From 11 – 13 June 2023, we welcomed our global community in Lyon at the EFMD Annual Conference, hosted by emlyon business school and gracefully chaired by Morris Mthombeni, the Dean of Gordon Institute of Business Science. With record attendance, this conference proved to be a pivotal moment for our network.
Throughout the event, we engaged in captivating keynotes and interactive breakout sessions, delving into the role of business schools in an unstable, unpredictable, and unsustainable world. We confront a global environment characterised by escalating political tensions, socioeconomic divides, and the impending climate emergency, all of which will shape the future of business education. However, armed with innovative pedagogy, multidisciplinary research, and connections to the world of practice, business education holds the key to guiding transformative change that addresses the challenges of our time.
Addressing challenges as a community
As Eric Cornuel, EFMD Global President, aptly stated in his opening remarks, ‘The future may appear uncertain, but what matters most is that we confront these challenges together, through the exchange of knowledge, continuous learning, and as a community.’ With this shared ethos, we explored the role of educators in creating opportunities for sustainable development and growth, facilitated by exceptional speakers and thought-provoking discussions in plenary sessions and breakout groups.
The opening plenary session was inspired by insights from a recent Harvard Business Publishing Education report, which outlines strategies for navigating turbulence, driving innovation, and developing visionary leadership. Lucy Swedberg, Executive Editor at Harvard Business Publishing, expertly moderated a discussion among distinguished panellists, including Nida Bektas, Executive Director at Koç University, Álvaro-Moya Adoración, Dean at School of Business, Economics & Law CUNEF, and Leonardo Caporarello, Associate Dean for Online Learning at SDA Bocconi. Their optimistic view of uncertainty sparked engaging conversations that set the tone for the conference.
Building a purposeful leadership for purpose-driven careers
One of the highlights was an inspiring keynote by Yasmina Jaidi, International Learning Director, Leadership & Culture Programmes at L’Oréal. She shared unique insights into building a purposeful leadership development culture, emphasising the hyper-personalisation of learning experiences, inclusion, and the need to address climate change. With challenges on the horizon that demand purpose-driven leadership, managing individual and team energy, accelerating innovation through open ecosystems and a growth mindset for continuous learning, Jaidi’s address provided a powerful framework for the world ahead.
The subsequent plenary session, moderated by Nicola Kleyn, Dean of Executive Education at Rotterdam School of Management, focused on the latest demographic trends and psychometric insights in career development and talent retention. Gaël Chauvel, Talents & Corporate Partnerships Director at emlyon business school, Céline Danos, Head of Employer Branding and HR Marketing at Engie, and Michel Bouzigues, Partner at PWC France, explored how graduates now gravitate towards purpose-driven careers. Employers were reminded of the need to align their values and work culture with new demands, such as competitiveness, work-life balance, and sustainability.
Climate leadership equals positive leadership
On the second day, a passionate debate on climate leadership unfolded, featuring Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser, Practice Director, Responsible Finance Initiative at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, and Sherif Kamel, Dean of the American University in Cairo School of Business. The speakers emphasised that business schools must move beyond surface-level solutions in climate leadership and focus on systemic changes for lasting transformation. As Anne aptly put it, ‘We are misframing the question to solve. We don’t need to focus on the goal, but what’s in the systems that need to be changed towards those sustainability goals.’
The conference concluded with a fantastic closing plenary by Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President of National Transformation Partnerships at Microsoft. Courtois shared the Three Ripples of Positive Leadership—Me, Me & others, Me & the world—that will help create a better future for all.
More inspiring discussions
In addition to the plenary sessions, the equally dynamic breakout sessions covered various timely subjects, including innovative business models, internationalisation, the impact of generative AI on business education, relevant and responsible research, student career preparedness, application trends, teaching impact, curriculum innovation, lifelong learning, value-based community, climate leadership in practice, and carbon neutrality.
During the conference’s annual general assembly, we welcomed 15 institutions to the network and celebrated our members’ commitment to excellence through accreditations and awards.
As Morris concluded the conference, he challenged the famous quote by the Red Queen: ‘It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place; if you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.’ He encouraged us to run not just twice as fast but many times faster—a poetic emblem of EFMD’s mission to enhance excellence and continuous improvement.
We extend our deepest gratitude to all who attended, including the speakers, and committee members, for their contributions in making this event our most successful yet. We also express a special thank you to our strategic partner, GMAC, whose support was instrumental.
We are immensely grateful for the exceptionally diverse and engaged EFMD community, who once again came together to debate, envision, and chart a roadmap for impactful business education. We strive to keep the spirit high and eagerly anticipate welcoming you all next year to enchanting Bologna in Italy. Save the dates for an unforgettable experience at Bologna Business School in June. See you all in “La Dotta, La Grassa, and La Rossa.”