2019 Global Forum of Economics and Business School Deans

On April 27, 2019, the 2019 Global Forum of Economics and Business School Deans was held at Tsinghua School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM). Addressing the theme of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education in the New Era: Challenges and Opportunities, the event was hosted by Tsinghua SEM and CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education.
2019 Global Forum of Economics and Business School Deans Picture

Tsinghua University Vice President and Provost YANG Bin welcomed the attendees, sharing Tsinghua SEM’s history and educational philosophy. Established in 1984, Tsinghua SEM has strategized to keep up with the times, emphasizing the need for general education for undergraduates and professional training for postgraduates. Intent on cultivating future leaders, Tsinghua SEM also benefits from Tsinghua University, where reform efforts to educational philosophy and tenure track continue to lead China. As the world faces technological transformation, Tsinghua SEM seeks to instill students with a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship, leveraging cross-discipline expertise with a global outlook.

CEMS Chair Gregory Whitwell from Sydney Business School recounted CEMS history of working with Tsinghua SEM, stressing the importance of the theme of the conference. Starting with four universities in Europe, CEMS has grown to 32 partner schools, one in each country. When looking for a Chinese partner, Tsinghua University was an easy choice. Said Dean Whitwell, “We have enjoyed the most extraordinary hospitality at Tsinghua University.”

Tsinghua SEM Dean BAI Chong-En lauded cooperation with CEMS, noting that Tsinghua SEM was honored to receive the 2017-2018 CEMS School of the Year award. Technological advances bring us expanded possibilities and uncertainties that come with rapid change. As business school leaders, the challenge is how to protect and enhance creativity, to learn about technological frontiers, and lead effectively. What do we use technological capabilities for? Tech can bring tremendous benefits to society, but it can also bring harm: more accurate profiling, can bring discrimination. Medical profiling may cause some consumers to not have insurance coverage. DNA profiling leading to lowered genetic biodiversity. Said Dean BAI, “ultimately it comes down to social responsibility: individual entrepreneurs be aware, even in their own self-interest and avoid activities that may be regulated in the future.”

Tsinghua SEM Senior Associate Dean CHEN Yubo then announced the launch of the C9+ Business School Alliance, welcoming the synergistic possibilities of hosting C9+ and CEMS at the same time.

Alibaba CEO ZHANG Yong delivered the keynote, discussing his take on the skills and attributes for an entrepreneur, illustrating his points with examples from Alibaba’s history. Firstly, look at the future. Cloud technology was controversial within Alibaba at the start, with managers leaning more towards wholesale and retail, but a visionary focus on the computing power required to drive big data secured the importance of cloud tech. Secondly, solve customer pain points. While Alibaba today is an ecommerce giant, back in 2013, EBay was a huge competitor, but Alibaba recognizes the lack of trust between the buyer and the seller, introducing the live chat to provide impromptu customer service. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and if you miss the wave of development, find the next one. You need to trust young people, as they understand the future. Finally, a real entrepreneur needs to resolve problems for all of society. “If you look at the history of entrepreneurship, solving big problems is a sign of a good business,” said Zhang.

During the first panel discussion on the skills and attributes of an entrepreneur, CHEN Yubo moderated the discussion. Business school provides a broad skillset for early businessmen, but work is real job training, said ZHANG Yong, who emphasized the need for leadership training, compared to difficulty of teaching entrepreneurship. Thomas Bieger, President of the University of St. Gallen, offered his view that this is just another tech revolution like the telegraph and telecom, with the more important question being whether business school is an art, a science, or just a profession.

Christine Ip, Greater China CEO of United Overseas Bank Limited spoke of the brain drain from banks to entrepreneurs and the necessity of gender inclusiveness and diversity to drive business sustainability. LIU Qiao, Dean of Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, noted that successful people don’t get much out of business school, with the challenge being providing real value at the frontier of business practice. Nikolaj Malchow-Moller, President of Copenhagen Business School, stressed how Danish attitudes of independence and not standing out molded business school attitudes, with most graduates looking to become their own boss and a small proportion wanting to make the world a better place. During further discussion, speakers further developed their views. Thomas Bieger focused on how generational balance is important, with the older generation needing to take heightened responsibility while not charging too much responsibility to young people, stifling innovation.

CEMS Chair Gregory Whitwell delivered the second keynote of the day, addressing the importance of moving beyond skills development and activities such as classes, incubators, and pitch competitions. According to Whitwell, innovation and entrepreneurship is driven by creativity, curiosity, collaboration, associative thinking, and a bias towards action and experimentation. Channeling Saku Tuominen’s research, he stressed the importance of balancing general knowledge, thinking skills, and doing skills.

The second panel discussion addressed what business schools and companies should do to develop entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets, with Anju Seth, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, moderating. Koldo Echebarria, ESADE Director General, hinted at the correlation between non-IQ skills and entrepreneurship, discussing initiatives with Berkeley in music education and the European Astronomical Association in astronomy to inspire business managers.

Mark Vandenbosch, Acting Dean of Ivey Business School, used skating as an analogy for a more efficient form of education – you don’t find a book on how to skate, you get in a pair of skates and get on the ice. Bernard Yeung, Dean of NUS Business School, noted how productivity has dropped from 1990 levels and how a back to basics approach can focus on enlightenment and curiosity. Nick Leung, Head of McKinsey Greater China, drew on McKinsey experience, challenging business schools to embrace diversity, charge outcome based gees, embrace boot camp style education, and to build soft skills in an increasingly digital age. LIU Zhengrong, Member of the Executive Board at Beiersdorf, spoke about the importance of a human centric approach, treating workers with dignity and respect, and making real change one step at a time.

During the Q&A session, questions ranged from nurturing innovative skills under the multicultural environment, nature of innovation and entrepreneurship to challenges and opportunities that business school education faced in the new era, etc.