Finding balance: 2021 EFMD Conference for Deans & Directors General

2021 EFMD Deans Conference finding balance

Prof. Eric Cornuel, President of EFMD Global, welcomed the attendees of the EFMD’s first online Deans Conference and developed on the theme of finding balance – in business, society and individual lives.

The theme of the 2021 EFMD Conference for Deans & Directors General, hosted in partnership with the IE Business School, was finding balance – a notion and a state that I think we are all naturally driven to after this very tumultuous year.

The concept of balance is considered to be a holy grail in our personal and professional lives. Besides maintaining a work-life balance that has become even more cherished for our teams and us over the last year, in our industry, we’ve come across countless resources on how to balance online and offline classes, academic and heuristic research, domestic and international students, executive education and degree programmes. The list goes on almost infinitely.

Santiago Iniguez and Eric Cornuel

In our modern societies and in policy-making, we’re faced with even grander challenges: balancing economic development with sustainability, national sovereignty with adherence to multilateral networks and cosmopolitan values, technological development with human-centric dimensions, the right to privacy with security considerations, and access to information with the unfettered spread of fake news, just to name a few.

In essence, balance is a continuous strive for a perfect mix, but this mix is set in the context of constant motion. That’s why, as much as finding balance is important, striving for it can’t become an end in itself so that it brings us more stress and anxiety than what it’s supposed to free us from.

Finding balance is a dialectic process. A process of weighting options, assessing risks and opportunities. A process in which, by design, we need information, dialogue and collaboration to benchmark ourselves and our strategies against various alternatives.

2021 EFMD Deans Conference Martin Boehm

So, what might complement balance as our strategic compass? Clarity. Clarity of values, clarity of vision and clarity of purpose. And here, there is a great role for leaders of business schools to set this strategic compass in motion, and, in a sense, to take the opportunity, in this very dire situation, to reset our strategies for impact.

Our current business education model favours academic research loosely coupled with societal needs. But this model must evolve fast, otherwise, we may go from “publish or perish” to “publish and perish”. We need faculty members to be engaged in all sorts of research, innovation in teaching, engagement in society and communities. Above all, we must never forget that we have not only a scientific mission but a societal one as well.

Faced with the intellectual vacuum and, at times, complete lack of innovative spirit offered by many politicians and companies, I believe that academia must speak out. We should be catalysts, whistleblowers and change agents to help reconcile management, technology, development and societies. It may be counterintuitive, but that’s what balance means to me.

2021 EFMD Deans Conference Rebecca Henderson

The Covid-19 crisis makes it more important than ever to take a more global approach to recovery. We need more international cooperation and a greater emphasis on societal issues. The question remains: is this a credible scenario? Is there room for optimism? Or will the political and economic agendas of the few push us towards wilder capitalism driven by opportunistic and populistic leaders?

Academia in general, and business schools in particular, have the potential to be agents of change here. But in order to fulfil this potential, we have to ask ourselves: what kind of actions or initiatives are necessary to hasten our reorientation towards a more socially-engaged and heuristic approach?

2021 EFMD Deans Conference

The conference explored these important questions with accomplished leaders, thinkers and practitioners. Over 260 participants gathered to exchange about the future of business education, leading in crisis, engagement of external stakeholders, and to explore emerging trends. Martin Boehm, Dean of IE Business School, and Chair of the Conference provides you with an overview of the key takeaways from the event, and offers solutions to some of the questions above.

Thank you for being part of EFMD Global, and for your continuous contribution and support. EFMD is fully committed to accompanying you, your staff and your institutions in the quality, impact and professional development journey whatever your strategic goals may be.