Building Sustainable Legacies


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Planetary resilience. What is it and why does it matter?

When it comes to resilience, what good does it do a single business or industry to prevail if it does so at the expense of other sub-systems or even the bigger system itself? I’ve shared my views in Planetary Resilience on PwC’s Resilience site: http://pwc.to/12PscYV

What are your thoughts on that?

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Research that plays an active role in business and society

The Management school of the future is committed to ongoing research as an important contribution to keep the school vibrant, exciting and relevant. The 50+20 stakeholder survey[1] shows that business and management research need to transform into future-oriented search that is designed and conducted with and written for stakeholders.

Research is re-oriented to become an enabler for many long-term societal targets (such as the Millennium Development Goals which set eradication of poverty targets or the climate change 2050 targets).  The management school conducts research that is multi-disciplinary, serves all stakeholders concerned with the resolution of an issue, and is designed and conducted in collaboration with these stakeholders.

Research involves a broad stakeholder base beyond managers and entrepreneurs to include societal stakeholders such as politicians and NGOs.  The significant problems of our time can only be approached through applied research conducted by multi-disciplinary teams[2]. As an example, developing solutions to climate change requires the whole of community response, new technology, government action and significant behavioral change. The ability to focus on the social and environmental impact of proposed approaches requires researchers with backgrounds across science, social science and health science disciplines. This will be imperative to develop effective solutions to global challenges. Our researchers become active players in business and society, collaborating with relevant stakeholders in the process of formulating and disseminating research questions.


[1]            50+20 project: Stakeholder survey (Aug 2011)

[2]            Adams C, A (2010) ‘Sustainability research in need of a multi-disciplinary approach and a practice and policy focus?’ Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 1, 1.


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Trans-disciplinary learning

The common thread among all of these learning environments is the way a subject is approached and therefore what skills are being developed. The innovative thought lies in fundamentally transforming single discipline teaching into trans-disciplinary learning. Rather than teaching marketing, finance, strategy, human resources separately, students will be looking at finding solutions to existing and emerging environmental, societal and economic challenges. Such dilemmas include water scarcity, pandemics, hunger, migration, social support for the elders, climate change, ocean acidification, CO2 emission control, etc.

This approach is fundamentally different than adding a bit of ethics and sustainability into an existing curriculum. Such approaches merely bolt-on responsible and sustainable considerations to a single discipline foundation; what we need is a full transformation of the curriculum to build-in these notions, turning around education by 180 degrees. As a consequence, subject knowledge is acquired predominantly in the context of a real problem, enabling students to anchor it in real stories.

Trans-disciplinary learning is based on the idea that critical competences such as holistic and divergent thinking, systemic understanding, consideration of multiple perspectives and integral decision-making, are critical for future leaders and need to be trained and developed above and beyond transmitting subject expertise. More explicitly, we believe that teaching disciplinary expertise in isolation may well have been the cause for numerous problems the economic system is currently facing. Developing an understanding for unintended side-effects and consequences in the larger system of any given decision in a specific domain requires fluency with systemic thinking and ability to dismantling complexity.

Rising to the challenge of effectively addressing and resolving global and societal challenges requires an understanding of human and societal developmental stages (i.e. from what perspective do stakeholders look at a problem?) and an ease to navigate between the most diverse fields of expertise (hi-tech, sociology, gen-tech, philosophy, psychology, neuro-science, medicine, architecture, engineering, bio-tech, etc.). Leaders for a sustainable future have learned to work with experts of these fields and are able to build bridges and lead a group of subject experts towards sustainable solutions for the world.

An important element of trans-disciplinary learning is the inclusion of relevant stakeholders in the class discussion and practical field work on global issues. This approach assumes that problems can no longer be resolved by applying single-disciplinary perspective. Such a collaborative approach ensures one of the most critical leadership skills for a sustainable future: fluency and ease in considering and shifting between multiple perspectives.