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Professor Daniel Diermeier was among the faculty headliners at the Kellogg Centennial conference in Zurich.

Prof. Daniel Diermeier led a panel discussion at the Kellogg Centennial conference in Zurich

Thriving in a world of risk and change

Centennial conference in Zurich focuses on leadership in a turbulent business environment

By Amy Trang

2/13/2009 - Business has entered a dramatically unpredictable new age. Threats to the global financial system, a worldwide economic downturn and the demands of rapid innovation are rewriting the rules of successful business management.

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To help leaders keep pace, the Kellogg School hosted a two-day global forum in Zurich, the second in its series of international Centennial conferences focusing on the most vital issues in management today.

“Leading in a Changing Global Environment — From Threats to Opportunities,” took place Feb. 1-2 at The Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue in Zurich. Sessions covered topics from managing corporate reputations to using positive power in leadership.

“My hope is that participants will walk away with some guidance from industry and thought leaders on how to navigate a fast-changing business environment — an environment that is characterized by a major crisis and various small ones, and a dramatic decline in the trust but increasing scrutiny of companies,” said Daniel Diermeier, faculty co-chair of the conference and IBM Distinguished Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice.

Keynote addresses focused on Eastern Europe and the global economy, risk in the global economy and challenges in the automotive industry. Speakers included Klaus Mangold, chairman of the Eastern Committee of German Industry, Jacques Aigrain, CEO of Swiss Re and Rüdiger Grube, member of the board of management of Daimler AG and chairman of the supervisory board of EADS.

David Besanko, Kellogg senior associate dean of strategy and planning, hosted a panel discussion on sustainability featuring Diermeier, who is also the director of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship. He was joined by Reto Ringger, CEO of SAM Group Holding AG, and Axel Wieandt ’92, CEO of Hypo Real Estate and alumni co-chair of the conference.

Conference participants also attended one of four sessions taught by Kellogg School professors:
  • Banking for the Bottom of the Pyramid. Paul Christensen, senior finance lecturer and associate director of international business and markets, focused on the global microfinance industry. Christensen discussed the evolution of microfinance and the role that leading investment and commercial banks will play in shaping the industry going forward.
  • Managing Corporate Reputations in Difficult Times. The seminar, taught by Diermeier, examined the key points in building and maintaining a strong company reputation, including how to develop an effective reputation management system.
  • Harnessing Power to Capture Leadership. Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management, discussed the question: When, why, and how does power corrupt? He addressed ways to harness the good in power — the force that makes the seemingly impossible possible — while minimizing its psychological and social deficits.
  • Value in Diversity. Katherine Phillips, associate professor of management and organizations and co-chair of the Center on the Science of Diversity, discussed the influence of diversity on an organization and the impact of diversity on small-group decision-making.

The Zurich conference was held in conjunction with the Kellogg School’s Centennial, highlighting a century of research and teaching. In January, Kellogg hosted its first Centennial conference in Miami, focusing on customer-centric innovation. Subsequent conferences will be held March 10 and 11 in New York, focusing on the future of capital markets, and March 25 and 26 in Shanghai, discussing the architecture for corporate brands.