Pedro Hofmeister (OneMBA '17) weighs in during the global OneMBA European Residency.

5 insights on the European approach to doing business

Pedro Hofmeister (OneMBA '17) weighs in during the global OneMBA European Residency.

Pedro Hofmeister (FGV OneMBA ’17) weighs in during the global OneMBA European Residency.

In the spring of 2016, I had the chance to spend one full week immersed in the European way of doing business as part of the global OneMBA program. We were hosted by RSM at Erasmus University and the Gdansk Foundation for Management Development.

There, I met my new OneMBA global group composed of Ganpi Srinivasan (U.S./India), Stefanie Lai (China), Karina Orozco and Federico Fricke (both from Mexico), Jalal Fitoury (The Netherlands) and Zvonimir Mrsic (Croatia). Thank you for sharing this life-changing opportunity.

Below are the 5 collective insights we gained. I hope they mean as much to you as they meant to us!


Constantly reinvent yourself.
Rotterdam was destroyed during World War II and then rebuilt oriented for the future, for what Rotterdam wanted to be, thinking about the potential of the city: its port. Contrast this with Old Warsaw, which was rebuilt with a focus on recreating “a better version of its past.” If we had not learned the history, Old Town would be the original old town for us.

In both cities, we saw the European resilience and persistence through reconstruction and reinvention. These cities were each devastated in their own way, and it must have been hard to imagine the future immediately afterward. The residents took the long view and found the power to literally start over from the ground up (again). That’s an important lesson for when we go through rough times and lose something we previously conquered.

Questions can be too simple.
Some questions do not need or should not be answered – they are just too simple. They impose a restricted framework on us even before we start to think about the answer. When we answer these questions, we narrow our view as well as the discussion. Most importantly, issues are complex and there are more possibilities than the traditional yes/no or black/white.

In an ever faster and ever changing world, we should – first and foremost – think and challenge the given framework by checking to see if the issue could be framed differently, or even if an answer or reaction is needed at all.

David Cameron asked people to answer yes/no to Brexit, when the question to be asked might have been how the U.K. should relate to the E.U.

This approach likely takes more time and a lot more dialogue, but we avoid simplistic and sometimes harmful solutions. By acting in this way we will likely avoid conflict, break resistances and reach better solutions. It is a more inclusive and less combative manner of doing things that can be effective if time and the amount of discussion are well managed.

There is identity in unity and identity in diversity.
A core challenge for the European Union is for its countries to preserve their national identity while being part of a bigger Union (with a common European identity). This involves dialogue and respect for differences. Above all, it means dealing with complicated past issues and assuming that our future is together.

In our professional lives, we can take the same philosophy around team building and working as teams. Instead of treating teams as temporary, we could think about how we would act and do things if the team was permanent. And as old and new Europe work together to better the union and the world, we should also identify diversity in our team and see how we can leverage the best in everyone.

Think long-term. What’s your legacy?
Sustainability has a much broader meaning than is typically applied. It is about sustainable relationships, sustainable finance and sustained values – in summary, it is about a sustainable future. It is about thinking longer-term.

Professor Jan Peter Balkenende was able to consolidate different takes on sustainability in his lecture, questioning values and objectives in business. It was especially impactful to hear this perspective espoused by a politician in times when corruption and populism are affecting many of our countries.

Business is about maximizing profit and creating value for diverse people and entities. More and more, we think about business – and even our careers – with a short-term view because of incentives, or because it is harder to foresee the long-term. Short-term objectives take over the business conversation and the minds of business people.

What about the longer-term? What are the values that we are promoting? What is our legacy?

As leaders and citizens of our respective nations, we should also think about the legacy we leave behind for our future generations – and this is not only an ecological footprint. We should foster sustainability in the way we act, and in several other dimensions in our lives.

Collaboration is key.
It is not about wins or losses. Instead, it is about discussing everything and trying to reach a compromise on every issue so that all parties benefit. It is a different form of power. It is about creating and managing inter-dependency. It is feminine power in a more feminine world.

Professionally, we can imbibe that approach in our collaborative teams to drive success. We can also identify small milestones, celebrating those successes as the milestones that pave the way for bigger successes.


Thanks to this life-changing opportunity filled with lectures, interactions, company visits and workshops, we all took a new part of Europe with us back home. We hope that the European spirit in us will guide us in our personal and professional lives.

By Pedro Hofmeister (FGV), head of digital at AIG, with Ganpi Srinivasan (UNC ’17), Stefanie Lai (Xiamen University), Karina Orozco (EGADE), Federico Fricke (EGADE), Jalal Fitoury (RSM) and Zvonimir Mrsic (RSM).

This post has been adapted and republished with permission. View the original post here.