II ESADE Alumni Forum in Latin America

International ESADE Alumni meetings are among the most highly anticipated events of the year for the entire ESADE alumni network. For the second ESADE Alumni Forum in Latin America, Colombia was chosen as the meeting point – specifically, the city of Bogotá, to have the chance to contact, connect and share with other alumni at the most emblematic international event of the year in Latin America.

The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘Reinventing the future: conversations with leaders‘, and on Saturday 4th May, the speaker was Luis Vives, associate dean of the ESADE MBA and professor of general management and strategy at ESADE, also with several discussion panels about the latest and most interesting subjects. ESDAE Alumni brought together 170 business leaders from Latin America and former ESADE students to discuss diversity management, the challenges facing upper management and innovation as a strategy. The event was attended also by Koldo Echebarria, Director of ESADE, and Iñaki Ocaña (Lic&MBA 06/ DARH 12), International Alumni Relations Director.

“Technology, which poses great challenges, also offers opportunities that are within reach for companies that figure out how to take advantage of this new context,” commented Prof. Vives. He added: “Radical innovations, the creation of new business models and the emergence of new players are realities that are forcing us to rethink how we work – not to mention the best way to transform organisations. To succeed in this context, you have to be different and learn how to change the rules of the game.”

Managing diversity and talent

Innovation in business involves multiple factors, including the incorporation of diversity into processes. According to Ana Isabel Rojas, Presales Manager at SAP, “Without diversity, there can be no innovation. Organisations with diverse management teams improve their operating margin by more than 48%.” To do this, companies must incorporate the development of female talent – a challenge that Ms. Rojas described as “everyone’s responsibility”. “Diversity offers different perspectives, visions and opinions, and it is a fundamental source of new ideas and innovation,” commented Sergio Brown, President of Danaher Latin America. “Organisations must create diverse, inclusive and flexible spaces in order to attract the best talent.” Irina Valassi, Executive Director of Payroll at Banco Santander, commented: “Technology must help us in this process.” According to Natalia Arias, General Manager of Viveka, “Companies should provide resources. However, if we don’t push for resources, companies won’t provide them. In this regard, senior management really needs to be committed to bringing about change.”

Alejandro Gutiérrez, founder and Managing Partner at Gamma Sigma Investments, shared a few tips on how to successfully launch a business: “Develop the idea thoroughly, understand society’s needs, formulate a solution, and develop a vision for the medium and long term.” To bring a project to life, he added, “Acceleration programmes can provide assistance in applying these ideas, developing business models, and providing access to contact networks.” Frederic Llordachs, co-founder and Partner at Doctoralia – a member of the Docplanner Group – observed that “people buy ideas, prototypes and realities”. As a result, he argued, entrepreneurs must take risks, make mistakes and “fail quickly, so that they don’t waste time or stray from their objective”. David Ruyet, founder and Managing Partner at Energías Renovables del Plata, commented: “Projects succeed when the people involved are committed and when there is engagement with the entrepreneurial idea.” Samuel González, President of the Education for Entrepreneurs Foundation, noted: “Innovation is linked to entrepreneurship, although these are two different talents; companies succeed when they manage to incorporate both innovation and entrepreneurship into their strategy.”

“Digital transformation is a complicated process in large companies; it’s not easy to change established processes and systems,” commented Senior Executive Consultant Cassy Ramsey. In order to take advantage of digitalisation and new technologies, she added, “large companies must have a thorough understanding of their business model and strategy, establish alliances with technology companies, and improve their infrastructure and processes, which in many cases are obsolete”. Greys Elizabeth Suárez, Vice-President of Research and Development and Technical Director at Recamier, commented: “Purpose is the driving factor that companies must effectively transmit to their collaborators. The challenge for large companies is to incorporate their purpose into their strategy.” The key variable that companies must incorporate into their strategies is “how to respond to the challenges posed by digital society and turn these challenges into opportunities”, according to RocaSalvatella CEO Josep Salvatella. “The main task for upper management will be to understand that this is a competitive and highly positive territory,” he added. “Right now, we’re seeing a difference between managerial leaders who manage a particular reality and entrepreneurial leaders who are capable of reconfiguring companies.” Alejandro Gregory, CEO of Aon Reinsurance Solutions, commented: “The main challenge is to maintain leadership capacity in variable environments that are constantly transforming.” He added: “This translates into the ability to survive in a complex market, improve processes, and constantly implement technology within the company.”

Pedro Galván, president of the ESADE Alumni Miami Chapter, Founder & CEO of Sé Feliz Ahora
Pedro Galván, president of the ESADE Alumni Miami Chapter, Founder & CEO of Sé Feliz Ahora
“The ESADE Alumni Forum in LATAM, which this year was held in Bogotá, allowed transferring knowledge among all former students, learning from Professor Luis Vives, analyzing the business reality from different points of view and interlacing many Spanish-speaking countries, finding synergies, networking and common projects. Undoubtedly, an event that should be repeated every year in different parts of Latin America”.