Innovating with BSL: THE TAG – Keeping tags on our health with meaningful labels

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 7 BSL students: Arman Danielyan, Karina Bondarenko, Karina Grigoryeva, Khalid Attieh, Lidiya Kudina, Morgan Manin, Omar Eltanani, Timofei Plahotniuci, Ulysse Ortiz

 

Day 1

During our Spring 2018 Gapframe Innovation week, our group opted to work on “Quality of Life”. We found three main sub-themes to develop further: Education, Nutrition, and Peace & Stability. We then developed each of them by coming up with solution ideas using a design-thinking ideation exercise. Overall, we felt we could get most group traction around the Nutrition and Education themes. Can you believe that we came up with 80 different ideas?

Day 2

In the morning, our group discussed possible project ideas. Maybe surprisingly, we did not choose any of the original 80 ideas. Sleeping on it clearly brought inspiration because we actually came up with a brand new idea: “Health labeling for food” on two levels: for illiterate people and for already developed countries. We felt that if we designed a concept in this area, we could have impact globally. Click HERE for a very short video showing the general idea.

According to our research, health labelling is relevant for almost everybody. It not only informs those who are health conscious, but also those unaware of the food they are eating. Nowadays, too few people actually scrutinize the ingredients and nutritional value of the food they are buying. Could our solution provide an easy and non time-consuming way of checking these factors?

Our team came up with a cool solution: to put colorful labels on products, so that it is super easy to check whether the product being purchased is really healthy. The symbols relate to the levels of sugar, chemicals, salt, wheat, lactose, conserving agents.

On Day 2, we researched 5 main stakeholder groups: media, customers, thought leaders, cities & communities, government & regulators. We carried out interviews to benchmark the feedback and drawbacks of our project. We concluded from the feedback we got that the project was promising and interesting and that we should continue developing it. We defined our mission statement as follows: “We provide a simplified and understandable labelling system to evaluate how healthy food products are, allowing even the illiterate to link health risks or benefits to the food they eat.”

Day 3

Having presented our idea and the product to the other groups in the morning, we realized that we needed to be more specific with the labelling objective. For example, to look at the possibility of product labeling for blind people, or to concentrate on people with specific diseases, and for whom food has an important impact, such as those with digestive disorders, depression, obesity, heart / kidney diseases, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis.

Day 4

Today, we started prototyping and searching for ways of implementing our idea. Since we did not have enough time to create and personalize all the labels we wanted, we found some good options online, printed them out and stuck them to a number of products we bought. Since in our group we had a certified nutritionist, we used her knowledge to decide on which product to put what. Depending on the amount of sugar, salt, and harmful chemicals (such as aspartame in Coca Cola light), we distributed the labels on the products, using red ones to attract attention to less healthy ingredients, and green to distinguish the products that are healthy.

To set up the company, we discussed creating a Swiss association in the Swiss commercial register free of charge, with tax-free status. We also decided that launching a website made a lot of sense for our initiative, more as an awareness-building platform, to include all information related to our product and events and detailing the benefits of collaborating with us. The website and social media would be very important marketing tools. We also outlined important financial resources questions, including crowdfunding and aid agency possibilities.

Looking forward to developing this further in Gap Frame Week 3, 2018. There are many labelling initiatives out there; can we develop and outreach one that will lead to less consumer confusion and add value to society?

Innovation at BSL: GAME OVER? – Transforming the lives of the elderly

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 3 BSL students: Alexander Svetlitskiy, Amin Riaziat, Andrea Sacco, Deem Almuhaidib, Dmytro Kovtoniuk, Luis Miguel Becerra, Valentina Korobeynikova, Victor Gladskoy

Today, we are neglecting our elderly more and more as a society. Moreover, current retirement homes are not responding to the basic human communication needs of the elderly. There is also a need to incentivize the elderly to remain healthy as long as possible in both mind and body.

As Group 3 of 8 student groups overall during the Spring Gap Frame Week, we selected the “Quality of life” area of focus on Day 1 of the Gap Frame Week so that we could design a useful solution for the future. Our research on Day 2 provided us with significant insights into the “pain” of our stakeholders. By addressing the pain points identified, we felt we could provide an additional choice for the elderly to spend time in retirement, using a mobile application and developing a specialized community center for the elderly. During the rest of the week, we had a challenging time developing an early prototype of our concept, but it was a lot of fun at the same time. Click HERE to view our fun team video so that you can get a sense our positive collaborative spirit!

Our research revealed that many elderly people are suffering from loneliness. In many cases, the elderly have limited communications with other human beings and over time, they may engage in increasingly limited activities. Often, the highlight of an elderly person’s day is simply reading the newspaper. Retirement for many represents a “long wait for the inevitable”. We want to change all that by introducing an easy to use application, supported on all mobile platforms, called “Game Over?”. Our innovation aim is to create a tailor-made application that is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. The app would provide several functions – newspaper, TV, a net-working and communication platform, games, activity schedules and plans, with related activity sign-up sheets. Our idea is to provide an easy to use platform where the elderly can engage in a favorite activity such as reading the newspaper but also try other activities. For example, on the Game Over? App, the elderly will be able to play games especially designed to be beneficial to the health of the elderly. Playing video games increases brain stimulation, reduces arthritis, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, improves memory and attention, slows down the aging process, improves hand-eye coordination and helps with depression. To appeal to the target group, the design and interface of the App games will appeal specifically to the elderly.

We also discussed including a concept of related Game Over? community centers.  The idea is to provide a room for elderly citizens to enjoy gaming experiences and for those not yet initiated to gaming, provide an introduction class to new technology. Exploring our ideas further, we felt that the “Game Over?” community center could cover other aspects of elderly well-being. It could also have a meditation room and garden to hold meditation and or light yoga sessions with a meditation instructor. This would help elderly citizens learn the art of relaxation and good breathing techniques but also help retain a certain level of physical fitness. We also had the idea of equipping the community center with an emergency treatment room. Another idea was to provide a system whereby the elderly will be able to tutor young students for a profit, depending on their skills, potentially with the profit being used for our platform subscriptions. As we discussed and worked on our prototype, plenty of new ideas came up.

With the target market of elderly (aged 65+), our group felt that the App and linked community/activity center will not only make the lives of the elderly more meaningful but it will change and improve quality of life.

With Game Over?, we are reintroducing a selection of elements that complement and enhance quality of life. In our view, Game Over?, if developed fully,  has the potential to create a new found purpose in life for isolated populations of the elderly in Switzerland and outside. During the next GFW, we will be developing this prototype further, into as feasible a start-up idea as possible in order to attract the attention of potential (albeit hypothetical – for now) investors. Watch this space.

 

Innovation at BSL: Beep Saved – Technology empowering ordinary people to save lives

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog post by GFW3 Spring 2018 Group 6 students: Alexandra Sommer, Alexandre Watry, Anastasia Morozava, Aswin Babu, Diego Dimartino, Kamran Hatam-Zada, Konstantin Goldenberg, Theodore Martorell, Volodymyr Kovalchuk

“One right beep – one saved life”

We are proud to invite you to read our blogpost written during the Spring Gap Frame Week 2018, when BSL students focused on coming up with solutions to some of the world’s most challenging social issues.

Many people with chronic illnesses die each year having collapsed in the street or on the way to hospital due to the lack of first aid knowledge amongst people passing by. Our research revealed that 150,000 lives could be saved in Europe yearly if passersby were able to provide effective immediate first aid. We were interested to learn that St John Ambulance research shows that 59% of interviewed people would not feel comfortable providing first aid on the street due to their own lack of knowledge (The Guardian, 2010).

In Russia, many people suffer from diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes and chronic heart disease. The overall number of Russian people with these diseases is actually 32.5 million. Therefore, there is a high risk of people collapsing on the street on a daily basis, and not receiving critical and appropriate first aid from passers-by. After our preliminary research, our Group decided to focus on providing an effective solution to this issue in Russia, a country where victims of heart attacks or other problems have a high risk of not receiving primary first aid on the street. Frequent long delays in ambulance arrivals exacerbate the problem and makes it even more important for passersby to have high awareness and good knowledge about how to act in case of emergency.

Our team came up with an idea of a wearable technology – Beep Saved – that would allow people with health conditions to be attended easily and safely in case of an emergency. Our wearable technology – worn on the wrist much like a watch – provides a panic SOS button, which identifies the emergency, immediately calls for an ambulance using GPS technology, makes a recognizable sound/alarm to attract the attention of people nearby, and provides the passerby with tailor-made first aid tips depending on the person’s health condition. The screen carefully guides the bystander through minimal step-by-step instructions to ensure that the person has as optimal a chance as possible of surviving the episode (CPR, positioning of the body, etc). Click here for a demo to show the operating principle.

To test whether we had a feasible concept, we decided to explore the perceptions of three different groups: customers, doctors, and investors. That meant that we needed to get out into the external environment and meet stakeholders so we carried out interviews in three different locations: the city center of Lausanne, the university hospital (CHUV) and at Business School Lausanne.

We prepared three different questionnaires based on qualitative and quantitative data. Afterwards we divided our group evenly, to carry out the interviews. After carefully reviewing the results, we noted that all stakeholders provided common feedback: acceptance and interest in the concept.

We enhanced our prototype ideas as a result of our research (an interactive screen, GPS for ambulance, SOS button, heart rate checker, and speaker to let passersby know that the person is in need of help). We also added the monitor idea, to show first aid tips to perform in advance of the arrival of an ambulance.

After pitching our idea to the other student groups and faculty, and receiving feedback, we came up with the final technology software prototype. Our group decided to locate this business in Russia and to produce the technology in Latvia due to the costs and legal aspects. We decided not to produce in China as wanted to create a sustainable responsible business and did not feel that outsourcing to China aligned with that vision. We carried out a competitor analysis, looking at the three most well-known similar companies from an international perspective. We focused our analysis on price, strengths and weaknesses. The most well-known comparable concept is Medical Guardian which asks for a subscription price in the market and offers simple technology; followed by Lifefone, which has similar characteristics, but expects a long term contract commitment from customers. Bay Alarm Medical is the most expensive existing solution. It offers wide customization choices and is more than seventy years in the market. Our differentiation from these potential competitors are one-time payment, no contract requirements, free delivery and installation of software, and the fact that it would be the most interactive device on the market. After the competitive analysis and examining the possible target market, we defined our product as a high quality one-time payment product.

We had an opportunity to present a draft version of our concept prototype mid-week, to share what we had learnt from other groups. Our idea received overall positive comments. To illustrate clearly the problem we were trying to solve, we showed a social experiment video filmed in Russia that demonstrated the level of ignorance and even indifference of passersby in case of someone obviously not feeling well or collapsing in the street. This video emotionally connected with many viewers and stakeholders and illustrated well the high social importance of introducing our product to the Russian market. Once other groups had commented, we reviewed the remarks made by our BSL colleagues and implemented their feedback in the development of our prototype.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” Martin Luther King Jr.

We believe that in today’s world it is crucial to reduce ignorance and encourage the notion of people and communities helping each other on every level. Our device will not only potentially save lives, but it can also have a substantial impact by improving behavior and increasing empathy. Our concept will reduce the level of ignorance and, we feel, raise awareness such that more people will want to help each other in the long run.

BSL Gap Frame Innovation Week, Spring 2018: Is the world all set for MySet?

Blog by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers with video blog by Student Group 2: Anastasiya Markova, Armen Danielyan, James Polit, Julia Bogle, Mathis Chailleux, Napat Suttaponga, Umar Kalanov, Vasily Zhuraviev, Victor Marinescu.

As promised, this is the first of several blogs relating to student output from our Spring Gap Frame Week 2018 prototyping exercise. We want our readers to share in the “buzz” that these weeks create within BSL. And we hope to inspire some of you also. Please refer to this article to understand more in detail what the BSL Gap Frame Week is all about. The short explanation is that the Gap Frame Week is an opportunity for our students to work on prototyping solutions and even start-ups addressing some of the world’s most formidable sustainability dilemmas. In Spring 2018, the students tackled social issues.

Of the eight groups that presented early prototypes of solutions to world social issues, an expert faculty panel on Day 5 felt that Group 2: MySet ticked many boxes in terms of the potential outreach and impact of the idea, if marketed carefully and in the right way.

So what is the concept idea that was prototyped, MySet, all about? In innovation, the best place to start is always with the problem the solution is trying to solve. Group 2 decided to address Education as the social issue worthy of their attention. Their research indicated that students in developing countries often do not have enough seating in their school classrooms. Small children often squeeze into cramped desks, several at a time, or even have to sit on the floor to attend their classes. India is a case in point where 75% of schools in rural areas have this problem. This leads to difficulties concentrating and learning, and even to longer-term physical problems since students are forced to sit in unnatural positions.

What proposed solution did Group 2 come up with? The MySet concept proposes an affordable, light, adjustable chair set made from recycled material. If marketed to the right target audience (obviously, since parents are too poor to afford such a solution, charitable foundations, NGOs and aid agencies would be an interesting target), MySet has the potential to be an interesting proposition. Clever idea. Let’s see how Group 2 does in developing this early prototype into a full blown start-up ready to attract investor interest, with a corresponding exhibition space during our next GFW in May.

The video blog produced by the Group 2 students listed above gives an idea of the journey they took to arrive at their final prototype. Click HERE to view; enjoy!

 

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

Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

BSL and innovation: Does BSL’s Gap Frame Week create value for society?

At Business School Lausanne, we are proud to offer a highly dynamic Gap Frame Week (GFW) experience to our students four times a year. What does this mean, and what happens during these weeks? Well, you might be surprised to learn that our students work in teams to co-create solutions to the world’s most problematic social, environmental, economic and governance issues. Ambitious: yes!  A tough call: yes!  But no one ever said business school should be easy. As the GFW designer, I incorporate a variety of co-creative techniques including World Café and Collaboratories to get our students thinking “out of the box”, but I have also designed the week with a strong red thread of design thinking processes throughout to encourage open innovation and create an inspirational learning context.

Click HERE for a short video of our students in action during the BSL Gap Frame Week.

Design thinking is a process whereby we seek primarily to understand the people for whom we are designing products or services. Design thinking helps us to question “norms” or fixed mindsets, challenge assumptions about “what they want”, change levels of understanding in the innovation teams, and redefine problems in order to find a better fit between “the problem” and “the solution”.  Design thinking is not only a solutions-based approach to solving problems, but also a whole way of thinking and working in itself. It is a good choice for our BSL GFW innovation week because it is so useful in helping to tackle problems that are not very well defined or are even unknown. And since during the GFW, we are tackling problems that the world’s best minds have not yet resolved, we need all the help we can get!

During each Gap Frame week, our BSL students generate new matches between solutions and needs that truly create value for society. And who knows, maybe some will carry a brilliant business idea out of BSL and create value in the real world! We encouraged our students to write blogs recounting their experiences during the last GFW in Spring 2018, so that you too can have a taste of what the students achieve.  Some great examples will be showcased in a series of blogs leading up to our next GFW from 14 to 18 May, 2018. Keep reading our blogs over the next 4 weeks!

 

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

Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

The wonderful world of online education

I am a big fan of online learning and have done many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) on Coursera (www.coursera.org).

Last year I participated in an online course in « Negotiation & Influence » at Yale University (http://sg.emeritus.org/management-certificate-programs/negotiation-and-influence/) thanks to the faculty development fund of BSL. It was my objective to update myself on these topics, because I teach a class on Business Ethics and Negotiation at BSL.

In addition to learning new fun stuff, this course helped me to put myself in the shoes of my students. I realized that I couldn’t always answer all questions in the weekly quizzes even though I had listened attentively to all the video lectures. This reminded me not to be disappointed when the same thing happens to my students. You just cannot expect students to remember or understand everything that you said just once in class. Of course, everything is crystal clear to you as a teacher, also because you are deep into your topic and have given the class before. Forgetting this is a common “déformation professionelle” of teachers. You always must try harder, repeat, document, and check if students have understood, let them repeat what the task was, be patient and never take it personally.

Besides this more general lesson in self-awareness, this course was extremely useful to get new ideas for my own course.

On the other hand, I was a bit skeptical: Can you really teach a highly interactive skill like negotiating online? Of course, in negotiation you must learn basic concepts like how to prepare for a negotiation, how to haggle, or how to close a deal, but in the end, you always learn the most if you actually negotiate. I was curious to find out how you could run role play negotiations in the virtual space.

It turned out that negotiating online is no problem at all. My fellow students and I met on a special online platform, or we negotiated via WhatsApp or Skype. Every week during this two-month course, we were assigned to classmates that were in our time zone. Of course, it was different from face to face negotiation, but I found it almost as good. Furthermore, in today’s world many negotiations do take place on the phone, on Skype or via email.

What I really liked about the course was its broad focus. As the title “Negotiation & Influence” implies, it went far beyond simply trying to get the biggest piece of the pie. Indeed, negotiation is so much more! It is basically a decision-making process that you need every time you cannot achieve your goals alone (this nice definition comes from the godmother of negotiation, Leigh Thompson, and is the foundation of the course I teach). In today’s business world, it is virtually impossible to achieve our goals alone. This is why negotiation is so important.

If we look at negotiation like this, it is also clear that things like relationships and trust are key. According to research, the “subjective value” of a negotiation (i.e. did I have a good relationship with my partner, did I feel treated with fairness, did I feel good during the negotiation) is even more important than the objective mostly monetary value I achieve in a negotiation.  Even if the objective value one gains from a negotiation is positive, this “victory” is not sustainable if you felt uncomfortable with your negotiation partner, or felt rushed or treated with disrespect.

However, if the partners both enjoyed the interaction, they have a great foundation for the future. One study even shows that job applicants that experienced positive subjective value during their salary negotiations were more likely to like their job and stay in their job one year after the job negotiations (http://web.mit.edu/curhan/www/docs/Publications/Curhan_Getting_Off_on_the_Right_Foot.pdf).

You did not only learn theoretically about this concept of subjective value in negotiations, but even found out how your negotiation partners experienced you with respect to the subjective value you brought to the table. After every round of negotiation, we filled out a questionnaire (http://www.subjectivevalue.com/) about how we felt about ourselves and our partners during the negotiation, and so did our partners. That way, we received a highly individualized feedback on how we were perceived as negotiation partners in comparison to how we experienced it ourselves.

Another highlight of this course was learning how to deal with difficult negotiation tactics like stonewalling, threats or insults. Here the key is not to succumb to the impulsive reaction of either surrendering to these tactics, mimic them or quit the negotiation. Firstly, you need to avoid emotional reactions and try to look at the situation with detachment. This strategy is called “going to the balcony”. It takes some practice, but once you created this kind of emotional distance it is much easier to either simply ignore the mean tactics or deflect them by either asking smart questions (Please explain to me why the price is suddenly so important?) or naming the game (We came here to negotiate with respect. You do not need to insult me. Can we please continue differently now?). We had to apply evil tactics in one of our role plays and this was especially eye-opening as we changed roles: First my partner tested all kinds of difficult tactics with me and I had to try to stay calm, detached and reasonable. Then we switched roles. I must admit that continuing to be evil was pretty hard, because my partner did a great job in staying calm and reasonable!

In conclusion, online courses are a great way to update yourself on the state of the art of your field, you get new ideas for your own teaching and you stay in touch with the students’ experience. I am already looking for my next MOOC.

 

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

How does it feel to teach at Harvard University?

I have always resisted the temptation to create my bucket list but surely, if had to create one, I would have in it the participation to a Harvard course. I am passionate about education and I am passionate about American movies, so I guess you can explain why this would make it into my bucket list. Thing is, I would have never thought I would participate as an Instructor!

If you are reading this blog you may know that Business School Lausanne is self-organized since two and a half years, using Holacracy as an operating system. I participated last year to a conference on self-organization in Amsterdam organized by HolacracyOne where practitioners could exchange their pains and gains in the transformation journey that self-management brings. This is all very new for the business world and still today, I can’t make a clear distinction between self-management and self-organization so please bear with me when I juggle between the two terms.

At the conference, I met Mike Lee who was completing his PhD at Harvard Business School studying new forms of organization and their limits. Holacracy has been a great part of his research and he has run an important empirical study at WAC that is a Governmental agency in the US working with Holacracy. Mike and I had several chances to exchange thoughts and some glasses of wine. There was a common idea we shared that started to emerge. We both strongly believed that organizations operating at the innovative edge with systems such as Holacracy are learning while practicing with some very powerful and novel set of organizational processes. What is new in these organizations is not only newly designed processes, but also self-management practices that people in such organizations are able to adopt. Why is this interesting? Self-management promises to be an important tool to respond to the challenges that the current Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world brings. Self-management brings flexibility, responsiveness, agility, autonomy, all things that are needed in a VUCA world. Well, at least self-management promises to bring all this. What Mike and I were reflecting on was on the opportunity to bring all these great advantages into traditional companies that are still functioning with structured hierarchies (99% of the companies is my estimate) and have no interest in adopting self-management at a large scale. Could it be possible? Can we translate the great and innovative practices from these pioneering companies like HolacracyOne into a language that traditional companies can hear and welcome? We jumped unto this challenge, and excited about the idea of creating a training on this topic, approached Harvard to see if they would be interested in making space for such an executive course. Indeed Mike’s network with Harvard was the key to open the doors to this opportunity.

What we discovered fast was that there was a huge appetite for this course and executive education. Quickly the Harvard marketing team (what a great team they have!) could fine-tune the title for the course based on their research and so our new baby was ready to come to life. The course name was (and still is) “Collaborative Leadership: Building the Organization of the Future”.

Now that we had a title, the real work started and we had to face the challenge of putting together what we believed could serve the need we had identified in a 2-day course. How do we help today’s companies to build their next version of themselves? What is the bridge that takes them from where they are today to where they will want to be in the next 10 years from an organizational design perspective? Great challenge!

Mike and I loved to discover our complementary skills, experience and knowledge. Mike can unpack very complex topics, fill them with solid research-based arguments and still explain them with a disarming simple language that makes it very hard for anybody not to understand them and believe him, what a gift! I am great at putting the cherry on top of the cake (easy one), with sense-making, as well as creating and designing overall learning experiences. So I could contribute 🙂

Having to write a course for Harvard can put you under strong pressure as you think that whatever you are doing well, you should try to do better and this is not easy to manage. My experience of working at self-organized BSL, alongside Mike’s knowledge and research, eventually took us there and the result has been interesting. We ran this course for the first time on March 14-15 and of course we were ready to expect the unexpected. Firstly, we received the list of participants two weeks before the course and had 16 of them, which was a good number for a new course. The following week, the number became 28 and, with only one week to go, we had to readjust parts of the course including buying a new set of puzzles that we used for an interactive session. Just as we thought we were ready, just 3 days before the course, we received a warning that a snowstorm was approaching Boston and it was not clear what this would mean. Both Mike and I made it to Boston on Monday and our flights were probably the last ones that made it, at least until Wednesday when the storm was gone. Harvard University closed down on Tuesday (on Wednesday our course would start), so did the airport and most other things that were simply submerged by over a meter of snow. The tireless team at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education did not stop working though it and started sending us updates. Our course participants started to go down to 22, then 16, 14, 10 and eventually settled at 12 by the Tuesday evening. Given the trend, we were happy we could still run the course, as many other courses had to be cancelled. Oh well, did you think teaching at Harvard would just be easy and smooth?

I will share more about the content of the course in a future blog, and what we learnt from it. For now, I’d just want to share the actual teaching experience. So let me tell you what it means to stand up in front of great participants from all over the world who expect a Harvard-quality level of education! Believe it or not, I felt ready and fully confident. At Business School Lausanne, we approach education differently and focus on transformative learning. Such attitude has taught me to keep the learner at the center of what I do as an educator, and this is what I did during those two days. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and here are some quotes:

“Carlo has great facilitation skills, sensing where the participants are, and creating a more personal connection”

“Energy, managing the learning flow, translation to daily practice”

“He is an excellent summarizer and synthesizer”

“Carlo led the discussions deftly and his real-world experience with self-management was invaluable in exploring these concepts” 

“This is a unique program!”

So, how does it feel to teach at Harvard? Definitely, it gave me great sense of recognition and sense of prestige. It‘s like playing for the football National Team but in education. At the same time, it made me once more realize how important is the work we are doing at Business School Lausanne. Our approach to education as a transformative experience is what the world needs. We had participants standing in a circle in our course at Harvard, sharing their deepest concerns and reflections. We had them engaged in a World Café and in a guided meditation. We do this every day at Business School Lausanne, and now I can confidently say that I am proud I have been teaching at Harvard as much as I am proud I work at BSL!

 

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

My way into a Fortune 500 company

After finalizing a Bachelor in International Business and Management in 2016, my goal was to pursue a Master in Finance. But where? After extensive research, I chose Business School Lausanne, as this was one of the only establishments in Europe that offered a Master in International and Sustainable Finance. I was not very sure what Sustainable Finance meant, but after some digging I noticed a growing interest in it. This was the perfect opportunity to differentiate myself from regular Finance Masters. In addition, Switzerland has a very good reputation for education. The combination of these two factors led me to move to Switzerland.

The one-and-a-half-year program is divided into six periods. The first four periods are made up of courses in which I learned the specifics of International and Sustainable Finance. The best part of BSL are the professors: each of them is an expert in their respective area and they have a long history of practicing. Some professors even conduct their own business while teaching part-time at BSL. The expertise they offer in Econometrics, Statistics, Financial Markets, Corporate Finance, and more is incredible. In addition, as the curriculum matches a big part of the CFA exam, I used this knowledge to take the exam.

We had a lot of options about what to learn/develop during the last two periods. These options included: an applied business project, a case study, a master thesis, or a nanodegree for data analysis. I decided upon the nanodegree, thinking it would bring the biggest added value. Prior to the course, I did not have any programming experience, which made the program challenging at the beginning. However, the professor really took time to explain everything step-by-step in order for me to get the best out of the course. During this time, I learned essential programming languages like Python, R, and SQL and applied new programs such as Jupyter Notebook and Tableau.

How did this help me in landing a position in a Fortune 500 company? My new role requires the possession of a Master degree in finance and the understanding of programming. As previously described, my learnings at BSL resulted in a combination of business, finance, and programming knowledge – all very valuable in the current business world. Finance has become digital, but most programmers do not understand business and most business people do not understand programming. BSL gave me a chance to combine these elements, which eventually led me to find a job before my final exams. I can highly recommend students to enroll to the Data Analyst program at BSL as the world is becoming more digital and knowledge not only adds value to your CV, but to oneself too.

Author:

René Schoemaker, Master’s Student in International and Sustainable Finance

Alumni Mentoring Program – What is it all about?

Within the context of employability, I often hear people talking about their mentors and how such figures brought more clarity into their lives, on top of leading them to positive and sustainable decisions for their careers. But… what is it that a mentor really does? Does s/he coach? Does s/he train? Why is this role so important and how can we measure the impact a mentor has on a graduating student? I have been asking myself these (and more) questions while setting up the first Alumni Mentoring Program for Business School Lausanne. The answers? I will leave that up to the participants of the program who will be giving us their feedback once the hours of interactions will be completed.

At this point, you may ask yourself how the mentoring actually works.

Simply, fifteen students in their last stage of studies (across BBAs, Masters and MBAs) have been assigned ten hours of mentoring time – virtually and when possible, face to face – with fifteen experienced Alumni. Connections were established considering different elements: years of experience, industry, programs, general fit. In terms of the actual content of their interactions, mentors and mentees will be discussing career plans, professional development and hopefully other employability-related topics, over a period of three to five months. The agenda will be open and students will be able to add points they wish to discuss on the fly.

The aim of this initiative is to help students transitioning to the next phase of their lives, providing them with a safe space where to learn how to interact and network with seasoned professionals, and make the most of their one-to-one conversations.

Nevertheless, students will not be the only ones benefitting from this initiative: mentoring gives clarity also to those who mentor, in this specific case our Alumni. As per their own unanimous admission, their objectives are to learn and take their personal development to a higher level, while giving back to BSL in a constructive way, and to learn more about the employees of the future.

I asked all 30 BSL Community participants to enjoy their time together and to make it as constructive as possible for all parties. The idea is to touch base at the end of the program to collect success stories and learnings, in order to continuously improve the program in an organic and sustainable way. Stay tuned, I will be back with feedback in a few months!

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

 

#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