The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

The power of teams and communities
The rate of change which occurs naturally with each new generation has increased exponentially with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Added to the experience of the pandemic that has pushed us to explore beyond our limits, we are now finding ourselves in the midst of a learning revolution. Griet Houbrechts and Anna Jirova ask: how do we best prepare our institutions to thrive in this fast-paced and barely predictable environment?

Teams and communities

There are some valuable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that can help us with the challenges ahead.

First, knowledgeable, skilled and proactive teams are vital for an agile institution. During the first months of the pandemic, it was often the individuals’ skills, creativity, resourcefulness and dedication, supported by empathetic leadership, that helped the institution through the quick transition. Therefore, we must ensure we continue encouraging these qualities in our teams. Supportive leadership and empathy are a crucial part of that support. Leading in such a way that individual members feel heard, valued and supported can make all the difference in building dedicated and motivated teams that are prepared to face the complex future. Equally important is to continue providing space and opportunities to follow the latest trends, broaden knowledge and encourage individual team members’ continuous skill-building and self-development. Because empowering the individuals leads to empowering the teams and, essentially, empowering the institutions.

The second lesson we have been reminded of is how helpful it is, in terms of professional and personal well-being, for people to connect, share and learn from each other and feel a sense of belonging to a community, especially in challenging times. The feeling of being welcome, understood and sharing with peers who understand the depth, implications and meaning of the challenges can be very powerful. Additionally, the impressive number of inspiring opportunities to share and learn from each other’s experiences at the beginning of the pandemic proved the importance of being able to tap into the knowledge of the network when quick adjustments become necessary.

EFMD Professional Development

Established in 2017, EFMD Professional Development has set as its mission the provision of such supportive networks for business schools to assist them in facing the present as well as future challenges. To achieve this mission, we are building a portfolio of training programmes designed for individual staff and faculty members with various responsibilities and challenges in mind. The participants are thus offered a safe space to acquire the necessary skills, broaden their knowledge and build a relevant and supportive group of peers to help them meet their day-to-day professional challenges.

The Professional Development portfolio has naturally grown over the years as programmes have gradually been added, offering increased opportunities for upskilling staff from more areas of the schools. In the current diverse portfolio, there are learning opportunities for deans, programme directors, learning designers, quality management, sustainability and accreditation officers, career and alumni relations professionals and more. The diversity and reach of the training programmes on offer have created an umbrella for professional staff and faculty from all over the globe to find their own community. Not to mention the chance to build self-confidence and develop a first professional network of trusted peers which is a great stepping-stone, leading to ever wider networking opportunities offered by EFMD.

In addition to the variety, we give high importance to creating a balance between training skills for today and skills and knowledge to prepare the institutions for tomorrow.

Following the developments in the industry, we have identified critical areas for the future of management education, described in detail below. These areas form the main axes along which we develop our activities.

The digital revolution

Digital technologies have advanced at light speed in the last two decades, transforming whole industries, and management education is no exception. Being digitally savvy is a must for a modern institution. It requires changes and adjustments in all spheres of business schools, from management to operations, communication and learning design. The workshop Rethinking Business Education supports business school leadership in strategically rethinking the various aspects of being a thriving institution in the digital era. It provides participants with tools and resources to think through the steps of developing and implementing the digital strategy of their own institutions.

Digital technologies also offer amazing opportunities in terms of content design and delivery. Today’s learners have spent most of their lives in front of various screens, engaging with the world through technology. Understanding the learning style of current students and building and delivering the content in “their language” increases the impact of any teaching. The Online Teaching Academy is a comprehensive programme for business school faculty and learning designers to dive deeper into (re-)designing an online or blended course, online engagement of learners and online delivery.

These activities naturally lead to becoming part of the Online Learning Community that includes all schools involved in EFMD’s EOCCS activities.

The evolution of leadership

The meaning of good leadership has naturally evolved along with the changing way of working, not necessarily leaving much time to reflect and adjust. The leaders need to rethink how best they can support their teams and to follow the rules while being flexible, confident, and decisive but also actively listening and being empathetic, exercising control while building trust and supporting independent thinking, respecting boundaries while keeping the (often remote) teams connected, and we could continue further.

For the top leaders at business schools, the Strategic Leadership Programme for Deans covers all aspects of leading an institution in a fast-paced, increasingly competitive environment, from the first appointment in such a leadership position until the transition out of a deanship. The programme builds heavily on the experienced (ex-)deans who provide their learning and expert advice, as well as on the challenges and experiences of fellow participants.

The Executive Academy, designed for up-and-coming business school leaders, builds on neuroscience to equip them with skills to understand themselves and to thrive as leaders. It focuses on how to lead and inspire diverse teams, to take the time to think ahead and to experiment and innovate in order to actively create the future. The residential week which combines academic content and networking activities, encourages the participants to build a strong network that extends beyond the time of the course.

The connections within the different cohorts of both leadership programmes have proven their value to participants, extending long after the programme’s end.

Life-long learning and teaching skills for life

The shortening lifespan of knowledge and skills is gradually shifting the focus to lifelong learning and experimenting with new formats, micro-credentials and short programmes. To successfully transition to a lifelong learning approach to education, we need to encourage early learners to shift from a mindset of failure to a growth mindset. We need to inspire people to be curious and crave knowledge instead of viewing a degree as their finish line.

There are several innovative pedagogies at our disposal that have the power to transform mindsets and boost student engagement. Gamification of learning is one of these approaches as it helps to translate distant theoretical concepts into practice and therefore helps students to connect better with their learning. It shifts focus to training skills such as problem-solving, critical, analytical and independent thinking, and communication. Since it allows students to take control of their own learning, it boosts motivation, increases curiosity, and encourages imagination and creativity.

The gamification of learning: designing an engaging classroom experience workshop supports faculty and learning designers on a step-by-step journey towards such a future. Throughout the course, participants work on individual projects and search for solutions to their challenges through gamification. Each edition invites the course alumni to connect and share the developments of their own projects, the lessons they’ve learned, and the opportunity to offer advice and encouragement to participants who are just starting their journey.

Adjusting learner assessments to reduce the fear of failure while creating safe and positive learning environments to think and respectfully disagree, helps to build a resilient mindset and healthier attitude in both personal and professional life. The focus on the learners, their needs, engagement and mental health, should be woven through all areas of the school. Therefore, the Student experience workshop inspires participants to develop a student-centred approach throughout the whole student journey.

The meaning of quality and the value of data

The demands of society and the different perspectives on issues such as sustainability or internationalisation have led to refining the picture of quality and gradually evolving the way it is being assessed. The Quality Assurance Academy (QAA) takes participants through all aspects of business school quality management and trains a variety of skills for them to organise and lead quality management at their schools. The holistic approach allows participants to apply leadership and communication concepts to their jobs, regardless of their authority or job description. The facilitators and mentors involved in the QAA offer participants a strong, valuable network for the future.

The business school’s approach towards sustainability is one aspect of how quality is perceived. The way business schools approach this issue plays an essential role in building a positive future for generations to come. The global framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals cannot be considered a universal recipe. Still, it is an effective tool to guide institutions to start making sense of the complexity and ambiguity of sustainability. The programme Mainstreaming the SDGs in business education was designed to support schools to work with this framework strategically and to offer insights into initiatives, resources and tools available around the globe to help schools progress. An essential part of the programme is peer mentoring – connecting current participants with the programme alumni who are facing similar challenges but are ahead in the learning journey and can offer valuable thoughts and support.

Lastly, in an increasingly competitive market and with the popularity of rankings, certifications and accreditations, it is crucial for business schools to know their own strengths, weaknesses and unique qualities to be able to communicate effectively with internal and external stakeholders. Collecting, understanding, managing, analysing and communicating data all underpin sound strategic decisions and provide business school leadership with a powerful tool for the school’s development. Smart Data Management is a workshop focusing specifically on all these aspects of data management at business schools.

To conclude, providing opportunities and space for professional development of business school staff and faculty, and supporting their connection to the broader community, contributes to the overall health of the institution and creates precisely those knowledgeable, skilled, proactive, and up-to-date professionals who will lead their business schools into the future.

A lot of diverse expertise is currently needed to address the many challenges business schools face today and will continue to face in the future. One thing we know is that not one single business school has all the answers, knowledge, and capacity to tackle the challenges of the 21st century alone. So, let’s continue to strengthen our teams and communities together.

EFMD’s full Professional Development portfolio can be viewed at:

the power of teams and communities

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