Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Peter Lorange is a Norwegian who has owned a shipping company, spent a career in business education in the USA and set up his own business school in Switzerland just five years ago – the Lorange Institute at Horgen on the lakeside in Zurich. I very much enjoyed reading “Leading in Turbulent Times” even if purely for the insights it gives into his career, which is particularly rich in experiences at both the practitioner and academic levels.
The book is an account of personal learning which is fundamental to leadership as it is always the leader who needs to learn most. Leaders have to learn not just at the intellectual level but at the emotional level because they are so closely bound into the lives of their colleagues. Because we are human beings first and foremost, the basic factors in our decision-making are embedded in our experiences which can never be free of feelings. No business judgment is entirely rational so it was good to note references in the book to failure. The often forgotten reality is of course that we only learn when things go wrong (or appear to go wrong) because you do not need to learn what you already know.
The key themes in this book are about individual learning, about a high level of self-awareness, a recognition of how important cultural differences of all kinds are (nationality, ethnicity and beliefs, etc.) and the necessity to change personally and organizationally (today we think of Nokia in particular). For this reviewer, there are some particularly interesting thoughts about course and programme structure because they chime in with my own. I believe far too little acknowledgement in business education is given to individual approaches to learning and too much to speculative hypothesis. The ways in which the Lorange Institute courses are staffed and organised is a reminder that the traditional business school structures and approaches like MBAs do not have to be followed and, in light of recent sweeping international changes and scandals, probably ought not to be followed.
Perhaps surprisingly for an international writer there is just one mention of the difference between US perspectives on management and other national – especially European ones. National and cultural differences in management perspectives are becoming a major feature of the new thinking in management learning. It is an understanding that needs to be more fully explored in management education. It is surely true that British business schools have long been seduced by the dominant American perspectives (e.g. case studies), even though we have a rich history of our own in management development. The UK tradition is more psychologically based, historically having had Elliot Jaques (the Glacier Papers) and the Tavistock Institute as early influences and may therefore potentially be more open towards international cultural considerations. I guess there is a stronger European predisposition in British intellectualism than American and we might begin to see more of it in these turbulent times.
Readers will each bring a different perspective to this book according to how well they think the present international system of business education is working. From the point of view of this reviewer, it is interesting that the critique comes from someone who has been immersed in the old ways. It is refreshing to be brought so close to an original thinker who is both an innovator and traditionally experienced.