The current period is dark, not only due to the season, but to the pandemia and international events that we live. Still, as the author Robert McKee writes: “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.” Indeed, also the actions we make together reveal how we see our role and importance for the society and the afterworld. It is therefore that the Louvain School of Management is committed to continue to deliver three important gifts to our students and to our stakeholders.
The first is hope. Hope, the belief that the future will be brighter than this November day, that health, happiness and fulfilment are within reach for us, is fundamental to any prolonged human effort. Hope is the vital underpinning of trust, absolutely essential to any collective or societal action of worth, the existence of markets and organizational rules. Without hope trust is either an empty habit, cleaning the glass at the bar of Titanic, or a primitive reciprocity of the Tit-for-Tat type. We all need hope and joy in the moment to believe in the actions that will make it true in the future. The gloomy spectator in life is always right at some time when predicting misery, but to his own regret. The real challenge is to bring passion and enchantment to our students, because hope is as contagious as any virus.
The second aspect is a critical scientific approach, a set of general competences and aptitudes. Without a critical mind, a human merely fueled by hope may resort to fanatical simplifications or simply dwell on naïve wishful thinking. Either way, the outcome is likely to bring only deception and cynicism as fruits of even extreme efforts, the lot of the misinformed in burnout. The problems we face, including those related to direct and indirect effects of the pandemic, are partially the symptoms of poorly designed and managed systems, dysfunctional markets, distorted information and ineffective use of resources. All these call for the systematic analysis and remedy of management science, not quick fixes or excuses. Where there is been a disdain of method and analysis, the decline is not far away. Standing on the shoulders of our long legacy, we at LSM are proud to insist on the general excellence in the study of management, not the empty slogans.
The third perspective is a rare bird in the media forest of today: long-term sustainability. When caught in a hostile forest at night, it is nothing but natural to look down at our feet trying to escape. However, when all our action is based on where we were last week in anticipation of where we will be next week, it is most unlikely that we will find a way out in the shortest time. It is precisely in moments of stress and crisis that we need a countervailing power to the temptation of the immediate reaction, to the intuitive response of fear to an unknown situation. At LSM we are not preparing students for next year, we are forming the makers of the next half century. For anyone or anything to last that time, the perspective must be anchored in the concept of sustainability. The idea is fundamental from any closed system: there can be no long-term operation unless there is a sustainable level of depletion and replenishment of resources within it. The same of course applies to human action as well: a sustainable level of development enables each one to contribute and recover sufficiently over time. For us at LSM, the long-term perspective is intimately associated with sustainability, although it does not simplify the challenge!
The three gifts that we offer to our students and stakeholders, hope, excellence and long-term sustainability, are not the results of a whim. The School is drawing on the work of a long range of great scholars within or external to Louvain that have developed and refined these thoughts. One scholar that spread the seeds of the three gifts to our community this Spring is Dr. Gunter Pauli. An international researcher, entrepreneur and author, Gunter is the antidote to the Doomsday prophets or the isolationistic nay-sayers around the world. He not only believes in the human ability to do right, it shows it again and again with practical examples. The calling in his books on the Blue Economy is strikingly simple and powerful: focus at creating value from available and renewable resources rather than depleting costly and non-renewable materials. The impact is tremendous, by refocusing from cost minimizing (as the dual of accounting profit maximization), the creation of value opens vast opportunities for creativity, innovation and revenue growth. In the 112 cases reported by Pauli in the Blue Economy, what strikes you is the diversity and imagination mobilized for the common good, but also the economic benefits generated by the endeavor. However, the work of Pauli is not a recent collection of environmental entrepreneurs, but the fruit of more than twenty years of research and analysis of sustainability, including the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) program. Conceptually, Pauli is a precursor into showing the many analogies between biological and socio-technical systems in terms of survival, innovation and renewal. Intellectually for us in management, Pauli brings back to the forefront the role of focused innovation and development as a source of value creation, an element neglected in the economy of affluence triggered by the globalization of the supply markets.
But although the excellence and ingenuity of the approach are beyond questioning, it is in the positive and comprehensive humanistic approach that Gunter Pauli distinguishes his action. Much more than a dry economist or slick consultant, Gunter is a humble and kind nature putting particular emphasis at his work with children and students, as well as applied projects. He gives us the hope and light we all dearly need at this time.
Yes, this November is dark and the times dire, but I am proud to see that the seeds spread by Gunter Pauli have inspired the three essential gifts that LSM will present to our graduates. Is it not a source of light?
Per J. Agrell
Dean of the Faculty