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
Watch Here

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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“We are trying to make an ‘Ideacracy.’”

Dirk Ahlborn is a German-born entrepreneur who found success in crowdfunding projects. Ahlborn, along with a large team of workers spread across the globe, is now working to make Hyperloop travel a reality. The innovative system promises to transform transportation by reducing the cost of travel to almost nothing, decrease travel times tenfold and run on nothing but renewable energy. Both Ahlborn’s past ventures and his leadership of Hyperloop have utilised unique and innovative business structures which Ahlborn claims are ideal for the Internet age. We sat down with Ahlborn and chatted about how Hyperloop’s business model has fascinated business schools across the world.

What do you believe to be the most interesting part of Hyperloop’s business structure?

Building the Hyperloop business model taught us a lot about communication. It used to be all about putting as many engineers as possible onto one problem, but we quickly realised that smaller teams are way more efficient. A team of more than eight people tends not to communicate as well as one with fewer members. Rather than having larger teams, we pose the same problem to different groups and see if they come up with different solutions.

How did you begin building the model?

We used a completely new model. I was part of a non-profit incubator funded by NASA that aimed to help entrepreneurs build a better company. Today, we do everything  online – you do your grocery shopping, your dry cleaning, and you can find a partner online. When it comes to building a business, it tends to be you and a friend in a closed space trying to fix a problem that, after six or seven months, you realise nobody else cares about. If you could find, say, one hundred people who are as passionate as yourself and are willing to really offer their criticisms, insight, and contacts, you would be able to build a better company. When Elon Musk said he was too busy with Tesla, we used an online platform to source engineers who would be interested in the project and then offered to pick it up. We then asked those we found on the platform if they
would like to work in exchange for stock options. If they agreed, we asked them to apply. They would only have to work a minimum of ten hours per week. After that, we continued to expand and went from a team of around one hundred engineers to the team of eight hundred that we have today.

What is the role of management in your business model?

Today, the company has around 800 employees across the world, in addition to fifty other companies and a large wider community that we consult with. Harvard did a case study about us and started teaching the case last year. The model changes the fundamental way we manage. Workers invest their time and spend less time with their  families in exchange for engaging work that they know will pay off in the future. Our job as managers becomes ensuring that these people feel that their work is meaningful.

Is the hierarchical business structure a bad fit for the Internet age?

Some vertical organisation is still necessary, but there must be the possibility to connect the top with the bottom. Without that, the company becomes subject to the same limits that sees communication wither in larger teams. We are trying to make the company an “ideacracy” – based n who has the best idea, rather than who
has the best title.

Do you think that these horizontal management structures can be applied to companies outside of the tech sector?

Yes – though it is easier with a fresh company. It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of effort. We do our hiring based on the individual qualities of the person and ensure that they are self-motivated and driven. I always say that if you are working with great people then there is no issue. Management problems come in when you are working with mediocre people who are less motivated. In the end, many people work in a distributed way – though that style of working is not for everybody. Transforming an existing business structure into a distributed model is difficult, and management may not be incentivised to make the switch. In addition, if things are going well for a  company they are unlikely to change. A big problem in Europe right now is that the CEOs of the big companies are paid for today’s results, not the results that are coming in ten years’ time. Car companies, as an example, are doing well right now – but they are resistant to change and are, in effect, not futureproofing their business. A solution to this is for big companies to create independent subsidiaries that utilise new business structures.

Do you see it as a problem that managers at many private sector companies are paid exponentially more than their lower-level employees?

The issue is that you want to attract the best people. Unfortunately, that is the reality, and it is reiterated throughout other levels of management. Less-skilled labour that is easily trained and easily replaceable is a cost factor that must be considered, though having a middle ground that sees all workers participate in the company profits is a good solution to this. In our case, everybody is a shareholder. I think it is important to be transparent about why management earns what it earns, and to ensure that everybody in the company does well when the company succeeds.

So is class a barrier when it comes to becoming the kind of knowledge worker sought by these new business models?

We have people in India doing ten hours per week and people in the US doing the same work for the same pay. All it takes, in essence, is a computer and an Internet connection. This makes the barrier very low. At Hyperloop, the way we work is, a lot of the time, without direct payment – you, together with everybody else, create the value of the company and prosper with it. It is less of a payment and more of an opportunity. Ten hours per week seems a sweet spot that anybody can manage to do. Two hours over five days is less time than many people spend in the gym. Of course, if you have a very busy life with a new child or something similar, then you may be unable to commit to the time but, mostly, you could take on the work. The only real barrier is motivation.

What motivates Hyperloop employees?

All of the people at Hyperloop are trying to fix transportation. They have a reason for doing their work, and it is not to become rich. We see this in the company a lot – those who are seeking only the financial benefits tend not to last long. It is about having an opportunity to build a transportation system the way it should be done.

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