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Excellence Arises from Plurality: The Challenge of Francesco Daveri, SDA Bocconi MBA’s New Director

The New MBA Class 2018 just Kicked Off on Oct. 2nd. Here's an interview with the new Director, Francesco Daveri, who takes the reins from Stefano Gatti to lead the 43rd edition of the program.


MBA, in Milano, at SDA Bocconi: The future of many young professionals from different countries and industries lays on these three pillars. We asked Francesco Daveri, Macroeconomics Professor and new Program Director, to give us his personal interpretation of this architecture, to tell us his professional background and to anticipate some news for the upcoming editions. It is difficult to improve a well-developed machine such as the MBA – he replied – but accepting the challenge of continuous change is what we also ask of participants in the program. And “solutions are often born out of a collective intelligence”. Here are some suggestions to implement these ideas.

Those who come to SDA Bocconi for the MBA come to Milan, in Italy. Is there a specific meaning in this choice?
Milan is a special place, popular in Italy and abroad. While it has always been the country's economic engine, over the past years—since Expo 2015 and even before then—the city has been making a conscious effort to place itself on the global map, to take on new challenges and new opportunities. Milan is rising from the crisis before the rest of Italy. This sets Milan apart, and those who come here to study benefit from it.
Milan is alive and thriving, offering many interesting opportunities at many levels—culture, art, entertainment, networking—that we take advantage of through various initiatives that help the students experience the best that the city has to offer.

And what are the roles of SDA Bocconi and Bocconi University within the city's life and culture?
Università Bocconi is an important entity in Milan’s global portfolio, and within SDA Bocconi, with its privileged network across the business community. Bocconi does its part in supporting the city and its companies in their development and globalization, creating and sharing knowledge and innovation through managerial training and research activities. Students who attend the MBA have access to all of this: to the faculty and to Bocconi’s relationship with the city. They experience being part of that part of Italy that is looking towards the future.

Narrowing the focus further, why an MBA at SDA Bocconi?
Those who choose to do an MBA tend to be people in their thirties who decide to take a break from their previous work life because they want to change something, to better themselves. For those who attend an MBA there is a clear before and after, and for most of them the after is extremely satisfying, especially considering the important investment they chose to make. An MBA is always a game changer, even for those who have already had an excellent career in a specific role within a company. MBA students want to look beyond this, towards entrepreneurship or to become a general manager outside of their original specialization.
SDA Bocconi’s MBA is number two in the global MBA ranking for 120% salary increase. We offer all the things an MBA should, including an entrepreneurship path for the upcoming academic year 2017-18, and we aim to expand it in 2019. The first part aims to complete the background of all the participants. The second part becomes more practical, with concentrations on all those things that come to mind when we think of “Made in Italy”: luxury business, finance, and innovation in management, of course.
The MBA student also experiences proactive in-class interaction. Given the importance of multiculturalism in today’s business world, we have the added benefit of having participants coming from over 35 countries. Diversity is no longer the exception, general managers now have to deal with a plurality of nationalities as a rule, and have to be able to read the different contexts. In the MBA classroom we expose students to this and we want them to establish profitable relationships, not only from an economic point of view, but from a human one as well.
Furthermore, our students come from different industries, with different educational backgrounds, not only technical ones such as economics or engineering but also from the humanities. In the classroom we push those students with a more quantitative approach to find other interests to be applied as much as possible in the corporate finance world. For those with a less quantitative approach we want them to fall in love with those aspects that are needed to understand finance, accounting, economy.

Among the upcoming MBA news there is your appointment as Director. What is your professional history?
I am already known at SDA Bocconi as a Macroeconomics Professor, here since 1999. My entire academic path has followed this line: after graduating at Università Bocconi, I got an M.Sc. at Oxford University and a Ph.D. at Università di Pavia and I have been teaching Economics at Università di Parma since 2002.
Economists have a reputation for having their head in the clouds. So why put me at the helm of the MBA, a program made for students that come from a solid professional background, looking to making it even better? It is certainly a challenge both for me and for the institution, but I feel I have something to contribute.
I actually incorporated my academic career with some challenging professional training. In 2008 I co-wrote a book with Carlo De Benedetti and Federico Rampini, titled Centomila punture di spillo (“One Hundred Thousand Pin Pricks”). This was a book for a corporate audience. Writing the book meant listening to Italian history from a person that had been and still was part of it. So I started spending a lot more time with companies. IBM took me on tour to their clients so I could tell them about the one hundred thousand pinpricks that explained how Italy could get back into the race again. In 2008 it was an interesting challenge, as our GDP was then at -5, -3, and worse news just kept on coming. We looked at the role of Italy in the global world, and we came up with an answer that I still strongly believe in, one that I want to transmit to all the MBA students: despite its contradictions and difficulties, Italy is still a country of excellence.
I have also had experience in publishing: I’ve been writing on Corriere della Sera, one of the biggest Italian newspapers, for many years, and for the past two and a half years I’ve been managing director of the website, dedicated to economics information. It entails running a site with contributions from 28 university professors and about 100 other people, with an annual turnover of about € 100k. All eyes are on us: if we make any mistakes and do not maintain high quality and contemporaneity, we lose face. Handling all these diplomatic and managerial aspects make me a de-facto manager of an actual company, small as it may be.

And your expectations and new ideas about the MBA?
The MBA program is well beyond its trial stages, as it is now in its 43rd edition, so it is difficult to innovate a well-honed machine. Nevertheless, preserving its strong points does not mean never changing a thing. We can incorporate a new sensibility based on previous experiences, and give the program added value.
Even though our students are beyond being young and inexperienced, we still have the mission to teach them to fly better. We have to understand what is happening in the world and find a solution that is often born out of a collective intelligence, not just an individual one.
An MBA program has a certain rigidity and structure, as it should. But the world is in constant flux, there are many unexpected turns. All of these things have an impact on companies and their business. One of my ideas is to create “lunch-and-learn” seminars to discuss the current issues, develop the habit to compare the things learnt in the classroom against case studies from real life and  make the program even more flexible. Anyone of the many capable faculty members from Bocconi and SDA Bocconi will be able to conduct the meet, based on their availability. I have carried out a few tests in the past and I now want to make it a fixed thing. Sharing a sandwich with a teacher is a very important experience.
I do think we can make a few changes to the structure of the program, to be made over time, in agreement with the faculty, and based on teamwork. But giving students a chance to interact with co-workers, faculty, and even the director of the program might give the MBA an edge.

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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