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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energize your roles, but who energizes me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Carlo Giardinetti, Associate Dean, Business School Lausanne