The magnificent building of Casa Llotja de Mar in Barcelona was the venue for the first Annual Alumni Reunion de EAE Business School. This event was organized by former students of the School and is also designed to be a forum for analysis, reflection and debate on current issues related to the main trends in the field of management. On this occasion, the theme of the event was innovation as a driver of leadership in organizations, with the participation of executives from some of the most innovative companies at a national and international level, such as Google, Telefónica, Boehringer Ingelheim and ElTenedor (TripAdvisor).
In the introduction to the event, Sira Coll stated that “the Alumni Reunion is a meeting point where former students from all over the world and members of the EAE faculty and management team can get together and strengthen the bonds between them and share knowledge”. After the introduction, José Luis Fernández, General Director of EAE Business School, announced that the School’s objective is “to provide quality tuition and teaching that accompanies the former students throughout their professional lives”. He went on to add that the Alumni project was launched a year ago and it now serves over 70,000 former students, with an employment exchange, networking events and webinars, among other services.
Keynote presentation: “The Innovative Leadership”, by Nigel Barlow
The first presentation at the event was given Nigel Barlow, who had recently arrived from London for the occasion. Barlow is one of the world’s leading figures in the field of innovation, acting as a consultant for companies such as Apple and Microsoft and founding the Re-Think Project. In addition, he is a lecturer at Said Business School at Oxford University. Nigel focused on the issue of innovation with examples and case studies of successful ventures, interacting with the attendees.
Nigel Barlow believes that innovating is breaking the mould and thinking in a different way. He spoke about how many people stagnate when they stay at the same company for a long time. “It is better to change and reignite your curiosity once again” he stated. He went on to add that, in his opinion, leaders are professionals that see people as units of innovation rather than of production, because “it is important to know how to appreciate and value other people’s work, prioritize, delegate and join other projects”. Nigel is a strong advocate of the concept that innovating means improving people’s lives and business. He advised companies to dedicate time, money and attention on innovation, before going on to explain the importance of ideas by paraphrasing Peter Drucker, a great authority on management, who said that the business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation.
Round table: “Innovation and business”
After the coffee break, during the second part of the event, Josep Maria Altarriba, Dean of EAE Business School, chaired a round table debate with the participation of the representatives from the leading innovative companies in various fields. “Innovation has almost always been associated to an exclusively industrial and technological context, but organizations have to take on board that its affects all functional areas”, he highlighted in his introduction.
The key principles that the speakers underlined in relation to innovation were incentives, speed, culture, the environment and accessibility. This is an essential aspect for Xavier Capellades, Head of New Products at Telefónica, who said that, at his organization, they have created an idea platform where all of the employees make innovation proposals. He went on to state that “through failures, we learn to do things better”. At Telefónica, “the innovations that will take place over the next few years will be related to Big Data and the Internet of Things, and a strong impulse with respect to video. We will also see developments in relation to online data security and privacy”. In his contributions to the debate, Santiago Culí, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Boehringer Ingelheim in Spain, highlighted that adaptation to change is essential for all companies and, at his pharmaceutical company, “we communicate with patients’ associations to find out what they think of our products, with the aim of changing them and innovating”. In the pharmaceutical sector, “what will be sold in future will be new products in the areas of oncology, with powerful lines of research”.
Speaking of innovation in all senses of the word is to speak of Google, which is why we were pleased to count on the participation of José Antonio Martínez Aguilar, Country Manager for the multinational in Portugal and Managing Director of Google Spain. He underlined the importance of a culture and environment that is conducive to creating ideas. “We have to be able to use the information that customers give us in order to develop new products”. When it comes to managing priorities in innovation, José Antonio explained that “at Google, we have a model based on the 70-20-10 rule: 70% on core products, 20% on adjacent products and 10% dedicated to more futuristic initiatives, such as the Loon Project, a network of balloons that travel around the limits with outer space”.
Marcos Alves, the founder of ElTenedor, shared his vision of everyday innovation, in relation to the concept of a startup. He believes that new developments in a company come from a different way of working and, at ElTenedor, “as well as not having executive offices, we strive to find what the customer needs at this precise moment in order to give them what they are looking for”. In order to detect product needs, “we analyse which technology should be applied to provide a better service and we work as a team. This lets us generate ideas effectively”. The latest innovations in online restaurants involve “searching by type of dish, user photos and paying your bill via apps”, he added.
The event came to a close with drinks being served in the interior patio at Casa Llotja de Mar, which provided a valuable opportunity for networking between the former students, directors and professionals who attended the event.
Would you like to see what went on at the first Annual Alumni Reunion? Click here for the photographs taken at the event: