Reflecting on 2018: complexity, messiness, progress

December is an excellent time to reflect on the year, and 2018 requires more reflection than most. Wherever one looks, 2018 was messy, from politics (consider, for very different reasons, Brexit endgame, “gilets jaunes”, or Korean denuclearization) to how we deal with major issues: picture 30’000 COP24 delegates in Katowice, surrounded by coal mines and coal dust, struggling to put in practice the good intentions of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

2018 was a year of extraordinary progress of knowledgeTo illustrate:

In February, Steven Pinker set the tone with his well-researched book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”, demonstrating the spectacular improvement of human wellbeing on 15 dimensions, including health, safety, and happiness, using data to dispel common myths.

This was followed by one of the most important scientific publications ever, the IPCC 1.5°C report. For the first time, we know exactly what to do to limit warming to avoid the worst consequences (simplified: reduce CO2 emissions by 58% by 2030, replant forests).

 

Report October 2018

Source: IPCC 1.5°C Report, October 2018

Scientists from the University of Leeds scaled these limits to a per capita level in their paper “A good life for all within planetary boundaries” (Phosphorus 890 g, Nitrogen 8.9 kg, material footprint 7.2 t). They introduced a new indicator eHANPP (embodied human appropriation of net primary production), representing biomass harvested or killed for human use, with a suggested limit of 2.62 t per person per year.

Why don’t we act as needed? Knowing exactly what to do is only a first step, but it’s not very useful if we don’t act. So, we need to ask, why are most of what we do “business as usual”? Why do we keep collectively creating outcomes most of us don’t want, like environmental destruction, broken communities, lack of trust, financial crises, millions of refugees, malnutrition, or obesity? This includes individual, company and government action, often pulling in the same (wrong) direction.

Part of the answer lies in the way our socio-economic system has evolved, with its stocks, flows, buffers, positive and negative feedback loops, rules, parameters etc. A simplified example: debt payments require growth, which requires cheap energy, meaning burning fossil fuels, leading to pollution and many other problems.

A bigger part, however, is probably linked to the way we think about the economy: as an independent system, following its own mechanistic rules (remember supply and demand curves from Econ101), separate from the environment and partly detached from society. At its core is money, as a benchmark, behavior driver, store of value, in addition to being a means of exchange.

Without this cultural baggage, an independent observer would see a still beautiful planet with a threatened biosphere; closed material flows but open energy flows powered by the sun; a dominant, individually smart but collectively stupid species obsessed with power and money; a highly complex human society and civilization as a subset of the biosphere; an economy as a subset of society and sub-subset of the biosphere, completely dependent on ecosystem services it is busy undermining.

Outlook: Looking back as far as our data will allow, with Steven Pinker’s help, suggests hope. The progress of knowledge in 2018 reinforces this hope, in spite of the rising complexity of today’s issues. The next blog will examine how we as educators can contribute.

Sascha_NICKAuthor: Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

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

Life Journeys – Matteo Stifanelli: the “Impact Sabbatical”

Matteo Stifanelli graduated with an MBA at Business School Lausanne in July 2017 while working at Airbnb. He has been the Country Manager of the Italian business for the past 5 years and worked at the company since its very early stages.

Almost a year after his graduation, his bags are packed and he is ready to embark on an intercontinental learning journey he calls the “Impact Sabbatical”. He’ll be in Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town for a purpose-driven trip, with the goal of finding his own mission and purpose in life.

Rules of the game? No expectations and one main question to answer: “How do I apply what I learned at Airbnb and BSL to a problem I care about and make a positive impact on the world?”

We had the pleasure to have him here at BSL, where he told us all about his journey.

D: Ciao Matteo, it is a pleasure to have you! Exciting times ahead of you. How do you feel?

M: Definitely excited. I finished with Airbnb just few days ago. I’ve emptied my apartment in Milan, and sold, gifted and donated everything I have, except a suitcase and a backpack. Everything is moving so quickly, I don’t even realize my trip has started already!

D: Let’s start from the beginning: who is Matteo Stifanelli?

M: I’m a 32 years old lucky Italian guy who loves entrepreneurship, technology and making an impact on the world around me. If I rewind the film of my life, I can clearly spot my initial interests in human interaction and storytelling. This led me into literature, as I wanted to know how people think and communicate. I then went to film school to understand how I could use media to tell my stories and influence the world around me. I later realized entrepreneurship and technology were a better way to achieve that, so I learned to code and launched my own internet startup. And that’s how I eventually discovered Airbnb back in 2009, when it was just a very small startup that nerds knew about.

D: Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin, Cape Town. What is the elevator pitch?

M: After Airbnb being at the center of my life for almost 10 years, I’ve embarked on a journey to find my own mission and purpose. For one year I’ll travel the earth, meeting with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who are committed to making a difference. The goal is to understand which issues are most important to me and how I can best apply what I’ve learned at Airbnb and BSL to make an impact. I’ll start my journey in San Francisco, the cradle of technology, then move on to Seoul to discover Asia. Berlin, the capital of Europe, will be my next stop and I’ll finish my travels in Cape Town to find out more about the African continent.

D: That sounds quite exciting. Let’s break it down. Walk us through your destination choices. Lausanne is your first stop. Why?

M: Carrying out my MBA at BSL has been an important trigger in my life. I chose BSL (and Switzerland) because of its very international environment and its tailor-made approach to the needs of each student. For example, it was quite easy to move classes around when my work agenda went rogue. I was always able to accommodate both work and study commitments efficiently. Also, given its small size, the school enables the creation of strong relationships among staff and students, which to me is the most important thing.

BSL did a great job at giving me a solid business education and helped me put in place the foundation for what I was learning in practice at my Airbnb role. In addition, it developed my sensibility for sustainability and made it flourish. At the end of the MBA program, the only business decisions that make sense to me are the ones that are good for the balance sheet as well as the world around me. These two things can’t be separated or be in conflict, and it simply makes sense.

I now want to meet with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who share similar views and are already dedicating their lives and companies to making a positive impact on global issues. I want to explore different places and cultures to get different perspectives. I’ll be in a different city and continent every few months, starting in San Francisco and then moving on to Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town.

D: So after Lausanne, you’ll be in San Francisco for four months. Tell us more about that.

M: I am excited to spend some time in SF. It is a unique and very controversial place. When we think about the city, there are a few words coming to mind: ‘“tech’, “start-ups”, “venture capital”, “Silicon Valley”. On the other end, having been there many times through my past job, I’ve been exposed to the many widespread issues that are less popular but nonetheless important, such as homelessness, gentrification, and widespread drugs addiction. While being there, I want to better understand American society and get in touch with innovative companies that are focusing on global issues, and leveraging tech and venture capital to make a positive impact.

D: You will then be in south Korea… why?

M: Seoul, South Korea and Asia in general represent a brand new world for me and I believe there’s a future in which world leadership could potentially come from that region. I want to dedicate time to study the culture and values of the region, to try and understand what that future could look like. I also have a personal connection with Asia since my girlfriend is Korean. So I look forward to learning her language and culture.

D: After Asia, you are coming back to “your” continent…

M: Yes, I’ll be back to Europe and specifically in Berlin. I worked there for Airbnb at the beginning of my career and had a great time in the city. There’s so much history and culture given its troublesome past, and Berliners are my kind of people: open-minded, multicultural, efficient but with a twist of art and romance. It’s a place where I’d like to live. I also believe that after Brexit, Berlin has a chance to become the cultural, political and economical capital of Europe. The start-up scene there is also booming, which makes it a great EU base for entrepreneurs.

D: Last, but not least, you will visit Africa, being based in Cape Town.

Africa is the place I know the least, and definitely would like to learn the most about. If we talk about innovation and sustainability, I believe Africa is the region in need of the most attention and with the biggest potential. I have not figured out yet the final leg of my trip but I will be based in Cape Town, with the objective of exploring the continent and better understanding its issues.

D: What are you going to do in these cities? Which kind of people are you trying to meet with?

M: I will be looking for experts, entrepreneurs, investors and passionate people in general who are already studying world issues and trying to make a difference. In San Francisco for instance, there is a community of people dedicated to “impact investing” and “social impact entrepreneurship”. My goal is to meet with these people, interview them and collect their thoughts, while forming my own point of view.

D: Any fears?

M: For sure. I’m leaving everything behind: a safe job and all its comforts, an amazing company, my country as well as my routines. I’ll be travelling around the world and visiting many new places. There will be many opportunities to lose drive and motivation and it’s easy to go back to what I’m comfortable with when things get tough. But I want to stick to the plan, and allow myself some time to truly think about what I want to do with my life.

D: We certainly wish you success with that. Do you have anything to say to our students who will be reading this interview?

M: Stand by your values and passions, strive to make a positive impact in the world and never settle for anything less. If like me you speak English, have access to the internet and are getting an education, then you need to realize that we are privileged. The question is, what are we going to do with such privilege? The Impact Sabbatical is my personal attempt to answer that question. I invite you to think about it too.

I would also recommend a book: “Never eat alone”, by Kate Keith Ferrazzi. An eye opener about how important relationships are in our lives and career. It’s a principle that has greatly influenced me and helped me through my journey.

D: Thanks Matteo, it’s been a pleasure having you with us today and good luck with your journey on behalf of BSL. How can people follow you on social media during your trip?

M: Thanks Daniele, my pleasure as well. I’ll document my journey online and create a dialogue. Here are the channels I will use to do that:

Medium: I publish here all my reflections and stories from the “Impact Sabbatical”

YouTube: I will publish here my interviews, vlogs and other creative material

Instagram: Follow me here to know where I am in the world and what I’m doing

Facebook: I use facebook to interact with my audience and create an online community

LinkedIn: I share here my industry views and career development reflections

 

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

Innovation at BSL: Going solar with shacks – Improving living conditions in developing countries

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 4 BSL students: Abdullah Albawardi, Christopher Palermo, Eduard Mazhinov, Emma Chang, Eric Illick, Guan-Quan Tan, Stefany Solorzano, Tomy Ndakana, Victor Semenov

Living conditions all around the world have been consistently improving since the 20th century. However, many people in developing countries have not yet attained anything like the relatively luxurious standard of living of citizens in more developed countries. For this reason, our group dedicated its efforts towards a solution aimed at correcting and changing some aspects of the quality of life of people in developing countries, while tackling no less than FOUR Sustainable Development Goals (see illustration). Click HERE for our fun video showing our fantastic team moving through the prototyping steps during the Gap Frame innovation week. And if you are in the mood to discover more, read on:

Poor people in developing countries, whether in urban or rural settings often live in squalid conditions, in what are commonly termed “shacks”. A shack is a roughly built hut or cabin that is usually extremely flimsy, increasing the vulnerability of people, especially under severe climatic conditions, or earthquakes. Playfully adapting this term to our concept idea, we came up with the idea of the “Solar Shack”. We chose to focus our efforts specifically on prototyping cheap and sustainable housing for underprivileged, poverty-stricken people in areas where shacks are the most common form of housing.

To achieve this, we felt that whatever we designed needed to be self-sustaining (or self-maintaining, if you will). Thus, we focused on the provision of solar powered houses, with water filtering capabilities. Additionally, because of the limitations of available cash resources in the target countries concerned, the price and feasibility of the houses were a priority focus in our prototyping. We considered that having an individual house price of <$1,500 would be optimum, assuming that every unit can hold and sustain five people. Furthermore, such a low price could make the house proposition far more attractive to, for example, sponsoring or donor organizations.

We then expanded our idea to a concept of complexes of approximately six shacks, to form a solar compound within which a community could live. Each unit in the compound would have a chargeable battery of its own that would require minimum maintenance. Each house would also have a water collection and filtration system with a water tank. Furthermore, every compound would have a central battery and tank that will function as a backup charging and filtering system that all houses would draw from and contribute to when not in use.

We then brought the concept to yet another level with the idea of connecting compounds. We envisaged a solution whereby compounds are connected to a central battery and tank that all can draw from but also contribute to when not in need. The goal is to have layers of redundancies so that even if an entire compound ran out of water and/or electricity, the outer central tank would be able to support the “needy” compound in emergencies. Then, both the inner compounds and the larger grid would also have windmills generating electricity that would further contribute to actively charging the central batteries.

For our prototype context, we decided to choose a location that was a less obvious choice than most and where we could have significant impact. We thus narrowed our focus location to Madagascar, often a less “popular” choice for developers, and where poverty is extreme. Specifically, we focused on the smaller northern Malagasy town of Antsohihy rather than the capital. One of our own group members was from Madagascar and so we had some level of expertise and knowledge in the team who could report on the country’s complicated affairs.

The climate of Madagascar is quite humid and it rains very frequently. Since it is an island away from the mainland coast, it is frequently exposed to typhoons. As such, we have to design houses that can withstand torrential rain and very high wind speeds that can whip up debris that can possibly damage the houses. With these considerations in mind, we decided against using wood in the construction of the shacks because wood tends to become soggy and weak when continually exposed to strong winds and torrential rain. While possible to reduce the problem with more expensive and higher quality wood, our budgetary restrictions led us to reconsider our choices.

Assembling our materials in Antsohihy would be a logistical challenge but still doable. As Madagascar is an island, acquiring the materials and moving them to where we need them would be a potential challenge because of the geographic isolation of the location. As we decided to source the majority of our equipment from affordable sources from China, it would be extremely costly to have our materials flown in. Mahajanga is the closest port to Antsohihy (6.5 hours by road). As such, it would be the most appropriate location for us to offload our goods. From there, we could use trucks to transport the cargo over land. From there, our local contractors can supervise the transport and subsequent construction of the shacks.

When the group discussed the overall structure of the solar shack, we had a dilemma. We wanted to choose the appropriate material to hold our shack together and possibilities we discussed were to either have the walls made of bricks, or recycled plastic bottles along with concrete to support the structure. We have yet to really resolve this issue.

We went a long way to defining and even designing our prototype (click HERE for a first cut of the cool design). The week involved looking at multiple aspects of our prototype, not all of which can be detailed here. We just wanted to share our exciting idea with you in this blog. The questions are: How feasible is the concept? Can we really develop this into a viable start-up during the next Gap Frame Week from 14-18 May 2018? What transformations will we have to make to the product and business model in order to assure success? Let’s see how we do as we bring the project to the next level!

It’s International Women’s Day! And BSL has its finger on the pulse

Aileen Ionescu-Somers, André de la Fontaine and Jacques Billy

It is March 8 and it is also… International Women’s Day. And what a year it has been! With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements coming in quick succession to each other since International Women’s Day 2017, it seems that women’s rights and equality issues for women are riding a wave of global interest but also, hopefully, transformation and change.

Did you know that in the early 20th century, the trade union movement started marking this day, first using it in 1907 as a springboard to highlight the poor conditions of women workers in the clothing industry sweatshops of the time in the United States? In a case of “early globalization”, the day had been adopted far outside of the U.S by 1911. Today, March 8 day symbolizes the opportunity for women to share their equity struggles and celebrate breakthroughs on women’s rights worldwide. As we write, women’s marches are actively taking place across the globe, from Spain – where the mantra of the march is “If we stop, the world stops!” – to multiple other #PressforProgress March 8 initiatives – are an indication of an increasingly strong global push for gender parity.

Given BSL’s aspirational vision and purpose, BSL is keeping a finger on the pulse on developments that relate to the role of women in the workplace. In late 2017, Professors Aileen Ionescu-Somers and André de la Fontaine started work on a teaching case study related to the challenges of ensuring equal salary for women in companies. Did you know, for example, that women earn up to 18% on average less than men in Switzerland? Sensing this was a “hot topic”, Aileen and André asked themselves the question: How hard can it be to apply a fair wage policy between men and women? Surely that is both good for the company, but also for the well-being of the men and women that work there? It turns out that it’s not so black and white and there are plenty of obstacles, amongst which are lack of transparency and accountability, as well as fixed mindsets and attitudes.

So Aileen and André decided to carry out research and interviews with a view to providing a highly interactive solution-oriented case learning experience for our BSL students. The case study is currently being finalized and will soon be available for use in our classrooms. We need our students to know about and understand the ways and means of overcoming obstacles to equity between men and women, and certainly in cases where both are doing the same job. And since, “knowing what you didn’t know” is a first step to changing mindsets and achieving change, we look forward to deepening our students’ understanding of this topic. Watch this space for more news about our exciting case study!

But the real elephant in the room is the invisible “glass ceiling” preventing access to senior decision-making management and Board posts. Women are just not breaking through fast enough. Changes to the statistics are incremental at best. Our BSL Finance Professor Jacques Billy is Treasurer on the Board of Novertur International SA. NI launched a site www.business-monitor.ch in 2016 that published an insightful report this week on gender inequality in Switzerland. The report, published with the support of PwC, highlights sobering statistics on the status of women in Swiss based companies. Less than 24% of corporate decision—making posts are held by women. Less than 17% of Board posts are held by women. How can women break through this glass ceiling? Now that’s a good question for our students to get their heads around! Judging from global developments in these last months, women seem determined to get answers and close the gaps.

 

Saving Capitalism, For the Many, Not the Few

This title attracted my attention when I read it, and I purchased the book written by Robert B. Reich, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former member of the Clinton administration.

Reich starts by reminding us of the time in  his childhood when middle –class people from the US, like his own parents, had a very decent standard of living and were able to provide their children with a good education. He continues by evoking the everlasting debate in America between the supporters of the “free market”, supposed to solve all the problems in society, and the advocates of more governmental intrusions in the market. This debate according to him is not relevant, because the “free market” is a myth, a “screen of smoke” used by the people who take advantage of the current situation. The rules of the game are strongly determined by governmental regulations, and the real issue is about  knowing who has the power to establish, modify or suppress these regulations, and in whose interest this will be done.

He defines the five buildings blocks of capitalism as follows:

  • Property: what can be owned
  • Monopoly: what degree of market power is permissible
  • Contract: what can be bought and sold and on what terms
  • Bankruptcy: what happens when purchasers can’t pay .
  • Enforcement: how to make sure that no one cheats on any of the rules.

The book then gives a detailed account of how the big corporations and their CEOs, and Wall Street with the big banks and the hedge funds’ managers,  now have the lion’s share in the decision-making process of regulation. It also shows  how they influence legislative activity to increase their benefits through lobbying, the financing of political campaigns and “revolving doors” for retiring US officials.

To give just a few examples of the evolution which has taken place in the last decades, it is useful to mention:

  • The extension of copyrights for corporations like Disney to 95 years (duration of copyright was 14 years when it first appeared in US)
  • The extension of patents and the so-called-pay-for delay to postpone the introduction of generics in the pharmaceutical industry, which is perfectly legal in the US
  • The bail out of banks “too big to fail” sponsored by the tax-payers and
  • Stratospheric stock options packages for CEOs not taxed as income but as gain in capital.

A factor contributing to this evolution is the decline of countervailing powers, like trade unions.

This recent evolution results in an increasing number of working poor (47 million in the US) and of the non-working rich (the Walmart heirs possess the same fortune as the bottom 40 % of American citizens) and the huge disparities in income (the CEOs of big corporations earning in average 300 times the median salary in their company compared to 20 times a few decades ago). Another consequence of this trend is the lower confidence felt by citizens with regards to banks, corporations and government.

This situation, characterized by a huge level of inequality, is not sustainable and has a very negative impact on society.

That Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone

An insightful book “The Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone”, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett is based on statistical analysis: if one considers such issues as life expectancy, violence, rates of imprisonment, drug use, teenage births, etc., America fares worse than more egalitarian countries such as Japan or the Scandinavian countries.

So, it is high time, according to Reich, to restore countervailing power to shift to a more equitable situation in the US. As he says: “The bottom 90 % of Americans – regardless of whether they are owners of small businesses or working poor, entrepreneurs or student debtors, small investors or homeowners, white or black or Latino, men or women – have far more in common economically with each other, than they have with the top executives of large corporations, the Wall Street crowd, or America’s wealthy. The bottom 90 %are losing ground mostly because of upward pre-distributions embedded inside the “free market”, rules over which those at the top have great influence. If the smaller players understood this dynamic, presumably they would seek to gain greater influence by becoming allies. This alliance, or set of alliances, would form the new countervailing power.” (OC, page 185)

I can only encourage you to read these two great books as  they are both eye-openers.

Philippe Du Pasquier, President of the Board