I spent last week leading a seminar at Euromed Ecole de Management in Marseille, France, with a wild collection of other professors and teachers from distant places on the planet. We taught our fascinations to students in the Masters of Business program - mine was "Complexity, Creativity & Branding". What I found so very intriguing was the school's management and their interest in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary learning focused on complexity, innovation and knowledge management.
A captivating speaker from the Edward de Bono Foundation on Malta led one of the groups in lateral thinking. A warm-hearted Professor from Mumbai, India gave another group insights into HR. A retired specialist from the Space Agency in Bremen, Germany offered a working platform about private space travel as business. Two wise and charming Parisians opened the minds of another group and gathered their collaborative contributions for the U.N. An Armenian yoga instructor from Los Angeles opened the minds of another group to the wonders of wholeness through eating and meditation practices. A dedicated British economist shared his accounting tools with a different group. An enterprising Netherlander took a group of young entrepreneurs through the rigors of a start up company.
I made my group of 46 students crazy! They had to grasp concepts larger than life, understand how they impact the dynamic network structures of organizations, realize that the brand identity - and ultimately, the reputation of the company - is created through the behavior of the people in the business delivering the promise of the brand. That's a lot to ask from people without little or no management experience.
By the end of the week, they amazed me. We struggled with cultural differences, different maturity and respect levels, and language difficulties. What they delivered through presentation of self-created brands integrated with these concepts demonstrated to me that they got it.
I am not even sure if they realize yet that they did get it. But, one day they will.
By the way, they selected a theme themselves - Sex & Humor. From that they had to develop a brand out of their own human content. That required identifying their vision on how to deliver this, the values they would stand for and mean, what performance differences would set them apart and establish their mission to deliver, and what would endorse them as proof of this. While doing this, they also had to identify the alignments and the dependencies necessary to make this come alive. So, you can see that this was a lot to absorb in 5 days.
They taught me a lot, too.