Tales from the Lockdown #12: Stephen Bach, King's Business School
08 June 2020
In this series of conversations, our guests talk to Senior Consultant Claudia Monteiro about what they're learning during the pandemic and what future they're imagining.
Stephen Bach is Dean of King’s Business School at King’s College London, UK
King’s is ultimately connected to the vibrancy of London the place – how are you planning for the student experience in this new online environment?
London is very important to our vision and mission. London is more than just a place, it’s synonymous with the zeitgeist, with disruption and innovation. What we’re doing is making our offer flexible and very adaptable so that we can expect some of our students on campus while others may continue to study remotely for some time.
For those that study remotely, we’re including London elements, perspectives and insights from our senior industry partners. These include activities such as digital internships and projects in the city. And we’re taking that sense of global London around the world too; our relationship with our very international Advisory Council and alumni network has deepened through the pandemic. They are taking part in lots of fireside chats and lectures, acting as mentors to many of our students and offering case studies on resilience and how their organizations are responding to the crisis.
And we’re planning actively for the return to campus; we’re all missing seeing each other!
What aren’t we talking enough about during this crisis?
We’re not talking enough about the value of good corporate governance and good government. If we denigrate our public servants and our public sector as we have seen in recent years, we face the consequences of that neglect, as has become apparent during the pandemic.
I started my career on the National Health Service (NHS) fast stream programme. In the first few weeks of my job, I had to visit all departments and what struck me then was how everyone knew their own contribution to organizational life and that their work wouldn’t function without collaboration from other departments. We constantly say to our students: value everyone as we’re all interdependent. And that message can only get stronger in the context of the current pandemic. Health and social care for instance, they’re so interdependent and we need to be thinking of organizations as connected pieces of these larger ecosystems.
As a business school in a city comprised of multi-national HQs and the seat of national government, we nurture the relationship between the private and the public sector. We encourage students to develop the values and the character to understand how these organizations can collaborate effectively to address the grand challenges and opportunities society faces today.
What opportunities lie ahead?
It’s a good time to take forward this relationship between business and government. Societies need to move much more towards a stakeholder model of capitalism based on a sense of purpose, valuing people and their expertise. In these troubled times it is essential that people feel their work is meaningful and is taking society forward. That’s something that is close to our heart at King’s Business School.
In my own area of research - the future of work - we have important arguments to make about the limitations of the gig economy and the consequences of precarious work.
And on a personal level this has been a good time to get to know my colleagues. One of my new routines since we’ve gone remote is to have two one-to-one daily conversations with members of staff. I’ve had 40 conversations so far and have a way to go – there's 200 of us in total – but it’s been a great way to get to know people individually and spend time with them, to understand what’s on their mind and be invigorated by their sense of purpose and commitment to King’s.
Tell us a tale of one of your local heroes, a person or a group within your University or School community who has pulled out all the stops at this time of crisis.
King’s is a civic university in a global city and our people are imbued in that spirit; they’ve really pulled together. We’re doing a range of webinars and podcasts, supporting businesses on how to navigate the way forward. One of our professors of entrepreneurship, Ute Stephan, is hosting a series of sessions on stress and resilience for entrepreneurs and those have been very popular.
Our students have been incredible in all sorts of ways, there’s more dialogue around wellbeing and the circumstances each of them faces. Stephen Anurag Prathipati, one of our postgraduates, has co-founded an online forum to support the wellbeing of fellow students that have remained in the UK, and he’s done that on the back of basic coding skills he picked up at a 48-hour startup event we organized.
What have you learnt about yourself?
I’ve learnt that I am quite curious about people; I’ve been enjoying seeing people in their own home environments. I’ve learnt that we’re all more resilient than we think we are. And as surprising as that sounds, I miss my commute to the School, having that in-between thinking time just for myself.
This crisis has brought on more of who we are into the workplace – the daily clutter of our home life is lurking in. How are you experiencing that?
What has buoyed me is the real sense of community and purpose. People wanting to contribute and becoming more innovative as well as providing support to colleagues and students. People have been very honest about the challenges they have at home and everyone has permission to say when they feel they are having an off day.
Photo: Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.