Message from the Chair:
Nothing less than exceptional
Dear UNICON colleagues,
The recent Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that took place in Wuhan, China, illustrates the so called VUCA context (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) that individuals, organizations and our own institutions currently face. This context presents an incredibly fluid and challenging marketplace, which demands a high degree of capability, initiative, focus, and ingenuity from the executives we serve and ourselves. As we just experienced while relocating our upcoming director’s conference, critical decision-making under such pressure operates on a bounded rationality principle where time, resources, and information are limited.
On behalf of our board of directors and member institutions, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance for the great work and efforts that were put in place since about a year ago to host UNICON’s director conference, and for the fast and accurate reaction they showed to adjust in a timely and structured manner under such unexpected event. Our thoughts are with their loved ones and themselves, during this crucial time.
At the same time, I would also like to extend such gratitude to the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, who stepped up to offer great support and facilitated a smooth transition while dealing with such ambiguity. A great director’s conference is already in place, with an outstanding program that will be released in the upcoming days.
Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes said, ´The man who is prepared has his battle half fought´. When I see and experience actions like the ones that our consortium and member institutions just took, I am confident this is the case when it comes to the University-based Executive Education units we lead. We are used to react and adapt to the dynamic changes and interests that executives and organizations face, and that is precisely what has historically distinguished us within the higher education landscape. While we should be proud of this, we must also be aware of the strong need to continue improving at a faster pace than the current challenges we face. Even more, if we acknowledge the fact that the executive development industry will continue expanding beyond the higher education landscape.
The world we are in right now is challenging. Things are changing extremely quickly; what was true yesterday may not be so today. We are required to be flexible in our approach, adaptive and adaptable in our mentality and responsible in our disposition. We need to be capable of displaying critical thinking under pressure, and to always be learning in our lives. We are, in short, being asked by our challenging times to be nothing less than exceptional.
No one can predict our future exactly, but we can be confident about two things: it is going to be different, and it must be rooted in today’s world. To succeed in it, we have to think and act in ways we have never thought before, if we want our organizations and the university-based executive education industry to go to places they have never been before.
Thank you all and I look forward to seeing you in Arlington soon!
Marco Serrato, Ph.D.
UNICON 2019-2020 Board Chair
Associate Provost, The University of Chicago