AGSM @ UNSW Business School recently hosted the sixth annual MBA World Summit, welcoming 100 of the world’s top MBA students to exchange ideas, create social impact, build bridges between cultures, and make lasting and powerful connections.
“When you bring diverse, inspiring people together in one place, there will always be innovation and progress,” said Thomas Fuchs, co-founder of the Summit.
He and co-founder Yannick Reiss, from global networking company QX-Quarterly Crossing, selected the brightest MBA minds from top business schools around the world to explore current and future global challenges in three-days of immersive presentations, laboratory sessions and networking.
Current AGSM Full-Time MBA student Brad Swartz was one of the chosen delegates who made it through the rigorous selection process that assessed 2,000 applicants from around the world. The final 100 represented 36 business schools and 25 nationalities.
Shared value for the greater good
Swartz said the experience was invaluable. “It was such a rare opportunity to expand my network far beyond anything a regular MBA or exchange program could offer,” he said. “I loved sharing my AGSM MBA experience with other delegates, hearing about theirs, and challenging each other’s ideas.”
‘Shared value’ was a major theme for the event, with delegates considering what the term actually means to different companies and how it’s applied in different industries.
“Ever since I started hearing about ‘creating shared value’ I’ve been really inspired by its potential,” said Swartz. “At the Summit I was keen to get global perspectives from other delegates. Are companies really doing it, and is it really possible? Or is it just a buzzword?”
As a management strategy, ‘shared value’ seeks business opportunities that address contemporary challenges, giving organisations the opportunity to co-create shared value with stakeholders. Swartz was pleased to hear of many real examples from other delegates.
“The real challenge is an exercise in reframing the mindset,” he said. “Instead of redistributing earnings or profits, we need to focus on creating more value by aligning what businesses are really good at with social purpose.”
Michael Priddis, CEO of Faethm, also discussed this idea in his keynote speech, exploring the future of work and how we will navigate the disruption caused by automated technology.
“He spoke about how we could realign our perspectives on the future of work. There’s not a finite amount of work – it will always expand even as we become more efficient,” said Swartz. “For current MBA graduates, I think this will be our biggest challenge. It will be critical to find better solutions in business strategies rather than simply letting people go in the future.”
‘Yes, and…’ The power of positivity
During day two, Summit delegates ran laboratory sessions which attendees then voted on. Swartz attended a session which focused on the ‘Yes, and…’ philosophy of improv theatre – to take an idea and add to it, rather than block ideas and limit creativity. The group was taken through a number of improv exercises.
“The goal was to show us how a positive mindset can really influence a group or team in tremendous ways, and it had amazing impact,” he said.
The winning session for the day used design thinking methodology to create shared value solutions, asking delegates to drawn on a real-life problem they’d encountered in their organisation.
“Working in groups, we quickly saw how effective the methodology is in generating solutions,” said Swartz. “With enough deep thinking, businesses can find areas to contribute back to communities, as well as create economic value for themselves.”
Opportunities for development in Australia
For many international delegates, it was their first visit to Australia. “A lot of people were surprised by Australia’s potential,” noted Swartz, who is from Colorado in the US. “You don’t realise how many major companies are established here. Australia is a great place to develop products – it’s a really similar market to the US, but without so much competition.”
Swartz has developed his own prototype for Barmixta, a cocktail infuser. “Australia is great for trialling new ideas, to build, test and learn,” he said.
The other major difference noted was the diversity in his AGSM cohort. “Other delegates found this particularly striking,” said Swartz. “People from the US might have four or five different nationalities in a much bigger cohort – in the 2019 cohort AGSM has 21 nationalities in a class of 55 people.”
The international delegates also admired the close-knit ties between Swartz, his classmates and the AGSM staff. “Because of our numbers, we can really move past superficial relationships and create deep bonds within the school. For me, that’s been the biggest difference in coming to AGSM, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”