The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

Responding to the challenge


The Norwegian Armed Forces and BI Norwegian Business School established a three-year masters degree programme to combat national security challenges.

“The key challenges facing Euro-Atlantic security such as terrorism, hybrid warfare and organised crime are deeply interconnected and, with that, so are their solutions. No single agency, discipline or nation can face these threats alone. In order to effectively enhance our operational capabilities and address the emerging security challenges of our time, relevant stakeholders from different communities must be engaged in the decision-making process. By merging personnel from relevant agencies, BI and the [Norwegian] Armed Forces are taking important steps to bringing common solutions to our common challenges.”

Jason Wiseman, General Secretary Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA), Brussels

The Challenge – improve national security

On July 22nd 2011, Norway was hit by the worst terrorist attack in its history. The prime minister’s office and government headquarter in Oslo were reduced to rubble by a truck filled with explosives. The terrorist Anders Behring Breivik continued on his rampage, killing 69 people at the Labour Party’s summer camp, most of them teenagers. The nation was in shock and its people demanded answers. How could this happen?

The official inquiry, “the Gjørv Commission”, pointed at system failure in the national security apparatus, concluding that attitudes, culture and leadership within the security organisations and their ability to co-operate was largely to blame.

Security organisations are struggling with new challenges – Ukraine, Middle East, cyber/hacking, hybrid warfare, ISIS and jihadi terrorism – the context is global and the world of threats is changing more rapidly than ever.

The programme: An holistic approach with multiple-sector co-operation

“Security presents fundamental challenges [that] cannot be resolved by independent and sector-specific treatment but rather needs a more ambitious, co-ordinated and holistic approach.”

European Commission, HORIZON 2020, Security

The Norwegian Armed Forces in co-operation with BI Norwegian Business School established a three-year masters degree programme to take on the national security challenges. BI proposed establishing a joint competence and networking platform, inviting the military, the justice/police sector, the private sector and NGOs to work bottom-up solving security challenges together. The programme targets mid-level and top-level managers working within, or with responsibilities to, the security domain.

Business school faculty with competences in leadership, innovation, economics, public governance, culture and others are working closely with former heads of the armed forces, intelligence service and police in developing and delivering the programme. The participants are encouraged to bring challenges from their own organisations into the programme and develop new ways and solutions through cross-disciplinary collaborative projects.

Learning and development – into the unknown

The programme is designed through a co-creative, innovative and exploratory process. The objective is to develop capabilities at three levels (see Figure 1):

  • Exploitation – do things better and more efficiently – applying known solutions, tools and methodology to known problems
  • Innovation – developing new solutions and ways – staging co-creative problem-solving processes across disciplines, sectors and schools of thought
  • Exploration – new insights for the future – staging exploratory innovation processes and piloting

A key principle in the design and delivery of the programme was to make a close connection between it and current ongoing security challenges. This means that the programme needs to evolve continuously, concerning topics, examples and sites for delivery. As a start the following sites were chosen:

The Ukraine Crisis programme module

When Russia escalated its hybrid warfare operations in eastern Ukraine in March 2014, the government, the armed forces and media in Norway started asking what the consequences would be and how should we respond. The BI project team started developing a Ukraine thematic module held in 2015 and 2016 in co-operation with Central European University Budapest, OSCE, the EU delegation to Ukraine and the Norwegian Embassy in Kiev.

The three-day module for the programme focused on understanding the conflict, discussing new hybrid warfare, impacts on the EU and Norway and how the participants as leaders should work with these challenges in their own organisations.

The Paris-Brussels terrorism programme module

In spring of 2014, Europe faced an unprecedented stream of refugees. The humanitarian situation was dire, and Europe opened its borders to millions. ISIS and other terrorist organisations infiltrated the stream of refugees, and Europe faced a new threat from trained jihadists. In 2015-16 Europe faced a string of terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS – Brussels, Paris, Nice, Berlin. After the Paris Baticlan attack in November 2015, the BI project team started developing a Brussels and Paris module where the students could learn from policymakers and those who were responsible for police operations. Saad Amrani, deputy police commissioner of Brussels, held a lecture and engaged in dialogue on the lessons learned. The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA), with secretary-general Jason Weisman spoke about NATO’s new challenges, and the participants met with the Norwegian NATO delegation in Brussels and discussed NATO’s new focus on counter-terrorism.

The impact – improving national security

“The master programme has improved my competence and role as a leader. I can resonate and communicate with references to theoretical frameworks. The combination of projects and thesis has given [me] a deeper insight to areas that enables me to do a better job as a leader. The programme has challenged and changed me as a person, I would strongly recommend the programme to military, police and other people working with security.”

Kjetil Bertel Sletten Major, Section Commander planning

Establishing a collaborative competence and networking platform

A significant impact of the project has been the creation of a new competence and networking platform to enable parties to meet on neutral ground and address common challenges. By the end of 2016, there were about 100 mid-level managers participating in the programme, and the network of external people working within the security field that is formally or informally involved is also close to 100.

The combined output from participants’ projects and thesis work

The core of the programme is developed on impact-driven projects that can be executed and implemented during the course of the programme. Projects and thesis work is started early, and participants are encouraged to identify the “unknowns” in their organisations, choose projects of strategic value, work in cross-disciplinary teams, and develop concepts and solutions that can be implemented in their own organisation.

Key people from external organisations are encouraged to take roles as advisors to the projects, especially the main thesis. This increases the relevance and a higher degree of probability of implementation and piloting of findings, recommendations and conclusions. The participants deliver four smaller semester projects and one large one-year thesis project that ideally should run over the full three years. The direct impact on society can be measured as the combined results/ value from all the implemented projects.

An international programme encouraged by the Atlantic Treaty Association

ATA’s Wiseman says he has only seen this type of comprehensive and ambitious crossdisciplinary programmes in the US and UK and not those not involving business schools. To see this type of programme coming from a smaller country in Europe is new and very positive. The programme has been established on the international arena with encouragement and support from ATA. The programme is now promoted with support from ATA to participants from new NATO member states.

Responding to the challenge Responding to the challenge

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