Building Sustainable Legacies


It may be shocking but Charisma matters…

In a most relevant and highly enjoyable TEDx Lausanne presentation, University of Lausanne’s John Antonakis presents latest research on how people get elected and how important charisma is to succeed. He doesn’t just let us hang there, he demonstrates a few easy tricks of how to build charisma yourself so that you can do measurably better, irrespective of the fact with how good looks you were born!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDvD1IICfE&sns=em

John Antonakis

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There is hope – alternatives to cloning Paul Polman!

I am not the only one to have suggested that if we want to save the (corporate) world, we have no choice but to clone Paul Polman. As a matter of fact, this is one of the comments Kate Robertson (Co-founder of One Young World), who received a Dr. Honoris Causa from BSL along with Paul, made to Paul and me on Saturday. The idea of cloning Paul Polman has two elements:

  • First, it is a great compliment to Paul who has in the past 4 years risen to be recognized as the most admired “poster boy” of corporate sustainability – a direct result of his relentless drive in not only transforming Unilever but also be co-initiating a long list of coalitions both in front and behind the scenes in a great many domains that were traditionally considered beyond reach for a CEO.
  • And second, it expresses a certain frustration if not desperation of many observers that there are not many in these influential positions who define their responsibility in such a way that what they do truly serve society and the planet while – of course – ensuring the continued success of the organization they are leading.

BSL Swiss Sustainability Hub Forum

Reflecting back on our big BSL day last Saturday, 20th September, I cannot but help realize that our two big events converged into something bigger. Paul Polman was a part of both events in a significant way – maybe this was part of the magic (more here):

  • The Swiss Sustainability Hub: the kick-off session to set up a Coalition to bring Switzerland to assume a leading role in the sustainability movement (short for: all people living well and within the limits of the planet)
  • The annual BSL Graduation with more than 500 participants from more than 40 countries

Mark Drewell, outgoing CEO of GRLI and one of our BSL Academic Advisory Board members, shared his impression of the event as follows: “the change of energy from previous years was palpable. You have now accomplished the shift at BSL – the community is really there and there is a powerful sense that there is not only willingness and desire to contribute to this new world we need, but also competencies, determination and real action.

And indeed, as I observed our graduates receive their diplomas, proudly spending a moment with their classmates and continuing the bond they started to build during their studies, I sense more determination, clarity, courage and passion to find a way to contribute to this world than I have ever picked up before (and it is not that we have lacked high-spirited students in previous years!). Bruno Oberli, the Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) commented on it during the Swiss Sustainability Hub panel discussion. We had our audience vote on who should drive the launch of the Swiss Sustainability Hub, government or business, and just about everybody broke the voting rule by holding up both options. Bruno laughed and said: “If you are able to shift beyond either/or to a new paradigm of both/and that easily, then we really don’t have anything to worry about as you understand the key element of what we need in future: a pragmatically new way of considering our options!”

A big part of this sense was also how smoothly and collaboratively our BSL team worked for, during and after this big event. Despite perfect preparations, events like this always require many miracles behind the scene dealing with changes, emergencies, adapting what was planned to the emergent reality. There is nobody I would like to rather work with than the BSL team consisting of Aurea, David, Denitsa, Katarzyna, Mary, Massimo, Olivier, Teresa and Yasmina. If everybody assumes their place and space with the same sense of service, dedication, passion for the common good and spirit of collaboration as our team, then maybe there are alternatives to cloning Paul Polman.

If the BSL team and our graduates have this sense of purpose, then we know that it is possible to create environments that stimulate such alignment of purpose, competency and cooperation. We all know that there are many many teams and individuals who are truly connected to an inner sense of purpose in many places around the world. And maybe rather than waiting for cloning technology to get up to speed, we  simply need to trust in the human capacity and in the emerging leadership that is happening across so many organizations at so many levels. What we can do in the meantime is getting better in building the right environments and capacities to speed this up. Educational institutions are an obvious starting place AND any other organization that has people showing up for work. This reminds me of what Mischa Liatowitsch, who graduated on Saturday from our MBA program, said during his studies (see short 1 minute video here).


The 2013 Aspen Institute global case study competition is launched

Three BSL MBA teams are participating in this year’s global case study competition in Business and Society. Two of the teams have an intense 3-day MBA module to complete in parallel and have prepared for two night-shifts at BSL – we are in thoughts with them! Out of the total 25 participating schools, only 4 European schools are present. May the game begin! Good luck everybody!

Follow the competition live on Twitter: @AspenCaseComp

More on the competition: www.aspencasecompetition.com.


The Common Good Economy (CGE) – an option to replace capitalism and socialism

CGE Founder Christian Felber will speak at BSL on March 12th during a Collaboratory event open to all public as of 5.30pm. We will consider and debate a new economic vision and the concrete entreprise tool of the Common Goods Matrix (CGM) developed by a group of visionary Austrian entrepreneurs in 2010. Meanwhile, more than 800 companies in more than 10 countries have adopted the CGM as a way to measure their impact on society, including BSL as the first business school to complete such an analysis in the world.

So what? The collaboratory method provides a way for all event participants to take part of the debate of how to introduce the CGE and CGM in the region of Lausanne and get stakeholders to make the quantum leap to a way of operating a business and an economy that serve people and planet.

Are you curious and want to know some more? If you speak German, check out: www.gemeinwohl-oekonomie.org (the CGE/CGM site), if not, here a couple of youtube links that paint the picture very nicely:

Interested in our event? Sign up at leman@politique-integrale.ch – our co-host for this stakeholder-outreach event.

A flyer of the event is available at the following link (in French only).


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Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2012

On behalf of the BSL Team,

We wish you and your family a joyous Holiday Season

and a Prosperous and Successful 2012!


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The challenge for business educators

As business educators we must challenge the underlying assumptions of economic and business development, like the need for economic growth, unlimited consumerism, shareholder value. It is up to us to ensure that we create leaders who will focus on creating value for the world rather than only for a few shareholders. Leaders who act as servants for the common good operate a conscious business, they are engaged with society and the planet and they are asking for their real needs concerning economic innovation.

This is the contract we as management educators have with the world and with society. No more silos, no more tenure, no more clear-cut divisions between institutions, nor between business and other active players in the world (formally known as NGOs) , nor more citation indices to evaluate scholars.  This is what we must measure ourselves by and this is what we should strive to achieve. And we shouldn’t leave a stone unturned in order to get there, even if it means undoing some brick and mortar and doing away with some ivory towers.

Business executives – more than any other profession – have developed the capacity to deal with complexity and to adapt their strategy to an evolving environment. Businesses have evolved beyond national boundaries into global enterprises, uniquely able to address and act on global issues. As such, they do have an important contribution to make as co-trustees and co-actors, working with all stakeholders towards a larger vision for the world (“Living well and within the limits of the planet’s natural resources”, WBCSD).


A call for a radically new vision for business education

When considering the short-comings of existing business schools, it becomes clear that nothing less than a fundamental, possibly radical, new vision for business education is required. Leading business schools congratulate each other on their important incremental steps forward. The trouble is that they don’t even know how far off the mark they really are! All of us, from Harvard all the way to the uncountable business schools in the Philippines. There isn’t a single business school that has gotten it right, and most of us are not even aiming in the right direction!

We need an ideal, maybe illusionary, model of business education to enable business education to find its North again. This ideal may not be achievable or even realizable, but it shall serve as a flagpole on the horizon guiding institutions with a desire to educate leaders that are equipped with skills and competences to embrace the emerging global environmental, societal and business challenges of the future.