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  • Immagine del redattoreCristina Bombelli

Thoughtfully curated consulting and teaching practices

Eighth Annual EuroMed Academy of Business Conference

Verona, Italy

September 16—18, 2015

M. Cristina Bombelli, Wise Growth Consultancy; Milano, Italy

Blanka Jirkovska, Czech Technical University, Masaryk Institute of Advanced Studies, Prague, Czech Republic

Teresa Martinelli, College of Business and Public Management, University of La Verne, California, USA

Carol H. Sawyer, College of Business and Public Management, University of La Verne, California, USA

Barbara Walling, College of Business and Public Management, University of La Verne, California, USA

Tracks: 15; 55

Key words: learning, learning theory, innovation, design thinking, mindfulness, management education, consulting

These were the first words published in the preface to a book twenty years ago: “Higher education is undergoing a significant and traumatic change. Driven by people from within our educational institutions as well as stakeholders outside of them—such as prospective students, parents, employers, and funding agents——this process of transformation is likely to leave few areas of the academic world untouched” (Boyatzis et al., 1995, p. xi).

Twenty years later the words are still powerful and accurate, although the specifics of forces for change are shifting. Our time continues to be, as Vaill wrote, a time of permanent white water (1996, p. 4). As others have written: “Business schools are indeed at a crossroads. . . . subject to increased scrutiny and debate (Datar et al., 2010, p. 339).

Innovation in Professional Education; Steps on a Journey from Teaching to Learning is the 1995 book first quoted above. The authors shared the story of change and innovation at one university, guided by design principles including this one: Carrying outcontinuous inquiry about the learning process (Boyatzis et al., 1995, p. 240). This abstract proposes a related 90-minute session for the 8th Annual EuroMed Academy of Business Conference.

The five individuals who will bring this session to the conference are actively pursuing both consulting and academic careers in three nations. Their professional work is centered in ongoing inquiry and learning about learning._ They are aware of the critique of both managerial practice (Hamel and others) and management development and education (Mintzberg; O’Toole and Bennis, and others). Individually and at times collectively, they have sought out ideas from a range of disciplines to enrich engagement and interaction as they coach, teach, develop and inspire mid-career and senior managers and governing board in public, private and social organization across economies.

The conference session will be centered on thoughtfully curated examples of practices that enhance learning of both hard and soft skills, with attention to the complexities. O’Toole and Bennis identified in their Harvard Business Review article “reflecting the complex challenges business leaders face.” The conference presenters ensure “learning approaches infused with multidisciplinary, practical, and ethical questions and analyses” (2005, p. 104). Imagination (a term O’Toole and Bennis highlight) and right brain- centered approaches are foundational to the ideas these presenters will bring to the conference. Their experiences and practices are tied to scholarly work in design thinking, integrative thinking, mindfulness, and skills for innovation—all at the core of individual and organizational ongoing success—~even survival—in current tumultuous global conditions.

The presenters for this session have a richness of background and experience. They live and work in three different countries (Czech Republic, Italy, United States); together they have taught at six different universities; studied in multiple disciplines; consulted in organizations diverse in focus, sector and size; researched in the fields of organizational development, leadership, management, education, public services, genderissues, health care, human resources, cross-cultural competence . . .

They themselves are of three different generations. Together they have more than 120 years of professional experiences.

For this conference, individually and collaboratively, they have brought a thoughtful curator’s approach to selecting just one example each of their best, most innovative and successful strategies for client/ student learning, consistent with the mindset of carrying out continuous inquiry about the learning process.

This abstract anticipates short (12-15 minutes) well-focused presentations from each of these five professionals, with visual enrichment. The goal is to provide a platform for thoughtful conversation during the workshop time as well as throughout the days of the conference. Ongoing networking post-conference is an expectation, an expectation the presentations will enable.

What the presenters have in common is an interest in enhancing professional development and education with a variety of engaging learning-centered approaches. Each presenter will provide one consulting or teaching approach, using this template to structure a focused story-based presentation: First, the scholarly basis for the activity/assignment used; 2) highlights supported with visuals to share the activity/assignment; 3) brief discussion that demonstrates effectiveness; and 4) a question brought to mind . . .

Details for Each of the Five Presentations

M. Cristina Bombelli:

From Mindfulness to Bodyfulness: Closing the Gap

Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense ” (Marcus Aurelius).

We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognise and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses —- secret senses, sixth senses, if you will -- equally vital, but unrecognised, and unlauded. These senses, unconscious, automatic, had to be discovered ” (Oliver Sacks).

Starting from Descartes in western culture, there is a gap between body and mind. In the contemporary workplace this space is increasing. People feel stressed and overwhelmed by hyper connection, by having no border between work and leisure, by workaholism. This is true in particular for women who have different duties and a different emotional approach than men. Recovering the body connection is a way to increase wellness.

Several approaches, in particular mindfulness, give answers through meditation. This presentation will share training designed for many companies—training to help women in building a body-mind bridge starting from these points:

  • We have one identity, one energy to spend, one breath to live

  • Body awareness is a capital competence we build to know ourselves

  • Emotions are an important part of our identity; emotions need to be listened to and understood

  • There are not a one time and space to work and a separate time and space to live; instead we need to live in the workplace

The training uses different exercises and proposals to explore a personal approach to body-mind connection, helping in awareness, using all senses.

The presentation includes a short video.

Emerging question: During the training we reach significant success fiom a learning point of view; how we can help women by using a simple and short technique to follow on after initial training, with a continuous learning path?

Blanka Jirkovska:

Building a Bridge between Teaching and Learning by Asking Questions

Effective problem solving requires an environment that allows for and encourages people to ask dumb or, more accurately, fresh questions. We should focus on generating questions and look for the right questions to start with, rather than jumping—directly to finding right answers. The right questions will lead us to right answers” (Marquardt, 2014, p. 203).

Finally, two of the interesting, perhaps side, benefits of using the Socratic method (Asking Questions) are that it gives the students a chance to experience the attendant joy and excitement of discovering (often complex) ideas on their own. And it gives teachers a chance to learn how much more inventive and bright a great many more students are than usually appear to be when they are primarily passive ” (Garlikov, 2000).

Asking questions and seeking answers is elemental to all human creativity and thoughtful living. The method of asking questions can serve as a highly effective tool in schools, at universities, as well as in organizations. This method is almost as old as mankind. It derives from ancient times when Socrates used questions in his Dialogues to develop the mental skills of his students. This part of the presentation will show why, and will share how effective is the mastery of asking the right questions for learning and teaching processes both at the university and in business.

The first quotation above comes from Michael J. Marquardt, who is Professor of Human Resource Development and International Affairs, as well as program director of the Executive Leadership Program at George Washington University. He describes “how leaders find the right solutions by knowing what to ask”. For his book he interviewed thirty leaders in various areas from a range of countries.

The second quotation comes from Richard Garlikov, who is a philosopher, teacher and photographer living in Alabama. In his article he describes the principles of the Socratic method. Some of the key points could be used even in primary schools to support children’s thinking.

Emerging question: What benefits emerge fiom the mastery of asking questions, instead of providing telling statements—benefits for those who are asked (students, employees), as well as benefits for those who do the asking (teachers, leaders)?

Teresa Martinelli:

Mindfulness Revolution; Co-Creating the Possibilities—— An Approach to Leadership re-Design Thinking

Mindful people make much better leaders than frenetic, aggressive ones. They understand their reactions to stress and crises, and their impact on others. They are far better at inspiring people to take on greater responsibilities and at aligning them around common missions and values. As a result, people follow their mindful approach, and their organizations outperform others over the long run " (George in Ribera & Guillen, 2015, p. 29)

The fundamental shift in the current structure of the world begs for creativity; it asks us to rethink who we are [as human beings . . . thus, we are compelled into] “creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, and flight paths to the eternal” (Zander and Zander, 2002, p. 3).

Mindfulness, hope, and compassion: “The first element is mindfulness, or living in a state of full, conscious awareness of one’s whole self, other people, and the context in which we live and work. In effect mindfulness means being awake, aware. and attending tg ourselves and to the w 'rld around us” (Boyatz1s and McKee, 2005, pp. 8-9)

Not since 1962 when the British Conference on Design Methods was first held, have approaches to design thinking generated such interest and advocacy seeking alternative considerations for leadership efficacy (Kimbell, 2011). In fewer than 15 years, this century has experienced global floodgates of peril, including but not limited to economic crisis, ethical misbehaviors, natural and environmental disasters, terrorism, global warming, pandemic diseases, and population growth. Such mega—problems require judicious problem-solving leaders. The type of heroes and heroines needed for contemporary solutions requires individuals who must brand a radical shift via a mindfulness revolution. This “re-wiring” would necessitate a strategist who through self- mastery and self-knowledge can cultivate both personal and organizational performance as well as productivity.

The re-design thinking approach for mindfulness as a key element for leadership change necessitates an exploration of the ancient Zen and Buddhist philosophies.

The Chinese calligraphy (ideogram) for mindfulness equates to “Presence of Heart” (Kabat—Zinn, 2015). Thus, mindfulness is not a goal-oriented practice nor is it a destination, nor a way to strive to get to a certain place. Rather it is just setting the compass of the human heart. The Zen concept of holism, balance, and grace are the powers that bring mindfulness the breath and progress to deeply transform relationships and cultivate organizational resilience. Research indicates, “The role of mindfulness in the workplace is arguably one of the most important domains of human activity” (Reb et al., 2014, p. 36).

The exercises included in this portion of the presentation will identify the dynamic relationship between mindfulness and the possibilities that enable resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges. Participants will analyze practices, principles, and performances.

1. Mental models (making sense of the world, our actions and mastering the discussion)

2. Shared vision (answering the question, "What do we want to co-create as the possibilities?")

3. Personal mastery (clarifying what is important and seeing reality objectively)

Emerging question: How can mindfulness skills be cultivated to develop resilient leaders in the face of global challenges?

Carol H. Sawyer:

Bringing the Tools of Design Thinking to Graduate Courses in Organizational Theory

“.. . one of the most serious challenges we face in our quest for innovation is our own impatience, which makes us rush to solve instead of taking time to understand” (Liedtka, King & Bennett, 2013, p. 199).

It is time to become passionate about what’s best in us and to create organizations that welcome in our creativity, contribution and compassion ” (Wheatley, 2004, p. 56).

Two of the graduate programs at one university require students to take a course in organizational theory and behavior; a required outcome for these courses, for both the Masters in Business Administration and the Master of Science in Leadership and Management, is to work collaboratively to design an effective organization—an organization the world needs.

A recent re-working of the curriculum resulted in an approach in which principles and practices of Design thinking became the centerpiece. “Wicked problems” (persistent, complex and difficult, according to Roger Martin of the University of Toronto) are addressed using the three-part approach of Design Thinking: an empathetic focus on users’ needs and desires; exploring and then testing multiple possible a roaches—possibilities —through prototyping; and engaging in multi-disciplinary collaboration. A variety of resources support small self-identified study groups of students (Design Teams) who use the course materials and activities to explore this alternative way of viewing problems, then gathering information through ethnographic approaches, managing their group’s inevitable conflict, and developing first plans for effective organizations including mission, values, strategies and culture.

“Deploying design throughout an organization involves more than providing a process and some tools It involves helpin 1 individuals make a new set of choices: to seek deep insights and be user driven, to keep looking for great solutions even after hitting upon a good one, to risk not getting it right the first time, to continue to try in the face of failure. Because it runs counter to how managers have been trained and rewarded, and to how organizations are structured, design thinking won’t happen naturally. Committing to use the approach is a deliberate choice for managers . . . “ (Liedtka et al., 2013, p. 9).

Attention to product mg process, and frequent experienced reflection (Mintzberg, 2004) characterize these graduate courses. Highlights of core learning theories, faculty philosophy of teaching with minimal lecture, course development, resources, experiences and outcomes will be shared. All five of Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future (2009) are addressed in this approach to teaching and learning.

Emerging question: How can course design and delivery build a bridge between theory and practice, so that what mid-career graduate management students experience in academic study is applied in their professional responsibilities?

Barbara Walling:

Recognizing and Developing Skills for Innovation in Organizational Life

“. . innovation is the only sustainable strategy for creating long-term value” (Hamel, 2012, p. 4).

Tom Kelley is active with his brother David in the creative work of IDEO, the San Francisco-area design firm recognized and admired world wide, as well as the design school program at Stanford University. Together they wrote the book Creative Confidence; Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (2013); Tom is the author also of The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil 's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization (2005).

Tom Kelley has identified ten organizational personas that contribute to an organization’s culture for innovation. He writes “. . . generating growth through innovation is essential for success . . .In a post-disciplinary world where the old descriptors can be constraining, these new roles can empower a new generation of innovators. They give individuals permission to make their own unique contribution to the social ecology and performance of the team” (Kelley, 2006, p. 30).

Kelley’s ideas, captured in a Rotman Magazine article (2006), are the basis for a classroom reading assignment, lecture, and experiential exercise used in a variety of courses with graduate students in a college of business and public management. In addition, elements from this activity have been effective with organizational leaders and managers to foster an atmosphere of innovative thinking among employees, stakeholders and volunteers. Together, the reading, lecture and hands-0n activity create an atmosphere that facilitates creative thinking, an appreciation of various learning styles, and an understanding of the roles people in organizations can play that foster essential innovation and new ideas.

During this portion of the presentation, elements from Kelley’s ten organizational personas are highlighted as attendees participate to recognize their own skills to support innovation, encourage creativity, and create a new idea.

Emerging question: How can we as leaders and managers challenge our own perspectives and habits in order to foster creative thinking and innovation in our organizations?

One scholar has described current graduate management students as persons who are “. . . thoughtful about changing the world” (Saloner in Datar et al. , 2010, p. 319). The presenters for this session have recognized that characteristic again and again in both their consulting work and their teaching experiences. Each of the contributions they have chosen to bring to the conference strengthens individuals and organizations to better address this mission. All five presenters see their life and work centered in ways one design thinking publication describes with these words: “. . . to build a bridge to take us from current reality to a new future” (Liedtka et al., 2013, p. 1).

The presenters are familiar with the work of Harvard University’s Howard Gardner, and his emphasis on creating five minds for the future through education and development. Their own professional work within and beyond universities is centered on being life long learners who personify the very role models Gardner has described:

In the end it is desirable for each person to have achieved aspects of all five minds for the future. Such a personal integration is most likely to occur if individuals are "raised in environments where all five kinds of minds are exhibited and valued. So much the better, if there are role models — parents, teachers, supervisors — who display aspects of discipline, synthesis, creation, respect, and ethics on a regular basis. In addition to embodying these kinds of minds, the best educators at school or work can provide e support, advice, coaching which will help to inculcate discipline, encourage synthesis, prod creativity, foster respect, and encourage an ethical stance (Gardner, 2007, p. 39).

Presenter Information

M. Cristina Bombelli — An executive coach with almost thirty years ’ experience in university teaching in management and human resources. She has researched and published in the field of management, including attention to generational differences, cross-cultural approaches, and gender studies. A somatic coach, she has created a diversity-focused consulting and training firm.

Blanka Jirkovska — A sociologist now teaching and researching, her approach lies in linking academic knowledge with research and consulting activities in organizations. Particular interests include the psychology of work, sociology of organizations, organizational development, working conditions and quality of life of employees, and psychosocial determinants of health.

Teresa Martinelli — She is senior faculty teaching leadership, research methods for graduate students, management and public policy; her career path in diverse industries (aerospace, health care, education) has been attentive to designing and delivering systemic process improvement and training development programs.

Carol H. Sawyer —Her twenty years ’ management experience in business, government and nonprofit organizations was followed by an award—winning teaching career characterized by attention to design thinking for strengthening graduate management education. She is passionate about the application of the arts and of learning theory in both managerial and educational settings. Her career has been characterized by frequent international work in leadership, organizational change and organizational development.

Barbara Walling — She is active in both consulting and teaching to develop individual and organization-based innovative thinking through experiential activities. She has twenty- five years’ career expertise in marketing, business development and strategic planning, principally in health care and community-based organizations.


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