Lessons Learnt from the 2017 EFMD Deans Conference

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2017DDM banner right side OKOn 2 – 3 February, nearly 350 deans from 53 countries gathered at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana for the annual EFMD Conference for Deans & Directors General. During the intense two days, attendees discussed how to lead in a world of uncertainty. The conference was sponsored by EFMD’s strategic partner Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

During the series of plenary lectures, the delegates deliberated over the role of business education in the ever-changing world. Marianne Lewis, Dean of Cass Business School & the conference Chair, outlined the sources of paradox and uncertainty and the power of humble confidences as opposed to certainty in approaching complex problems.

In their passionate talks, Patrick Dixon, the chairman of Global Change Ltd and Guy Standing, Co-President of Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) who coined the term precariat, drew a rather worrisome picture of the global socio-economical changes. Recent political events proved that we live in the in the age of post-truth and as Dixon said: “The future is about emotion: this is what drew Trump to power and this is what caused Brexit.” In his lecture, Standing stressed that since the neo-liberal agenda moved to the rentier and platform capitalism, the precariat has emerged as the new dangerous class, a result of the “gig economy” and unequally distributed security, wages and quality space.

Johan Roos, Chief Academic Officer at Hult International Business School, led a discussion panel with chief learning officers from Mazars, Minerva & McKinsey to get some inspiring ideas that disrupt the traditional business models of business schools. They tackled the right balance between hard and soft skills, the shift towards the impact agenda, the need for more cooperation between business schools and corporate learning, and alternative educational models. “If you’re a challenger, it makes no sense to be conventional,” said Tyra Malzy, CLO of Mazars.

The deans then discussed the role of social responsibility in educational institutions. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport, delved into the market globalisation, political practices as well as digitalisation. Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the United Nations, and Geoffrey Lipman, the co-founder of Strong Universal Network, talked about the challenges and goals of sustainable development for business schools. Geoffrey Lipman said that the SDGs provide a massive opportunity for the academic world, but they need to be approached with a big reality check. “Above all Climate Resilience must be the overarching top focus, because it is existential. Existential means that if we don’t fix it future generations won’t survive,” Lipman said.

We also discussed the clash of Eastern and Western values, innovation in learning methods and spaces, the future of MBA, rankings, social mobility and gender balance, research beyond journals, and the impact agenda.

“Since we launched the EFMD Deans and Directors General Conference in 1973, this premium event for business schools’ deans has fueled insightful discussions, witnessed the initiation of long-standing relationships and the establishment of new partnerships between schools. It has seen the launch of many new projects and innovative services such as the EQUIS accreditation, whose 20th anniversary we were celebrating during this year’s conference. I am happy that in its over 40-year history, the conference has become the place to be for the heads of leading business schools worldwide,” commented Eric Cornuel, Director General & CEO of EFMD.

On 25 – 26 January 2018 deans will meet again at Technical University of Munich – TUM School of Management. Pencil the dates in your calendar.

A throw back at the live reactions from the conference is available on our Twitter moments feed.