Each year the UK-based Association of MBAs runs a competition for their global ambassadors. This year, through an article about the FunDza Literacy Trust, I won the competition. My prize was an all-expense paid opportunity to attend the 5th annual PRME Summit held in Bled, Slovenia.
The conference was about how to inspire, innovate, implement and create an impact towards sustainable leadership and management practices through the PRME principles. Those that attended were in key positions, either from the private sector or from business schools.
For two days my views as a current MBA student were challenged and my paradigm altered to try to understand what it is like to be in the dean’s shoes.
I love being an MBA student as I am constantly inspired by the lecturers and professors to learn, do well and make a difference. It is as if just by walking through the business school doors that I am instantly energised. I should have realised that if energy is neither created nor destroyed, then where was this coming from?
It was only when someone asked me the question, “Who do you think needs to inspire the faculty, so that there is energy to pass on?” had I given it much thought.
Sitting in the middle of a hall, I became fully aware that I was surrounded by deans and faculty who were attending this very conference for that inspiration.
Nancy Adler provoked our inspiration with a motivating speech about daring to care, daring to return the world back to its beauty. We as leaders, who follow the PRME management principles, need to evoke beauty, make necessity beautiful and prevent the world from languishing in ugliness.
With the constantly changing world that we live in, we as MBA students are taught how to implement change management, develop innovative ideas and find solutions to challenging problems. Most of the time, this is taught through reading material and analysing past case studies.
Dean Nick Binedell from GIBS asked the question, “Where are the hotspots of innovation?” as he believes that business schools can learn from them. The idea is to seek where these hotspots are – whether they are in geographical regions, technology development, cultural or demography – and to take the business school to these regions to learn experientially with an outside ‘business school’ in approach.
I am certain that most schools have incorporated a corporate social responsibility/ethics / business in society module within the MBA curriculum. However, what was raised at the PRME Summit is that this should not be a separate subject but rather integrated into all disciplines at a linear level. This sounds easy enough and most agreed with the concept, but the real challenge lies in how to get all faculty to firstly believe in the role of sustainability, then to understand it enough to make it relevant in their specialised fields and finally to get consistentcy in their message to align with other lecturers from other subjects.
‘The golden triangle’ (comprising civil society, private sector and government) was one of the key phrases throughout the two days. In a conversation with Frik Landman, chief executive of USB Executive Development, he said that Africa was the richest continent in terms of both resources and arable land but was deemed the poorest most likely as a result of the golden triangle each making decisions from their own perspectives. The role of business schools is to integrate the functionality between these three sectors. Business schools can no longer operate in isolation as that would lead to them being obsolete. By understanding and implementing sustainable development, we can have a shared goal of making our community, our country and therefore our world a better place (closing a full loop back to inspiration).
By the end of the PRME Summit, I felt I had a glimpse into the bigger picture of the role of business schools and the deans who lead them. But as a student I have to twist all these paradoxical questions into one question for fellow MBA students that my Alumni Manager, Edith Kennedy asked me: “What if students weren’t asking what can their business school do for them but what if they started asking what can they do for their business school?”