joe Zammit-Lucia is the author of The New Political Capitalism (Bloomsbury, February 2022). Following an executive career in multinational business, he founded a management advisory firm with offices in Cambridge (UK), New York and Tokyo. On divestment, he co-founded the RADIX network of public policy think tanks.

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

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