Theme 2017

Today, humankind is at the top of its game. On average, we have never been more wealthy, happy or safe. Nonetheless, sooner or later there will be a tipping point. While the development of the human population thrives, biodiversity and the availability of natural resources go downhill. Furthermore, issues such as Brexit and reduced faith in the European Union have led to uncertainty and division between leaders and countries, which complicate international collaboration. This raises interesting questions. How can national leaders tackle issues that cross international borders? What kind of leadership is required? And more importantly, is it possible to “manage the earth” when the world is becoming more connected digitally, but less connected politically?

On the other hand, companies can play an important role in connecting countries and addressing social, environmental and economic issues. Multinationals start to create more sustainable supply chains and increasingly collaborate in knowledge platforms in order to address these international issues or to improve innovation. This results in the creation of a circular economy and interesting sharing solutions. On a more local level, entrepreneurs use their knowledge to engage the consumer and society to contribute to a better future. However, some questions remain unanswered. How will future leaders balance between political, financial and social affairs and actually start Managing Earth Inc.? This year’s EBF Conference will inspire students to be the leader of tomorrow.

“I have a dream” and “Yes we can” are worldwide known examples that show us that inspirational leadership is from all times. In the current world we live in, experience is put on a pedestal and excellent content is not enough. Political leaders get more votes when people feel personally impacted by them. Thereby, especially the Millennials rely less on traditional extrinsic values and put more emphasis on intrinsic factors such as personal development and learning. They want to work hard, not just because of sky-high salaries but because they believe in the mission and values of their companies. Leaders cannot rely on their traditional motivators anymore, but rather have to energize and inspire their audience to turn their visions into reality. At the same time, fading borders require leaders to be more flexible and culturally sensitive. More importantly, today’s leaders are responsible for the quality of life in the world of tomorrow. How do you think beyond the borders of your company or your country, while keeping in touch with your audience?
Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith released the book “The Age of Uncertainty” in 1977. However, it can be questioned whether it wasn’t “The Age of Assurance” by then. The refugee crisis, disruptive technologies, Brexit, terrorist attacks, and so forth are current examples that have decreased people’s trust in society these days. This results in fragmentation in the political arenas, on both a national and global level. Whereas nationalistic disharmony is answered with opportunistic views, Brexit launched the dissolution of international cooperation. On the other hand, businesses are forced to have a clear vision on their route of long term strategy, but at the same time they should be able to turn the ship around when needed. In short, we live in a VUCA world, where the growth of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are part and parcel of everyday life. What is the reaction of organizations on this ever increasing uncertainty? How do they manage and survive in the jungle of VUCA where survival of the fittest by Darwin is the law?
Currently our economy is based on the take-makedispose concept. The Circular Economy challenges this traditional way of doing business and aims for value maximization of resources and at the same time waste minimization. Therefore, rather than thinking in linear waste patterns, it has the ambition to create circles of value. As resources such as oil and water deplete, it seems that the concept is no longer an option but a necessity. The transition to a Circular Economy is a challenging task, however it does bring opportunities as well. Without a doubt it results into social and environmental benefits and thereby innovative entrepreneurship is triggered. Moreover, businesses can even create economic advantages by optimizing their chains and lowering costs. What kind of “New Thinking” is needed for the algorithms of the Circular Economy? How can we break the vicious cycles of conventional businesses and replace them by the concept of never ending circles of value?
For a long time, companies have viewed patents as a necessity to protect themselves and their position in the market. However, more and more companies realised that technology leadership is not defined by patents, but rather by the ability to attract talent and knowledge. For example, Tesla Motors released all their patents in 2014 and started applying an open source philosophy in order to innovate faster, expand the infrastructure for electric cars and be one step closer to zero emission of air pollutants. However, what are the downsides of these sharing platforms? What can and cannot be shared? On a more entrepreneurial level, this platform concept evolved to new business models in order to create the sharing economy. In these businesses, consumers wield the scepter and demand social platforms where they can meet, share and moreover take their business into their own hands. Well, it turns out that sharing may actually be caring. How do you effectively apply these sharing solutions in your company?