10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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Engaging for Freedom: How Management Can Contribute

In his St. Gallen Topic Brief, Prof. Simon Grand outlines two ways in which management relates to freedom and invites decision-makers to reflect on how they may promote free thought and action within and outside their organisation.

Connecting the St. Gallen Symposium’s discussion on “freedom” to “management” invites us to reflect on management from an unconventional perspective. It provides the opportunity for managers and management researchers to rethink taken-for-granted expectations and ideas on management practice, on managerial impact and performance, or on the relevance of management from a societal perspective.

In this essay, I distinguish two dimensions in which management relates to freedom: (1) managing in freedom and (2) managing for freedom.

The first relates to processes and practices within an organisation, strengthening freedom of thought and action of employees and executives. The second focuses on how management engages for organisational value creation which protects and promotes the freedom of external stakeholders. In both dimensions, we identify ways in which leaders and executives, managers and entrepreneurs, can contribute.

Managing in Freedom: Creating and Protecting Spaces for Reflection and Action

We start with an important puzzle: We often assume that leaders have the freedom to decide and to act. Otherwise we would not talk about the “powerful” who meet to discuss how to solve important problems or change the course of today’s world. And we would not address people “at the top” of organisations and institutions as those having real impact and equivalent responsibility.

At the same time, economic, technological, political and societal developments are portrayed and experienced as a “force of nature” and as inevitable. We thus both over-estimate and under-estimate the impact, freedom and capacity of managers to decide, to act and to make a difference in a complex world.

How can managers, executives and leaders foster and protect freedom within their organisations and institutions, including their own freedom to think, to decide and to act?

Strengthening and sustaining the premises of managerial engagement

Creating, developing, governing and changing organisations and institutions and their course of action require space for free managerial engagement – as well as the establishment and protection of the premises for such engagement.

Often, important strategic decisions are not taken because it’s not possible to mobilise the community of executives and managers necessary to realise the strategy. Many important topics and opportunities are not addressed because they do not gain the attention and enter the agenda of an organisation. Furthermore, management sometimes lacks the necessary practices and platforms to appropriately reflect, discuss and sharpen an issue or option. And sometimes, the language is lacking to formulate, address and discuss an opportunity or an issue in a way that it can consistently be explored.

Managing in freedom requires to mobilise the relevant executive communities, shape the agenda, and establish the practices, platforms and language necessary to critically reflect, collectively decide and systemically enact the entrepreneurial advancement of an organisation.

Experimenting with alternative futures in the face of uncertainty

Leaders, executives and managers face multiple uncertainties and ambiguities concerning both the present and the future: How, for example, do we have to re-think the co-evolution of economy, society and nature? How will digitalisation transform value creation? How do we collectively judge the attractiveness and desirability of possible futures?

We can distinguish multiple uncertainties: concerning the future; concerning the capability of an organisation to move in new directions; concerning the resources necessary to realise a specific course of action; as well as concerning how competitors or partners see these uncertainties. To enable robust interpretations, decisions and actions in light of uncertainties, it is important to experiment with alternative possibilities.

Specific hypotheses, concrete action and fast feedback can help us to better cope with uncertainty. For this purpose, it’s important to create and establish protected spaces to systematically experiment with and explore alternative possibilities. Attractive alternatives emerging from such experimentation and exploration enlarge and enrich management’s entrepreneurial freedom to think and to act.

In this context, a fundamental, but also challenging insight for management practice is to accept that not everything can be proactively designed, defined and guided, but requires indirect action, careful curation and mindful orchestration.

Allocating resources and developing capabilities as preconditions for the freedom to act

To experiment under uncertainty, enact attractive alternatives and open new action spaces, we need the resources and capabilities necessary to realise and scale promising new opportunities.

Managing in freedom requires access to relevant financial and non-financial resources to invest in and scale experiments and alternatives within and beyond the organisation. This also includes precise information and relevant knowledge to understand challenges and opportunities, with implications for our consideration of digitalisation, access to data and talent, as well as recurrent learning opportunities. And it requires institutions which enable an appropriate representation of heterogeneous interests.

Ultimately, access to resources and capabilities shapes the power of individuals, collectives and organisations to freely decide and to act: how do we ensure a fair distribution of information, resources, capabilities and thus power to realising freedom to think, to decide and to act? We cannot address questions of freedom in this respect without relating them to a careful balance of power and knowledge, which shapes the competition for resources.

This implies the systematic invitation to reflect, question and change the established, un-questioned order of things, including the distribution of resources and capabilities, as well as the taken-for-granted processes of resource mobilisation and resource allocation.

Managing for Freedom: Creating and Sustaining Action Spaces for Stakeholders

As executives, managers and entrepreneurs, we can ask a fundamental question: does the current and future value creation of our private organisation or public institution increase the freedom of our customers, investors and other stakeholders? Or does it rather limit, reduce or close their capacity for free thought, decision and action?

This question is at the heart of many controversies: about business models which operate through a lock-in into specific technological platforms; about the (in-)transparency of data collection and use by private companies and public institutions; or about the legacies of current decisions for future generations. Many products, services, and business models are framed as enhancing freedom and self-fulfilment, while actually increasing dependence and constraint. New forms of self-employment and project work are presented as enlarging flexibility and self-determination, while in reality they often undermine stability and security. And in many cases, decisions and actions have consequences for people and communities who are not directly addressed, but indirectly concerned.

Creating value which inspires the freedom of customers, owners and other stakeholders

This indicates an important possibility for managers to engage for freedom beyond their own organisation and management practice: to what extent do our value creation and related business models increase the freedom of those directly addressed or indirectly concerned?

It’s essential to enable value creation which advances the freedom to think, to decide and to act of customers, investors and other stakeholders. In this light, recent attempts such as customer-centric service design, ways of developing new products in cooperation with customers, or funding models involving the customers in the actual financing of new solutions can be seen as protecting and enlarging the freedom and impact of customers.

Similar ideas can be developed in relation to owners, partners or suppliers. Increasing their freedom to act of course transforms the mutual dependencies between an organisation and its stakeholders and might decrease one’s own power position in a short-term perspective. However, such ways of managing for freedom can be essential to keep the ecosystem of relevant stakeholders competitive, creative and responsible, strengthening the position of important partners, and making stakeholder relationships more reliable and resilient.

Systematically considering and shaping alternative societal developments

We suggest to explore how organisations and institutions are embedded in broader economic, technological, cultural and societal contexts. On the one hand, organisations and institutions are always already in place and running. Important developments are ongoing, self-organising and beyond management’s influence. Or they are determined by historical path-dependencies and other political, cultural and societal developments.

At the same time, we can claim the possibility for organisations and their management to reflect and criticise, shape and change such developments: they are not just “self-evident” and “natural”. Talking about freedom implies to assume the possibility of shaping how the economic, societal or political context evolves, and to view leadership and management as practices, which can have impact beyond a specific organisation. Exploring technological scenarios, changing how companies are organised, reflecting what “values” are promoted in current and future value creation are entrepreneurial topics with relevance for the broader societal context beyond a single organisation.

Several questions can inspire such a perspective on management practice: How do future action spaces differ with respect to what is impossible, what is not-yet-possible, what is desirable, what is already possible but unrealised, from a societal viewpoint? How do different time horizons affect what is possible and desirable: what we cannot change now might become possible in five years, or in fifteen years? How do we value future possibilities in relation to current investments in terms of increasing the freedom of decision and action?

Sustaining the freedom of choice for future generations

Among the most affected stakeholders of an organisation and its management are future generations. Their freedom to choose and to act is substantially determined by our valuation of current developments, opportunities and possibilities, and shaped by the models, investments and commitments we establish now.

In this context, “future generation” can have different meanings: the younger generation that aspires to be involved in relevant decision-making processes; social movements that search for alternative ways of gaining impact and relevance; not-yet-born generations which will develop their own agendas and ambitions, and will need the necessary preconditions (institutions, resources, competences, …) to do so freely; new types of enterprises which look beyond existing business, investment and financing models; neglected societies and communities, and their young generation.

Two questions for management practice can trigger productive perspectives in this context: Do we see unrealised projects that deserve more attention and investment? What if not(-yet)-possible initiatives are addressed as if they were possible? While these questions are well established in the creative economies for example, they deserve more attention in other industries and contexts as well.

Recurrently asking these questions allows to critically reflect the status quo, to generate valuable, desirable alternatives and to sustain the conditions necessary for future generations to be free in their decisions and actions.

Concluding Remarks

As Judith Walls argues in her St. Gallen Topic Brief, we need to “act now to retain future options”, and thus enable freedom of choice of future generations. Management can play an important role in this perspective. Ultimately, this implies that engaging for freedom always also means to engage for the freedom of others.

At the same time, this requires management practice to engage in freedom, and to strengthen the organisational and institutional premises to protect and develop freedom of thought and action. It requires to engage in relation to different time horizons. And it requires not to take freedom as self-evident, but as something we have to recurrently create, protect, and advance. In the tradition of the St. Gallen Management Model, this requires strong manager communities, dedicated design practices and platforms, and a language of reflection, which allows to articulate and explore the different aspects of freedom discussed.

In all these dimensions, the current interest in entrepreneurial initiatives and the related mindset of “entrepreneuring” come as no surprise. A multitude of entrepreneurial modes – economic entrepreneurship, scientific entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, political entrepreneurship, cultural entrepreneurship, etc. – are currently discussed. This can be seen as an indicator that many individuals, collectives and networks search for alternative businesses, alternative ways of doing business, or alternatives to doing business as a way to advance societies and to realise and protect their freedom to think, to decide and to act.

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