“Aristotle in Business”: A talk with professor dr. Harry Hummels

MAASTRICHT – Harry Hummels is Professor of Ethics, Organisations and Society at Maastricht University and is responsible for one of the MaastrichtMBA’s courses in the Sustainability & Business Ethics educational week. In Utrecht he holds a chair in Social Entrepreneurship, the first of its kind in the Netherlands. He studied Philosophy and Public Administration in Groningen and completed his PhD in the philosophy of work. He combines his philosophical background with a hands-on mentality as an entrepreneur, advisor, supervisor, educator, and former banker.

 In 1999, just before the turn of the century, Harry Hummels and his friend and colleague Theo Brouwers started ING Bank Sustainable Investments. At the time Harry was Professor of Organisational Ethics at Nyenrode University but appreciated the opportunity for change. Why not have two jobs, and why not share one of them with your best friend? Harry and Theo pioneered in a time when sustainable investment was still the exclusive playground of ethical banks like Triodos in the Netherlands, the Cooperative Bank in the UK, or ethical and religious investors in the USA. That, however, gradually changed at the end of the 1990s when ING stepped in, followed by other mainstream banks. The development was supported by trade unions with a strong say in the policies and practices of pension fund boards. Slowly but surely, ‘for the times, they were a-changin’.

Stakeholder engagement

The concurrence of ethics and investment traces back to the Quakers in the 18th century. “Quakers like Lloyds, Barclays, Rowntree, Cadbury, or Clarks were strong business people, supporting efforts to create peace, equality of women and the abolishment of slavery”, Harry clarifies. In addition, they refused to invest in weapons trade, alcohol and tobacco. These first attempts resulted in a wider movement of religious groups, like the Mennonites and Anabaptists, that invested according to their ethical beliefs,” Harry explains: “What we now know as stakeholder engagement, started as shareholder activism at the time. The Quakers put their money where their mouth was. In the 1960s, ending workplace discrimination of blacks and the fight against anti-Apartheid were milestones in the investment-led campaigns of the influential Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Accentuate the Positive

One can easily see why Harry Hummels is an excellent story-teller and educator, an amiable advisor with a wide ranging knowledge acquired in his career so far. By connecting people and organisations from all over the world, he helps to raise awareness as far as ethics, corporate responsibility and sustainable or impact investing are concerned. “However”, the pragmatist continues, “only results count”. Stories are helpful in eliciting change, but it is concrete actions that lead to progress. When Zembla, a Dutch investigative broadcasting programme, demonstrated in 2007 that Dutch pension funds invested in cluster munitions and landmines, it resulted in a public outcry. “But it was the initiative of the combined associations of pension funds that created change”, Harry remembers. He had the honour of becoming chairman of the pension fund committee that researched the issue and wrote the report, including recommendations for change. “We did not blame pension funds, but looked for ways how to improve the investment policies and practices of pension funds in line with their fiduciary responsibility”. The emphasis shifted towards a positive approach, asking pension funds to develop and publish a responsible investment policy, execute the policy and report to the fund’s participants and beneficiaries on its results.

The social connection

Another positive in a complex world, is his commitment to social entrepreneurship as a member – and temporary chairman – of the Supervisory Board of Pluryn. The organisations is one of the largest care providers in the Netherlands for people with disabilities. Pluryn, however, reversed the way in which we perceive individuals whose behaviour and actions are hampered by mental or physical deficiencies. The question is: what is someone’s potential? What is his or her “zone of proximal development” – a term coined by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky – referring to what a client can accomplish when nudged and supported by a skilled partner or caretaker. It was no surprise that Pluryn was one of the first organisations in the Netherlands to start a lunchroom in 1996 that was run by enabled clients of Pluryn suffering from mental disabilities. Since March 2018 Harry is co-founder and co-owner of a special initiative in his hometown Nijmegen, together with his friend Rob Beernink and with Frederik IJsseldijk, who also runs the business as the venture’s manager.

Le Souk D’Orient

Restaurant Le Souk D’Orient opened its doors on March 1, 2018 and is located at Museumpark Orientalis. It is a limited liability company with a clear mission: running restaurants and other food and beverage outlets aimed at promoting the food culture from the Levant and integrating refugees by offering them jobs that allow them to fully participate in our society. The restaurant offers Mezze, the equivalent of Spanish tapas, which are characteristic for the Levantine cuisine. Besides this, Le Souk hosts cooking workshops in which customers interact with the refugees and catering services.

“Le Souk D’Orient is not so much a social enterprise,” says Harry, “but an enterprise with a clear social objective – and that is something different. We can only offer refugees an opportunity to integrate in our society if our business is run in a (financially) sustainable way. A sustainable and profitable business is a necessary condition for our social program.” Second, Harry believes that scale is required to achieve his objectives. “Without scale”, he clarifies, “the initiative becomes just a pet project – something we do on the side. It is only through growth that we can ultimately hire more refugees and hopefully even provide them with an opportunity to start their own Souk. Only then, we will have succeeded in creating true integration and participation. Therefore, it is our intention to create a chain of restaurants in different cities, hopefully also in Maastricht. Next to high quality cuisine and paid jobs for refugees, a third element in the proposed development of Le Souk D’Orient is cultural interaction between Dutch citizens and what we like to call “our new neighbours”. The entrepreneurs want to develop all sorts of events and programmes to improve mutual cultural understanding. Their cookbook 1001 Mezze Nijmegen does not only give an overview of the delicious Levantine cuisine but also presents the refugees in what they are: very capable and motivated people whose fate in life have brought them to the Netherlands and who want to make the best out of that – for themselves and for us as potential guests in Le Souk d’Orient.

An Aristotelean tradition

The idea for Le Souk d’Orient is rooted in an Aristotelean tradition of creating and living the good life. Aristotle focused on our role in living a virtuous life in a constantly changing praxis. It is only by doing – by stepping into the agora of public life – that we understand the true meaning of cardinal virtues like wisdom (or prudence), justice, courage and temperance. It is with these virtues as signposts in a truly rewarding life that Harry understands that – paraphrasing psychologist Kurt Lewin – that nothing is as practical as a good philosophy.

United in Diversity – South Africa’s Path

Dr. Boris Blumberg highlights the November 2018 MaastrichtMBA international week in South Africa:

In 2001, the term “BRIC” coined the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China as characterized by rapid economic growth. When South Africa joined the club, it became “BRICS” in 2010. Since then, the economic and political development of the five countries diverged and the common pattern of rapid economic growth and moving towards a democratic society disappeared.

The MaastrichtMBA has held its international weeks in four of the five BRICS countries. We recently visited our partner, the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa and returned with an important message.

In 1994, the ANC (African National Congress) won the first free election in which all South Africans could vote. This election marked the end of Apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela became president. An utmost divided nation (80% black, 9% white, 9% colored, 2% Asian) embarked on a project that would take generations to complete: to become united in diversity. South Africa’s path has not been a straight upward development since then. Since Cyril Ramaphosa became South Africa’s fifth president in February 2018 however, a wind of optimism has blown over the country and its people have gained trust in their ability to overcome differences and build a great united nation. Our host from Stellenbosch University even told us that her children no longer describe their classmates in terms of ethnicity – for them the color of the skin has become an irrelevant characteristic. While we still recognize differences in skin color, neither do we believe they matter.

During our week in South Africa, we also visited the headquarters of Pick n Pay, one of the largest supermarket retailers in South Africa which is now also expanding to other African countries. Ms. Suzanne Ackerman, Director of Transformation and daughter of Pick n Pays founder, explained the role of corporates in the development of her nation with a simple four-responsibility layer hierarchy. It starts with the fourth or bottom layer, which represents the economic responsibility for financial performance. This is followed by the third layer above it, which represents the legal responsibility to obey the law. This is governed by the second layer, which represents the responsibility to behave ethically. Above all of these is the foremost philanthropic responsibility, which is to be a good corporate citizen and advance the nation and its projects as a whole.

After visiting Pick n Pay, we went from multi-billion corporates completely to the other side and worked with small businesses in Khayelitsha – South Africa’s second largest township housing 1.4 million people (i.e. bigger than Amsterdam). The goal of those entrepreneurs was to earn a bit more than the minimum wage (€200 a month) and use any exceeding profits to build their community and a nation united in diversity.

Now that is the South African vision of being “united in diversity.”

Isn’t that vision – combining corporate and personal missions to be good citizens – an excellent role model for societies beyond South Africa?

MaastrichtMBA Improves Sustainability Based Ranking

The MaastrichtMBA climbs two places in the 2018 Corporate Knights Better World MBA Ranking and finds itself positioned in the top-40 in 35th place.

The Corporate Knights Better World MBA ranking focuses on sustainability and regards social issues as a critical part thereof. The MBA schools are graded on five indicators: institutes and centres, curriculum, faculty research, female diversity and racial diversity. The 2018 Corporate Knights Better World MBA Ranking automatically includes all schools in the most recent FT100 MBA Ranking. All business schools accredited by the Association of MBAs, AACSB International and EQUIS, are invited to participate.

The improved ranking in the Corporate Knights Better World MBA Ranking, together with the NVAO and Triple Crown accreditations, are a further indication that the MaastrichtMBA has firmly established itself in the top tier of MBA programmes globally.

Elzette van Zyl: “The MBA is our flagship programme.”

For students and staff alike, a week at The University of Stellenbosch Business School is bound to make an impression that lasts. Being inspired will most certainly help with moving forward towards graduation in the MaastrichtMBA programme. The partnership between the two universities and their business schools isn’t one of chance, as they both hold the renowned Triple Crown accreditation by AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA.

Last June, a group of Stellenbosch students visited Maastricht, while this month November it’s our turn to travel to Stellenbosch again. “Our strong relationship is one of respect and friendship as well,” MBA director Boris Blumberg explains, “and that’s why we happily invited Elzette van Zyl, MBA logistical coordinator at Stellenbosch, to come visit us in Maastricht. She was our guest in a special week, when ten of our students were honoured in the graduation ceremony and we welcomed fourteen new students to our programme.”

Opening dinner

The week in September started with an informal dinner, and an informal presentation from Elzette van Zyl. It was an engaging talk larded with facts, history, humour and an abundance of heartfelt appreciation for her country South Africa. With pride Elzette spoke of its mountains, its coastlines, its customs and its people. This day, September 24, happens to be Nasionale Braaidag or Heritage Day in South Africa. It’s a day to celebrate South-African culture and its diversity and resilience. She also mentions that Stellenbosch University was founded in 1918, and is celebrating its centenary year, which is one hundred years of success and achievement, of introspection and alas regret as well. “Forward Together” is an appropriate chosen motto for this anniversary, representing a clear vision for the present and future, with acknowledgment for Africa’s vulnerable past and a strong determination to rise above it.

Responsible leadership

Stellenbosch university has five campuses, ten faculties, about 33.000 students and is known as the top research university of Africa. Elzette works for the USB (University of Stellenbosch Business School) as their MBA logistical coordinator. “The USB is not located on the main campus at Stellenbosch, but in the business district at Belville Park which is a half hour drive from Cape Town International Airport. That’s ideal for our incoming students,” she explains to the group in the Kruithuis building, which is a historic landmark on the SBE campus. “We currently have 1400 registered students. The focus of our MBA is on responsible leadership and inclusivity, pertaining to people from all walks of life. It’s in fact the flagship programme of our business school.”

Challenges

Anyone who visits Stellenbosch, the 2nd oldest town after Cape Town, will recognize a diversity of styles in the architecture of the many farmhouses on the famous Wine Route. You can see German, French, Dutch and even Indonesian influences in the building structure, which is telling of how diverse this country has been and still is. Elzette: “I think it’s also one of the main challenges we face, as a nation, and which makes us unique in a certain perspective given our history. People in South Africa feel compelled to consider the bigger picture and realise we are this country with so many different groups of people, it’s important we focus on inclusivity while we aim to move forward.”

Phenomenal growth

As the Stellenbosch university celebrates its 100th anniversary, the business school is fairly young, it started in 1964. Elzette has been working for the USB for the last twelve years and can testify of some major changes happening. ‘When I began, there was only one MBA and one Masters in Development and Finance, two M’s. From two it grew to thirteen post-graduate programmes, so in the last twelve years, the education programme has expanded extensively. We are very proud of these achievements.”

Warm and giving 

Elzette has travelled to a few other countries, and when abroad, she is often reminded of the warmth and engaging nature of the South-African people back home.” I am proud to be South-African,” she tells the group. “Despite our political and economical struggles, we are big on humour and very resilient, and given the environment that I work in, I would like to end this talk with the words of our late Nelson Mandela that says it all: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Lunchtime at the MaastrichtMBA

Learning from your fellow students, a talk between Susanne and Carlos

Susanne de Vaal (38) started at the MaastrichtMBA in December 2016, with a highly inspirational Introduction weekend, followed by her first module in February 2017. She’s currently working towards her graduation next year. Her experience in the MaastrichtMBA programme so far, is very helpful for Carlos Teijeiro Castella (37) who started last summer, after careful consideration. When they met again during the September module, they spent part of their lunchtime talking about the impact the MaastrichtMBA programme has on their lives.

Carlos: “A good exercise to evaluate things in life is to ask yourself, if I would go back in time, would I do it again? Susanne, I would like to ask you the same question. If you could go back in time, would you sign up for the MaastrichtMBA programme again?” Susanne smiles and answers, “yes, definitely, in a heartbeat!”

“I have become more aware of myself”

“As a pharmacist, my education was specialised and practical. I am a scientist, a pharmacist, but in my current job, I manage a large team. I was used to following my gut feeling. The MaastrichtMBA programme supported my gut feeling with an academic backbone. I’ve also realised that as a leader, I don’t have to doubt myself. When I came here, I thought I had to change myself in order to fully embrace my leadership skills, and that a real leader was a lonesome figure on top of a mountain telling everyone else what to do. But I learned here that my experience as a transformational leader, is valuable as well.”

Carlos wonders how joining the MaastrichtMBA programme has changed Susanne’s day to day work and functioning. Susanne: “I am more aware of myself now, more conscious of what I do, and why. This has influenced the way I approach issues. My scope certainly has expanded since I started at the MaastrichtMBA. I also learned how to take a step back and look at my actions from a new angle.”
In general, time management is the key issue. Studying next to a full-time job and a family keeps you busy. It can be tough sometimes, but you just have to go with the flow.

When Susanne asks Carlos what he hopes to gain from the programme, Carlos remembers his talk with MBA director Boris Blumberg, and how the honesty surprised him. “The interview with Boris was great, natural and pragmatic. In a nutshell: it wasn’t another talk of someone trying to sell the programme to me. At the end he advised me to keep on trusting my own judgment, even if this means being sceptical. For me the situation is as follows: I studied Telecommunications and work as a business unit lead on a technical consultancy company. I managed to develop well within the company, they gave me more responsibility which ultimately resulted in having to manage large teams and being in control for most of the unit activities. That was more about trying to be a “superman”, a “go-to” person for fast answers or decisions, than a matter of good management. I was involved in every single project trying to make sure they would move on (I can remember moments with seventy projects simultaneously), or as I’d call it, I was “keeping the balls in the air”. In the long run this would at some point cease to work, it was not healthy for me nor beneficial for the company. So I was looking for a way to learn more about efficient managing and leadership, avoiding the superman approach.”

“Learning on personal levels is good for future business decisions”

The proximity (Carlos lives in Aachen), the modular set-up and his talk with Boris Blumberg helped Carlos to decide for the MaastrichtMBA. “It’s a huge step for me,” Carlos admits, “because I have never been the kind of person who has his life planned ahead. Some people have a map in their mind of what they want and when, I am more the spontaneous type and try things as they come or as I felt was needed, day by day. But indeed some planning can be helpful and that made me think that even though I have been developing myself professionally in this company for eight years, I didn’t have a clear picture of myself in the future. I realised that it wasn’t about my skills, but more about who I am, my own core. Now I am aware I want to learn more about who I am, as a person, so this can help me move forward and explore different new paths. And that’s what they teach you in the MaastrichtMBA programme, how to develop yourself on a personal level, so it can enhance your business performance. As a sceptical person by nature, the experience itself tells me I’ve made a good call by signing up in Maastricht.”

“The first day I felt guilty, as if I forsake my responsibilities”

The modular set-up means spending a week on campus with fellow student-professionals, who often quickly become like a second family, or new friends. Susanne: “On stepping into the MaastrichtMBA, you connect instantly and tightly to a group of strangers. When you engage in the assignments together, you learn we’re all at the same crossroads in life, with the same kind of questions about work, our drive and ambition. It is nice to find likeminded students who understand what you’re going through, because they experience it too. I will be a bit sad when I graduate, because the modules enabled me to solely focus on developing myself. I will miss that. And all my new friends. But I am also eager to spend more time with my family, who have been very loving and patient these past two years.” Carlos still has a long path ahead of him, and a bundle of modules to work through. But he’s genuinely enthusiastic, not in the least because he already feels the effect of the modular set-up, for not having checked his work e-mail for the past three days. It’s a moment followed by an outburst of laughter when he shares this news! “I think this is really the first time in the last six years that I haven’t checked my work mail for three days in a row. Because of my responsibilities and commitment, I always check my mail – even when on holiday or at a friend’s wedding. I want to be there when a problem arises. The first day I felt guilty, the second day I was too busy to think about it, and now it feels like, ‘why haven’t I done this before?’ It’s important to focus on the things that deserve it, in order to fully immerse yourself in the experience and obtain the most out of it!”

 

MaastrichtMBA alumna Bouwien Janssen joins Maastricht University

Recently, Bouwien Janssen joined Maastricht University as the new Director of Development & Alumni Relations and Director of the University Fund Limburg. Interestingly, Bouwien is an alumna of the MaastrichtMBA, so we had a chat with her about her experiences regarding our MBA.

Why did you want to get an MBA?

At that point in my career, I wanted to connect, and exchange experiences with professionals in a similar managerial position. Expanding my network, meeting people with a different take on their profession, who might also foster new insights. I also felt the need to broaden my horizon and focus more on approaching things from a strategic angle.

Why did you choose the MaastrichtMBA?

As I had made the decision to continue my professional career in my home region, the MaastrichtMBA was a good fit: it gave me the opportunity to work on my local network of professionals, organisations and businesses. And the MaastrichtMBA has a very good reputation of course!

What was your most inspiring moment in the program?

The international week in Barcelona really stands out. Among other things, we had an assignment to analyse and advise the management team of a local company and I still remember our group working late at night on our presentation and advice. It was the combination of field trip, practice, and getting an inside view of a foreign company, with the opportunity of advising the management team. That was very rewarding and great fun.

We developed such a good bond in our workgroup that we invited our partners and extended our stay in Barcelona for the weekend. We still meet at least twice a year. Recently to have a taste from the wine from a small local vineyard of which one of our group is co-owner.

What did you find most challenging?

Finding the time to work on things according to my own quality standards. You have to be aware that it can be quite a challenge to write a paper every month, beside a busy job. Not only for yourself, but also for the group. It’s give and take, and everybody benefits from quality input by fellow students.

When did you complete the MaastrichtMBA? Did it meet your expectations?

I finished in 2005 and it was a very rewarding experience. The programme was very varied and the group very pleasant. The themes ranged from ICT, leadership to culture. All these different angles made it very interesting and fun. Best of all was, and is, that much of it translates directly into my professional practice.

Working with cases where you compare practices from your own company with those of fellow students was especially insightful. This requires a certain level of openness and trust among participants and of course, as mentioned before, a give and take mentality and willingness to contribute. In my experience that worked very well, as you can see from the fact that contacts and even friendships have endured for more than ten years now!

What you do now and where? What is your current focus?

I started with Maastricht University in July 2018. My job is twofold: I am Director of the University Fund Limburg – SWOL (an independent foundation with public benefit organisation status) and Director of Development and Alumni Relations (D&A).

As Director of the University Fund Limburg, my team and I focus on fundraising. The funds are intended to stimulate education and research at UM and to promote UM’s involvement with society. To strengthen and modernise our fundraising efforts, we are working on a crowd-funding platform, which will offer researchers and students the opportunity to raise funds for their own research projects. The crowdfunding platform will go live in the last quarter of 2018.

As Director of Development & Alumni Relations, I aim for interactive relationships with our alumni: keep them informed about ground-breaking research and current affairs at UM, give them a voice in improving our education and offer them the opportunity to take postgraduate education. Therefore, it is important that we know our 69,000 alumni well and that our interaction is based on their personal interest.

How have you benefited from the MaastrichtMBA?

After more than 10 years, it is difficult to separate my ongoing work experience and development, from what I got from the MBA. In general, the MaastrichtMBA teaches you to approach issues from a broader perspective and provides new angles of approach.

Can you give an example of something that you experienced in the MaastrichtMBA that helped you in your career?

One of the charming aspects of the MBA was that every paper I wrote, had a link to my own professional practice. I enjoyed that very much. The case-theory always offered a link to a concrete challenge within my organisation.

What concepts from The MaastrichtMBA are you currently applying in your life?

There are lots of different theoretical angles and models offered in the courses. Some of those I can still apply to practical problems in my everyday professional practice.

Any advice for the prospective MaastrichtMBA student?

Be clear about what you want from the course and your motivation to do it now, in this phase of your career. Will you be able to use it in your work setting? Do you have sufficient span of control (leadership, strategy) to benefit from the MBA and to contribute on an equal footing with other students? Can you put in enough time?

“I was inspired to see the possibilities within myself”

If there is anyone who almost immediately applied what he learned from our programme, it’s Daan Kroonen (35) from Bocholtz in the Netherlands. He started at the MaastrichtMBA in February 2015 and has changed jobs two times since, until he was convinced to fully utilize his skills. We sat down with him right before his graduation ceremony and looked back on an exhilarating period of his life and career so far.

For Daan, the time to study belonged in the past, or so he thought. He’d already finished two HBO bachelor programmes and was focused on his job. If he was ever going to make time for studying again, it had to be an education he could infuse in his work as a project manager. “My father has an MBA degree and it challenged me to consider my own options of combining work and study. So I went looking and found the MaastrichtMBA programme which appealed to me at once. Its modular structure and diversity in topics, the leadership trajectory, it all felt good.”

All-round perspective for business acumen

He particularly liked the wide range of perspectives offered that would help professionals develop their sense for understanding business in its every aspect and procedural setting. “Like how do the departments of sales, production and marketing relate and communicate with one another, within a company,” Daan explains, “and not consider the perspective of just your own tasks, but from a broader angle. Another huge benefit of the MaastrichtMBA programme is the ability to study with other professionals and to exchange our experience and knowledge, which enabled me to learn from the others.”

Most inspiring and challenging moments

The most inspiring moment for Daan occurred in the programme was the Leadership trajectory at the Orshof location. “I often think about it, in my current work position, because a main thread during that week was to reach a certain flow with an entire team. I always work with other people, and hardly alone, so I can apply what I experienced and learned every day now.” A major challenge was to find the time and focus to work on his thesis. “It’s an entirely different level of writing a thesis as a Bachelor student, so it took some effort to find the right angle and see it through, but I eventually succeeded.”

Inspiration to make change

Since he started the programme, Daan changed jobs twice. Being in the programme made him aware of his own options and capabilities, both as a professional and a human being. It gave him inspiration to go out there and find a job position more suitable for his own sense of emerging entrepreneurship and flow of ideas and initiative. You could say he grew out of his old job, and into new challenges and possibilities. “So much happens as soon as you start the MaastrichtMBA programme,” Daan reminisces, “it was very inspiring and made me contemplate everything in a positive way.”

Impact on personal life

Studying next to a full-time job and a personal life can be quite the challenge as well. For Daan and his partner Gitta (30), the past years were tough sometimes, especially in the beginning. “We were still dating then and not living together, so very often I wasn’t available in the weekends, because I had to study or work on my thesis. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but we knew it was necessary for me to complete my MBA. We now live together, so it all worked out.”

Recommendation

“I can recommend anyone wanting to grow in their professional life to consider following the MaastrichtMBA programme. It has enriched me as a human being and as a professional. For example, I now know how to direct my energy better and to make it beneficial to the team spirit at work. My employer was very pleased with me when I implemented what I learned at work immediately after the module, so the enthusiasm for being in the programme is transferred to the workplace as well!”

UMIO Congratulates New MaastrichtMBA Graduates

Four times a year the MaastrichtMBA students visit their MBA homebase in Maastricht for an eventful week of courses, exchange and cooperation. It is always an intense and vibrant experience. Once a year the week is extra special, because it concludes with the graduation ceremony of the students who have successfully completed the two-year programme.

Graduation time!

Last Friday saw the graduation of ten students, all dressed for the part with the academic regalia. Keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Franziska Gassmann (UNU-Merit) spoke about Social Protection Systems and Development and offered a different perspective on how social protection can contribute to balanced development and stability in poorer countries. A fitting end to the MaastrichtMBA journey, that is in large part about broadening one’s horizon and embracing different perspectives to make a lasting impact.

2018’s student of the year!

After the honouring of 2018’s student of the year Charbel Haddad, who to his own surprise had scored best overall marks for 2018, the event concluded with a short reception in Ad Fundum and a sparkling party at Thiessen Wijnkoopers.

A Call for General Programmes in Business and Management

Dr. Boris Blumberg describes the Skill Gap Survey, which depicts which skills employers look for in MBA graduates and which skills they find difficult to recruit:

The table below reveals the five most and five least important skills employers are looking for as well as the five skills most difficult and least difficult to recruit.

Taken seriously, these results reveal what business schools do well and where there are opportunities for curriculum developments. Not surprising, working in a team remains an important ability! Business students are well equipped to work in teams, as team assignments are a standard assessment in most programmes. The table also reflects the high demand for big data analysts, but also shows that working and interpreting big data requires more than good programming skills.

5 most important skills / abilities 5 least important skills / abilities 5 skills most difficult to recruit 5 skills least difficult to recruit
to work in a team applied microeconomics to influence others specialized marketing skills
to work with a wide variety of people to use social media to benefit business strategic thinking ability to work in a team
to solve complex problems accounting drive and resilience accounting
to build and sustain people networks programming big data analysis to use social media to benefit business
to prioritize and time management corporate social responsibility to solve complex problems foreign languages

What is more surprising is the fact that specialized subject knowledge – whether in economics, accounting and marketing – is considered less important and widely available on the labour market. Important skills in shortage are more general skills reaching from time management to people skills and strategic mastering of complexity.

How do these demands in the labour market coincide with the plethora of specialized master programmes in business? Shouldn’t business schools broaden their offering or even open their curricula for other disciplinary fields such as technology and arts and culture?

Navigating complexity as understanding and leading diverse groups of individuals requires taking different perspectives and working along and with different approaches. The mono disciplinary hammer is not sufficient to build the future. Business school graduates need a rich, continuously developing set of tools and instruments. Today MBA programmes with a diverse mix of students in terms of culture, previous education and experience are still the best offer in the market providing the skills and abilities employers look for.

Simon de Jong: An Analogy of Basketball and Business

Prof. dr. Simon de Jong is a (Full) Professor in Organizational Behaviour and HRM at the Department of Organization & Strategy. He also acts as the Vice-Chair of the O&S department. Additionally, he serves as an Associate Editor on the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

Before joining Maastricht University, Simon worked as a Human Capital consultant at Deloitte Consulting and held various academic roles at top universities and business schools across Europe, including the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), EADA Business School (Spain), and the Universities of Bath and East Anglia (UK).

In his research, he focuses on understanding the dynamics between power and teamwork, the challenges for achieving good job and organizational designs, and the characteristics of effective leadership and HRM. Moreover, together with his co-authors, he researches various other topics such as the impact of top management teams on employees and the effects of HRM practices on the psychological contract and the aging workforce. His research spans different levels of analysis, ranging from the relational/dyadic level, to the individual-, team-, department-, and organization-levels. His articles have been published in top scientific journals, such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of World Business, Human Relations, and Organization Science.

Drawing on the above experience, Simon has taught a variety of HRM and Organizational Psychology courses ranging from strategic HRM to consulting, and from negotiations to diversity and leadership training. He has also supervised theses on all levels (i.e., BSc, MSc, (Exec.) MBA and PhD) and received various grants and awards. His consultancy experience ranges from HR benchmarking and HR strategy consulting to process and service improvement.

What is your role at SBE?

Akin to other professors, I have a whole range of duties, including: doing research myself, but also making sure others can do research. This means managing resources and funding, getting the right people in and afterwards coaching, advising, and supervising them. And then of course teaching courses and supervising theses. Last but not least, besides the regular teaching I also do MBA teaching.

What motivates you as a professor?

From an educational perspective, it is very rewarding to have people think thoughts they have not thought before. It is nice when students say: “Ah, I’ve never thought about it this way”, and then are able to apply this in a project or their job.

For research, it is basically the same: I like solving puzzles and problems, and science is one big continuous problem solving exercise. Everybody builds a small part of the puzzle, that is the cool thing. And working with intrinsically motivated people on solving these puzzles is very rewarding.

What is your role within the MBA programme?

Currently, I supervise BCP theses and of course teach various modules on, for example, understanding individuals, understanding teams, and performance and SHRM. Additionally, we (as the O&S group) are also expanding our involvement in external consulting/training projects, so I also play a role there. Previously I was director of Executive Education at another university, which meant that I also had to provide overall leadership to the FT and MBA programmes (e.g., curriculum, staffing, marketing, recruitment, etc.). Hence, all in all a varied range of MBA-related activities.

What is your topic for the week?

Understanding business in times of change. We start with the context, focus on the organisational level, strategic HRM and then go into social and individual psychological aspects like: what is motivation, what makes teams work.

How do you make the connection to today’s business?

There are different ways of doing that. We present a whole range of different source materials: from scientific articles to practical articles and links to websites. I think that as an MBA student, you should have a critical mind and be able to flexibly use, integrate, and critique those various sources. In short: you have to know what the strengths, weaknesses and limitations are of different sources.

Another thing that we try to do in the MBA, is to provide a bit of a historic perspective. The things you hear about today; some of them are hypes, and some are new, yet some have been done before. It is therefore valuable to understand where topics are coming from: by understanding the past, you can understand today (and the future).

In science, there generally is a broader perspective, but in business, issues sometimes collapses into “this is it”. In such cases, it does not hurt to take a step back and look at things a bit more critically from a more holistic understanding. I think this is a very important skill to learn during a MBA.

What are you particularly proud of professionally?

Careerwise, I’ve enjoyed working internationally and getting my first full professorship at the relatively young age of 36. I am also quite proud of various publications my co-authors and I have been able to publish in global top scientific journals.

Would you like to share something personal with the readers?

I used to play basketball at quite a high level (i.e., junior ‘eredivisie’ and senior ‘eerste divisie’ and even some games at senior ‘eredivisie’ level). With the juniors, my position was center, but I was too short for the same position with the seniors and thus moved more towards power-forward. Unfortunately, a knee-injury put an end to my active playing, but it is still in my DNA. So don’t be surprised if you spot a basketball-analogy or two during classes!