The University of St.Gallen, renowned for its leadership focus, and ETH Zurich, a hub of technology and innovation, have joined forces to create their Executive MBA, also known as the emba X. These leading Swiss universities believe that executives need to embrace social impact, technology, and innovation to stay ahead of emerging business trends, educating students on the interconnectedness between these areas.
We speak to Nathalie Naveda, head of admissions for the St.Gallen EMBA programs, and Emily Elsner, social impact manager at ETH Zurich, to find out more about the 21st-century leadership qualities students can expect to learn throughout the new 18-month emba X.
1. Understanding social impact
Social impact is no longer a trendy business buzzword—it’s a necessity for many businesses. Without socially impactful leadership, leaders run the risk of becoming too inwards-looking. Finding ways to influence society for the better through social innovation and empathetic leadership is a worthy skill in a competitive business environment.
“Businesses can’t just say they have no interest in social responsibility or sustainability as this is where many future jobs lie,” says Emily (pictured right).
The ETH Zurich and St.Gallen emba X weaves teachings on socially responsible leadership throughout the various courses. This integrative learning model means students experience social impact as something embedded within all leadership elements, rather than as a separate component.
Through integrative weeks—intensive five-day faculty-led sessions—in topics such as sustainability, executives are exposed to real-world issues affecting businesses, with students learning action plans to improve these problems.
Meanwhile, in the social impact project executives take their learning to the next level, acting as consultants to NGOs to identify a challenge within the organization. To quantify the success of the students’ solutions, executives engage in impact measurement with the NGOs, enabling students to see what went well and what could have been improved.
Moreover, working alongside experienced professionals from diverse industry backgrounds means you’ll learn to leverage one another’s unique skill sets throughout the emba X projects. “Students will remove themselves from their comfort zone, allowing them to see new perspectives and ways of understanding things that they can then transfer into their employment context,” comments Emily.
2. Technological readiness
To remain at the frontline of business, executives need to embrace technological advances in an ever-changing world.
Informed by the technological expertise of ETH Zurich and St.Gallen’s impactful leadership emphasis, the forward-thinking emba X helps executives to leverage their management and technology knowledge to thrive in business.
“Technology and leadership aren’t just two separate fields that can evolve completely disjointed from one another,” notes Nathalie (pictured left), “there’s an increased awareness that technology is a fact of future leadership,” she says.
The emba X teaches executives to understand the value of technology for creating a positive impact within business. This integrative approach to learning will equip leaders with the knowledge and confidence to explore technological options when making complex business decisions.
Through courses in forward-focused areas, such as the energy systems module, executives will learn about how a business can transition into one that operates more sustainably. The module invites students to consider how leaders can opt for modern technological solutions to conserve the energy output of a business and how individual actions can impact the company on an international scale.
Emily notes that the ETH Zurich and St.Gallen Executive MBA brings technical aspects out of the specialists’ zone and into the hands of seasoned leaders ready to tackle urgent business challenges.
3. The ability to embrace innovation
Innovative thinking has become a business imperative and a key ingredient for a successfully disruptive business.
The emba X prepares executives to turn towards innovation in search of new possibilities and creative modes of thinking. Savvy leaders will need to embrace innovation to bridge the gaps between their past experiences and future challenges.
“Leaders need to devise innovative solutions that will solve new problems because we don’t know what the future holds. Building resilience to adapt, embrace, and thrive in response to change is an ultimate need for leaders and society more generally,” notes Nathalie.
The emba X believes that one of the best ways that students can develop their resilience, business acumen, and innovative thinking is through practical learning. The Business Model Innovation project offers students the opportunity to assume responsible leadership within their organization, applying the theoretical frameworks of business innovation from the emba X to inform their approach.
“The emba X isn’t concerned with simply delivering knowledge—it’s about developing mindsets,” reflects Nathalie.
Armed with forward-focused skills across social impact, technology, and innovation, experienced professionals can apply these new learnings to novel situations, helping them to combat a myriad of future challenges facing the workforce.