23 May 2022
Federico Frattini and Massimiliano Guerini, respectively dean of POLIMI Graduate School of Management and director of the Full Time MBA, explain how the school’s flagship educational programme is evolving with the incorporation of a higher purpose, life skills and a radical change in paradigm: «We want to put the individual and their awareness at the centre»
The debate on sustainability and the social responsibility of companies is not new. But recently, thanks also to the outbreak of the pandemic, it has accelerated significantly: «Compared to a few years ago, the quality and depth of reflections on the so-called grand challenges have changed», explains Federico Frattini, dean of POLIMI GSoM. «Today you can no longer think about sustainability as a damage containment strategy. Companies must take on the role of actors able to imagine different futures, able to instil in themselves and their people a higher purpose, a high objective that goes beyond business, putting humans back at the centre».
In this scenario. the business school, which prepares the managers of today and tomorrow, can and must play a key role. It is with this in mind that POLIMI GSoM launches the New Generation MBA, a revisitation of its flagship programme that goes precisely in this direction: «For us, it is a very strong signal, which shows our school truly believes in the importance of redesigning its activities and purpose», explains Massimiliano Guerini, director of POLIMI Graduate School of Management’s Full Time MBA programme.
From soft skills to life skills
Over the years, MBA programmes throughout the world have built their educational offering around two cornerstones: the first involved the centrality of hard skills, that is technical expertise, with soft skills seen as secondary; the second was tied to the company’s objective, which was solely and exclusively the maximization of economic value: «We at POLIMI GSoMwould like to go beyond that, reinterpreting these two concepts», explains Frattini. «It’s clear that you can’t overlook the management tools and expertise and hard skills, the technical and specialized expertise that was and remains fundamental. But it is not enough, nor is the adoption of so-called “soft” skills that are always focused on the objective of profit: I am thinking, for example, of the importance of time management, effective communication, the ability to manage a team. The change we have in mind is radical. We want to focus on the person and, for this reason, we prefer to not talk about soft skills, but of life skills. To do this, we will also make use of disciplines historically distant from business schools like psychology, philosophy, social sciences, history, art. Indeed, we are convinced that the integration between hard skills and life skills can bring immense value because it will also allow to give a new impetus to the more traditional teachings associated with business schools».
This is a reflection that starts from the training of managers but also involves the profound meaning of “doing business”: «Profit and financial results must no longer be the ultimate goal that drives business, but rather useful tools for achieving a higher goal, indeed a higher purpose. The companies that have reinvented themselves in this direction are already gathering the fruits of this approach».
A master’s to step up your game
The New Generation MBA is therefore the first step to usher in change within and outside our classrooms. If it proves effective, the approach will be extended to other programmes, even shorter ones. «We know that those who choose to pursue an MBA put their career on hold for a year to get back in the game and set out on a new path», explains Guerini. «So, our goal is, on one hand, to allow these people to increase their skills and, on the other, to help them know themselves more deeply in order to develop their human and professional path from a purposeful perspective»
The goal also is reflected in the master’s programmes: «We’ll start between the end of September and the beginning of October with an introductory online course Shaping a better future for all, dedicated to purpose and its strategic impact – adds Guerini -. Then the face-to-face classes will begin, we will start the MBA with a module dedicated to the obstacles companies face when addressing grand challenges. Obviously, the classes focused on developing the fundamental management skills will remain but will be revised to get our students to ask themselves how a different vision of business can also guide a manager’s main choices. Then, in November, there will be a week-long seminar dedicated to the development of skills, discovery and personal awareness, with students called on to dialogue both with their colleagues and with the faculty of POLIMI GSoM, which in turn is working to integrate the concept of higher purpose in their teachings, also re-examining the way in which traditional subjects are taught in order to combine hard skills and life skills».
Throughout the master’s programme, professional and personal growth will be cultivated in peer group sessions, appointments that involve the periodical training of small groups moderated by coaches and experts, up until the moment of the final project, which typically involves a work experience in which participants can put into practice everything they have learned. It’s important to try out in the field what you have learned in the classroom: this is true for hard skills, but especially for life skills: internships and project work at the end of the course will be crucial test beds».
Federico Frattini has the last word: «We strongly believe that a different model of leadership has become necessary to create leaders with a brilliant professional career, capable of engaging people and best managing their emotions: they will be responsible leaders and, why not, also happier».
Learn more about the Purpose model, through research and insights from the international landscape summarized in the Purposeful Organizations infographic !