Both nationally and internationally, 2017 was a year of investments for AMS. Although the volume of sales was slightly lower than last year, more important projects for the coming year were secured than ever before. We discussed the 2018 challenges with dean Paul Matthyssens. “We now have a fifth expertise center. Sustainability, which previously was just a secondary research field, has now become a primary field.” The development of this expertise probably exemplifies a year in which AMS also strives towards its own sustainable transformation.
AMS helps its participants to embrace change. A lot has been invested in transforming the programs into formats with more student involvement. “Through several interactive work formats and content, we want to ‘break open’ our students’ minds.” The ambition to transform students is considerable. “We want to inspire them, increase their intellect, help them to defeat their own shadow and leave room for critical questions, lifelong learning and experimenting. Business transformation and digital transformation have become integral parts of our portfolio and we gladly play a role in the transformation process of companies.”
“Even though I am a keen supporter of lifelong learning, I must admit that I haven't been practicing it a lot. Now I'm freeing up time for it."
Paul has been the dean for five years now. A lot has happened in that time, politically as well as socially, in business as well as his personal life. He is also a manager who continuously has to confront new challenges and inspire his colleagues to do the same. Still, he would like to invest more in his own development. “Even though I am a keen supporter of lifelong learning, I must admit that my job hardly leaves me any time to practice it. If I have some spare time, I resolutely take to sports. I will be saying ‘no’ more often this year to internal meetings to free up time for study and contemplation, vital elements in these disruptive times.”
In the field of sustainable partnerships, AMS is also entering a new phase. “Through further professionalization, going to international conferences, making visits and keeping contacts alive, we build relationships with the best partners who reinforce us in our mission.” Until now the pressure in international cooperation was mainly on the BRIC countries, but AMS wants to widen its horizon and add other countries to its portfolio. “I believe in sustainable cooperation between different cultures. For example, in June we organize a big activity together with the Polish embassy, with a high delegation of the Polish Government and CEOs of Poland’s top companies. Poland may have a conservative government, but that shouldn’t stop us from building and maintaining partnerships.”
“I believe in sustainable cooperation between different cultures. We view international partnerships in the long term and with an open mind.”
The relationship with the Russian partners is another example of a challenging but sustainable relationship. “In 2018 we also celebrate the 20-year presence of our EMBA in Moscow and we have continued to invest in the relationship with our Russian partner school IBS (RANEPA), despite the sometimes challenging economic and political times. We view international partnerships in the long term and with an open mind.” Nevertheless, you always have to keep an open mind for new things. AMS wants to breathe new life into its fund, with Africa as its central focus. “Thanks to the cooperation with ‘Ondernemers voor Ondernemers’ (Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs) we came a few steps closer and we can make a positive contribution to the future of African students who studied here and return to their country.”
AMS has a strong international focus, it helps companies establish international contacts and trains managers to set foot on new markets. But local projects and partners are equally important. “We are helping the city of Antwerp with the professionalization of their IT architecture and business processes. They are also involved in Smart City, with smart technologies that contribute to a more pleasant and sustainable city life.” With AMS, the city has found a good partner in the field of sustainability. “We also have a partnership with the port of Antwerp and in 2018 the port is organizing a meeting for the ‘world’s most sustainable ports’. Our prof. dr. Wayne Visser will be a speaker there.”
AMS is known for its combination of content and innovative formats. Participants today often encounter the same issues, mainly with regards to business transformation. They can always turn to AMS with their questions. “We provide visioning and road mapping, to explain to participants what is possible and what is happening, and subsequently work out a step-by-step plan. Both come together under the umbrella term ‘design thinking’. The next step is change management, where executives learn how to win over other parties in an ecosystem.” And what’s more: knowledge is shared across different sectors and disciplines. “We teach analogizing skills to translate best practices from other sectors to the individual’s business context.”
“We teach analogizing skills to translate best practices from other sectors to the individual’s business context.”
Then we take our executives on a journey to guide their transformation process. “We have many creative formulas around leadership, which teach them to think differently about lean business models but also about new types of leadership. In addition to this, we also have ample knowledge on networks and network management, which makes us rather unique in Flanders. This way, we prepare our participants for the challenges they will encounter in their sector. Above all, we want to give them the capability to make their own choices in an underpinned and inspired manner.”
"I want our students to feel something for our school, for our people. I want them to feel that they have boosted their personality and they developed themselves as a person."
In 2018, AMS also faces an important transformation as a school: the move to the ‘Boogkeers’, the new campus at Mechelseplein. “The new campus will reflect even more that we are a boutique business school. Paul wants people to leave the campus with a warm feeling. “The ultimate goal is to give people the feeling that they have become a better person after completing one of our programs. The entire experience should be “electrifying”, so that at the end of your journey at AMS you can say: ‘I feel something for that place, for those people. I have boosted my personality here and developed myself as a person'.”