December 2018 Message From UNICON Chair Peter Hirst
Reflections on the 2018 UNICON Team Development Conference
It was great to see so many colleagues from our industry at the 2018 UNICON Team Development Conference hosted by the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business last week.
The Team Development Conference is the largest of three annual in-person events we organize: this year, more than 200 of us attended. UNICON is a member-driven organization, and while we have a small but capable professional staff to help, everything that happens is done by and for the members themselves.
The in-person conferences are among the most challenging and complex activities that we undertake. I’d like to thank and congratulate the University of Maryland team along with the UNICON Conferences Committee for doing such an impressive job to plan and deliver a fantastic event.
Over the years, we have learned that what makes a UNICON conference work particularly well is the combination of three ingredients. First, there is relevant and inspiring content from the host school, which can be a considerable challenge given that we all have stellar faculty and contributors and spend a lot of time sitting in rooms listening to their brilliant presentations. The second ingredient is the people themselves and the interactions they have with each other, not only in the informal and social parts of the event but also, crucially, in well-designed and structured sessions. The third ingredient is the feeling that we are in a safe place, among friends, with a spirit of sharing and support, even while many people are competitors in their local or global markets.
This year, we also heard from an outside guest speaker from another business school’s member-based organization, which is a little unusual for us, but was a great addition. Tom R. Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AACSB, shared a vision for the future of business education, highlighting an increasingly important role for lifelong learning. Our very own field of executive education is a great example of this in action. We are very appreciative that Tom spent a whole day with us and we are looking forward to continuing to collaborate and partner with AACSB on several initiatives. Recent AASCB research reports are available in our Content Hub.
Partnership was a key theme identified by our hosts for the 2018 conference, and we engaged in many discussions—in small breakout groups and over meals and drinks—about the challenges, opportunities, and necessity of building and sustaining partnerships of various kinds.
We don’t often talk about it in this way, but we could think of UNICON itself through the lens of partnership. UNICON represents a spiritual partnership between the 113 schools, those active and engaged members who turn up to these conferences, travel far and wide to get to them, and engage in our increasingly digital ways of being a community.
As we say in the UNICON Anti-trust Statement: [we] “believe that vigorous competition is essential for driving innovation, improvements, and efficiencies in all industries,” very much including our own. Learning together in ways that help us all deliver even greater value and outcomes to our clients and customers, whether in partnership or in competition, is the heart of what makes UNICON such a unique and valuable organization.
And on that note, I am excited that the next in-person UNICON Director’s Conference will be hosted by the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO in April 2019. To all my UNICON colleagues and friends, old and new, please mark your calendars, book your travel early, and I look forward to seeing many of you there!
Peter Hirst, UNICON Board Chair 2018-2019