Grenoble Ecole de Management brings to you its fifth Covid-19 issue with opinions from its experts on the evolutions they foresee in confinement and productivity, history repeating itself and higher education strategy.

Confinement: does our time have to be profitable?

The MEDEF (the leading network of entrepreneurs in France) is calling out to work twice as hard to counter the effects of confinement. At the same time, journalists and researchers are noticing the prevalence of discourses on continuity (‘business as usual’) and on activity (staying active, even, taking advantage of confinement, to become more productive, on both professional and personal levels, as it is about personal development on all levels). Nevertheless, could there be certain limits to this cult of productivity, paradoxically exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis? The ‘business as usual’ and productivity discourses seem out of sync with the reality of a health crisis that has forced work to merge family life (more than ever before), while immobilizing and cutting off employees from their usual professional collectives and groups. In addition, the difficulties encountered and the discomfort generated by this sudden introduction of work into our “living rooms”, raise larger questions on the meaning of work. What is the job we are asked to keep doing about and what may work be about in the aftermath of this crisis? As doubts creep in on the beliefs around productivity, what are our perspectives for the future? Will every moment, every human experience, have to be “profitable”, or marketable? Could this crisis also be a time for looking at other ways of being productive (i.e. social utility, care work sharing, etc.), or time for reclaiming our right to unproductivity? Could this time also be the opportunity to reevaluate the role(s) of the community(ies), including essential needs such as reassuring and supporting each other online, finding solidarity and resources…and bringing awareness to the need of working in real connection with others, and connected online?

Hélène Picard, Expert in Social and Managerial innovations at Grenoble Ecole de Management & Member of the Chair for Inclusive Sustainability and Economic Peace, Mindfulness and Well-being at work Chair 

Covid-19: if only the crisis was truly synonymous of change

Many thinkers are writing at an almost feverish pitch on the questions of how we might improve the world after the Covid-19 pandemic and related economic crisis. This is certainly laudable, even understandable as a way of coping with the shock of the crisis. However, if we look at the range of ideas being put forward from veganism for all through a heightened sense of environmental sustainability, a properly funded high quality duly supplied health system available to all to a more caring capitalism, it looks a little idealistic. Not all of this is going to happen.

Indeed if we allow ourselves some historical perspective we will find that while certain great crises like the Second World War did lead to fundamental and lasting changes in the international order and in the foundation of the European welfare states, others were followed by no such transformation, but rather a return to a pre-crisis “normal”. Virginie Monvoisin has already commented in this GEM Covid-19 series on how little has changed in the banking systems of the West since the Financial crisis of 2008. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 was followed in the West by the roaring 1920s, a return to a pre-1914 laissez-faire brand of volatile inegalitarian and crisis-prone capitalism at its wildest, bedecked with eerily familiar bling bling celebrity trappings.

Which path will be ours? Let us be realistic. Radical changes in our socio-economic system as a way of living are needed; today, we see it. However, when the fever of confinement and crisis have abated, it will take a real resolve and sustained political commitment from all to achieve them. Are we ready for that?

Patrick O’Sullivan, Expert in Business Ethics and Political Economy at Grenoble Ecole Management 

Higher Education: after the reaction to the crisis, the time for lasting responses

Few of us imagined the magnitude of what was to hit us with this crisis. Nor did we have the time to prepare our response. In fact, few of us actually responded – we reacted. There were imperatives around insuring the health and safety of our students and staff, continuing to deliver our programs, and moving our operations into the new configurations imposed by social distancing and confinement.

We are now several months into this crisis and are transitioning out of the reactive phase and into more sustainable response. We are also, dare I say, beginning to think about the much longer-term impacts on the way we go about our usual business as schools. I think many of us agree that business will never again be the “usual” we have known.

I encourage school leaders to turn to their institutional strategies and in particular, some of the central components they are built upon – mission, vision, and values. These elements define our identity, our core business and our understanding of our impact on and responsibility to the communities we serve. They also give us a view of where we are going and the common purpose we all share. This is an opportunity for leaders to use these precepts to guide choices about mindset and behavior, to guide decisions about priorities and actions.

In parallel, we have been given a “stress-test” to apply to our strategies. These statements and the objectives they engender were formulated in the best of times, based on assumptions that tomorrow would largely resemble today. And yet, we are suddenly confronted with a tomorrow that will be profoundly different. The complexity and uncertainty inherent to this current situation should push us to revisit certain preconceived notions we have all held about our role and actions as business schools, both with respect to our students and stakeholders and within the broader community of schools. While our current strategies can assist us in our short and medium-term response, it may be that they will need to evolve to better position us to survive, thrive, and serve.

Julie Perrin-Halot, Director of Strategic Planning at Grenoble Ecole de Management

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