Innovation course addressing the learning appetite of students, the imperatives for companies and the challenges for megatrends

As I am correcting the post-assignments of the “Internal and External innovation” course, I am reflecting on the nature of innovation that will have to be addressed by us but more importantly by our students over the next decade.

Obviously, the Digital revolution will continue and it is estimated that half of the jobs in this area in 2030 don’t exist today.

Sustainability: the increase of population from 7.5B today to 10B in 2050, with natural resources that will actually reduce in absolute value, will have to be tackled.

Inequality, with a middle class that used to be the cement of democracy, will get poorer and with an aging population that may not afford the cost of medical care.

There are a dozen more critical topics that will equally require a constant curiosity, critical eye, pertinent innovation, and successful execution.

Along with all the courses of BSL, we hope that the innovation best practices and experiments that our students have played with will better equip them to face these challenges. We hope that the creative teamwork they have engaged in the internal and external innovation class will give them the fortitude to discover, to ideate, to try, to iterate and deliver value for the world.

In the meanwhile, our students will certainly deliver value to customers, helping their company to develop and prosper, but also ensuring that this prosperity will bring true value that will not be used to buy and deplete other companies.

To achieve this ambitious vision, we sincerely believe that we have given the participants an appetite for continuous learning, confidence in the creativity they showed during their childhood and the trust in working in teams, as they did in our class, working for instance on a real venture. They helped indeed a young entrepreneur in collecting customer insights, making sense of them and brainstorming on various scenarios. True Design Thinking process applied in real life!

Yves KarcherAuthor: Yves Karcher, BSL Associate Professor

BSL Alumni Mentoring Program – a year after the launch

careers guidance counsellorThe BSL Alumni Mentoring Program has been up and running for a full year, with 20 Alumni and 20 students involved in this pilot project launched by BSL Careers in January 2018. It is time to share with our community some observations and feedback about the program.

To mentor? Or not to mentor? This is the question that many BSL Alumni may have asked themselves after reading the email about my mentoring idea in summer 2017. It’s been nearly one and a half years since and I have spoken to numerous people both in person and over calls on the phone and Skype for interviews, the launch and the feedback gathering. As the designer of the program, it has been a great experience for me to get to know the Alumni, and to connect students with mentors from around the world.

I started gathering feedback from the mentors and the mentees throughout 2018. This data was collected through emails and face-to-face interactions and has enabled me to identify encouraging patterns as well as some areas for improvement. The results varied with many connections working well, with few barely taking off at all. Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the program.

Positive patterns

The majority of students selected for the program reported that they found the experience to be a great success and enjoyed their first taste of a high-level networking. These students stated that the program offered them a safe space, free from grading and judgement, offering them opportunities to understand more about how professionals think in the different phases of their careers. The discussions concerning careers and professional development were also found to be extremely valuable.

Most of the Alumni mentors enjoyed opportunities to connect and engage in thoughtful conversations with younger, ‘switched on’ students and gained valuable insight on the next generation’s trends and incentives.

A discussion with a particular mentor made me realize that the program could also develop in directions that were not necessarily foreseen during the design phase. A very experienced entrepreneur, who was paired with a Master student, shared his highlight of the program, mentioning that “…at some point, the student and I swapped the mentor-mentee role as we reached such a great level of empathy between us. Something I truly enjoyed!”. I found this statement to be highly encouraging, as both the mentor and mentee indicated that they have continued the mentoring beyond the 10 hours and will meet this coming April in person!

Some experienced Alumni have also expressed their appreciation for the program, being of the opinion that it came at the right time in their careers when they felt a need to give back and help others.

On top of these positive patterns, we managed to bring some of our Alumni back to BSL and enrich our MBA seminars while tightening the connection between current students and Alumni, something which is particularly important when nurturing our community.

Where and how can the program improve?

I have taken into account that many of the Alumni who have a wealth of managerial and work experience have never officially mentored anyone before. Taking this feedback into consideration, I will be preparing future mentors with some practical examples to help guide and inspire them. In doing this I hope to improve the overall experience for both mentors and mentees.

Additionally, I received feedback regarding the impact of imposing mentoring time frames. Some felt that by assigning 10 hours to this process, the program ran the risk of limiting an experience that should develop naturally, without boundaries. This feedback will be implemented into future programs when new mentors will only receive a finite amount of hours to decide whether they will continue mentoring their mentees.

Lastly, many mentors expressed concerns that their mentees seemed to be more interested in accessing their networks than engaging in holistic discussions about their future. As the aim of the mentorship program is to create a space in which mentors can share personal and professional decisions, challenges, dreams and fears, we will be adapting the application process, requiring new applicants to submit a thorough motivation statement.

Alumni Mentoring Program in 2019

If you are a BSL Alumna/Alumnus with 5-7 years of management experience and would like to know more about the BSL Alumni Mentoring Program, please contact me directly at daniele.ticli@bsl-lausanne.ch. I will be happy to walk you through the objectives of the program and share some inspiring stories with you!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

BSL journal: My amazing experience in China

To top off an already exceptionally rewarding studying experience pursuing my Master’s degree in International Business at BSL, I decided to head to China for one semester as an exchange student at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. I would soon realize that this would be one of the greatest decisions I ever made.

Changing my environment, leaving my comfort zone in Switzerland and moving halfway across the world for 5 months to study in a University of 25,000 students proved to be a unique experience which also turned out to be a very profitable adventure for me. As for my courses themselves, I took 3 classes per week during my 4 months which were similar to the ones in Lausanne. The biggest difference was the environment: Beijing is an impressive sprawling metropolis with 21 million people living together in the heart of the world’s soon-to-be primary economic powerhouse. I understand that everybody will have different experiences in this remarkable country, but I made mine a successful one by getting involved. I gave myself the goal to leave China with more than with what I arrived with.

bsl student china experiencesource: David Adrien Vanni via Techstars Global Startup Weekend Beijing

Thanks to my thesis topic about startups which I completed during my exchange, I have been fortunate enough to find myself involved in the startup world in China. Beijing is one of the most active startup centers in the world. I participated in a 54-hour creative weekend workshop where strangers meet and work together on an innovative idea and pitch it to a panel of professionals by the end of the weekend. My team was awarded 2nd place out of 12. From there, together with two members of my team, we decided to push our idea further and I integrated their startup 3 months later – an educational platform providing consulting and tutoring services to Chinese high-school students willing to enroll in top US and UK universities. I am now the Director of Business Development and a shareholder of a fast-growing startup with revenues in a $2 billion market.bsl student china

source: David Adrien Vanni via Techstars Global Startup Weekend Beijing

Life has so much to offer when you are genuine and committed, so don’t miss out and go the extra mile, it’s beautiful out there.

Author: David Adrien Vanni, BSL MIB Alumnus

A successful entrepreneur: our alumnus Lorenzo Wiskerke

Lorenzo WiskerkeLorenzo Wiskerke completed his BBA at Business School Lausanne in 2006 and his MBA one year later. His sister Chayenne also did her BBA at BSL in 2010, and then joined Columbia University in New York to obtain her Master’s degree.

Lorenzo and Chayenne are members of a well-known family in the Netherlands, active in the onions’ business since 1933. The company was founded by Jacob Wiskerke, their great-grandfather, and is currently run by Chayenne.

An entrepreneurial spirit is obviously in the DNA of this family.

When Lorenzo was studying at BSL and his wife Loris Vitry-Trapman at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, they identified a gap in Switzerland’s food supply: high quality, fresh fish at an affordable price.

That is the reason why, in 2012, Lorenzo started his own company Royal Fish: http://www.royalfish.ch/pages/fr/accueil.php

At the beginning, the company, based in Aclens (VD), imported fish directly from Dutch fishers, but now it also has suppliers in France, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Italy and Spain, each one specialized in one kind of fish.

The big asset of Royal Fish is the supply chain they were able to put in place. Just in time is the characteristic of it, guaranteeing the freshness of this highly perishable product. Concretely, the fish is delivered six times a week from Monday to Saturday, and customers can order fish until 5 p.m. for the next day!

The company mainly works with restaurants, hospitals, schools and catering companies such as Eldora.

It is rapidly growing (30 % annual growth rate last year), and currently employs eight people. It expects a turnover of 5’000’000 Swiss Francs for 2018.

If you want to hear Lorenzo talking about his studies at BSL and about this endeavor, you can use the following link:

https://soundcloud.com/business-school-lausanne/voices-of-bsl-podcast-lorenzo

BSL is particularly pride to count such successful entrepreneurs among its alumni.

Congratulations to Lorenzo and his wife, and our best wishes for a bright future!

Author: Philippe Du Pasquier, President of the Board

An exotic Internship between BSL & Sumba Hospitality Foundation

In 2017, Business School Lausanne (BSL) and Sumba Hospitality Foundation (SHF) in Indonesia co-created an Internship program tailor-made for BSL students called Sustainable Development Internship.

You may wonder, what is Sumba? And what do they do? So, let us share a brief presentation of this Foundation. SHF offers a vocational training in hospitality for Sumbanese underprivileged youth. The holistic education program provides students with general courses and enables them to graduate in Culinary, Food & Beverage Service, Housekeeping or Front office. To allow the students to apply and train their skills, SHF has opened ten luxury guest pavilions, a SPA as well as a restaurant & bar to the public. Education, environmental awareness and sustainability are the three most important principles of the foundation. It is in the belief of the foundation that tourism can be a positive force in poverty-stricken regions particularly when its community is involved in the process. The goal of the foundation is to assist in providing viable employment to Sumba’s young inhabitants and break the cycle of poverty while also protecting the environment and their culture.

A large part of the campus is dedicated to the growth and maintenance of a sustainable, organic farm, created with the precepts of the burgeoning field of permaculture in mind. Produce from the land are used in the restaurant and the students are taught current farming methods with guidelines to better cultivate their land. SHF aims to raise the students’ awareness of their environment. The school is powered entirely by solar energy allowing SHF to be completely off the grid and re-uses wastewater for irrigation.

One of our BSL students on Sumba Island, Morgan Manin, is doing his internship as part of his Capstone Project (Master of International Business); I took the opportunity to ask him via email for a preliminary description of his internship, to share with our community.

BSL internship

“Reading about SHF on the website and social media made me choose it to do my internship, as my values match perfectly with the foundation’s values and I believe that I will be learning a lot during my Sustainable Development Internship. After the first week, I have identified areas where I could be helpful and learn, which I can summarize with three main tasks and responsibilities. The first one is to analyze the financials at SHF and therefore create a budget for each department meaning the actual school, the administration, the hotel, sustainability and the F&B, including an indication of Capex by departments. I will also guide the SHF finance team towards greater transparency and define cost improvement initiatives.

The second main responsibility I have is to create a Triple Bottom Line Reporting (TBL). TBL is a progressive mode of reporting and seems suited to the SHF. Sustainability centric practices are deeply entrenched in the DNA of the SHF business model. Environmental and social responsibility sit at the core of daily practices and this alongside the true cost of these operationalized initiatives must be reported. I will then gather information to facilitate understanding around the social, environmental and economic practices of SHF. I will conduct research into TBL, using these understandings and research knowledge, with the aim to create a presentation that highlights sound reasoning and justifies or rejects TBL as a means of reporting at SHF. If TBL is found to be preferred mode of reporting, the presentation will include a step-by-step guide detailing a prescribed pathway toward the implementation of TBL reporting at SHF, and then create the strategy that details how to implement TBL as the reporting mechanism for SHF. In the event that SHF management decides to implement TBL as their primary mode of reporting, I will then begin the process of implementation.

To finish, I will be the IT ‘go-to’ person for the team, helping everyone out on Excel, Word, etc.

I will also consider improved ways of using IT for communication for the SHF team.

Before I arrived here, it was planned that I would have to formulate a business plan to be shared with others wanting to duplicate the model of the SHF. I will, therefore, formulate a business plan, constructed in such a way that it has the capacity to facilitate like-minded operators wanting to duplicate the SHF model.

In addition to my primary tasks and responsibilities, I will have ad-hoc tasks set by the Executive Director, I will take care of the students during their study hours and exams as well as shepherding them at night and being in charge of sport activities for the students; also, I will monitor Community English classes for young Sumbanese children living in the neighborhood.

I strongly believe that I will learn so much through this experience, being in a different environment, living in this community, having multiple tasks matching with what I have learned at BSL, and matching the BSL values”.

Morgan, we are all proud of you, we wish you a great experience and let’s see if we can come visit you at some point on that amazing island!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

Five steps to make Company Value Statements work

A friend of mine said recently to me:

“I never understood why companies publish value statements. I cannot imagine that this has any effect.”

If I look at many corporate values statements I have to admit that he is right: empty word bubbles on glossy paper, that present an organization that does not exist in reality. Cliché values like teamwork and integrity are overused and are not get specified what they really mean for that given company. In consequence values statements like this cannot create any emotional appeal. And finally, very often nothing happens in the company after the value statement is published. It stays a dead piece of paper with no link to real-life behavior.

What a pity! What a waste of time and energy! I think this situation can be explained by the fact that companies tend to underestimate the complexity of managing values in a credible way and overestimate the power of publishing policies and written statements.

There are tons of studies that show that companies with a strong values-based culture are more successful because connecting your people to a purpose that goes beyond the profit motive is extremely powerful and motivating. Humans want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves, where they can have impact, appreciation and pursue common positive goals. Values can be like wings that lift us to do amazing things together.

So what do you need to do to avoid the 4 apocalyptic riders of bad value statements?

The 4 apocalyptic  riders of value statements:

  • Too general
  • Not authentic
  • No emotional appeal
  • No link to behavior

1. Make values specific to your company

The first step towards a values statement that works is putting extra effort into the choice and wording of values in order to develop values that are specific for the respective company.

Instead of simply picking the usual suspects of over-used values like the above (excellence, integrity, and communication) or the equally commonplace client orientation, teamwork or trust, you need to find out what really defines the culture of your organization. Choosing client orientation, teamwork and trust is the lazy way out. Nobody can be against them. All companies need client orientation, teamwork, and trust because without them they would soon be out of business.

You need to do some more heavy thinking and find out how exactly e.g. do you serve your customers. How do you do it differently than your competition? What is unique about a clients’ experience with you?

A good example of specific values comes from Ikea. Their values are: Humbleness and willpower, leadership by example, daring to be different, togetherness and enthusiasm, cost consciousness, constant desire for renewal and accept and delegate responsibility. They have defined values that really fit their culture and could not be used by almost any other company.

2. Only authentic values are credible

The second step towards good value statements is ensuring that they are authentic. This is best achieved by developing them in a combination of a top-down and bottom-up approach. This helps to avoid the common pitfall of coming up with a list of unauthentic and unrealistic values that reflect the wishful thinking of top- management. In fact, it is often hard for the people at the top to know what the culture and climate of the rest of the company look like. In general things tend to look rosier from the top.

Does that mean you should start with a couple of employee focus groups to come up with your new company values? That depends on your situation and your corporate culture. The danger of starting with a bottom-up development is the fact that you create expectations with coworkers that might get disappointed by the top management.

When I work with clients on value statements I usually like to start with a first input from the top management that is then specified and modified by a series of bottom-up workshops. In these workshops, we discuss questions like:

“What do this values really mean to us?”

“Could we do without this value?”

“What are positive stories about this value?”

“What do we still need to do to realize this value?”

With the material from these workshops, it is much easier to come up with a first draft for a value statement that is both authentic and specific. In addition, you gain employee buy-in from the very beginning.

3. Aim for the hearts

The third step toward good and credible value statements is making them emotionally appealing. The Bavarian Bank Sparda is a thought-provoking example of how to do this in a courageous and unusual way. Unlike most companies, they did not initiate their values management process with a top-down process but with a focus on the individual coworker. The banks visionary and charismatic CEO, Helmut Lind, Sparda wanted to change the bank by shifting everybody’s attention to the strengths of every coworker.

On a voluntary basis, coworkers filled out an online questionnaire and participated in workshops that helped them identify their natural talents. This created an enormous emotional traction, credibility, and trust because suddenly the men and women in the bank felt seen in their own special characteristical strengths. A deep desire that every human has. It also became much easier to appreciate diversity, because the value of difference was made transparent in the workshops.

I am deeply impressed by this approach that really starts with the people in the company. On the basis of this appreciative process that emphasized the different strength of coworkers the next step was to look for agreement and unity: What should be the values that we all could agree to for our company?

Helmut Lind had the courage to give up his leadership control and put his trust into the collective intelligence of his people by giving them all a say in the development of the banks value statement. The fact that an amazing number of 74% of all coworkers volunteered to participate in the process, shows the high level of engagement the strength-focus process had created.

The values that were the result of this process were robust, credible and emotionally appealing. They were strong enough to enable the bank to decide not to invest in e.g. in risky speculations into currencies or food because it contradicted their value of justice and sustainability. A contested strategy before the financial crises of 2008, a wise decision afterward. And while the banking sector, in general, did not do very well after 2008, Sparda Bank continued to be successful.

4. Link values to behavior

The fourth step towards a successful value statement is making a systematical and constant link to behavior and the management’s relentlessly communication about the values.  We find a positive example of the constant implementation and communication of company values at the hotel chain Ritz-Carlton.
Their 12 service values all start with “I” which expresses personal responsibility and they are all very action oriented and specific for the hospitality business:

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

Source: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/about/gold-standards

But their implementation and communication effort does not stop here: already when recruiting new employees the values fit is tested. Once hired every new employee gets trained on these values for two days and has to present them by heart in front of their colleagues. In order to integrate the service values in the day-to-day work every morning in every Ritz-Carlton Hotel around the world, a 15-minute work meeting takes place: the round-up. During this meeting the priorities of the day get communicated, the service values get discussed and positive “wow” stories of exceptional examples of customer service are shared. This is the Ritz-Carlton way of using the emotional power of storytelling.

They also go one important step further: They empower their employees to deliver great service by granting every employee a discretionary spending of $2,000 (per incident) to satisfy a customer.

Sounds a bit extreme? Maybe… But Ritz-Carlton seems to be very successful with this highly structured approach for creating a values-oriented corporate culture: Employee turnover is at a very low – 18% versus the industry average of 158%.

5. Leaders must relentlessly communicate and implement values

The fifth and final step towards an effective value statement is making everybody – and especially leaders – accountable for the consistent implementation and communication of values.  The main responsibility for making a values statement fly, lies with managers, of course.

An inspiring example comes again from the CEO of Sparda Bank, Helmut Lind (yes, I admit it, I am a fan….). Since one of the company values is mindfulness, he is giving mindfulness seminars to his coworkers on 24 days every year! A great example of how you can continuously show your coworkers that you are serious about your company values.

Unfortunately, often the leadership of a company comes up with some fancy words and then expect that somehow magically their coworkers will adopt these values and use them as a guideline for their behavior, while top managers hide in the shadow. This is a very efficient way to quickly lose coworkers buy-in into the company values.

Somehow leaders seem to forget too easily that they are under constant observation by their coworkers. If their coworkers do not see that their managers fully embrace the companies values, role-model them continuously, talk about them frequently and convincingly, everybody will forget about the values and follow the cues that the leaders’ actual behavior shows them.

As always also in value management actions speak louder than words. You cannot expect that your coworkers will embrace the value of reliability if you are e.g. notoriously late for meetings.

Furthermore, leaders need to step in if their coworkers disregard company values.  If one of your company values is “Appreciation” and you have a manager who constantly mistreats his coworkers you have to take action, even if this abusive manager happens to be economically successful or a friend of your boss. But holding others accountable for company values and role-modeling them should not only be done by managers but by everyone in the organization.

Summary

In conclusion, even though value statements at the first glance seem to belong in the soft, fluffy and everybody-knows-how-do-it category of management tools, they require in fact rigorous thinking, honest soul-searching, and consistent implementation and communication.

Everybody can come up with a list of nice sounding company values. But if a value statement is not specific to the companies culture, business model and strategy the value statement will not create positive effects like orientation and motivation for employees.

If value statements are not authentic, they will not be credible and create more harm than good. At best, they will be quickly forgotten.

If company values are not emotionally appealing they will not win peoples’ hearts – which actually is the core aim of a value statement.

If company values are not constantly communicated and linked to behavior, nobody will take them seriously.

If managers are not shining examples of living and enforcing the company values, nobody else will do so.

So, yes, you should absolutely have company values and if done correctly your company will profit enormously from such a process, but you have to know that you will open a Pandora’s box if you do not do it with care, conviction, and authenticity.

Related links:

https://culture-officer.fr/5332

https://www.userlike.com/de/blog/unternehmenswerte

https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/the-ritz-carlton-ladies-and-gentlemen-serving-ladies-and-gentlemen/

https://enorm-magazin.de/ein-banker-geht-aufs-ganze

https://www.ecogood.org/de/gemeinwohl-bilanz/unternehmen/portrats-sparda-bank-muenchen-eg/

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

Learning Design for Millennials Measuring learning: are final exams relics of the past?

One of my father’s recurring nightmares is sitting a geometry exam. He has told me about it several times. I also have similar nightmares, very recently I dreamed the final exams period had started and I was not ready. Even when I woke up later, I could still feel the tension in my body! The gap between my father, myself and my students spans across four generations. I believe there are certain aspects of the educational system that have been taken as given for long, we neither question them nor try to change them. Final exams are one of them. “The thought of a final exam still gives me and my father nightmares, and I have not seen many students who are fond of the idea, neither have I seen a teacher who is keen on correcting exam papers, so how come they are still around?” I thought to myself a few years ago. I had always been reflecting on the effectiveness of final exams as a means of evaluation and finally decided not to give final exams anymore in the courses I teach. “But, how do you manage to measure learning and grade the students?” you may wonder.

I will give you a very recent example. This fall, I taught a course on Systems Thinking at Business School Lausanne, where the students did not have to take a final exam. Instead, they collectively created a blog that summarized and synthesized the most important lessons they had learned from taking the course. You can find their blog here https://bit.ly/2K0KRen.

BSL students

40% of the students’ grade came from the work they did on the blog and every single one of them received the maximum grade here. I will now outline here why I was convinced they all deserved it.

They spent much more time on creating the blog than they would have spent on preparing for the final exam. I asked them to create an activity log that captured what everyone did and how much time they spent doing it. As this was a publicly shared document and everyone including myself had access to it, there was no chance of free riding. The moment someone claimed they have completed a task, but was, in fact, incomplete or was done by someone else, others would have reacted to it. Towards the end of their work, we collectively decided it would not be necessary to keep track of activities as everyone thought the contributions were equal.

A friend of mine who was part of a rowing team, once told me that a competition was approaching and her team had to prepare for it. The team met at 5 a.m. every other day for six months. “There was no way to stay in bed and ignore the alarm. My other seven team members would be there waiting for me,” she said. Perhaps, this was something every member of the team was thinking and it was difficult for all of them to get up regularly at that early hour for such a long time, but the team spirit made them get up on those mornings and put in that effort. She later said that they won the championship that year and she regarded this as one of her best experiences. A similar situation happened in the case of my young bloggers. Almost all my 17 students met outside class hours, sometimes on days, they did not have any courses at Business School. They did not want to disappoint their friends. They all managed to put in the effort. At the end of the day, some ended up doing more than others, but those who did less did much more than they would have otherwise done, had they been faced with a final exam.

Teaching is the best way to learn. I made it clear that the blog should be written for those who were completely new to systems thinking, with no technical background. Achieving this meant that learning the course content became a secondary challenge. As a guitar player, once I heard a valuable advice that if I am not able to play a part, I should try playing something that is a bit more complicated, even if I keep on failing at it. After a while when I go back to the original challenge, much to my surprise, it is not a challenge anymore. The same thing happened with my students. There are so many ways that the way they presented the content in their blog can be improved, but here the blog was not an end, it was a means, a transitional object, and a vehicle for learning the course materials.

In their journey to create the blog, they developed various soft skills, such as working in teams, writing, creating short tutorials, project management, etc. Based on my experience, I have realized that the best way of designing for learning soft skills is as a by-product and in an emergent way. Such skills are not best transferred in a direct and intentional fashion. They should emerge as a result of carrying out other tasks. In addition, my course was the first occasion for many of these students to meet. The blog they created provided an opportunity for them to get to know one another and made them closer as classmates. Their collective effort resulted in the creation of cohesion among them as a class. It made the whole class a very well-functioning, self-organizing team.

In retrospect, there was no better way I could have directed them towards learning and internalizing systems thinking concepts than having them create the blog. There were a few technicalities involved in how this happened.
– I gave them the choice between creating the blog and doing the final exam. I could clearly see that anything that exempts them from doing the final exam would be a joy for them. In other words, in their view, nothing can be worse than a final exam and avoiding final exam served as a good incentive for them to create the blog.
– I told them that we can skip the final exam only if they do a great job with the blog. I even told them that their work will be evaluated by how many readers they can attract to the blog.
– I followed their progress on a continuous basis, tracked the changes they made and met with them outside course hours to give them feedback to improve their work. I wanted them to feel that what they are doing is important to me.
– Another acceptance condition I put forth was that everyone should know all the contents of the blogs since it would not make sense if an author is not aware of the contents of what he/she has created.

My final question for all learners and learning designers: are final exams relics of the past? What other components of the current educational system can be replaced, modified or improved?

Stay tuned for the next blogs in this series and Keep on Learning!

Learning Design for Millennials is a blog series capturing Arash’s experience as a learner and an educator.

Profile Pic_ArashAuthor: Dr. Arash Golnam, BSL Professor

 

Four Reasons why Corporate Value Statements don’t work

« Excellence », « integrity » and « communication » These seem to be the most popular buzzwords in corporate value statements.

I roll my eyes as soon as I see these values anywhere. Why? I will give you four reasons why they make me nervous:

1. One size does not fit all

First of all, values like excellence, integrity, and communication are way too generic. They could be adopted by any organization. Who would be against excellence, integrity, and communication? But are they really specific for the company and its culture or business model? Probably not! Excellence can mean many things to different people. It certainly makes a difference what we mean by excellence whether you are working in a bank or a hospital.
Integrity? It means that you always stick to your moral principles no matter what the benefit might be if you break the rules. This value, too, needs a lot of definition and soul searching before a group of people like a company can agree what it really means to them: When is a gift a bribe? How do we deal with confidential information?  Can I be friends with a supplier? Etc.

Pic Blog Corporate Values prt1 Yes, way too often value statement are empty word bubbles! Please avoid that. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash 

 

2. The true colors are always shining through

Second, often companies succumb to the temptation to choose values that sound appealing but are too far away from their corporate reality and somehow hoping that the simple act of proclaiming that value it will become a reality in the organization. For example, when companies put “communication” in their value chart they wish to express with this value, which is not even a value but an activity, that they want everyone in the organization to cooperate effectively and openly with as little political power play as possible. Wishful thinking in many cases!  Of course, the people in the company know this and react with cynicism.

You cannot declare that your company cherishes collaboration, open communication, and teamwork when in reality your corporate culture is driven by fierce internal competition, politics and monetary incentives only. What we need is an inside-out approach. You have to do your internal cultural homework before you go into the world and brag about what a wonderful company you think you are.

Values statement will never work, if they are only the icing on the cake, they have to be the very foundation of a corporate culture. Within the icing-on-the-cake approach, the top management comes together and agrees on some fancy sounding words that are then communicated to the lower ranks. This does not work. It is like putting on makeup without washing your face. Or like learning some moves and gestures to appear more self-assured without doing the hard internal work of personal development.

France Telecom had to learn this the hard way in 2008, when they got hit by a series of over 30 employee suicides: victims stabbed themselves in the middle of company meetings, jumped out of the window at work and left goodbye letters that clearly stated that they killed themselves because of the pressures and fears at work. At that time France Telecom was in a difficult transition from a state-owned company to a player in the highly competitive and dynamic international telcom market and could not fire employees with a public servant status. Therefore, CEO Didier Lombard had introduced a merciless shake-out project that aimed at demoralizing employees in order to make them leave the company “voluntarily”.  As a reaction to the suicide series, Lombard said that this “fashion” of suicide should stop and that the media coverage created an effect of contagion. The waves of public outrage went high, Lombard had to leave and is still today on trial for harassment. Of course, at the same time, France Telecom had a value statement that said that the well-being of their employees was very important to them.

It is clear that after a disaster like that it will be very, very hard to ever make coworkers believe in the beautiful words of a value statement again. This is one point that is often ignored when companies initiate a value management project: If you screw it up, credibility is lost for a very long time, if not forever. At the same time, it is true that values can and should be aspirational. You can use values as part of a change program. But if you do that you have to make clear that you know that you are not quite there yet and prove that you have measures like training, organizational redesign or new performance standards in place to get there.

3. No Emotional appeal

Third, if values are too generic and unrealistic they do not create any genuine emotional response or connection for the men and women in a company who know the true colors of their organization all too well.  Of course, client orientation is important, but this is not a value that would deeply resonate with the hearts of employees. This is nothing that makes people get out of bed in the morning and go to work with joy and anticipation.

How can you make corporate values emotionally appealing? Not easy, but it helps to always start with a motivating overall purpose of the company that goes beyond the profit motive. Humans always yearn for meaning in their life. As philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Fraenkel famously put it: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

This human desire for meaning is nicely illustrated by Harish Manwani’s (COO of Unilever) TED talk in which he tells the story of his first day at the company where his boss asked him why he was there. Manwani answered: “To sell lots of soap!” and his boss said: “No, to change peoples lives!”, because the original purpose of Unilever was to improve hygiene in order to help prevent contagious diseases. Clearly changing peoples lives is more emotionally appealing than selling lots of soap, right?

4. No link to everyday behavior

Forth, very often values statements are not linked to behavior. They get developed, glossy brochures rolled out, employees (maybe) read them, laugh bitterly because they are so unrealistic and cheesy and then they forget them because nothing happens that would link these values with the behavior of managers and employees. The mere proclamation of value buzz words will never, never, never influence people’s behavior. How people in an organization actually behave is the ultimate proof to the value pudding. Without this link to behavior, a value statement loses all credibility and disappoints all expectations that unavoidably come up when a company opens the value Pandora’s box.

And by the way, these three values, excellence, integrity, and communication were the corporate values of Enron. And we all know how this ended: In jail, bankruptcy, and shattered hopes. Somehow Enron had managed to win prizes for their value statement, but it definitely did not keep their top management from cooking the books and inciting their employees to cut-throat business behavior with the help of an inhumane incentive system.

In a nutshell, ever so often value statements do not go beyond orgies of humanistic prose in shiny brochures that nobody can take seriously. In extreme cases, they are a more or less random collection of buzzwords sound like this hilarious song by Weird Al: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

On the other side, of course, values are important for companies in our highly volatile, complex and ambiguous times. Old-school management that works with order and command is too rigid for this new fast-moving world. The younger generation of corporate coworkers is looking for more freedom, more fun, more autonomy and more purpose in their jobs. Here a corporate culture that is driven by values and a purpose that goes beyond simple profit maximization creates a positive appeal for future coworkers, higher levels of motivation with current coworkers and a more inspiring and more flexible way of decision making. Ideally, instead of applying rigid rulebooks, controls and processes, coworkers decide on the basis of common values.

So how can you come up with a value statement that will actually have these positive effects instead of creating cynicism and ridicule?

Stay tuned for my next blog post and on the five steps to make the value statements work.

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

How business – and the world – benefit from intrapreneurship

intrapreneurship

Image credit: Emily reider on unsplash

I recently co-designed and co-facilitated an MBA elective on the subject of ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) and Sustainable Investing at Business School Lausanne.

Teaching an elective to MBA students at BSL was a great opportunity. And to be honest, initially I was not at ease, as it was completely out of my comfort zone. But I ended up doing it – and I totally loved it!

The point is that this experience made me realize (again!) that as an entrepreneur (and freelance-on-a-mission as I like to define myself at the moment), stepping out of your comfort zone and nurture your positive mindset are essential if you want to change the world for good.

This is also true within companies: if you want to change the status quo, stepping up, daring to be visible and stepping out of your comfort zone are skills to be developed.

Why is intrapreneurship key for companies – and the world?

According to the Intrapreneurship Institute, there are 3 enduring benefits of intrapreneurship within organizations: new products and services, growing employee satisfaction and market share increase.

Letting employees experiment and “train” their intrapreneurial mindsets and skills, letting them “fail often and fast” (as we say in the start-up world) are key for agility, adapting to increasing VUCA environments and thus, long term business success.

During the MBA elective, we pushed students out of their comfort zones, “sparking” their entre- and intrapreneurial mindset through a hackathon: learning and applying new tools and frameworks in a short period of time and pitching a project “for good” with positive social or environmental impact to (fictional) potential investors or board of directors.

A call to action for business

Let your employees “train” their intrapreneurial mindset and skillset for a positive impact initiative they care about! It will not only motivate them to follow through if it’s a cause they truly care about, it will also enable them to train these skills so that they can use them in their daily jobs. A win-win for people, planet and profit!

marena eirichAuthor: Marena Eirich is a CSR consultant and creator of teams4purpose, a program that helps organizations activate positive impact from within. She is a graduate of the Diploma in Sustainable Business from BSL and HSG.

From Knowing to Doing – Developing Feedback Fluency of Future Leaders

In this semester’s Leadership and Management skills course I was looking for ways that would enable students to dig in deeper and stretch their learning. Each four hour session is designed to be experiential and learning is facilitated by using a combination of virtual simulations, reflection, applying the flipped classroom method, role play, assessments, working out loud and practicing participatory leadership tools.

A key skill set that I have noticed is often lacking in the management domain is the ability to give feedback in a timely and constructive manner.

Working with a class of 24 students from 12 countries you can imagine the differences in perspectives related to this skill. For example:

  • From my point of view, a feedback is connected with negative emotions and taking criticism personally, not on the work that one does.
  • I grew up in a culture where giving feedback is not the norm. Or if someone is giving you “Feedback”, it it’s usually to make you feel bad or prove they’re better than you are.
  • In my experience giving and receiving feedback were not positive experiences for me, for this reason I was scared to be involved in this process.
  • Sometimes when we give feedback towards our team members it may affect them from a personal perspective, it’s a very sensitive topic.

To create something that would truly create powerful impact with the students, I reached out to Sarah Schwab the CEO of The Experience Accelerator to ask if we could create a project together that would help the students build their feedback skills into a competence.  Sarah was open to the idea and we created a five-part learning journey for the students.

  1. It began with students logging into The Experience Accelerator to visualize a feedback virtual scenario
  2. Students were debriefed on the scenario and required to practice giving feedback and recording their interaction.
  3. Before class students received written feedback on their practice focusing on the areas they had performed well in as well as suggestions on how they could improve.
  4. At this point the learning went live and students had the opportunity in class to practice by giving, receiving and observing feedback in different scenarios that had been prepared for them. Watch the video
  5. And finally, students were given the opportunity to write a reflection about what they learned over the course of the assignment

In their reflection papers students expressed their surprise at the power of the exercise:

“I have learned that feedback is not about telling what the person did right or wrong, but about explaining how he or she made the other person feel.” KB

“I realized again how challenging it is when performing the online scenario where it somehow appeared easy when watching the video, but was a totally different story when I had to do my own recordings.” ME

“I would like to say that such an experience was truly helpful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge in terms of feedback, particularly if I want to give an effective feedback, I should always practice and be aware of some key points in order to avoid making mistakes from the very beginning.” SK

Their ability to put into practice a four step feedback model*  both virtually and in class during live role play has categorically changed the beliefs’ students had about feedback. Furthermore they now have a toolkit and clear understanding of how to deliver effective constructive feedback.

*Clarify the context, explain using as much detail as possible what happened, explain the impact their action had on the situation and discuss possible steps on how to move forward.

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor