Business experts discuss 'Overcoming Global Challenges'

Business and industry experts shared their wisdom with the next generation of leaders at a panel discussion held at the University of London
Maggie Buggie speaks at the Overcoming Global Challenges event
Maggie Buggie of Capgemini joins an illustrious panel to discuss 'Overcoming Global Challenges'
Your task is to devise a way to give meaningful example and meaningful engagement to these issues

The University of London’s new Global MBA challenges its students to join the next generation of business leaders.

But what wisdom can the current generation of leaders hand down to those who follow?

Experts and industry leaders spoke at a free event on 4 July co-hosted by the University of London and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

They addressed questions such as how to transform competition into growth, how to manage change effectively, and what it takes to become a global player.

A productivity gap to solve - Ian Myson

Opening proceedings, Ian Myson, Director of Higher Education Partnerships at CMI, reminded us of the task at hand.

"Bad management is the number one cause of the productivity gap in the UK", he explained. Therefore, the Global MBA programme is "much needed in the global business environment".

Responsible for the development of CMI's university partnerships, Ian pointed to claims that 75 per cent of employers want to see professional qualifications alongside academic qualifications.

So when MBA graduates also receive a CMI award (Strategic Qualification in Management), they boost their career prospects by meeting these employer expectations.

Imagine the future. What does amazing look like?

Iam Myson (CMI) speaks at the Overcoming Global Challenges event

Culture is everything - Andrew Halper

Andrew Halper, Managing Director of Plumb Line Advisors, spoke about corruption and culture in a business context.

A former diplomat in Beijing, Andrew spoke about understanding the culture of a business environment. "Culture is everything", he said, "and it's easy to get it wrong".

Corruption, he explained, often represents a rational response by actors to their environment. Consequently, there are places in the world where you rely more on relationships than rules to get things done.

China suffers from a lack of transparency in particular industries, he noted - for example, in the banking industry - and offers few channels for discussion to effect change.

"There is no easy road to dealing with this", he mused. "Your task is to devise a way to give meaningful example and meaningful engagement to these issues."

"Power of the crowd" - Maggie Buggie

Maggie Buggie, Vice President and Global Head of Digital Sales at Capgemini, excels in transforming customer experience and increasing business performance through use of digital.

She highlighted four key lessons from her business experience to date - from the familiar "customer is king" to the fashionable "power of the crowd".

"Digital" not only allows for different ecosystem management and partnerships, she explained; it also breaks down silos and changes the way that key targets are delivered.

But above all, it's still people that make things happen. Creating a good employee experience remains important because growth relies upon possibility.

"There is an evolution in technologies (such as Artificial Intelligence), but that doesn’t mean that human experience is going to be cannibalised", she said.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

Allow room to fail - Liz Jackson

Dr Liz Jackson MBE shot to fame for her remarkable achievements on Channel 4's 'Secret Millionaire'. She launched an award-winning company, Great Guns Marketing, during the year when she lost her sight, and ran this for 17 years.

Liz Jackson (MBE) speaks at the Overcoming Global Challenges event

Now Marketing Director at BCMS, her uplifting testimony spoke of inspiring positivity, setting goals, and creating room for opportunity.

"Taking time out to think is really important", she said. "Imagine the future. What does amazing look like?"

Liz's experience has told her that teams can be apprehensive about large goals because of the risk that they will fail. But that is precisely the shift in mentality that managers can empower.

"Unless there’s room to fail, you never hit the really big goals. You have to allow people to step outside of their comfort zones", she said.

"Do something that allows people to unleash their full talent."

Computing students who are given room to fail could become better coders, says Goldsmiths.

Not everyone is the same - Mike Johnson

The hardest thing about global marketing and branding is that someone has to make the decisions, quips Mike Johnson, the former CEO of Castrol (BP) and now CEO of Emergence.

With his 20-year record of leading successful businesses to breakthrough results, Mike spoke about the balance between 'commonality' and leaving room for autonomy in large corporations.

Castrol's 'multi-domestic model' (where different countries made their own decisions) had proven disastrous for efficiency, he said. Equally, the danger of going too far in the other direction - imposing a single model - is the assumption that everyone starts from the same point.

Imagine that everyone is set the same targets, he said. It's inevitable that halfway through the year, some countries will say they cannot meet those targets. And by then, it will be too late to invest in the high-performing markets.

Mike Johnson speaks at the Overcoming Global Challenges event

Mike's solution was to lead a global strategy that categorised his regional operations into 'Growth', 'Core' or 'Optimise' groups. Sometimes, members of the 'Optimise' group became the standout performers, because they better understood their place and what was needed.

Echoing Andrew Halper's remarks, Mike insisted that 'culture eats strategy for breakfast'. 80 per cent of strategy is implementation, he said, which relies heavily on local understanding.

Any other business? "Play it straight"

So, did the panel have any last words of advice?

"Play it straight", Mike advised, covering a number of questions with one stroke. Integrity can quickly become a model that others subscribe to, he said.

Negotiate the gaps and the challenges, Andrew added.

There will always be concerns about getting things done in regions where corruption is rife. But why not invest in local services, for example, instead of exchanging bungs? This not only makes local officials look good - it's also above board and offers more to local communities.

We wish to extend our thanks to all the panellists and to everyone who attended.