“From knowledge to wisdom”, the challenge for tomorrow’s managers

Opening Week - Full Time MBA


Inaugurating a new edition of an MBA with a philosophy lesson is rather uncommon. But 2020 is an extraordinary year, just like the context of this new beginning, offering an extraordinary opportunity to develop the ability to integrate theory and practice, fundamentals of knowledge and the art of change, individual advancement and social issues, maximum commitment and reflective pauses. In one word, the opportunity to become wise.


The challenge posed to participants in the 46th 2020-21 edition of SDA Bocconi’s Full-Time MBA during the Opening Ceremony is no joke. The ceremony had an extra symbolic weight this year: “The first emotion is to be here, in person”, said Bocconi University’s Rector Gianmario Verona in his introductory speech. Start from limits and learn to overcome them, this was his message to the young managers in front of him: “by nurturing our desire to discover, we can create something new, something having an impact on the world, and not only the corporate world”. A call for responsibility that was going to be the leitmotiv of the evening.


Openness, performance, responsibility


“An MBA is a demanding journey enabling you to develop four meta-capabilities that are key to any leader”, said SDA Bocconi’s Dean Giuseppe Soda: “navigating complexity in today’s reality, ‘connecting the dots’, leading change, and being performance-oriented, not only in a financial sense. Enjoy your journey, and never stop exploring”.


Then SDA Bocconi’s Managing Director Lucia Benedetti was tasked with outlining, in figures and data, the long evolution and innovation journey of the MBA and the whole School: from the first positions in international rankings to the new Campus, an urban synthesis of cutting-edge technology, safety, comfort, flexible usability and, last but not least, environmental sustainability. Yet another way to be responsible.


Full-Time MBA Director Francesco Daveri delved into the Program with a clear message: the challenge is great but you won’t be alone in facing it. “A lot of work is there for you, more than you could ever do on your own: you can only make it by cooperating with one another and exploiting all the resources this place and this Program are offering, from top-notch technology to a 110,000 alumni network”.


What does it take to be a manager?


“But from time to time, stop in observation. This is also an opportunity to get to know yourself better”, said Bocconi University’s Senior Professor Robert Grant evoking the Socratic imperative. And the title of his presentation, “What does it take to be a manager?”, could be considered a little provocative. “The hierarchy of knowledge builds on data to shape information (that gives them meaning) and subsequently knowledge, to be able to use your infos.” But to get to the top of the pyramid you need one more step: acquiring wisdom. “Wisdom enables us to use knowledge in a good way, to make the best possible decisions. Today’s uncertainty generates unpredictability, and unpredictability gives us humans an advantage over artificial intelligence, an advantage we can exactly achieve through wisdom”.


But how do you pursue wisdom? “Wisdom is like beauty, we cannot define it but we do recognize it when we see”, Grant’s lectio magistralis took on. “We understand when a person behaves in a wiser way compared to another: not only when he or she is not a slave to emotions but when she does not see her own ego at the center of everything”. Noble ideas, addressing more the human being than the manager in us: “it is all about not only knowing and knowing how within a social context, but being together in the process of becoming more complete human beings, whose ethics do not come down to a set of rules you have to comply with, but develop a personal awareness that you can only advance in a dialogue with others”. An ambitious but necessary perspective today for those who are setting out for an MBA.


SDA Bocconi School of Management

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