If this is the time for a global restart, for SDA Bocconi’s GEMBA – the Global Executive MBA in partnership with Toronto’s Rotman School of Management – it has a particularly symbolic value. After stopping for a year due to the health emergency, the most international of the MBAs, by definition, rediscovers its global reach and “itinerant” dimension – it has ten modules based in Milano, Toronto, Mumbai, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Shanghai, and São Paulo. That is why during the Opening of the 2021-23 edition, with a high number of participants in person and the rest connected via streaming, you could feel the energy and enthusiasm that accompany fresh challenges.
If diversity has now been acknowledged as a strategic asset in all contexts, GEMBA has the right numbers: 50 participants, over a third of whom are women, coming from 18 countries and different industries and backgrounds and with an average professional experience of 14 years. The right team to face complexity, the distinctive feature of contemporary times, as Dean Giuseppe Soda recalled in his welcome greeting: “Complexity is not only a risk, it is also a great opportunity.”
And this edition of GEMBA opened precisely with a practical example of how to address complexity successfully. The opening meeting with the participants featured the presence of Franco Stevanato, Executive Chair of the Board, and Mauro Stocchi, Chief Business Officer (and GEMBA Alumnus) of Stevanato Group S.p.A., the Italian multinational that is the global leader in the production of insulin cartridges for pen injectors and present with its solutions in approximately 90% of COVID -19 vaccine programs*. The company landed on the New York Stock Exchange last July with a 672-million-dollar IPO, “the highest public offering for an Italian venture in the US, after Ferrari went public in 2015,” Forbes recalled.
Stevanato is a prime case study when it comes to the ability to broaden your horizon and start a globalization process without losing sight of your core values. Their journey started with founder Giovanni Stevanato back in 1949 in Zelarino (VE) and moved ten years after in Piombino Dese, in the province of Padua, in line with the well-established local glass-manufacturing tradition. Guided by their father Sergio, Franco and Marco Stevanato, the founder’s grandchildren, understood the importance of becoming a global company for navigating international markets, and especially interacting with the big pharma corporations that need high-quality glass containers for their products. The first acquisition abroad dates back to 2005 – it was Medical Glass in Slovakia – followed by further acquisitions in Italy, Denmark, Germany and the U.S. and by the construction of greenfield plants in Mexico, China, Brazil and the US. And, last but not least, becoming part of the “exclusive club” of 17 Italian companies listed on the NYSE.
“It is an exciting and challenging experience, where it’s important not to lose sight of the values the group was built on,” Stevanato underlined. “Our 5 pillars: trust and respect, accountability, ethical behavior, transparency, and result-orientation.” And Stocchi echoed: “To bring these values alive in our daily mission – creating high-quality products and services to preserve the integrity of drugs – we have some clear guiding principles: always try to be number one, while remaining humble; focus on competence, experience and skills; avoid being standard; be persistent and develop decision-making and execution skills.” If you were looking for a synthetic introduction to the characteristics of a successful international manager, here you have it.
But this was just the beginning of the long journey awaiting GEMBA participants. GEMBA Director Ferdinando Pennarola effectively argued that the ideal size of a GEMBA class group “cannot exceed the number of people that can fit in a bus”. Besides ensuring a correct class-faculty ratio, this allows for a so-called “learning safari” in each module of the program. This is a learning formula based on (in-person) visits to big corporations and meetings with their top executives, which make the distinctive landmarks of an experiential learning journey. Two of these learning safaris have already taken place, in the days immediately after the Opening: the first in Arese with a visit to Museo Storico Alfa Romeo to discuss about marketing and rebranding; the second at Maserati Plant in Modena, for a visit to the MC20 production line and a discussion on Operations Management and the Luxury Industry.
All this helps participants “be skilled, professional, open-minded and networking savvy”, Pennarola concluded. “It is our way to make GEMBA a truly global and unforgettable experience”.
*Estimates based on public information (WHO, EMA, FDA) -July 2021
SDA Bocconi School of Management