Ingeborg Gasser-Kriss (Board NED; Entrepreneur; Mondelez executive) leveraged on her passion for gardening and her decades of successful innovation in Fortune 500 firms to bring us surprisingly simple examples of how to make innovation happen, by addressing the corporate contradictions that so often slow progress down and may keep us stuck in the past: short- vs. long-term, expertise vs. curiosity, efficiency vs. flexibility, prediction vs. experimentation, planning obsession vs. growth obsession, and competition vs. collaboration.
Marit Roed Ødegaard (SVP Yara International; Board NED) advocated the importance of fun, to energise us and to help us cope with critical moments of uncertainty and crisis. Covering a broad range of examples, from the “happiest man alive” who survived concentration camp through friendship, to her own moments of happiness in discovering originality and creative disruption, and to the HI-POWER initiative that rocked the Yara establishment bringing up colour, smiles and untapped talents… Marit suggests to practice: awareness, gratitude, and … laughing … offering us also 5 minutes of “laughing yoga”.
Kavitha Varathan (Founder and CEO Expat Spouses Initiative, TED Talk Speaker) shared her own story as a refreshing example of entrepreneurial identity struggles. After giving up her successful architectural design career to follow her husband abroad, and not finding a suitable architect job in the new country, she launched a successful initiative to help other talented spouses get reintegrated in the job market. But the hardest part of it all was finding the courage to let go and to let the future emerge: “I could no longer attach my identity to the title of architect, had to accept to go off course, watching change unfold, to find my real identity beyond any titles, like the peace after the storm”
Sarbani Bhattacharya (Director ASML; KPMG; Unilever; Board NED) took us with witty humour through the breath-taking array of her passions and interests. Behind the deceptively simple title of “life is an ice-cream” we heard the story of the Indian girl who’s shrugging off biases and enjoys playing with boys, of the financial guru who’s daring to discount numbers and enjoys a tougher confrontation on values, of the transformational leader who’s shattering engrained habits and enjoys creating a Coalition of the Willing’s, and finally of the social advocate of sanitation (SDG #6) who’s on non-profit boards to help bring toilets to the 150 million people who defecate in the open, so that we can all enjoy a healthier planet. A true story of challenges, resilience and success, as promised in title!
Yimika (Oyieymika) Adeboye (CEO Mondelez West Africa; CCHBC; Board NED) presented her life story with amazing energy and humble tones. The first black woman to hold a CEO position at Mondelez and Cadbury, she is also a runner, a volunteer in several charitable organisations, and a dedicated mother of 4 (after adopting the 2 children of her deceased sister). Still, she did not boast her amazing successes, but gave us inspiring examples of learning and growing through hard work as well as leading and working with empathy and uncompromising ethics, including refusing positions meant just to tick boxes: an unforgettable story of leading with the heart and the head.
Hanne Leth Andersen (Rector Roskilde University; Board NED; Professor Copenhagen Business School and Århus University) held for us an interactive session to collectively reflect around the tricky subject of “female self-confidence” for which Hanne generously offered her own multicultural experience, specific examples from the academic field, and a wealth of well-researched documentation. Prejudice that belittles women is still deeply rooted and hard to eradicate, so Hanne advocated self-reflection and proactivity. Too often do women underestimate themselves, over-prepare and seek external approval; we can do and feel better if we focus on being more authentically and more disruptively ourselves.
Sara Lisa Ørstavik (Officer of UNDP; WFP) engaged us in a conversation about the Sustainable Development Goals, providing a useful update about the just recently published Impact Standards and also calling our attention to the complexity and ambiguity of sustainable decision making. In a humble and touching way, she both shared her deeply felt beliefs in a future of equality and fairness, and she also told us of the many struggles, contradictions and self-doubts that populate her days. The goals are clear and we know that working towards them is vital for our very existence, but we also got a very clear insight into the major challenges that organisations are facing when trying to go beyond the sustainability “window dressing”. Highly though-provoking!
Shabana Basj-Rasikh (Funder and President of SOLA; National Geographic, Girls Rising; TED Talk Speaker) shook our minds with a touching story of courage, dedication and resilience. After founding (and running for over a decade) SOLA, the first and only boarding school for girls in Afghanistan, winning numerous awards and high honours, she was lately forced to rapidly relocate SOLA, quitting Kabul in the chaotic August days of the Taliban re-occupation, relocating 250 people (students and staff) to Rwanda and now additionally working with refugees. We were all fascinated by her story and inspired by her courage, energy and wisdom. She reminded us of something very important: The power and impact of human beings when we have a high purpose. Even during the darkest times, she never lost sight of her long term vision. In her words: “Any person who selects a goal in life that can be fully achieved has already defined their limitation”. Her story of courage, intelligence, dedication and persistence, was told with many nice personal details and she also shared her own occasional self-doubts, often asking herself “am I doing enough?” and always striving to do more and go forward. Always staying positive and always serving a dream bigger than her and us. Amazing!
Cristina Parma (L’Oréal) excited us with unexpected insights into the worlds of street art, virtual travel and app-based community. An art scholar, successful international marketeers of luxury products from Armani to Lanvin, currently in charge of the most important real estate program at L’Oréal – the revamping of the historical Rue Royale Headquarters in Paris, her life is dominated by unstoppable curiosity and fascination for collective human creativity. Already a member of the “Space-Invaders” community, she found the connection to the world of street art and virtual travel a fantastic antidote to the depressing solitude of the pandemic, eagerly searching on Google Earth the secret places where the Invader had placed his mosaics (“invading” public spaces).
Andrea Sordi (Professor Haslam Business School, University of Tennessee; Mondelez) presented his views and advise about Inclusion Leadership. The subject of Diversity and Inclusion is over-represented in social media and it might be hard to find reputable and practical advise. Andrea covered the subject with competence and simple clarity, giving us a heart felt rendition of the purpose and values that guide his choice of inclusive leadership style. The world is diverse and we want to embrace the diversity because it is enriching, but how can we develop the skills to overcome biases, fear, suspicions and prejudice towards the “different”? An advocate of Inclusive Leadership and a Scholar of the Grooa CLEAR Mindset Method, Andrea took us through his tips for developing sound and effective Inclusive Leadership capabilities.