четверг, 24 февраля 2011 г.

Aldemir Drummond, Strategy Professor: “Strategy is about asking the right questions”

The second Executive MBA class is already preparing for the international module - In March the group is going to spend a busy week in Brazil. How will the trip turn out? What interesting people will the students have a chance to meet? What new projects and ideas will they come back with? Stay tuned to SKOLKOVO official blog!

Today we’d like to begin with an interesting interview: last week we had an opportunity to meet with Professor Aldemir Drummond, Strategy Professor of Brazilian Business School Fundação Dom Cabral, who has given the students an introductory course on the Brazilia, its cultural and historical peculiarities and other features.

- What is your impression of Russia as a visitor and as a strategy professor?
- It’s very cold outside (laughing). To be serious I haven’t seen much yet. We have a project together with SKOLKOVO, it’s called «BRICs on BRICs: Capturing growth in new realities».  I am one of the directors of that programme, so I’ll be back here in May. And in spring I plan not only to spend one week with the participants but also enjoy the country. I’ve lot of curiosity about Russia, this really important country for the world, very big, very strong politically and economically. So I think this is something that draws attention.

- Talking about Brazil: what can you say about advantages and disadvantages that Brazil has in comparison with the other BRIC countries?
- First of all, I think, we are a kind of very peaceful country. We have no problems with neighbours; we haven’t fought a war for 200 years. The situation with all other BRIC countries is more complicated. And it’s absolutely one of advantages. 

Secondly, I think it’s natural resources. Both countries, Russia and Brazil, have a lot of natural resources, this can be, on the one hand, a kind of blessing, because you don’t depend too much on other countries, but, on the other hand, it can be a kind of trap - you may be condemned to sell resources instead of developing your own technology or innovation, those kind of thing. I think this is something that links Brazil to Russia, this thing of having lots of natural resources, but you should use those wisely, and you should also make sure that you use natural resources to finance your own growth in the future.

The climate in Brazil is very good. It’s not only because of the weather being or not being cold: you can plant the whole year, so you can actually have three harvests. 30 years ago people would think that technology would solve the problem of food for everybody. But when you see the reports today, it seems to become a real issue now - 1 billion people now starve, too much around the world.

One thing that I think Brazil has more than India and China, but not much more than Russia is that Brazil is closer in terms of culture to Europe and US. The reason is we were colonized by the Portuguese. I don’t believe that is an advantage, because if economics really shifts to Asia, then it will become a disadvantage. What I mean is that for foreign companies operating in the country it’s easier to operate with Brazil, at least in terms of culture.


- Long-term prospects in the market should be considered. Is it an easy task to make predictions in such fast-developing markets as the BRIC countries?
- It’s never easy to make predictions, at least about yourself. I think it’s better to prepare for a long-term more than make a prediction. I think you should find what is important for the country to develop. If I talk again about Brazil, one of the most important things for the development of the country is education. If you go there for a week, like the participants of SKOLKOVO Executive MBA class, they won’t feel that much, because they will visit large companies and people there are really very highly-educated. And it will be difficult to see the existing gap. But if you live in the country… the situation is quite different. People talk about the lack of labour, specialized labour, there is a huge demand for more specialized people. For our new president Dilma Rousseff the education is the most important priority.
What is more important than making predictions is how you prepare a country to be ready for the future. So you should think of a country, which has lots of human resources. What you need is to have people prepared, to get the people from the country in the right direction.

- How often should a company’s strategy be revised? Is a strategy a direction or a flexible routing?
- As I mentioned, I don’t think the strategy is about a prediction, it’s much more about preparing ourselves. So I think when you do a strategy problem, it’s much more than thinking about it or guessing or predicting the future. I think it’s much more about asking the right questions. So if that thing happens, you have already given a thought about this. When you have a strategy, you have to think in very different possibilities of scenarios, so you’re more prepared to react when things happen. It’s also important to involve people, to have a friendly environment: when you have to change something quickly it will be easier to convince your followers then just ordinary people.

You have to be flexible, but it depends on the environment of where you are, I mean if you are in telecom or in education, that’s really critical. Perhaps you are in mining or in oil. It’s not dynamic and the price is changing. That’s the idea. It depends on the nature of the business you are in.

- What do you like most in studying and teaching a strategy course?
- It’s much more interesting to think about future than the past, to look ahead and to see what you need. I really like to think how and what you need to do to be better, to improve yourself, to improve your company and so on. That’s the thing I like most. Some people love routine, I don’t like that much. I don’t think strategies as thinking or planning. I think strategies as you see something, you plan, you do, you analyze what you have done and see how to improve. It’s not about how you see the future, but how you build this and really face it.

- Most of Executive MBA students will visit Brazil for the first time. What will you recommend them? What should they pay attention to?
- It depends on what they want to see there. As far as I know modern classes are more interested in visiting the companies. Some of them may be interested in investing the countries. Others are more like a kind of cultural thinking and understand how different countries work and so on. I think they should be mostly open to ask questions, not be afraid of asking questions. That’s really important.

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