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Belgium Trek (and diversity)

Posted by: Eva Spillebeen
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Diversity, it plays a big role in the MBA. It is a powerful word that lots of companies play with these days, and they have a damn good reason for it. It has been proven – I would like to cite you the official source in the Harvard Referencing System, but I have no clue who actually did the study – that diverse heterogeneous teams achieve better results than homogeneous teams. You’ve probably all experienced it before. Talk to diverse people about problems you are facing at work and it’s sure you will get a lot of different solutions you could try out. If you are able to get these diverse people around one table, building towards a common goal, you have increased the likelihood of success and finding innovative solutions.

On a short side-note, you could even draw the analogue further. We had to read a book for Operations Management, ‘The Goal’, and this was also a key theme in there. Pulling you out of your traditional environment and taking a walk in your spare time, gives fresh ideas. You hear it so often that ‘while running I get the best ideas’.

Bringing in different perspectives, challenging traditional viewpoints and avoiding common biases, diversity does add a lot of value. Companies reach better results and therefore better performance, so business schools must then benefit from it as well. But how do they benefit? On many fronts the diversity adds value to the program. In class, you get to learn from people that see business problems in a very different way. The diverse experiences people have, guarantees relevant examples when discussing a theoretical business concept. Also you see how people cooperate in teams and behave in group.

Industry sector (pre-MBA)

Next to diversity in professional background, interests and targets, there is a high level of diversity in nationalities. Praising LBS for its international student body (65 nationalities in the MBA this year!), many people are getting important lessons in international and cultural awareness – so am I. Just as an easy example, I will never forget the first time I tried to kiss a Japanese or I was undergoing an intense hug from a Brazilian I barely knew. Those are only the basic aspects, so you can imagine what impact this diversity has on the experience of an MBA.

Nationality by region

If you have read the title, you probably think, when do we start talking about Belgium? Well in business schools, diversity means lots of fun as well! People are proud about their background and kindly share their culture. Everyone joins regional clubs, organizing activities like the Chinese New Year’s dinner party that is coming up next week. You get a privileged insight in how people celebrate and experience this. End of February there is a multicultural event ‘Tattoo’ across all programs and staff of LBS. People represent their country with a food stand and a dance performance. I really look forward to representing Belgium soon, although we still need a lot of practice on the dancing part. Another part is the diverse international treks people organize. I’m visiting Japan in the spring break, and multiple other treks are organized: South-East Asia, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Greece, Israel, etc. Be it professional or fun treks, they are all organized by locals, passionate about their country and eager to share it with their peers.

Coming closer and closer to the topic now J. We have 7 Belgians on the MBA program graduating in 2016, I think 5 on the MBA2015 if you count people with multiple nationalities. Combined with the MiM, MiF and EMBA program, there are about 20 Belgians at LBS.  We organized a Belgium trek, performing on ‘Tattoo’ and are looking forward to organize beer tastings and also probably a “cantus”, for those who know, a great piece of our student culture!

The Belgium trek in short: 25 students, 9 nationalities, 4 cities, 3 mini-vans, 2 company visits and lots of beers and fun!

We started our visit in Leuven with a walk past the Old market and the famous city council building. Beer being an important part of Belgian culture and AB Inbev a major recruiter of MBA students, we visited their headquarters in Leuven. After an informal presentation and touch point with senior management, we were taken on a guided tour around the factory. Ending the tour with a draughting course, everyone learned how beer actually should be draughted. Afterwards going to a bar serving more than 1000 different beers, you can imagine we had a great night.

AB Inbev

The walking tour or cycling tour discovering the great city of Brussels was followed up by chocolate workshop. It was a busy day as we went to Ghent in the early evening to visit a start-up. StoryMe is a young dynamic small company executing powerful promotion videos. They start from the principle that all complexity should be easy to explain. Afterwards, we enjoyed an amazing night walk through Ghent, which I would recommend to all of you if ever visiting Belgium. Our last day, op of the bill, we visited Bruges. Everybody was tired but still enjoyed the medieval breath of the city. We got a lot of positive feedback from satisfied travellers, saying it was a unique trek and view into Belgium and its culture. Mission accomplished!

 

Chocolate workshop

After having organized this trek early November, I understood the importance to visit a country alongside locals. You can bring an exclusive viewpoint and experience to your peers. There again, it is proven that diversity enables a superior experience at business school.

I’ll have to think about my next subject, but it might be about recruiting for an internship, as this is what everybody is currently concerned with. See you soon!

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