Dean's word / 2019

Louvain-La-Neuve, Mons

We meet the Dean, Prof. Per Joakim AGRELL, a sunny day in September 2019 during the LSM Discovery Week.

How is LSM doing at the start of the semester?

LSM is in my view stronger than ever. We have reinforced our position as the largest and most international management school in Belgium, as well as our position within one of the highest ranked Masters in the world, the CEMS programme in management. The Louvain themes of 2018/19, Louvainternational, was a perfect match to our profile and we look forward to this year with a new theme.

This semester we also try out a new concept, the Discovery Week during which the new students get a kick-start into the different options, activities and facilities that we offer. In the line of our theme “Teaming up with the students”, we will even organize a Welcome Party and play together in the faculty.

Yes, this year the theme is “Teaming up with the students”, what does it mean? / #TeamingUpWithTheStudentsLSM

This year’s theme is fundamental for us, and it is a rich ground for work within the faculty. Management is fundamentally about getting people organized and motivated to accomplish something together. The essence here is the collective effort, the team, not only the individual and his or her preferences.

Indeed, we in management schools frequently face two misconceptions in this regard:
- The goal of any economic activity is simply to make maximum profit
- Management education is all about creating corporate leaders

First, economic profitability is just the consequence of an efficient action in a socially accepted context, not the overarching objective. Take criminal and anti-social activities, they are highly lucrative in the short run, but who willingly chooses that? People need purpose and social acceptance to do their best, to offer their time and to accomplish the task. Finding that mission and anchoring it among your team has never been more important than for the current generations.

Second, the idea that we all need to become the charismatic leader having all the answers and getting them across is both dated and even dangerous. In the team we need to be teamplayers and to exchange, listen and relay in different functions. Any lasting leader knows this and practices it daily. Thus, our theme highlights the role of followership, the ability to take a role in a team and contribute to the project, even if it is not your own creation. But we must also consider all those being affected by our work, our clients, neighbors, future generations and nature. This aspect is what we call stewardship, the ability to safeguard those outside of the group in your decision making.

Concretely, “teaming up” for us means more emphasis on joint projects and learning, in and outside of the classroom, through professors and students, but also student associations, corporate partners, alumni and researchers. During the year we will reform the student governance through a Student Board, participating more directly in the management of the faculty. We also launch a project together with the associations to even restructure physically our main building, creating spaces for meeting, talking and working together, across students, faculty and staff. Altogether, “teaming up” is a vital dimension of the common identity that we are reinforcing; “We are LSM”.

What is the link between your logo and this LSM identity?

We are very proud of our symbol, being the first and only faculty at UCLouvain to have a distinct and complementary visual identity. Our logo is a stylized sunflower, symbolizing joy, longevity and hospitality. For a faculty in the oldest and most international university in Belgium with openness as our credo, this is highly appropriate. However, the sunflower, always turning towards the sun, is also a striking metaphor for the constant endeavor at LSM to seek knowledge and inspiration in science, the rationale for our research-based teaching.

Perhaps fewer are familiar with the fact that the sunflower is also a remarkable environmentally friendly crop: requiring almost no irrigation, highly resistant to pests, fully edible or recyclable, limiting soil erosion and even capable of decontaminating soil! The ingenious and beautiful sunflower provides food, energy and protection for man and nature, nothing is wasted. Could we have found a better symbol to illustrate our motto “Excellence and Ethics in Business”?

Talking about symbols, many business schools show their excellence through the accreditation logos, sometimes from multiple organizations. Still, at LSM you only have one?

Our stakeholders, students, corporate partners and society, are rightly interested in proof of excellence and quality, beyond our own word. However, as we referred to the role of purpose above, it is important not to make empty gestures, they have to make sense.

Let us take an example: if you have a used car to sell, does it get any better if you have it passed the car inspections in Belgium, France and Luxemburg? Of course not. What matters is that you choose the most demanding quality screening and that you have credible endorsements.

Among the three common accreditations, AMBA is for a single program, AACSB is for the processes and EQUIS is the entire organization and its programs. For us, the choice is simple: the other labels are redundant.

But beyond the mere passing of a test (like the accreditation), the endorsement by objectively top-class institutions is much more demanding. Our real sign of educational excellence is to be in the top-10 tier among the 30 best business schools in the world, the CEMS alliance. Here we are constantly benchmarked, every semester, to peers such as HEC Paris, LSE, Rotterdam School of Management, ESADE and Cornell. I can assure you that it really keeps us on our toes!

I hope you see the difference between accreditation and endorsement? Take a culinary example, a chicken. If “Red Label” is the accreditation that guarantees the overall level and the purity, it does not say anything about the taste. However, if I add that a chef from a two-star Michelin restaurant is regularly ordering my chicken for his kitchen, it gives a real proof.