Posts Tagged ‘#lifelessons’

The great business thinker Milton Friedman once said “the business of business is business”. Perhaps at the time this was true but I must admit that this idea has never sat comfortably with me. In fact, I positively disagree with it – with a passion. Business, businesspeople and business education have the most phenomenal power to impact positive change in the world. Business school equips students with skills and knowledge to act as global citizens, charged to support those less fortunate. In my opinion, “the business of business is responsibility”. I refer to responsibility in all its facets. Responsibility to drive stakeholder value, to ensure good customer experience, to protect consumer rights and to deal responsibly with both employees and clients. But the responsibility of good business extends further – to use our skills and experience to support those in society that require assistance; whether this be through giving time, financial assistance or guidance. CEO of cloud computing giant SalesForce, Mark Benioff, devised the 1:1:1 model of integrated corporate philanthropy. The model is a commitment to contribute 1% of equity, 1% of employee hours and 1% of product back to the community it serves and has now been adopted by over 700 companies worldwide. During my Silicon Valley GIFT with LBS, I was privileged to see the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in South San Francisco; a world-class medical facility that not only treats thousands of sick children each year but is committed to improving children’s health worldwide. The project is a testament to Benioff’s commitment to philanthropy, CSR and the ‘business of responsibility’.

As a business school student from a non-profit background, creating impact has always been of the utmost importance to me. Following my time with the LBS in California, I took the opportunity to connect with a NY-based child health charitable foundation. Together with a team of counsellors and medical personnel, we brought 50 children suffering from cancer to Orlando for a week of fun and respite. Many of these children have interrupted intense chemotherapy sessions and prolonged hospital stays (think 6months plus), at the approval of their physicians, to spend a few days relaxing on rollercoasters and eating ice-cream in Florida’s winter sun. Most of these children are bald, many are wheelchair-bound and several are constantly wired to medical machinery and monitors. Imagine, therefore, people’s surprise as they watched us scream our way through roller-coaster rides and dance alongside characters at the Disney parades. Days were spent zooming around The Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld and the Universal Studio Parks. Nights were spent sleepless – administering drugs, prepping gastric tubes and dealing with medical complications. Armed with open-access trips to ToysRUs, skip-the-queue passes at all amusement parks and fireworks displays galore, the trip of a lifetime was had by all and unbridled happiness permeated the entire experience. Although fun and laughter hasn’t yet been scientifically-proven to cure cancer, there is no doubt that all the kids returned home with a fresh hope, renewed smiles and greater strength to battle and overcome their challenges. Many of our kids are already back in hospitals across the US undergoing treatment – I wish them all well and a New Year filled with only much happiness and good health!

The London Business School is committed to “changing the way the world does business” and an integral facet of this pledge is to positively impact society. LBS’ trifecta: The Volunteers Club, Net Impact Club and Impact Consulting Club offer some of our best talent to the community; giving guidance, time and resources to support local non-profits and social enterprises. It is something about which our school community is incredibly proud and for many students, involvement in these clubs is the start of a lifelong pursuit in driving impact from operations to the boardroom, and a commitment to solving communal and global challenges. LBS is a school committed to holistic business education – an institution that creates leaders who solve problems using their minds as well as their hearts.

Wishing all our readers – students, potential students, alums and supporters – a very happy and successful 2017!

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So, I am discovering how difficult it is to find content for blogging. As life here at LBS becomes busier by the day, it has been hard to find one unifying theme, other than frenzy!

Friday however, ended up being a perfect day, from a life and a blog-posting perspective. I have three particular moments from the day to share.

First, during ‘Leading through Conflict’. In our group of ten, we were challenged – with ten sheets of newspaper spread out on the floor, each of us was required to touch the newspaper, and have no body part touching the floor. Easy, right?

Then, of course, two sheets were removed. Even with eight remaining, it wasn’t too hard to share across ten pairs of feet. But for the last round, we were left surrounding one lonely scrap of newspaper.

It was pretty apparent we wouldn’t all be able to fit. Before we started arguing about who was going to get to stand on it, I suggested sitting on our chairs to avoid the floor, and holding the paper with our hands. Score one for teamwork.

The course was about managing potential conflicts, but for me, it was a neat illustration of a wider point about the state of the world. In our post-exercise discussion, we observed that we didn’t particularly cooperate when it wasn’t necessary, when there was one newspaper per person. However, when resources got scarce, we not only instinctively recognised the need to cooperate, we also managed to rapidly innovate.

My takeaway was that the normalisation of global resource scarcity should naturally give rise to better and faster forms of social innovation. I came to LBS wanting to be challenged and to explore such ideas further, but I had imagined that only like-minded friends would geek out about social impact with me. It’s heartening to know that this is a place where I can learn specific lessons even from my general courses.

But away from those lofty thoughts, Friday was also an opportunity to come back to the real world, and remember that it’s not all about philosophy at LBS. I then travelled across town to our LBS for London charity, Equal People.

We spent the afternoon in the company of Special Educational Needs users, supervising their use of the internet. We helped them with e-mails, and introduced some of them to YouTube and in turn, they gave us a fascinating and refreshing perspective on life in London.

I think this ended up being a great B-school moment because it was a real-life example of how the diverse social and learning environment at LBS does not just stop at the campus threshold, and that away from academic theory and career goal-seeking, it’s important to step outside of what can sometimes feel like an ivory tower existence.

Finally, as I wandered back through Notting Hill, I stopped by a Vietnamese street food stall. It was 4PM and I hadn’t managed to grab lunch so I was starving.

Whilst waiting, I remembered an article about one of my strategy professors researching the behaviour of market stall traders in India. I struck up a conversation with the owner about where she would like to set up shop – it turned out that they’d in fact been seeking to open a fixed premises, but weren’t sure about where the best location in London was, and whether they should target lunch trade or dinnertime…

A real-life business, identifying their market, understanding their customers and making choices which will affect the way they run their business… sounded a bit like a strategy case to me! I left them with an e-mail address, and took away an awesome bún thịt nướng (pork noodle salad). I am already looking forward to sharing some of my b-school learnings with Nha Trang kitchen.

As a group, at LBS we describe ourselves as eclectic, engaged, ambitious, communal and courageous. Friday had a little bit of all of that, and it’s these encounters that I think really typify the LBS experience.

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