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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Political Challenges for the New World of Work

Let us start by debunking a myth. The new world of work will not be the end of work. Journalists and academics often fret that machines, robots, and artificial intelligence are going to take away our jobs.  That is just an urban legend. Today we are at the peak of technological progress. At no point in history did we have so much technology to enhance, or for those that think pessimistically, replace human productivity. Nevertheless, in the technologically most advanced countries, employment rates are at an all-time high. If history is any kind of teacher, technology will not simply replace us.

Admittedly, we might be working fewer hours. The availability of daylight and (numerous) religious holidays once regulated our working time. Since then, working hours first increased to over 60 hours a week, before they gradually declined to about 40 hours. Hence, in the future, we might be working between 30 and 40 hours. However, there is a large difference between de jure working hours and de facto working time. From several years of personal work experience in the country considered to have the world’s shortest work week, Denmark, I can assure you that the difference does not feel all that great. You might leave work at 4pm rather than 5pm, but you will answer more emails after dinner. In addition, if you want to move forward in your career, you still have to work 60 or more hours. Short formal working weeks might be nice, but they do not make that big a difference.

Instead, we must ask two different questions. First, what kind of work will we be doing in the future? What skills will we need? And second, what conditions will determine our work environment? Will the standard employment relationship (full-time, open-ended, regular working hours) still be the standard in the future?

Skilling and re-skilling

Regarding the kind of work, a few trends already appear on the horizon. We will definitively need different skills. By different, I do not mean programming skills. We will of course need (more) programming specialists, but I doubt that an average Joe will ever need these skills. We will certainly need more IT literacy, but all of us who teach or have children know that future generations will be doing just fine. Information technology is omnipresent in today’s world. We will be learning by doing. My son is not even two years old, but he has already figured out how to work with a tablet computer. I am not too concerned about this.

Rather than programming, transferable skills, the ability to adapt, and skills required for non-routine positions will be in high demand, because the kind of work we are going to do will change more rapidly in the future. Which kinds of skills are easily transferable to new work? The literature distinguishes between specific and general skills. Some skills are very specific and only relevant for a particular company. Think of firm-specific processes and infrastructure. Other skills might be specific to occupations. Carpenters are highly knowledgeable about work related to wood, but these skills are of limited use outside of carpentry. Finally, some skills are rather general. In technologically advanced countries, there is virtually no work, which does not presuppose some minimum levels of literacy or numeracy. These are thus very general skills.

The more general skills are, the easier it is for employees to transfer these skills to new jobs. Yet rich countries will not be able to compete successfully on world markets based on general skills alone. Wolfgang Streeck coined the term ‘diversified quality production’ to describe the production models of the most advanced economies. The term emphasizes that firms in these countries often compete on quality rather than price. However, such a production model requires employees to be able to constantly adapt and improve.

I am convinced that diversified quality production is also the model for the future in the most advanced economies. As the example of China shows, technological advances are easy to copy. Hence, we cannot solely rely on technological innovation, but also need a workforce with the right skills. Moreover, the popular resistance to austerity in Greece demonstrates the limits of internal devaluation. The possibility to increase competitiveness merely by increased public savings and deregulated markets is limited. Or can you imagine Switzerland competing on prices rather than quality?

General skills will therefore not be sufficient for a diversified quality production model. Rather, business will continue to need employees with highly specific skills to compete on the quality of their products. In addition, in the future, business will continue to rely on employees who are able to adapt to new technologies and optimize production processes.

This combination of specific yet transferable skills means to square the circle. Policy makers thus face a difficult task to ensure the right skill combination for the future. On the one hand, the future workforce must be equipped with the ability to transfer their skills to ever new forms of work and tasks. On the other hand, the future workforce must acquire specific skills in order to reach the levels of innovation and quality necessary to outrun cheaper competitors. To solely trust on technological progress in this situation would be hazardous. Or do you really think that it is going to be so difficult for other countries to copy new products and production processes?

At universities, we are trying to square this circle. Of course, part of what we do concerns specific skills. Students gain knowledge about accounting standards, statistics, about political processes, and many things more. However, students also learn to absorb a lot of new material in very little time, to develop and manage their own projects, to think analytically and critically, and to develop and communicate their ideas. All these are general skills that will allow them to be mobile and face the challenges in their future careers.

Hence, I am not all too concerned about students – certainly not the ones from St. Gallen. Instead, I am considerably more concerned about those who are academically less inclined. In Switzerland, the more practically gifted attend vocational education and training (VET), where they learn occupation-specific skills. In the Swiss VET system, firm involvement ensures that these skills are sought after in the labour market. In addition, state support, in particular nationally standardized exams and certification, guarantee the transferability of these skills within an occupation and possibly beyond.

Switzerland has been doing extremely well with this skill formation system. Wages are high, (youth) unemployment is low, and Swiss products are competitive (despite Swiss wages and the overvalued currency). Yet how can these employees be prepared for the working world of tomorrow? To expand the training of general at the expense of specific skills undermines the occupational character of these systems. It might also prompt employers to withdraw from the system because they are unlikely to be willing to invest in teaching more general skills that can be easily transferred to other jobs in different firms. The result could be a statist skill formation system: more detached from the labour market and also more expensive.

In the absence of such successful VET systems, countries have often encouraged more pupils to enter universities. Among the OECD countries, over 40 percent of all 25- to 34-year olds have now tertiary degrees. Some countries have already crossed the 60 percent mark. But this alternative strategy has proven increasingly unviable. In the countries with the highest enrolment rates, returns on additional years of education are approximating zero. In addition, those without university diplomas increasingly struggle to find jobs – including jobs that do not require university diplomas. I do not think that this strategy will solve our problems.

In many ways, a system emphasizing vocational skills seems superior to an unlimited expansion of universities. But how can vocational education and training ensure high quality training and provide employees with the ability to constantly adapt to new worlds of work? Research offers a few suggestions.

First, successful VET systems build on the mutually advantageous cooperation between employers and the state. Employers ensure that training content reflects labour market needs. In addition, their involvement leads to a sense of ownership over the process because employers actively participate in the shaping of their future employees. The state financially supports and monitors these training activities. Through publicly recognized certificates, the public authorities guarantee that the trained have indeed the expected skills.

Second, training content has to stay in tune with economic developments. In Switzerland, associations responsible for occupations are legally obliged to regularly assess the extent to which training content must be adapted to new labour market needs. This mechanism generates a permanent discussion about the validity and usefulness of skills trained in each occupation and takes into account the direction into which the economy is moving.

Finally, retraining and further training opportunities are of critical importance. In recent years, Switzerland has spent considerable time and resources in developing and expanding post-secondary and tertiary vocational education and training. These pathways allow employees to learn new skills and change occupations. In this way, occupational mobility has been increased and employees with a vocational education are given the opportunity to further develop their skills. Of course, these policies are not for free, but I think this is money well spent.

Uberisation and the gig economy

The second question of relevance concerns the future working conditions. There is a lot of talk about the ‘uberisation’ of employment relationships. The concept is not clearly defined and means different things in various contexts. Often, and this is the understanding used here, it refers to the end of the standard employment relationship. The standard employment relationship is characterized by dependent employment, the provision of a physical workplace by the employer, regular working hours, full-time work, and an open-ended contract. The ‘uberisation’ of employment relationships calls these features into question.

When journalists or academics write about these ‘new’ employment relationships, they typically highlight two points. First, they describe the ‘old’ system as outdated and claim that it will be inevitably replaced. Second, this change is represented as a positive development, because these ‘new’ employment relationships are more in tune with the modern economy. Newspaper articles often provide positive examples: a highly educated person working from home, developing programs or designs, typically on an on-demand basis, which is no problem, because she is highly entrepreneurial. In her spare time, she is working on a book manuscript. And of course, flexible working hours help her reconcile work and family life.

These stories sound almost too good to be true. And they typically are. There are two good reasons why we should be reluctant to abandon the standard employment relationship. First, the great majority of employees benefits from the standard employment relationship. Not all of us have a PhD in information technology and can design websites from home. Most people are happy to have a job and hope it pays well (enough). A working world in which we all have to be entrepreneurial in order to be successful sounds great for a minority, but most other labour market participants will be hopelessly out of their depth. Honestly, who would like to switch jobs with an Uber driver? Most of the people working as self-employed do so because they have no other choice. Hence, ‘false’ self-employment is not booming because (former) employees look for more flexibility, but rather because employers are looking to decrease the cost of employment.

This is not to say that we should reject all forms of labour market flexibility. Flexibility is key to a well-functioning labour market, as the Swiss case demonstrates. Rather the goal is to find the right balance between flexibility and security. The ‘uberisation’ of employment relationships, with its almost exclusive focus on flexibility, might be beneficial for certain employers, but it is certainly not desirable for society as a whole.

Second, the ‘uberisation’ of employment relationships will not go unchallenged. Karl Polanyi has argued that economic reforms are always characterized by a ‘double movement.’ In this dialectical process, an attempt to disembed (to free) the economy is typically met by a counter movement, which tries to re-embed the economy. History provides multiple examples of such double movements.

For instance, precarious employment relationships and the resulting lack of social security played an important role in triggering the creation of the organized labour movement, which fought for the institutionalization of the standard employment relationship. Because individual workers are usually structurally disadvantaged in negotiations with employers, the state eventually learnt to accept that workers have the right to form associations (i.e. labour unions) and fight for their rights collectively. This discrepancy in power resources is the main reason, why labour unions are not considered to be in restraint of trade, although they – technically speaking – clearly undermine the play of market forces.

It is often forgotten that employment relationships in the late 19th and early 20th century were usually characterized by fixed-term contracts, on-demand employment relationships, and insufficient social protection. Rather than a model for the future, the ‘uberisation’ of employment relationships is thus in fact a case of revisiting the past.

If we really want to turn back the wheel of time, we will soon notice that today’s losers from ‘uberisation’ processes will equally fight the change ahead. They might no longer join labour unions, and thus lack the collective resources necessary to bargain for better working conditions. But they could vote for populist and extremist parties, which will try to channel their protest and discontent into authoritarian, anti-pluralist policies. First signs of these processes are already more than palpable. In any case, the losers of such economic processes will not simply disappear. We better be prepared for a Polanyi-style counter movement if we continue to move in this direction.

Challenges ahead

In sum, there will be plenty of jobs in the future, but how these jobs will look like and how we can train people for this new world of work is less obvious. I have suggested that we need to find promising ways to train people also outside of academia. Vocational education and training systems as used in Switzerland are a good starting point, but there are certainly alternatives. In addition, we should ensure that all labour market participants benefit from some minimum level of job quality and social security. In his inaugural address, F.D. Roosevelt, the creator of the U.S. welfare state noted: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” We should set our minds to this task.

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