Closing remarks from the 2020 EFMD Global Americas Conference

Decorative Blue Blog Banner with title of post Closing Remarks for 2020 EFMD Global Americas Annual Conference by Viviane Barreto. The banner also states the conference was held online in collaboration with Fundação Dom Cabral.

Closing remarks from the 2020 EFMD Global Americas Annual Conference that took place online 7-9 December by Viviane Barreto, Associate Dean for Global Strategy, Fundação Dom Cabral, Conference Chair

We are getting close to the end of these three insightful days. Allow me to share some of my reflections with you.

Two days ago, our conference began with Dave Snowden provoking our thinking on the big changes we are all going through in management education. He talked about when an ecosystem gets disrupted, what the impacts and consequences are, and shared examples. He reminded us about the importance of understanding the context. It is time to increase our level of awareness and leverage our capacity to read the context and ability to see things as they are. We must act and think new. Going back to cases based on the past might not work in the future. The pandemic has accelerated an ongoing change in the educational model, and I am confident we will succeed in addressing it. Let’s keep our eyes, ears and hearts open. Once again, citing Snowden, we do not see what we do not expect to see. To increase our capacity of seeing, we must find and engage with the people who are seeing things differently. I recall that “normally” the “new” is on the margins, on the periphery. So a certain distance is needed.

Using the arts to inspire us, we have great examples of bold disruptions. For instance, the work of Marcel Duchamp (1917) led to the disruption that resulted in what would become modern art and the “modern man”. Similarly, Brazil experienced the Modern Art week of 1922 (with Oswald, Tarsila do Amaral, Mario de Andrade, among others). Another great example is Marinetti’s notorious Futurist Manifesto. The question then becomes: what is the role of the curator who allowed such work in a certain period, and what is the artist’s role? I want to challenge us all to be attentive curators of what is to come. And even further: what is it that we want for the future of executive education and business schools? What is our manifesto?

The world is too complex to approach each aspect separately. An outcome of our reflection is that business schools should put more energy into preparing students and executives with a more global and integrated view. The future of education must consider developing managers that know about biology, statistics, maths, ethics, arts, psychology, anthropology, people, etc. and do something with all that. We continue to be committed to preparing leaders engaged with the real needs of society. And it all starts now. As Snowden said, act in the present to influence the future.

Each one of the panels offered unique perspectives and ideas that can be borrowed by other schools. We always tend to find the crisis we are in is the worst, but as we listen to other colleagues’ stories and experiences in overcoming different crises, we return with many lessons, ideas, and connections. And then we try, we learn, we evolve, the whole sector evolves. We had inspiring examples shared by our colleagues from Tulane University, in the context of Katrina, from Venezuela, whose GDP went down 80% in the past years, and finally the lessons from Bentley University about the importance of caring and showing gratitude for what people are doing. We experienced the power of collaboration. As Donna Maria Blancero said, we are smart when we include others.

The faculty panel speakers invited us all to pivot to new content. What are the new cases? They will be “written” in real-time. It is time to bring business leaders to the classroom to tell the students what they are doing. It is all-new for everyone. The classroom is a wonderful place to discuss solutions and talk about building alternatives together. This way, the students can deal with situations in real-time and come up with solutions for the companies in a win-win partnership. We still have room to improve how we can deliver top-quality education online and hybrid.

The students’ panel offered us more stories about the behaviours and reactions of students. It is clear they fear missing something, and they want to have the power of choice. At the same time, they are learning a lot from the circumstances and finding new possibilities. Once again, we must open our eyes, ears and hearts and be more connected than ever to understand the context. The change will come from all of us working and improving together. The virtual escape room created by the EFMD team allowed us to be spectators of our own new challenging Zoom routine.

Finally, we are all in the same boat. According to our colleague Dennis Lowe, in a panel discussion yesterday, we are in times of change, but the only way you change someone’s mind is if you offer a new experience. It requires asking new questions, considering the new context. It is time to change our questions and connect them to the real problems the world counts on us to prepare leaders to solve. By no means does this intend to disregard the value of learning from past experience; however, the reality is there is no going back, there is only going forward. And moving forward will require reflection, connection, courage, and commitment with something bigger.

A big thanks to the EFMD team and to each one of you who put in your energy and effort and made all these learnings, reflections and connections happen. I will be happy to keep in touch. If conditions allow, we will be glad to welcome you to the 2021 EFMD Conference Americas at FDC in Brazil.