Philip Morris International & Sustainable Change

Sustainability is a highly complex concept that, at times, might be hard to integrate in a business environment. However, even companies that were not built with a sustainable focus in mind can turn the leaf and make a real change. A great example illustrating sustainable change is Philip Morris International, which BSL’s Master in International Business students visited on 16th January 2018.

The morning started with warm greetings from Huub Savelkouls, Vice President of Social and Economic Affairs. After a short coffee break, Mr. Savelkouls took us through what the future might hold for PMI’s stakeholders in our first presentation: “Transformation and Sustainability within Philip Morris International”. An interesting fact he mentioned was that, while the world population is growing, the number of smokers remains constant. This represents a great opportunity for Philip Morris to reevaluate their strategic focus. Mr. Savelkouls also tackled common misconceptions, suggesting that contrary to what people think, the tobacco industry can have an important role in solving the smoking problem. This is one of the main points within PMI’ sustainability strategy – convincing people to switch to less harmful products, such as the newly released IQOS device.

The release of this “reduced risk product” allowed Philip Morris International to publish their first ever Sustainability Report in 2016. One of the striking figures in the report is the fact PMI now allocates approx. 70% of their R&D spending on the development of smoke-free products, even though this segment currently only represents 12% of their net revenues. Their overall emphasis on the development of technology-driven, smoke-free products is a great example of sustainability being at the core of a major company’s strategic pivot.

Numbers aside, most students that attended the visit at the Philip Morris International Headquarters in Lausanne were pleasantly surprised by the overall work environment and culture. The free of charge gym, with provided gym attires, and motorsport-themed “Paddock” smoking area were the two favorite workplace perks among the BSL Master students.

To conclude, we would like to thank the people that made this visit possible and PMI for sharing with us their long-term vision on sustainability – hoping it will allow them to leave their competition in a cloud of smoke.

Author:

Ana Maria Login – MIB Master in International Business, Spring 2017 Intake

Looking for more meaning and impact in your life and career? Here’s how to start…

Recently a professional was feeling very frustrated by the fact that they were good at starting new projects but was frustrated because they inevitably ran out of steam before finishing them. This realization was causing self confidence doubt.

Another individual was very unsure about how to transition into a new career and was stagnating, unable to make a decision about their future.

Another young executive had recently realized that the shiny corporate job with all its “advantages” did not correspond to their values and was searching for ways to bring more meaning into his endeavours.

Today many young and seasoned professionals are asking tough questions and looking for answers that will allow them to expand their potential. Very often when people get caught up in their lengthy daily fast paced routines they lose sight of what they started out wanting to achieve. It’s difficult to listen, let alone hear what our heart is longing for when the mind is keeping us too busy.

The good news is, you can. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

#1 Feel Your Feelings…

Get angry or frustrated or confused or scared or excited…. It’s natural and healthy. No need for the stiff upper lip. Accept and love every emotion to create space. Respect your feelings, and then move forward. They provide insights around what you are resisting or longing for.

#2 The Value of Values

Discovering what we value can be elusive especially under the influences of the “shoulds” from society and loved ones. It can help to ask yourself, what is most important to me? Security? Creativity? Freedom? Independence? Money?

#3 Say “Yes” to Everything

Saying “yes” to all opportunities is a powerful expression of self-confidence. It attracts more (and better) opportunities and choices—you can always change your mind. Don’t wait for the “perfect” opportunity to appear, moving forward creates momentum and attracts other new opportunities. The things you say yes to should feel good, and even better, a little scary and exciting. This is a great sign that you are stretching your comfort zone and growing towards your full potential.

#4 The Secret to Reinvention

Don’t know what to “change into?” That’s okay. The only way to find out is to experiment. Volunteer, job shadow, temp or take part-time work in a field you’ve always been curious about as a career. The best place to start is to follow whatever you’re drawn to—trust your instincts.

#5 The “Crafting Life and career for more purpose and impact” Program

For over a decade we’ve been helping people tap back into their true North. We have now created a 2-day course to allow you to step back in a safe environment and have the conversations that you may not dared to have until now. Conversations that may be circling inside your head but you’ve not been listening hard enough to.

A unique experiential learning journey created for you combining assessment tools, reflection, peer to peer collaboration and discovery is planned.

Give yourself this time, to discover where you truly want to have impact and craft the life and career you believe will enable you to fully express your potential. Let yourself be surprised and come away feeling inspired and excited about creating your future.

Take a look at the program taking place on 26 March and give us a shout if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. If you are curious to find out more and would like to meet the lead professors, follow our Facebook Live broadcast on 19 February at 12h30 CET. Can’t make it live? Visit our Facebook page to view the recording at your leisure.

Authors:

Natalie Wilkins, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year: Next steps and sustainable consumer behavior insights

This article is a first contribution of a trans-disciplinary applied research work in sustainable consumer behavior.

Did you enjoy the holidays? Were they as deeply satisfying as you hoped for? 

Holiday celebrations are over, another 2’366’000 Christmas trees have been sold in Austria alone, most of them are waiting to be recycled after a few short days of being admired. At the same time, most of these 2’366’000 buyers like to go for a walk in the forest – trees are essential for this natural experience!

At a superficial level, most people are aware of the big environmental issues, this awareness being perhaps limited to climate change, biodiversity loss (especially elephants, rhinos, pandas, polar bears, whales, bees, over-fishing), air pollution, deforestation, and plastic in the oceans. At the same superficial level, people care about major social issues, such as poverty, hunger, inequality, discrimination, violence, stress, insecurity. Furthermore, when asked, most people in most countries express “concern” for these issues.

MAK Wien, January 2018

So, let’s follow up with our consumer behavior experience: during the same holiday period, how does our tradition to offer presents square with our concern for the environment or other humans? Once it comes to deciding what present to offer a family member or close friend, consumers are willing to compromise, or even completely ignore the impact of their purchases. They end up with yet another half-toxic plastic toy for their child, a blouse made (by someone else’s child labor) in India, or the latest Nintendo gadget destined to soon become e-waste… isn’t this strange, as many expressed concern about the specific problem they are making worse by their own actions. Do we care at all? An excellent article about Xmas shopping, “The Gift of Death”, by George Monbiot, was published in the Guardian in 2012 – if anything, it’s even more relevant in 2018.

Beyond Christmas, in spite of all knowledge and expressed “concern”, most people behave in a massively self-destructive way most of the time, directly and personally contributing to the problem. Let’s look at this self-destructive, yet perfectly “normal” daily behavior: eating processed food based on industrial agriculture, traveling a lot, organizing one’s life around a car, following fashion in clothes or electronics, and simply participating in the consumer society all damage the environment (for example climate, biodiversity loss, deforestation, air-water-soil pollution), undermine healthy society (promoting discrimination, inequality, “lifestyle” diseases, poisoning from toxic waste, fueling conflicts and wars, displacing populations), and also destroy personal well-being (unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, short-term focus, lack of meaningful social connections, stress and uncertainty).

Thus, it is a matter of fact that human behavior has to be seen as something complex that cannot be split into parts to be analyzed separately (Kollmuss and Agyeman, 2010). No internal and external factors justify a deconstructive individual behavior. As of today, researchers from different fields like psychology, sociology and environmental sciences have not yet found answers to this gap between being conscious about the need to change in regard to sustainability, and the willingness of change in regard to consumer realities.

Reasonably assuming that most people in most countries cannot be completely crazy, we must also assume there are other, even more powerful, forces at work. This will be the initial focus of our research.

Of course, a significant and growing minority is indeed starting to change, in areas as varied as nutrition (vegans, vegetarians, locavores and many other flavors), consumerism and shopping, zero waste, transportation and many more.

What are your resolutions for 2018? After one week, do you still expect to achieve them?

New Year Resolutions are a tempting way of “turning the leaf”, repeatedly and unsuccessfully practiced by a sizable majority. Much research in psychology explains why, and offers suggestions on how to improve the success rate, here is a good example published just last week. But, as it happens, 55% of health-related resolutions and many of the remaining ones are examples of willpower trying to fight the system of normal daily behavior described above, the “normative expectation”, a shared belief about how to behave. Of course, the “system” usually wins. Making sustainability the default, the new normative expectation is clearly our challenge.

MAK Wien, January 2018

The authors were inspired by an applied art exhibition “Aesthetics of change”, in the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna, Austria, a presentation of a trans-disciplinary work, coming from universities around the world, with insights in regard to sustainability. Beside a “future room” showing how consumers can access knowledge by simply pronouncing keywords, or standing in front of a camera showing an art photo of themselves, or observing a robot perfectly drawing a Mars landscape (who is surprised by this anymore?), we see this gap between visitors understanding future solutions and their daily consumer behavior. But there is one single message: any member of any social-technical group can become a change agent in regard to sustainability.

This brings us to our applied research question: Why do people continue destroying their own environment instead of changing their way of consuming?

We hope you’ll follow us on this exciting journey, and wish you a great, sustainable 2018 !

Authors:

Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Alexandra Broillet, BSL Professor

 

An ungoogleable experience

Walking from Zurich Central station to the Google offices I was wondering what was ahead of us. What I had in mind was a mix of flash-forwards, involving PlayStation corners, employees riding bicycles across offices and me sliding down to the canteen. I was curious and intrigued and so were the students: why was Google the best large-company workplace in Switzerland for three years in a row? The reasons started to materialize during the first few presentations.

BSL Students Visit Google Offices in Zurich, Switzerland on November 29, 2017

Four senior Googlers gave us a warm welcome and, through their stories, a real insight of what it takes to work at Google, as well as some clarity about the company culture. Also, we had the chance to learn how Google recruits and encourages employees to draw their own career paths within the organization. As their presentations and answers to our (many) questions were so interesting, I had to jot a few things down while listening. But let me go through the three key facts that, in my opinion, are particularly relevant to understand how the company operates.

At Google you need to be able to learn, as much as to re-learn. At the fast pace the company is cruising, employees need to constantly challenge themselves and embrace change pro-actively and fully. One of the speakers, long tenure with the company, spoke about his experience of getting in the company with minor responsibilities. Eight months after he was starting an exciting career, leading for several years projects in Tokyo and London – to mention just a couple – and keeping on challenging himself embracing change and exploring several areas of the business.

Google re-hires good employees. They let free their employees if they feel they want to take another path however if and where possible, they are welcome to re-join the company without going through an official interview process.

Google encourages you to make mistakes and work on personal projects. To employees, the company provides some physical spaces to develop special projects and own ideas to be developed outside their own competences, however within their working hours. There is also a small auditorium where employees present their ideas while other googlers listen to them, comfortably sitting on some vintage armchairs.

After the visit, I realized that Google is not only massage rooms, ping-pong tables, chill out areas and incredible services to employees. It is much more than that, and our experience was so enriching that is so hard to describe. What can I say, you need to see the place, you cannot just Google it.

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.

 

Lost and Found: The impact of a socio-technical addiction

Consumer behavior insights and lessons learned

A few weeks ago, the authors of this post ended up in a big mess of their own making. After going through the usual phases – denial, anger, scrambling for solutions – we decided to reflect and share what we learned.

It started at a faculty meeting on a Thursday evening, when we involuntarily exchanged our laptops. During the meeting all faculty moved around, participating in workgroups, taking their laptops, often closed. Contrary to student laptops, (wisely) covered with stickers, most BSL faculty use identical-looking clean Apple MacBooks. The meeting ended, everyone took a computer and retuned home.

After dinner, Sascha opened the laptop to check if everything was ready for his new course “SDG Explorer”, starting next morning at 9, just a few hours later. Big shock: it was not his laptop! A few late evening calls to whichever colleagues would kindly answer finally provided Alexandra’s phone number. She answered similarly upset, and after calling a few other kind people, we had a sort of solution to return our computers in the next day or two.

First Insight (all consumer behavior insights in italics) that we gained here was to face the emotional part of “Am I able to function one full day without my computer? Will I be unproductive? Will I only feel unproductive? Above all, how can I accept that somebody else is having MY computer without me having chosen it.”

Next morning, teaching the new course without a computer was indeed a challenge, as BSL’s decades-old “backup” laptop could not connect to any projector and the iPad kind of worked, but was an inferior solution. But somehow my new course went very well, students were interested and engaged – mainly because everyone went out of their way to help, from BSL staff helping with backup technology, providing moral support, finding whatever supplies could help, and suggesting a more suitable classroom, to students helping with class organization, actively participating in discussions and using their laptops to project required content.

Second Insight: the level of social and personal acceptance of the fact that we so strongly depend on technical tools in our professional environment. Could we try to teach one day without any electronic device? Would this be acceptable from the today’s socio-technical point of view? Or should we try to integrate an authentic learning experience in our courses that illustrates this dependence on technology and let us think about its sustainable use?

Friday’s classes ended well, by Saturday afternoon both computers found their owners, and it was time to reflect on lessons learned.

Third Insight: many of our dear technical devices are customized by their owners. If you don’t customize, you risk losing your global product in a global society, even if the content of your computer does underline your individual spirit. Nobody can see this content, it is inside your mass product! So, even if you are not willing to follow the “personal customization” stream, society is demanding it! 

Most importantly, it was only human kindness of absolutely everyone involved that saved the day, including the BSL students, faculty, staff and members of the Impact Hub Geneva, doubling as a logistics hub. It is easy to underestimate the team dimension of everything we do, of every success – this becomes obvious when there’s a problem. This is often evident during big natural disasters, which are becoming more frequent with climate change, but is just as important with small challenges of everyday life.

Fourth Insight: Humans will make the real difference and define the reality of the consuming environment. The product stays a technical tool and gets social through the personal adaption within a consuming context.

Our over-dependence on computers, or rather the high dependence combined with poor usability and limited reliability makes this problematic. Of course, computers are useful and important for work – but we also rely on running water, sanitation, electricity, phones, railways etc., and these systems are much more reliable and easier to use. Their complexity is hidden, managed by experts – the user experience is simple and predictable. On the other hand, just making your computer work is frustrating for most people, and any hardware or software problem, or loss of device creates a major problem for hours or days. Also, fast innovation cycles require constant upgrading and replacing hardware and software, investing non-negligible time, money and effort. What would it take to really be in charge of technology decisions and tools, as opposed to being forced to always catch up. We should ask ourselves what kind of place we should grant to technology in our society.

Finally, there’s the question of conformity. As scholars, we like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, which we hopefully often are, but obviously not in our consumption patterns. Is the Apple MacBook the only suitable computer for professors? Or do we instinctively need to belong? Does this apparent conformism influence academic thinking?

Two weeks later, we still have the same laptops, Sascha’s one is customized with several stickers (yes – it does look ugly), and Alexandra’s with a classic Apple one, saying “Don’t touch!”. We are not sure that we found an answer to the question of academic conformity, but we certainly do know what difference human kindness means in a social-technical consuming context.

Authors:

Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Alexandra Broillet, BSL Professor

 

It’s time to clean up the Internet!

2 weeks ago, I shared with the class this data and they were in shock! No one had thought about the impact of internet on the environment. Let’s have a look at this data.

Data centers today consume more than 3% of the global electricity supply and account for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the carbon footprint of the airline industry.  And worse…the amount of energy consumed by the world’s data centers will be multiplied by 3 in the next decade. And this is only the tip of the iceberg because you must add to that your mobile, tablet, computer chargers, your ADSL/WIFI router…etc. In total, it is believed that the digital economy uses a tenth of the world’s electricity.

How does this happen?

Well, every day hundreds of millions of people take photos, make videos and send emails and texts. This deluge of data is growing fast and most of it is stored somewhere. Let’s have a look at some numbers.  “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”, says Schmidt, CEO of Google in 2010.  According to a new report from IBM Marketing Cloud, “10 Key Marketing Trends For 2017,” 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Are we doing anything?

It seems that there is the beginning of awareness. For instance, last year Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, was at Disneyland when he decided the internet was a cesspool that he had to clean up. There is also www.webneutralproject.com, a startup to design and create carbon neutral websites. Green Peace has issued its 2017 report called “Click Clean” which identify web sites which are the cleanest. Companies like Google are running projects to use less energy in their data centers but I question their intentions. Is it to reduce their carbon footprint as they claim or simply to reduce their energy bills?

Besides the companies and environmental groups initiatives I would argue that it comes to our own behavior to reduce the Internet footprint. Do you really need to keep all those emails, texts, photos and videos in a data centers?  Do you leave your chargers connected to the plug? Although government regulations have asked manufacturers to reduce standby consumption or vampire consumption as some experts would call it, this is still significant worldwide.

What to do?

The first step would be to delete your unnecessary mails, photos, videos stored on Google Drive or other cloud storages. Make sure they are effectively deleted! Try not to download files which jam the network and consume energy, stream instead.

But there are other more creative ways such as switching to eco-search engines such as Ecosia; making your Internet connection sustainable with eco-friendly Internet Service Providers, sharing your Wi-Fi with neighbors, etc.…

It starts with you!

Author: Philippe VedelProfessor of Digital Marketing and Social Media at BSL 

#Speak-up series 4: How to prepare and conduct a speak-up conversation

Ethical problems can be complex and difficult to resolve. If we want to address an ethical issue with another person, we can easily give that person the feeling that we question their moral identity (“You are a bad person!”). Therefore, we have a tendency to avoid the topic, if we have not practiced facing them effectively before. That is why preparing, practicing and rehearing a speak-up conversation is so important. Yes, I do recommend that you rehearse your critical ethics conversation with a trusted person.

Here is a guideline on how to prepare well:

  • Research the facts:
    It is crucial to not prepare a meeting on a sensitive issue, if you are already convinced that the other side has bad motives. The other person will sense this and automatically get defensive. Thus, effective solution finding is blocked. So do look at the facts like in a documentary film and try to understand the other side without judging. No interpretations, no judgement! Imagine you are a doctor and need to come up with a diagnose. For example: Somebody cuts you off your parking spot. You assume that the person is a selfish jerk. Then this person comes up to you and apologizes: His wife is in the shopping center and needs to go to the hospital. (This process of automatic judgment of others’ behavior is called the «Ladder of Inference». You can watch this TED video clip that explains it beautifully)
  • Improve your power:
    Show your boss that you are a valuable and loyal employee not a trouble-maker and that you have a legitimate concern. We all can improve our power even in the most powerless of situations.
    This anecdote about Nelson Mandela perfectly illustrates this idea: When Nelson Mandela was in prison on Robben Island he got up every morning at 4 a.m. to do his boxing exercise. He was a trained boxer and staying fit gave him a source of strength and dignity in his unfree and humiliating prison situation. He also had studied all the rules and policies of the prison organization. He knew all his rights and privileges but also the limitations of what his guards were allowed to do. This enabled him to cite the exact numbers and wordings of these rules in situations of conflict.
  • Proper timing and place:
    We all know that there are times where we are just not receptive for critical comments. Think about the time when you wanted to talk to your patents about a bad grade…You did not do that when they were tired, in a bad mood or watching the news. Chose the right moment. Furthermore, private meetings are better than team sessions. If possible, meeting at a neutral place can help, too.
  • Problem and solution always go together:
    Try to already have ideas on potential solutions for the problem when you address an ethics and compliance issue. For this, you need to have thought through possible options, consequences and their pros and cons.
    If you do this well, addressing your boss can actually be an opportunity: You show that you care about the success and well-being of the company and want to avoid unethical decisions and prevent harm.

If you prepare your speak-up talk like this, you will already feel much more confident and professional, than if you just stumble into your boss’s office and denounce an ethical problem.

Let’s now see what is important during the speak-up situation:

  • Show up with confidence:
    Sure, voicing an ethics and compliance topic with a colleague or even your boss can be scary and challenging. That is exactly why you need to show up with confidence, because otherwise it will be much more difficult to be taken seriously and convince others of your arguments. Here are some techniques that are helpful: Speak slowly, avoid qualifiers (like actually, only, I just thought…), take breaks to think, don’t be afraid of silence, silence is your friend.
  • Understand the other side first… If you start such a sensitive conversation with an accusation, the other person will quite naturally shut down and become defensive. This is completely normal. Anybody would do that. Therefore, it is much more effective to start by asking questions like:
    • «Have you thought about…?»
    • “Can you help me understand…”
    • “Why have you decided…?”

Trying to fully understand the other side first and concentrating on a common interest is crucial, because it is possible that the other side just did not think about the ethical dimension of a situation (e.g. due to time and performance pressure). If they just overlooked the problem and you already accuse them of being an unethical person, unnecessary damage is done and the conversation is over.

  • Explain your perspective:

Only if you have completely understood the other side and you still think that there is an ethics and compliance problem, share your opinion in a non-accusative way. You could e.g. say:

  • “I want to share my perspective.
  • I’m worried /uncomfortable/feel uneasy about….”

Ideally, the other person will see your point and be open to finding a better solution and/or change her behavior.

  • Agree on next steps:

In order to make sure that your brave act of speaking- up will have the wanted consequences it is a good idea to agree on the next steps necessary.

  • Have a withdrawal strategy ready :

If the other person is not responsive, you can say things like:

  • “I just asked because I’m concerned about you and I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble” or
  • “I wanted to be sure we protect the organization’s reputation.” (see Amy Gall in the resources below)

This way you can withdraw gracefully from the conversation and decide if you need to escalate the issue to your boss, your boss’s boss, HR or Compliance.

In summary, we see that speak-up is not easy to do, but good preparation and a confident and respectful delivery help. It is crucial that the person who dears to speak up concentrates on a critical but respectful mind-set that focuses on common goals.

At the same time it is clear that the most skillful speak up communicator will fail if the leadership and the culture of an organization does not encourage a climate of open feedback. As we have seen in recent corporate scandals like Volkswagen or Wells Fargo, an organizational climate characterized by fear, high performance pressure, and an authoritarian leadership style is poisonous for speaking-up.

Therefore, the creation of a true speak-up culture always has to start at the leadership and corporate culture level.

Resources on Speak-up:

 Books

  • Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson Simmons: Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement, 2015
  • Shari Harley: How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work, 2013
  • Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny : Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, 2011

Articles

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

The future of education does not matter. The present does.

Yesterday I have attended yet another presentation about the future of education, and in the last 5 years I have attended probably just about twenty similar presentations, watched thirty or forty videos and read perhaps a hundred articles and blogs. Fascinating at the beginning, incredibly boring and upsetting today. While everybody seem to have something clever to say about the future of education, I hear so little or nothing about the present of education. Isn’t it easy to dream, imagine, envision and talk about the future of something? Easy and cool at the same time. “Wow, you are a visionary!”, “Yes, this is what everybody should do!”, “Finally, somebody who say it clear!” “Yes, Yes and Yes!”. These are the comments I hear or read for presentations on the topic of the future of education. And normally the contents that are strongly applauded are things like:

  • Technology is here to stay
  • Robots will take over many jobs
  • The 4th industrial revolution has started
  • Most jobs available in 5 years do not exist today
  • We need to make computing languages mainstream learning
  • We need mindfulness and empathy
  • Problem solving abilities will be very important
  • Collaboration will be central
  • Ethics are now more important than ever
  • Students must develop sensitivity to the problems of the world
  • Empathy must be encouraged
  • Reflection practices must be taught
  • In order to teach systemic thinking we need cross-curriculum topics
  • Students should learn in a flexible way and decide when, where, what and how to learn

I am sure there is more than that and apologies for forgetting one of those great applauses I should remember. Who does not like or agree with the above? Trust me, if you want to collect a good audience and a few applauses, just deliver your next talk around those topics and you will see plenty of heads nodding. Ok, so what is this article that I am writing about? I am writing to all courageous change agents in the education landscape. Stop thinking about the future, we got it. Here is the challenge for you, the present. What are the risks you are called to take if you want a better (for the world) education? Are you ready to disappoint some students? Their parents? Your Dean? Your Faculty? Do you believe in the future of education to the point that you will implement it today? How will you do it?

At Business School Lausanne in Switzerland, we are experiencing the lowest student intake in our recent history, congratulations to us! At the same time we are experiencing the most incredible and exciting transformation into the future of education, and we are doing it now! Am I worried about the student intake year? No, I am not. This place is full of courageous change agents who believe in what they are doing and are strongly pulled by a powerful purpose: educating business leaders for the good of the world. So, next year our student numbers will be good again, promised. I know you want to know more so here some scattered bullet points on what we are doing to change the present of education:

  • We have made it clear and loud what type of education we stand for. We want sustainable business and responsible leaders. If you are not interested, there are plenty of other business schools that are less interested in this.
  • We think hierarchical management belongs to the past and, approaching an incredibly powerful human age (beside the robots), will welcome new forms of organizations. We believe in self-organization principles and since 2015 we use a system called Holacracy to govern our business school. This is has generated a profound change in the way we act, make decisions, innovate and live our values. All on the positive side. Our students are learning alongside with us.
  • We have launched a new Millennial BBA where our students will take a full year outside the classroom and build a portfolio of experiences aimed at learning more about themselves and the world they live in. They also design their 3-years-experience picking up among a large number of elective courses.
  • We operate as a multi-stakeholder hub and run Collaboratories to generate business solutions for the wicked problems of the world.
  • We run every 3 months a Gap Frame Week where all our students from all our programs work together alongside the Professors to prototype businesses that tackle the 24 major issues of the world in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • We have coding courses for our BBA program but they are not just coding courses, we run them through a NGO who provide such courses to refugees in Switzerland and we invite our students to merge their classes to create a truly multicultural and empathetic learning experience. Technology, business and empathy all in one room!
  • We also have a Master Degree in International Business with different specializations and capstone projects including:
    • Data analysis where students take a nanodegree from Udacity.
    • Aim2Flourish capstone project where students learn from great business stories that are changing the world in a positive way.
  • We have a MBA program where students can chose whether to do a thorough Management Report or go through a challenging 10 weeks experience in South Africa enrolled in the Emzingo program
  • We have a DAS and a DBA programs that train the most impactful change agents of the present to transform businesses in forces for good.
  • We work with great heroes and heroines Professors who today facilitate learning and moved away from the traditional teaching model. We embrace a pedagogical model that involve students in learning by exploring the I, We and All of Us dimensions.
  • We are publicly engaged in shaping business education and inspiring others to help business become an irresistible force for good.
  • We are ditching traditional economics and embracing the great work done by Kate Raworth and the Doughnut Economics

There is much more but, how is that to get started with the present of education?

The good news are that Business School Lausanne is not at all alone in building a great new present of education. There is a great network of inspired business schools coordinated by the UN PRME initiative. There is another great network of Thought Leaders coordinated by the GRLI. And there are many courageous new initiatives such as www.rita.global and OPEN among many others.

Ready to join the present of education? You are welcome and let me know how you have started!

The future of education does not matter. The present does.

Note: this article has been published by Carlo Giardinetti on Medium

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the E/MBA programs Business 

BSL – Reaching 30 and celebrating a new way of doing business

This year, BSL is 30.  Thirty is a good age for reflection: not too old to dwell overly on the past, but yet with a lot of learning under its belt upon which to build the future.  Because after all, BSL is both a learning institution and a future-thinking organization. BSL’s Aileen Ionescu-Somers reflects on new ways of doing business and the requisite leadership qualities for the future.

So many organizations, even the best minds out there, find it very difficult to predict the future. History is rife with poor predictions. The most glaring case in recent memory, though (apart from certain presidential elections!), was evidenced by a declaration by the IMF in 2007, just before the 2008 financial collapse, when the IMF declared:  “Overall risk to the (world economic) outlook seems less threatening than six months ago.” Not only did the IMF get it wrong. Most of the world’s multitude of economists, financiers, leaders and governments also did.

In some ways, this is a direct result of globalization. With it, the world became more complex and change accelerated. All the indicators show that the future will be even more unpredictable and uncertain than before. Yet, business does not like uncertainty. Uncertainty is associated with fear, anxiety and pessimism. Uncertainty can be the bearer of bad news. Stock markets are allergic to uncertainty. Business executives in global multinationals work so hard on cancelling out uncertainties that a senior executive told me once that “innovation does not come from big companies”, and that new ideas and “out of the box” innovations are often dead in global corporations before they are born.

Uncertainty breeds risk averse corporate cultures and risk mitigating instincts amongst managers. And the consequence is that we forget about the opportunities out there. Despite the feeling that there is a lot of bad news around, there are great things happening in the world. It is not fake news that life expectancy is still increasing. It is not fake news that income continues to go up for most of the world’s increasing population, and that illiteracy and poverty levels continue to go down.

These positive developments are actually huge opportunities for unleashing future potential for technological opportunity and development. And indeed, nowadays, much innovation is driven by technology. How accessible technology has become for ordinary citizens in my lifetime! The pace is set to increase exponentially over the course of our BSL student’s lifetimes. The future offers huge opportunities, giving future generations an unprecedented ability to do everything in new ways.

However, the down side is that with growing inequality, increasing numbers of now angry and vocal people feel left out. Indeed, they are either choosing not to participate – or are not empowered to participate – in building a better and more inclusive society. Another downside is the growing fragility of the complexity we have created in the world. When what happens in one place very rapidly affects everything else, this is what we call systemic risk.

System risks can convert into real life situations and then the system can start to break down; this is what we call systemic shock. By now, we have all either observed or experienced systemic shock first hand. We see it in financial crises, health risks such as ebola/pandemics, and in the major challenges related to migration in today’s world. Today, systemic risks and shocks are set to become much more virulent because of the interweaving of societies and sub-systems, re-enforced by technologies and accelerated by “just-in-time” management systems that push resilience and responsibility to its limits. As a result, the new realities we are living with are collapsing biodiversity, climate change, more pandemics, more financial crises…and ever more destructive systemic shocks.

Therefore, we need a new awareness of how to deal with these new realities. We need to understand how we can mobilize ourselves differently and come together as a community to manage systemic risks. We need to lessen the negative impacts of systemic shock and capture business opportunity for the greater good of society and celebrate new ways of doing business. How do we weave this complex tapestry together? How do we think about complex systems in entirely new ways? That is not only the challenge of scholars, but it is the challenge of all individuals engaged in thinking about the future. Business leaders are no exception.

Since business leaders are pragmatic, they need both frameworks and tools to guide their thinking. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example, present business with a framework for understanding and mitigating future systemic risk.  Our BSL students are more than familiar with the SDGs, and what they represent. They are also familiar with the Gap Frame research, the conceptual basis for BSL’s thought leadership. The Gap-Frame is a normative framework that translates the SGDs into relevant issues and indicators for business. This BSL/University of St. Gallen research provides companies with a tool that helps translate the SDGs into workable steps to manage systemic risks around globalization more effectively and to achieve specific targets and objectives.

So the conceptual research at BSL closely relates to the SDGs, and I hope I have made the point that the SDGs relate to both systemic risk and shock mitigation. But they also relate to business opportunities. The SDGs are an underlying theme for the BSL Gap Frame Innovation Week (GFW) which we ran 4 times in the 2016/17 academic year.  Indeed, some of our students and even our faculty are far from their comfort zones during those weeks. During the GFWs, our students choose a problematic global issue linked to the SDGs and develop a start-up or innovation initiative to contribute to dealing with the problem. The GFW presents our students with a small concentrated “piece of the action” on leadership learning for the future.

And what are the key facets of leadership learning for the future? There can be no doubt that professional business acumen and expertise are as important as they ever were, if not more. But a sense of purpose directed by an ethical compass and a developed sense of both local and global responsible citizenship are also key prerequisites. The latter leads to levels of global knowledge and understanding that are also essential to, I would say, the very survival of organizations of the future.

We have recognized at BSL that much leadership learning today is reasonably strong on developing hard business acumen and expertise, but focuses too little on  multiple other essential albeit “softer” aspects of leadership learning. With this in mind, we can ask ourselves: What will be one of the most important traits of a future leader?  I would say, “curiosity”. The global business leader of today has to have a high level of global knowledge and understanding. Without curiosity, we will not have an effective or indeed knowledgeable leader. The SDGs, the BSL Gap Frame research and the BSL Gap Frame Week, provide current and future business leaders with routes or paths to satisfy curiosity, take action on what is learnt, direct ethical compasses, glean global knowledge and understanding from local and global committed citizenship and – actually – to prepare our students for their future.

For example, during our last BSL GFW on governance issues, our activities brought deeper knowledge and recognition to our students that the world’s governance systems are fossilized and cannot begin to cope with the changes that are currently happening and that will happen in the future. To celebrate new ways of doing business for the future, we simply have to develop new ways of managing the planet collaboratively, using collective wisdom. As I have pointed out at the beginning of each GFW, truly amazing things can happen when individuals come together to change their future.

Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Active in thought leadership, consulting, applied research, teaching and supervising DBA candidates in sustainability & responsibility.

Planting Seeds for the Future of Food 2017

BSL Partner Aileen Ionescu-Somers plants a seed by moderating a workshop at Nestlé conference on 6 & 7 July, 2017

Food is important to everybody, I think we all agree. We need to eat to live – fact. Moreover, we all feel emotional about food. What is the most photographed subject on Facebook, and by far?  You got it: it’s food! Yet few of us understand the complexities of our food system and the array of dysfunctionalities that affect sustainable food access and security, affordability and appropriate use of food for optimum nutrition and health benefits. The question of food sustainability raises some tough questions, some of which were addressed at Nestlé’s recent Planting Seeds for the Future of Food conference held in the Nestlé conference center on 6 and 7 July. BSL partner and Google Food Lab participant Aileen Ionescu-Somers moderated a workshop on Proximity, Transparency and Connectivity through Technology at this highly informative and interactive event.

The conference theme – the future of our food system – was assessed through a razor-sharp questioning process with one dominant and highly relevant question on the agenda: “How can we match consumer demand for healthy and sustainable diets with the productive capacity of future sustainable farming systems?“  There is no doubt that this question is a tough and complex one, relating to the food system as a whole, so the organizers broke it down into logical individual components: Why is soil health and landscape biodiversity important for producing healthy plants, animals and food?  How can biology and technology contribute to increasing yields to feed the world population, while reducing negative social and environmental impacts? Can we define and positively influence the kind of nutrition that we wish our food system to deliver? What are the challenges to overcome in our food systems with increasing urbanization? How can we prevent the current massive food losses & food waste so as to improve our food system and overall nutritional benefits? What role should processed food have in the nutritional mix for tomorrow’s consumers? Is the idea of personalized nutrition moving from niche to mainstream? And so many more…

All in all, the conference led to some compelling conclusions on what is needed from our food system in the future. Watch out for future blogs from Aileen on these very topics.

Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Active in thought leadership, consulting, applied research, teaching and supervising DBA candidates in sustainability & responsibility.