Good business is the best antidote to populism and nationalism

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Acercando Naciones busca incansablemente mostrar las pautas culturales de cada País o Región, para, mediante su conocimiento y respeto, poder llegar a un entendimiento comercial redituable a todos. Sin embargo hay un elemento común a toda sociedad, a todo País, a toda cultura, todos las mujeres y hombres del planeta buscan una mejor calidad de vida. La nota que sigue es un ladrillo mas en este edificio que todos queremos construir. (Jorge Tuero)

Por Santiago Iñiguez

Populism. One of the consequences of  is that business schools, along with other higher education institutions, have become a favorite target of critics who claim that we are the cradle of globalization and perpetuate elitism. Few can be unaware of such criticisms having been made – it is anything but novel; however, it would be naïve to think that given the current climate, it will dissolve as quickly as in the past.

What business schools face today is an historic opportunity to reinvent our mission and reposition our activities to influence the transformation of the global society. Business schools can contribute to the development and preparation of managers and entrepreneurs to be the architects of inclusive and fair societal structures. Our faculty can develop impactful research that addresses real problems in our communities.  This is particularly important during times like the present when anti-scientific attitudes are rampant. We can and should contribute to the design of a better society, one that is more just and equal.

It is very likely that all these changes will continue to create turbulence in the short term, turbulence that will affect our activity as business schools. We may witness a drop in the flow of cross-border talent (students, faculty, entrepreneurs and recruiters) because of increased obstacles to mobility between countries. Or there may be a change in the nature and way that companies do business that will impact our graduates; for example, the configuration of supply chains or a move from offshoring to onshoring to confront trade tariffs.

Yet, there are two good reasons to nurture hope for the long term. First, given the unstoppable development of digitalization across all sectors, including education, it is very likely that the world will evolve towards further integration, despite the odds. Second, millennials and younger generations – our current and future students – have a distinctly cosmopolitan mindset with which they actively cultivate a feeling of global citizenship. 

According to Joshua Cooper Ramo, centuries from now, our great-great-grand children will look at our age and name it, as we have named the Enlightenment. Perhaps they will call this era the “Great Connection” or “Great Enmeshment” or some such. [i]Without the “Great Connection”, the economy in any region has no future and no chance of survival. Nobody can ignore the benefits of global great connections.

There are at last three ways where business schools can actively combat rampant populism and nationalism:

-Instill a cosmopolitan spirit in students and participants and combat supremacism, nationalism and exclusion 

-Promote the understanding and embracement if human diversity in all its form: gender, culture, sexual orientation, vital options and ways of conceiving the good life 

– Foster free trade and political and commercial integration at a global level

-Spread entrepreneurship and social commitment as essential features of best business practice

New global specifies must be identified, and new insights and knowledge for global companies and their management must be discovered. In this book, diverse authors set to work on this important new research agenda, describing and profiling new global species.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, when he wrote about the French Revolution, and bearing in mind the Industrial Revolution he was living through, these may be the worst of times, but also the best of times. [ii]There are many opportunities to be seized by business schools, reclaiming their role as trailblazers of the future global society.

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