Are you interested in having your community of learners fully engaged?

Three dimensional learning — I, WE and ALL OF US, pedagogy for Sustainability and Responsibility.

Are you interested in having your community of learners fully engaged? A good start could be to spell out the purpose of the education you want to be part of.

For us at Business School Lausanne (BSL) the purpose of education is to support and foster responsible leadership and sustainable business. Responsibility and sustainability are in no way similar to the typical functional business and management education areas such as finance, marketing, human resources, strategy, operations or others. In fact they add a layer of learning, even more than a layer, you can think of it as part of the DNA of the learning. How can you learn about business and management if you want responsibility and sustainability to be in the DNA of the learning you design?

I think most of us have experienced some great learning in our life. If such learning has stayed with you for long and has somehow helped your transformation, evolution, development, it may well have been what I call a three dimensional learning. The three dimensions I am talking about are the I, WE and ALL OF US. What does this mean?

It means that the transformational learning can only happen when we discover how what we are learning is connected to the three dimensions:

The I — How is this relevant to me? What are my own struggles with the topic? What is my emotional connection to it? Do I have personal experiences?

The WE — What are the main stakeholders related to the topic? What is their perspective? What do they know and how do they use their knowledge? Are there competing or collaborating views, or both? How do I work with them so that there is not them but only we?

The ALL OF US — What is the systemic use and impact of the topic? What scenarios does the topic create? How does it impact our world in some or all four dimensions — planet, society, economy and governance?

Learners that are taken through the three dimensions develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic from the systemic level (ALL OF US) down to the personal relevance (I), through the application in the relevant communities (WE).

Learning through the I dimension ensures that the learner explores and uncovers the areas of personal relevance of the topic. Here some suggestions for learning designers/facilitators who want to ensure a good dive into the I space:

  • Using blocks of 3 or more hours of learning experience ensure the right variety of activities can take place including reflective spaces.
  • Being a role model in the “I” space and finding the balance with neutral facilitating energy
  • Organizing regular self-awareness gathering for Faculty and Students (breakfasts, lunches, apero’, walks, etc.)
  • Circle sharing of personal check-in into the session/lecture/course with questions like:” What do I expect from this session?” (1 minute per person)
  • Trio-walks where 1 person in the middle has 5 minutes to share his/her personal reflections around the topic and 2 persons on the side are listening and providing 2 minutes feedback each (total 10 minutes)
  • Pair talks around deep questions where strangers get to know something very meaningful about the other (15 mins each). Each will then present the other in front of the audience (up to 90 minutes)
  • Speed dating with a few personal questions with 1 minute per exchange (30 mins)
  • Journaling activities to support acknowledgment of learning and walk-aways (ongoing)
  • Storytelling where a person stands in front of a semi-circle and share an insightful personal story around the topic (10 minutes per story + 10 minutes Q&A)
  • Group brainstorming using post-it to gather what each individual expect to learn and then cluster learning macro-areas
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Learning through the WE dimension ensures that the learner understand the complexity of the topic by exploring the different interest and perspective of the multiple stakeholders relevant to the topic. The learner also understand the optimal ways to interact in the community. Here some suggestions:

  • Role play where each group of three learners must impersonate the role of one different stakeholder. 1 hour is dedicated to researching key information to understand the crucial points of this stakeholder perspective. The facilitator uses the following hour to host and moderate a debate around key targeted questions among the stakeholders. Finally an additional hour is dedicated to reflection activities and harvesting the complexity of the topic. (3 hours)
  • World cafe with different tables for different stakeholder perspective and teams rotating to ensure maximum contribution and learning from the different perspectives
  • Running Collaboratory dialogues inviting different representatives from all the various stakeholders
  • Certainly this is the space where business is learnt from a customer perspective, service provider, product manufacturer and so on. Most of more “traditional” learning happens in this space
  • Business simulation, gamification, etc.
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Learning through the ALL OF US dimension ensures the learner can see the systemic dynamics that the topic triggers. Dimensions like planet, society, economy and governance are explored in their interconnections and relevance to the topic. Typical activities that a facilitator can run include:

  • Watching documentaries that beautifully show the complexity and interconnections of our world
  • Working with interactive scenario simulations
  • Connecting via Skype or other platforms with other learners from very different areas of the world where the topic is experienced in radically different ways and exchange experiences in forms of reciproc questions
  • Using Issue Centered Learning where the starting topic is always a major issue of the world that can be picked for instance on www.gapframe.org a very useful, tool we have developed at BSL. Learners are then invited to explore their personal connection with the issue. Business is then looked at as being part of the solution and/or part of the problem. Functions of business and management are then identified as instrumental to drive the shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. Business is then understood and appreciated for what it is, an incredible generator of solutions and — unfortunately too often, problems
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Clearly all the above introduced dimensions and activities can be complemented with other forms of active and passive learning. Expert views and lectures can and should still happen but should be well integrated in the three dimensions and serve the broader purpose of each dimension. When designing learning spaces you can start thinking of different roles that should be present in the space. For instance:

  • The Expert. These can be faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, citizens, students that have a deep expertise relevant to the topic.
  • The Facilitator. These are skilled facilitators who can ensure learning continue to evolve from activity to activity in the best possible self-organized way. Facilitators refrain from interfering with opinions and expertise, it is not their role.
  • The Coach. Learning happens so differently within all of us and often encounters any sort of barriers on its way. Coaches can be peer learners that simply have earned some skills to support others in their individual learning journeys. Coaching is about asking the right questions in these cases and also offering a listening partner.
  • The Participant. You can think of this category as the one closer to the typical student. Yet, there is no way a participant would be engaged in passive learning. Learning is participative and contribution is expected. The great opportunity is that participant can switch to coach, to facilitator or to expert at any given opportune time.

Hey, how are you after reading this? Did it move something inside you? Do you also think it is time and it is possible to redesign modern learning spaces that can help us taking care of ourselves and our dear world? If you are curious to know more and join a vision for a new business and management education, go and visit www.50plus20.org.

Let me know what you think and I would love to engage in conversations around reinventing education together.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

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 

Hacking for chocolate

“Chocothon” hits sweet spot of collaborative innovation in Ghana

Key question….what went on in Ghana last weekend that might have something to do with BSL’s vision and mission, and especially its three pillars of entrepreneurship, sustainability and responsible leadership in a context of collaborative learning?

The first Chocothon, that’s what! BSL has partnered with Google, the International Trade Center, the Future Food Institute, Crowdfooding and a host of other cool organizations to promote a “techno” focus on the sustainability and business threats around world cocoa supply. How? By holding a hackathon for chocolate (hence the term “Chocothon”). For those not yet in the know, a hackathon is an event, typically lasting a few days, in which groups of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. The idea of “hacking for chocolate” was born some two years ago at the Google Food Innovation Lab (where BSL partner and thought leader Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers is an expert participant). The first Chocothon in a series became reality in Accra, Ghana this weekend!

img_9925Threats…around chocolate? What? When you look at supermarket shop shelves today, it is hard to believe there is a problem. After all, we seem to have a plentiful supply of cheap, delicious chocolate treats. But don’t be fooled; our business system is overly short-term oriented. The economics barely work for now and benefit too few stakeholders. Long-term, if the crucial farmer producer of cocoa is not protected, then it’s a zero sum game. In other words, no supply = no business (so bad news for companies) = very expensive Easters, Christmases, Valentine’s days and Birthdays in the future (so terrible news for consumers).

Let’s focus on the challenges. Undercompensating farmers for quality cocoa ultimately leads to too low an income for farmers to bother staying in the business. It creates a rather vicious cycle: no money = low or no investment in new technologies, new trees or desperately needed training = increasingly lower yields and environmental degradation = lower quality cocoa = even less compensation. Then there are government policy threats, such as lack of knowledge and certainty about land rights and ownership leading to insecurity in land tenure. Macroeconomic issues such as inflation and defective exchange rate regimes also take their toll. So farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and other cocoa producing countries are not only exiting cocoa farming and/or switching to other less challenging crops, but they do not want their children to stay in cocoa farming either.  Farming cocoa is a grueling task. If the economics do not work, it is even harder to make a business case to the increasingly literate children of farmers who, after all, may have other options.

So what does the Chocothon set out to do? Well, can the best of modern day high tech ingenuity contribute to resolving the problems around cocoa production? Can this be done in a context where illiteracy is widespread and access to Smartphones extremely limited? We agree…its a pretty tough call. But the technology landscape is changing rapidly. The Chocothon team figured that if we could get young Ghanaians excited about problems in their own country, through collaboration they could be empowered to focus their ingenuity on thinking forward and fixing them. After all, the problems we mention are man-made, so let’s get some man (and woman)-made solutions!

Need more convincing?  Well, if you get enough stakeholders together in one room with some hackers to work on a problem, you can literally start… hacking away at it.  So, for example, at the Chocothon, we invited government representatives to not only contribute their knowledge as “knowledge brokers” but to also raise awareness with them of the importance of increasing internet and Smart phone technology access, or of increasing institutional knowledge about land sizes, ownership and security. After all, knowing what you didn’t know makes for better decision-making. Looking forward, we can expect that young farmers in Ghana will be – as all young people are – ingenuous about assuring their own access to technology; every single trend in the world indicates that this is the case.

Therefore, the idea of designing collaborative platforms to share farming equipment or expertise to increase quality of work and efficiency and thus productivity, is not a pipe dream.  To set up systems empowering farmers to demand and get the best prices on the market is not a hallucination either. To enable mobile direct payments to farmers – faster cashless money transactions – coupled with now fast developing services like mobile insurance or other business transactions for tools or fertilizers are totally feasible future options for Africa, as they have been for other countries. Micro-financing of farmer investments, even by crowd-sourcing funds from all the chocolate lovers out there might be another possibility. Creating training platforms, or indeed tools that help young farmers with assessing soil fertility, tree age, crop diseases…all this is possible today. We can also look at optimizing transportation platforms to allow for better transport of cocoa beans – a big headache for Ghanaian farmers today. Get it? Good!

So from Saturday to Sunday 20-21 January, 2017 a group of young and talented hackers – IT developers and social innovators – got together with other stakeholders at the Impact Hub n Accra, Ghana. Representatives and knowledge brokers joined from multiple organizations such as the Ghanaian government, Google, Barry Callebaut (Swiss B2B cocoa supplier), the International Trade Center and the Future Food Institute. The Chocathon team assigned the hackers to working groups and provided food, drinks, and even mattresses (yes!) for the all night hack.

img_9852-2The teams had a task of building up a prototype and uploading deliverables step by step during the hackathon. Sounds familiar? It is pretty much the techie version of what the students of BSL did by designing start-ups to tackle social issues during the last Gap-Frame week last December… Yes, this kind of collaborative learning is taking hold in more sectors than one! The Ghanaian Chocothon hackers get tempting prizes to encourage innovation and even conversion of their prototypes into working businesses, such as a co-working space for one year at the Impact Hub or for six months at ISpace, or indeed a cash prize.

Watch this space for the next blog about the Chocothon where we will tell you about some of the cool ideas the hackers came up with. This is the first of a series of Chocothons that will ultimately contribute to saving YOUR treasured chocolate from gradual extinction. Tune in to #chocothon hashtag to find out more. Even better…how about supporting our next Chocothon? Here is our crowd-funding site link:  https://www.crowdfooding.co.uk/deal/188/Chocothon

Why should you get involved? Because YOUR chocolate needs YOU!

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

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

Competencies that count: Where are Responsible Leadership and Sustainability proficiency listed in the job descriptions?

Recently, and through different announcements, a number of large global corporations have made public their intention to remove University Degree requirements from (some of) their job descriptions and requirements. They argue that the correlation between holding a degree and being good for certain jobs is weak and too many good candidates are discarded because of this wrong filter. They plan to use new and innovative online tests that will do a better filter job according to them.

I look at this with interest as I have never been convinced that current degrees, and business degrees in particular, are representative of the important skills our future leaders need (and by leaders I mean leader in whatever position they hold, not only senior management). Among the many important skills future and current leaders need are responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency. Or not?

dr-katrin-muff-at-recol_fixed

My feeling is that if you ask the question directly to a hiring manager, they will certainly answer yes. At the same time, have you ever seen these two competencies in any job description? I am trying hard but, unless I come across some very specific job related to sustainability, I have seen no trace of the demand for these two important competencies. I am embarrassed by this. At Business School Lausanne, we have made a clear commitment to facilitate learning around sustainability and responsible leadership all across our program and courses. We design innovative pedagogy around these crucial competencies as we believe that there is no way the world will progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals unless new practices are embedded within any single next decision that business people are required to make. What is the next ingredient you will source for your product? Will you ship it by train, track, plane, boat? Will you ask for a local production? How much money will you allocate budget for personal development of your team? Will you invest in a social venture? Will you close an eye on your current polluting factory? Will you ask for innovation toward sustainable practices? Will you engage with all relevant stakeholder when making impactful decisions? And the list can go on and on forever. Almost every single decision business people are asked to make, presents a choice to go for more or less responsible and sustainable solution. Do you want your employees to be conscious of that option? Do you want them to be fluent with the consequences wrong decisions can lead to (and clearly not only financial)? This is a call for every job seeker to add where they stand with their responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency on their CV. This is a call for all hiring manager to make sure they make it clear they demand such competencies.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

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

Team Building Day – Summer 2016

22 August 2017 – It’s called Green Day and it was my first team-building event at Business School Lausanne.  It’s exactly one year since BSL started operating under Holacracy, and in this spirit, I would think of this day as a “Tribe Day” (“tribe” is a commonly used Holacracy term to describe our sacred space for social interactions).

My personal reflection of this day is that there seemed to be a magic mix of Doing, Being and Reflecting plus perfect blue skies.

What happened?
Doing
We started in the morning by entering the Escapeworld in Lausanne. One group got challenged to de-code Area 652 and the other one Délire du mandarin. Really tough teamwork in dark and hot conditions to be done in one hour – it was a team-building with “results” to be expected.

Being
After being totally immersed in the undergrounds of Escapeworld, we switched to another, totally different world: The Chaplin’s World museum in Corsier-sur-Vevey. We got inspired by strolling around in the Manoir where each room in this beautiful home speaks volumes about the family life of the legendary artist.

The day ended at the Lavaux Vinorama where we enjoyed wine of the region with even more “tribe” conversations.

Reflecting
Call it coincidence, but our weekly Tribe Space meeting was scheduled for the next day and we closed the team building experience with a powerful Appreciative Inquiry exercise where we exchanged notes of appreciation by indicating at least one positive trait/behavior that we had observed in each member the day before.

Pic3

To me, this day was of higher value than any other team-building day I experienced so far.

Why?

  1. The 1-hour Doing exercise went surprisingly smoothly relying on the collective intelligence to emerge. We reflected that for us it somehow seemed rather normal not to have a group leader any more (perhaps first signals of behavior change one year after we adopted Holacracy?)
  2. Tribe-trust developed in 6 hours of pure Being mode (no flip charts, no facilitator, nothing).
  3. Having an appreciative Reflecting phase the day after (to really sleep over the tribe-day).

So what?

It seems that Holacracy just made DOING, BEING and REFLECTING totally natural to us. A rough plan was developed and pre-scheduled for the day (thank you David!), but was kept totally fluid and self-organized by the Tribe at all times.

What a great green team-building it was, really proud to be part of this tribe!

Author: Jan Maisenbacher

“Don’t Learn to Do, But Learn in Doing”

I was recently asked to speak at the Impact Hub Zurich’s event on the future of education: trends and opportunities. I am no educationalist but I am educator, so I decided to speak on what I was comfortable with, my own experience in teaching that I have worked out through trial and error over the last 10 years. I cut my teeth teaching in Singapore to Executive Masters students who would come in the evening for 3 hours of lecturing after a full day at work. They were understandably tired and so I peppered my lectures with as many case study examples as I could in order to demonstrate the real-life applications of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, especially in a place and time when CSR and SD were still very much theoretical ideas and not a day to day reality.

And so to my current class of Masters students at BSL, I continue to try and make my lectures as relevant to real life as I can, knowing that business students need all the practical tools they can to be competitive when they head into the workplace.

This term I decided to use the theme of food and agriculture to discuss as many facets as possible of sustainability and business responsibility, and there is no shortage of material in this sector – from farming practices, (labour, pesticide use, GMOs, animal welfare), to processing (use of palm oil, high fructose corn syrup), transport (carbon footprint), marketing (obesity, fast food, veganism), to food distribution and scarcity.

To learn by doing, I asked my students to interview someone who had something, anything to do with the food sector and get their take on sustainability issues. It could be a restaurateur, it could be their uncle who likes cooking, a farmer, a winemaker, an eminent professor or their mate who likes eating…I look forwards to sharing some of these interviews with you which they have written up in blog form (of course, as the blog is another practical tool the students must master).

And how best for students to learn than to meet people who are “doing”, who can speak with confidence about their career paths and what it’s like to be at the coalface of an organisation. So we were privileged to have some time with Mr Diarmuid O’Connor (Global Agrimaterials Sourcing Manager at Nestlé Nutrition) who captivated us because he didn’t give us the blarney but told us what he did and why, and how sustainability made business sense and that he’d been working for over 20 years to support farmers in producing high quality materials for Nestlé.

I’m looking forwards to some more straight-talking guest speakers coming into the classroom over the coming weeks including Mme Isabelle Chevalley, conseillère nationale in the Swiss parliament who will speak to us about GMOs in Switzerland and Mr Sebastien Kulling who is working on a start-up in the food sector.

Prof. Marina CurranAuthor: Marina Martin Curran PhD,
Professor at BSL

Enabling Inclusion in Business – Politicians and Business people need to talk!!

Getting ready for our Enabling inclusion in Business was a very interesting experience for me – it made me rethink the situation of women in business yet again!

Having been very involved in the area of women in politics in the Canton of Vaud for the last 10 months, you might like to have a  look at the initiative of the CLAFV (www.clafvd.ch) and ADF (www.adf-vaud.ch) where these 2 associations have worked together with the Bureau of Equality to encourage more women to go into Swiss politics (www.politiciennes.ch).

This interesting initiative made it very clear to me that there is very little contact between the women politicians I talk with regularly and the women in business in Switzerland today! And this is a big problem.

Have you seen the Economist gender gap index?  It is nothing short of horrifying. Switzerland performs very poorly in comparison with the OECD average and the 21 countries considered in this study.  One big problem is the cost of child care, over 40% of the revenue earned.  Is it worthwhile, one might ask to go back to work considering this high cost.

Looking forward to talking about this and lots more tomorrow in BSL.  Updates of that meeting to follow!

 

Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor
marymayenfish

A learning agenda designed to Boost Diversity & Inclusion – May 10 at BSL, it’s a full house

Unless you have been stuck in a Swiss nuclear bunker for the last 5 years, you will have at some point during your daily social media fix, come across the term Gender Bias. Whether you’re a man who craves more family time with his children (but your boss raises an eye brow when you want to work from home because your kid is sick) or a woman who has her eye on the next VP role but your tendency to under value yourself gets in the way of applying – the power of gender bias (commonly known as stereotypes) is a root cause that prevents men and women from being able to bring their full and true selves to work.

Gender stereotyping can influence perceptions of leadership competencies and most talent management systems can reinforce and perpetuate bias that favors men over women. There are many stakeholders involved in talent management systems, from HR to senior leadership teams, and a Catalyst study carried out in 2009 showed that there are three key compounding effects:

  1. Imperfect execution. When talent management practices and programs interact, gaps between the design and execution can introduce gender bias, even to systems already sensitive to the problem.
  2. Checks and balances. Few companies employ effective checks and balances that mitigate gender bias in talent management and decrease gender gaps in senior leadership.
  3. Perpetual loops. The cyclical structure of talent management appears to reward attributes based on bias inherent in the system, creating a perpetual cycle in which men dominate senior leadership positions.

Even though this study was published nearly a decade ago, these effects are still very much alive and kicking.

We believe effective talent management strategies which boost diversity and inclusion in the workplace, power performance and generate competitive advantage.  This builds reputation for being a great place to work and ultimately, a healthier bottom line.

On May 10 2016, I will be helping facilitate a conversation on empowering inclusion in business at Business School Lausanne with 30 business and diversity thought leaders living and working in Switzerland.  This collective intelligence session will be the first step in crafting programs which unravel the challenges we all face in the workplace daily and empower inclusive business within organizations.

 

Author: Natalie Wilkins,  BSL Professor

What do Sustainability, Inclusion and Organisational Transformation have to do with Leadership?

Hint:

BSL professors have taken a long hard look at leadership and sustainability and have a strong vision of what is needed to make transformative organizational change a real buzz and not just a string of jargon. We know it won’t be easy, it involves mindset, culture and habits. We know that even when all these important elements are taken into consideration the hurdle of willingness and the resilience to push through the discomfort of uncertainty in order to sustain the change, remains.

There are courageous leaders working throughout industry to make this happen and BSL is looking to bring a selection of these people together to dialogue, share insights and learn how we each are contributing to make this happen. May 10th 2016, we’ve invited 30 companies to bring their know-how to the table. BSL brings its own secret sauces; our grass roots expertise, millennials’ insights and a fervent desire to convene a conversation that honors those who are willing to create change.

If you are running a team, a department or company and would like to receive information on the outcomes or reserve a place at the table on a second courageous leadership conversations in June contact: Mary.Mayenfisch@bsl-lausanne.ch.

Author: Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning

Holacracy – BSL’s Purpose gets a big Organizational Boost

When people do something together, go skiing or operate a company, they meet to fulfill some shared purpose.  As a school, BSL also has a purpose which is: “to provide a learning platform that enables individuals and organizations to thrive by co-creating viable business solutions for our planet and its people“.  And learning happens not only in the classroom. It happens also every day for those who work at or with BSL. They are the professors and staff who make that learning possible and provide a living platform.

Working together may sound simple, but, as every professor who teaches human resources or management knows, all teams must agree on some sort of operations method. If they do not, they will meet with chaos. Why? Because differences in expectations about how to achieve the common purpose lead to misunderstandings.

At BSL, working together is taking on new colours and methods. With the start of the year 2016, BSL is implementing a new method of internal operations that is called Holacracy. It is an innovative organizational method which allows each collaborator to clarify how his/her job serves the purpose of the organization. This stands stark contrast to the traditional pyramid of hierarchy and decision-making power of most businesses or organizations. Holacracy facilitates a self-managing flat organization; it changes the inter-relational dynamic of the work place to such an extent that traditional approaches to employment, job-sharing, organizational culture and human resource management may need to be re-thought.

The highest goal of Holacracy is to ensure that all collaborators contribute of their own will to the vision, the purpose and the goals of the organization – BSL in this case.  To achieve this, there are two elements in Holacratic governance that are truly innovative:

The first sets the pace of the inter-relational dynamic of the work place; it is that innovation which flattens the traditional pyramid hierarchy. Each collaborator or employee can voice felt tensions in specific meetings where these must be respected equally by all.  Every time a collaborator finds that he/she is not able to fully contribute to the organization’s vision and purpose because some element in the work flow is not flowing, he/she can voice a tensions and propose a better process or solution. Such expressions of tensions are never accusations against anyone person, but expressions of concerns that a process is not as good as it could be. And this respect for every felt tension must be accepted openly by all regardless of their position in the business or organization.

The second innovative element is the integrated decision-making method. Since each felt tension must be accompanied by a proposal for a better way forward, it must also be possible for other collaborators to question the proposal’s value or limitations. Holacracy provides a legitimate meeting format where proposals and objections can be voiced and tested for their applicability, but never without every other participant’s agreement. For example, if a colleague voices an objection, it is immediately evaluated for its legitimacy and if accepted, tested on whether it would contribute to furthering the main purpose of the organization.

This innovative element makes the flat and self-organizing dynamic a reality: the traditional pyramid of command and control is gone. Each collaborator can propose to change a division of labor or the way that responsibilities are shared among colleagues. The integrated decision-making process guarantees that each participant has an equal chance to voice his or her views, to make new proposals, voice tensions, raise an objection to someone else’s proposal, or just raise a great idea to make a process more attuned to the organization’s ultimate purpose – to “provide a learning platform that enables individuals and organizations to thrive “.

Author: Olivier Brenninkmeijer PhDOlivier Brenninkmeijer PhD
Associate Dean, BSL

 

 

 

Energize your roles, but who energizes me?

Change is often painful and some would argue that “no pain, no gain”. So, here we are on our 3rd month practicing Holacracy at BSL and starting to fully embrace its power and the pains of the change it brings. At the beginning we have all been very focused on learning the “technical” part of the change. Some examples:

  • I have 7 roles, not 1 job.
  • Who is my boss…oh, I don’t have one!
  • To whom do I report my progresses?
  • To whom do I ask for help?
  • What is my budget?
  • Can I go on holidays?
  • What should I prioritize?
  • What is a tension?
  • What is a tactical meeting?
  • What can I do in Governance?

And of course the most recurrent general question is: “How do I do this (or that) in Holacracy?”. Sometimes I ask myself questions like: “Can I talk to somebody who is not in my circle?”. The answer of course is yes, but nevertheless, in the process of learning this new language (or rather operating system), you get to question a lot of things, sometimes just too many!

These questions have kept us quite busy until Christiane, our Holacracy coach and consultant, during one of our latest workshops invited us to step back and ask a couple of different questions:

  • Now that authority is distributed in roles and not centralized in people, what has changed for you?
  • Every role needs leadership to be energized, are you ready to exercise your leadership in your roles?

Christiane is talking about leadership that allows you to best energize your roles and do your job. Clearly this is not the same leadership that it takes to lead others to work, but rather the type of leadership that it takes to lead yourself to your highest performance. Also, clearly, this does not leave you with the privilege of being led by others in your job anymore. Finally, this means developing new skills toward a self-managing leadership. Well, this is a bigger question than the ones we started with in our Holacracy journey.

When I reflect upon this, I feel like somebody who was kept busy learning how to build a couple of wings for a while but was never been told that at some point I was going to be asked to fly with them. Now, it takes more than a couple of wings to fly for a human being. It takes vision, courage, discipline, knowledge, action, and persistence to start with. This is the leadership we have now been called for at BSL.

I am ready to take off and fly but not for a solo flight. The greatest paradox of Holacracy is that, while it brings back the individuals at the center of the organization and asks them to energize their roles (otherwise nobody else will do it!), it also sets the context for new forms of collaboration that constantly stimulate the collective intelligence of an organization. The way tactical and governance meetings are structured clearly imposes new decision-making dynamics. You have full authority to take decisions for your roles within your defined accountabilities but you have at any time full access to the collective intelligence to help you make better decisions. In fact, the system pushes for consultation and synchronization of work but still leaving the final authority to make decisions within each individual role.

Recently we took some important steps to help each other further access the collective intelligence through consultation and synchronization of work; two changes in particular. First, we changed our Holacracy structure from 2 circles to 3 circles to group roles in a way that could better focus on their domains (General Business, Marketing and Sales, School and Academic Affairs). It only took two more weeks and we decided to take this even further. We have a new proposal to be discussed soon at our next Governance meeting to move to 6 circles. We are all somehow nervous about this, but it was great to see our sparkling eyes when Denitsa proposed this and it all made sense to us (thank you Deni!). We will certainly let you know in a few months how this big change has worked for us so stay tuned!

The second big change is that we relocated our offices in a way that physically replicates our circle structure. Collective intelligence is now also practically closer to all of us and hopefully better organized to help our personal leadership with an additional boost of energy (collaboration). We can work from home if we want to or we can go to the office if we need a closer collaborative space. I really feel we are moving toward a working system that removes any barrier preventing us from flying. In fact, we do not want to work anymore; we want to fly.

Author: Carlo Giardinetti, Associate Dean, Business School Lausanne