Start your business with art!

I just want to play my Spanish guitar. I’d love to play my recently acquired harmonica too. I don’t need you reading me. Well, I’d like to believe I don’t need you. But I think I need you… sometimes… shit. Shit?

I feel an energy now. I think I feel it. But which energy is that? Is that one that makes some of us to love or hate one another? Or is the one that makes the sunlight looks brighter than it is? What is that? I don’t speak English! What am I doing to my brain?

Take it easy my brother, take it easy my sister… I don’t know you! But I don’t know me either. Fortunately I’m free. Well, at least I like to think I am. And this makes me larger than myself now. Cool! Never mind, forget about it. I’m just thankful to you Spain, thankful to you Madrid!

Do you really think the challenge is to start a successful innovative business somewhere? Are you kidding me? If you are one of those mediocre visitors, please, just leave me alone. Unless you want to talk about the real truth. Do you really want to talk about the real truth? So, try not to forget brother, sister:

Art is life.

Job is not life. Building is life.

God is love. Love is art. Art is god. Engineering is nice. So is Biology. A social science like business is also nice. But art can beat them all. Don’t betray yourself. Put some art in you life! Or just forget about me. I’m trying to play this thing. Viva Paco! I love you too!

Advertisements

Let’s change the status quo of Education!

I feel like I am helping with this process and this makes me a happy person these days. Here I share a little bit of information about what I’m doing at IE (a lot of people ask me about it), besides being an associate professor. A larger version of this interview was published last month within IE’s internal communication newsletter (I took out some strategic internal information).

ieCOMMunity News: Where are you from? What is your academic and professional background? How did you come to IE?

I’m Brazilian, born in Rio de Janeiro, from a family that came originally from Portugal. I started work in the technology sector very young at 16, as a software programmer. My father worked in the sector and ever since I was a child I loved anything to do with computers. I went on to study management and accounting at university in order to help out in my father’s firm, but I ended up loving marketing, particularly everything to do with the sale of technology-related services. 

I was one of the first Brazilians to study at IE, in the year 2000. I mapped out a career plan with the directors in our company which included studying business abroad. In Brazil at that time hardly anybody came to Europe to study business. I decided to take a look at European Schools because I had a total cultural affinity with Europe. When I came here to visit some top schools I fell in love with IE because of all the schools I visited it seemed the most technology-friendly. Although I really like history, I don’t like lectures about the past, rooted in tradition. I prefer to hear about the future, and that is what I found here. 

My experience as a student surpassed my expectations and a year and a half after I graduated, while I was working here in Madrid with Telefónica, IE invited me to find a way to increase relations between the School and Brazil. That’s how I ended up going to São Paulo to set up IE’s office there in 2003. At the time there were some 2 or 3 Brazilian students at IE each year, and today there are over 50.

ieCOMMunity News: Tell us about your day-to-day at IE. What is the most rewarding part of your work? What do you like most about it?

Today, as Director of Admissions for Blended Programs and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, my day-to-day is pretty intense. I tend to place myself and everyone I work with under a lot of pressure to keep us at the forefront of our sector. 

Right now the whole knowledge industry is playing major role in all sectors, but particularly where online education is concerned. There are so many challenges and so many courses of action you can take that it is easy to lose yourself and your motivation when there is so much to do in so little time. But this is exactly what I find motivating and gratifying: being able to help IE and society as a whole by finding alternatives to improve the way we create and transmit knowledge among ourselves. 

What I like most is to be able to dream about possible solutions for these challenges and within a matter of months be able to share these dreams with other people and see the results when they have become a reality. 

ieCOMMunity News: Tell us about how you have seen IE Business School grow and evolve since you first came to work here. 

With great excitement. IE’s culture is unique, marked by its origins but not constrained by them. For instance, it is very gratifying to see that each time I go to Brazil more and more people are starting to know about IE and its values. It is something that I couldn’t have imagined in 2003, when I first arrived there full of dreams but with limited resources. 

ieCOMMunity News: What does the restructuring of IE Business School Programs mean for the School? 

The first major step was taken 10 years ago when IE decided to commit to blended education. The second major step came with the decision to continue to commit to this model, even after the internet bubble burst. I see this restructuring process as the third, very important step, taken in the direction in which thinkers in the field of education say that we should go, namely toward the possibility of offering quality education that can be adapted to meet the needs of each individual. 

Today, developing modular courses while providing a good blended education model is a logistic and academic nightmare for any large school or university. 

As the best Business School in the world in Distance Learning (The Economist, 2010), I feel that at IE we are ready to move forward with all these models (and perhaps some others). If we don’t keep raising the bar, other schools can quickly catch up. Everything moves very fast nowadays. 

ieCOMMunity News: Which programs will be restructured? What are the key features of the new MBA+ programs? 

The programs affected are some of the part-time program groups, and certainly the majority of blended programs – or online programs as they were called up until two years ago. The changes will also affect some of IE’s more traditional programs, such as the MBAs and weekly and bi-weekly Executive MBAs. Together with the blended programs, these programs will be modular, and will be divided into two groups known as the Global MBA+ and the Executive MBA+. 

The majority of specialized programs will be integrated into these MBAs. For example, the Master in Sports Management will become a +Module, known in this case as +Sports Management, in such a way that it will fit into any Global MBA+ or Executive MBA+ format. The same will apply to the Master in Sales and Marketing, which becomes +Marketing & Sales, etc. 

There will be many possible combinations of different formats, languages, specializations and networking opportunities, which will enable the student to organize him/herself to suit his/her personal and professional needs. For example, a student can opt to do the core period in face-to-face format and change to blended when they begin the +Module, or vice versa, start with a blended format and then do the program on campus. The same goes for languages. Students can start the core period in Spanish and then change to English, or vice versa. It’s amazing.

[Here I attach the first video we did to try to transmit what are these new programs about.]

ieCOMMunity News: What should we know if students, graduates or candidates ask us about the MBA+ programs? 

That both the Global MBA+ and Executive MBA+ programs are part-time and therefore compatible with their work. The curriculum of both programs combines the content of an IE Business School MBA program with the depth of a specialized program. The many customization options will permit students to adapt the program to their own specific professional needs and personal circumstances without losing the group spirit and the chance to build the kind of powerful network that is so typical of the IE experience. 

ieCOMMunity News: How will students and graduates benefit from this new structure? 

Students will begin to feel the benefits of using technology for personal and professional development purposes from day one, getting to know unique and diverse people who nevertheless have similar concerns. The personalization, the immediate applicability of knowledge acquired during the program, and the networking contacts established between professors and students will be further strengthened by the “pieces” that make up these programs. 

Hence, students will see that technology is there to help us mankind to go further not only in terms of productivity, but also intellectually and in our social relations. 

ieCOMMunity News: What about your life outside IE? What do you do in your free time?

I read lot, more and more all the time. I think that after five years reading really thick and dense books during my doctoral studies – I completed my doctorate in 2010, I now find it so easy to read books that are not academic (they look like magazines to me). I like books (and documentaries) about history, religion, science fiction and sociology. I also practice a type of self-defense called Krav-Magá, I play the guitar sometimes, and I like to travel to different places with my wife, as often as possible. 

Twitter: @neweduca

Do you believe in God? Part III: Reasons to believe.

This is the third and last post of this series dedicated to “God(s)”. Nothing better than being in a Christian country during Easter holidays to see how strong this feeling of belief is naturally strong among us humans.

Last week, here in Spain, you could see movies on the TV repeating over and over the stories of Moses, Mary, Jesus and all biblical historic-mythological characters that sustain Jewish and Christian religions.

Because of that, I caught myself thinking about how we humans make so much effort to believe in those mythological mind structures. That was how I remembered one of the latest visits to my father in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. He loves geography and geology but spent the last years studying everything he can.

Well, it was during one of those visits that we started talking about Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). Peirce was a chemist and philosopher, “founder” of pragmatism and semiotics, among other amazing philosophical thoughts (Check it out at Wikipedia).

Charles Sanders Peirce in 1859.

Charles Sanders Peirce in 1859.

According to Peirce, our thoughts mix together stages of belief and skepticism (doubt, questioning). The discomfort of doubt makes us naturally to search for the comfort of belief (his texts are truly works of art, read it for free in here: The Fixation of Belief).

Peirce identified 4 methods in which belief can replace doubt. Three methods were said to be rational methods, methods that depend merely on human reasoning: individual tenacity (trust in one’s established beliefs), authority coercion (an institutionalized kind of “believe or get out of here!”) and a priori (based on pre-existing concepts or fashionable thoughts of one’s era).

The forth method he named the method of experimentation, or the scientific method, where our pre-concepts have little or no influence over the object of belief. According to Peirce, we humans tend to prefer this method of fixing belief, because it allows the testing of hypotheses against demonstrable public observations.

Unfortunately, the scientific method is also developed through the constant and extensive use of the other three rational methods, making it less trustful than we would like it to be. Actually, in my father’s opinion, scientific abstractions, based on things that can’t be found in nature, can be considered as dangerous as religious thoughts if taken without the proper sense of critical reflection.

After all, the concepts behind the number zero, the infinite, the circle, the straight line, the average and all other scientific constants unseen in nature are nothing more than rationalized “scientific” beliefs.

Here is where we reach an interesting “conclusion” point in this mini 3-post debate: if you are the kind of person that believe in God(s) or the kind of person that believe in Science, in fact, you are not so far away from each other as it may appear :-).

Do you believe in God? Part II: The unexplained does not justify blind faith.

Like anybody that enjoys thinking, I like to talk about polemic things like religion, football or politics. Especially because when there is no right or wrong, I can exercise my brain with fellow humans. Unfortunately we can’t talk to dolphins, whales or chimpanzees yet, to get their opinion about it. I’m sure someday we will be able to do so.

Always when I talk about this God issue, some people tell me that I’m dumb because there are many unexplained things around us, and therefore God exists. Well, I definitely believe that there are many unexplained things around us, but what’s the connection between those things and God? I don’t see it. Let’s take just a simple example: the “recent” case of Ram Bahadur Bamjan (the “Buddha Boy”, from Nepal). Discovery Channel could not explain how he can keep alive after being completely immovable for days:

Another constant question: Is it possible that spirits or souls exist? Definitely. Actually, I think that when a person or an animal dies, part of their energies stays present around us and even talk to us or influence us. Can that be called soul? Yes, why not? Spiritism, Voodoo, Yoruba or Candomble are really amazing and powerful things and I do think that they are based on natural phenomena that can be perceived by many of us in different ways but still can’t be explained.

“I’ve got you!” many believers then tell me, “so, you believe in God!”. What the heck! Does that justify the existence of God? Of course not. If God(s) exist(s) just because we can’t explain something, then we are screwed: there is no reason then to look for new discoveries whatsoever. Penicillin? What for? Lets all gonna die at the age of 35 due to a group of stupid bacteria just to make our God(s) (and priests) happier!

Do you believe in God? Part I: Christian atheism.

I don’t, but I’m still a limited Christian atheist… Every time I say “I don’t believe in God” people get uncomfortable or astonished, “really?!?”. Some of them don’t say it but most of them look at me with this expression on their eyes and faces. Within my own family this became an issue some years ago, so I had to start saying that I believe in a special kind of God or an “Universal Energy” that only I understood. “Uff, that’s ok!!”, only then people see me as a “normal” human being.

“What if I’m wrong?” I prefer using Richard Dawkins’ South Park answer:

I use to say that I am a Christian atheist that doesn’t believe in God. How is that?!? Well, I found out I was a Christian when I lived in India, eleven years ago. India was a breakthrough in my life. I was raise in three types of schools in Rio de Janeiro: first a military school, then a Catholic and then a Jewish. Today, I realize how the three of them tried to make me believe in something.

The military school tried to make me believe that Brazil was a blessed land and we should die for it (we sang the national anthem every day). The Catholic school tried to make me afraid of God and convince me that only He could save my soul (we had to pray every time for forgiveness). The Jewish tried to make me believe that we should live with and protect “our” millenary community, understanding and respecting the traditions (there was symbolisms and get together for everything).

At the end, only in India I saw how deeply immersed in the Christian “way of living” I was. Hell, heaven, sin, forgiveness, an omnipresent God, engagement, marriage, family, saints, temples (churches) everywhere, Christian names, Christian places, etc… All these things are blended in our day-by-day tasks in the Western world (for practical purposes, let’s consider Australia and New Zealand Western worlds too). That is so deeply enrooted on us that we don’t even perceive it.

Indians respected that “limitation of mine”, living under a completely different set of values and beliefs: “Do you have only one God?!?”, some Indians would ask me, “that’s so sad!”. “Do you have only one life?!?”, again, “that’s so sad!”.

Wow! How could I prove to a regular Hindu Indian that we can’t have more than one life? That kharma and dharma don’t exist. Of course I couldn’t. Nobody can.

Indian Gods

Indian Gods

I have been reflecting on that ever since and few years ago I decided not to believe in any God, although I still consider myself a Christian cultured, locked in a Weberian Iron Cage, unfortunately limited and mentally constrained by its values and practices (like everybody else that believe in some sort superior being in this planet).

What about you?

I need a Theory of Social Relativity!

I have been looking for a nice and well-rounded theory of social relativity for years and couldn’t find anything yet. If anybody knows anything about it please, let me know. I came up with this name on purpose, inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (check up on Wikipedia to refresh your memory). Just to make it clear, I am not talking about Relativism in here (check it out too). Neither about Old or New Institutionalism (if you have not heard of it, don’t worry, Institutionalists are becoming an institution by themselves).

Since Max Weber, I think social scientists pretty much understand already how conventions are naturally established by humans and other animals to gain effectiveness in our actions and use of our brains (we tend to sit in the same seat, follow the same way back home and these kind of things). Take a read on Berger & Luckman’s “The Social Construction of Reality (1966)” for a nice introduction to that subject.

I am talking about a theory that can gather Einstein’s suggestions and combine its consequences with every social aspect of our lives, a theory that can make us to rethink the role of any kind of “constant” social behavior and physical condition.

Let’s think about it: the Earth attracts us to it, just like the Sun attracts the Earth to it. You may not have thought about it but we also attract the Sun and the Earth to ourselves with a tiny force derived from our masses and therefore we also distort space and time by our individual existence just like the Sun or any other mass in rapid movement. I won’t enter into the question about where those gravitational forces come from because then we would get too philosophical (some people believe that gravity is the closest thing we know to God).

In any case, my weird correlation is: just like every mass interact with each other in the universe distorting each other’s physical reality in different degrees, we humans also distort each other’s perceptions on ourselves due to the relativity of all our conventions that are merely based on unreliable and imprecise social definitions and physical evidences that should not be perceived as truth ever (and I think we should have been told that when we were young).

The Persistence of Memory, 1931

The Persistence of Memory, 1931

Words gain meaning with time, individually to each one of us, changing according to the use we give to them and the experience we have with them over time. I can assure that the meaning of the word “love” for you is different from the meaning it has to me. Moreover, the meaning of the word “love” for you today is different from the meaning you will give to it in 5 years. And even the way the word sounds is affected by the wind and the air chemical composition (like humidity).

The values of gold or money are also just conventions that mean nothing more than some kind of physical representation of certain local social power; especially under this “social game” we have been playing called capitalism. The Incas had a completely different relationship with gold, for example. Besides, the weight of an ounce of gold also varies according to the position you are in the planet since we now know that the force of gravity is not constant around our not-so-rounded Earth.

How about the time? Besides the distortion caused by all other masses surrounding us, our planet and solar system, we now know that not every day lasts a day and not every year lasts a year, so our “sacred” seconds, minutes and hours are all mere simplistic representations of a time that is not so fixed as we wished. Consequence: don’t worry if you arrive a minute late to a meeting. Nobody knows the exact time anyway. :-)

Gosh! Everything seems to be so complex! And I am not saying that in the Parsonian sense of the expression :-) but in a social-physical angle that apparently nobody dared to merge yet. I don’t know why, but Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” came to my mind while I was writing this. Perhaps because I am living in Spain and I do think that the Mediterranean people have been facing these complexities with a pleasant sense of disdain that amuses me. Olé!

Who is afraid to die?

About two months ago I bought a motorcycle. Most of the people who found out about it told me I was unnecessarily putting my life at risk. Since then I had to hear a lot of stories about how their friends got hurt or lost their lives riding motorcycles. This is she:

Well, I have some news for you: we all are going to die, one day or another. We end up so alienated towards death because we naturally don’t want to die, so we just forget about it. We are not capable to get use to the fact that life and death are just two sides of the same coin. I faced death 3 times in my life and I can assure that if it is quick you won’t even notice.

Third time I faced death

Third time I faced death

Today we are here, your eyeballs read these characters in your screen, written by my fingers, and tomorrow maybe your eyeballs or my fingers will be rotting like any lifeless meat would do. Who cares? Some relatives, few friends… It doesn’t really matter actually. Only few things that you did will be left behind: a document, a table, some money, a child perhaps. Still, it doesn’t matter anyway because even the Earth is temporary.

So what is life for? Again, unfortunately, nobody knows. Maybe is to appreciate death? Or maybe just to play with her? I may be sounding too pessimistic, apocalyptical or just non-sense but in fact it is precisely this brevity of life that amuses me every single day. Not like paranoia, but like a strange luck that makes me feel “hungry and foolish” everyday (like the Steve Jobs’ famous “do-what-you-love-to-do” speech, below). After all, learn how to ride a big motorcycle over roads and mountains ahead of you is amazing.