The Note

Thoughts of Carme Martinell, Director General of the BSM-Pompeu Fabra University.



Training in the 21ST century

Management schools such as ours are working hard to meet 21st-century training needs. To achieve this, it is necessary to work on incorporating new processes in our own business of education. We must also incorporate technologies and formats that other sectors already see as a natural part of what they do.

We also need to incorporate new competencies, disciplines and knowledge areas that the current revolution is bringing about in our academic content. By this I mean knowledge of blockchain and the Internet of Things, for example. It is also necessary to incorporate new formulas for knowledge creation, based on co-creation, combining content from inside and outside, and active participation by the student in producing it.

As a result of all this, we need passion, openness to change and the capacity to undertake risks. I believe that at BSM we have found a good balance between the three factors, while not jeopardising the essence of what we are, a management school, or where we come from, a university—UPF—that stands out for its rigorous scholarship.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the BSM


Recipe for ethical decisions

Last 18th May we held the 20th anniversary celebration of the Executive MBA course run by UPF Barcelona School of Management. The event brought together alumni from all year past groups, right back to the first edition. Now embarking on the final stages of their careers, the original class (who, by the way, took the prize for the most widely attended group on the day), shared their broad experience with the School’s current MBA students, who look on them as role models. Attendance at the hall was full to capacity and the attendees not only got to enjoy the reunion with their fellow alumni, but were also treated to an inspiring speech about innovation by Xavier Verdaguer and a series of dialogues by course lecturers and MBA alumni which, in a humorous tone, brought us up to date on current affairs.

Out of all the discussions held, I would like to highlight a thought voiced by esteemed professor Oriol Amat on ethical decisions in the workplace. Summing up, he hit the nail on the head: there are four criteria we need to guide us in these situations: Firstly, consider whether our gut reaction to the proposal is good, meaning do we feel comfortable with it. Secondly, ensure that what we want to do is legal. Thirdly, ask if it is in line with the company’s values. And, lastly, if we would like the news to come out on social networks.

A good recipe for everyday situations that can apply to any one of us, from any generation, and from any professional area.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the UPF Barcelona School of Management


Devoured by our own structures

It’s natural to design comprehensive and systematic solutions to manage processes, equipment, aims, and so on. They reassure us, as they make us feel as though we’re limiting risks, preventing deviations and can easily settle accounts. The problem arises when these structures aren’t tailored to the purpose for which they’ve been created and so become tedious solutions that consume our time and commitment and require more effort than the original aim. Something similar happens with organisational structures. These often start out agile but, due to their design and the established frameworks and rules, limit their own development.

So, let’s not create things that can be devoured by their own structure.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the UPF Barcelona School of Management


Mistakes, quick and cheap

Alejandro Ruelas-Gossi, the speaker at our graduation ceremony for the 2015-2016 academic year, talks about how important mistakes are as tools for learning and therefore how vital they are for organisations. None of this is new. However, he adds that mistakes should come quick and cheap. And it’s true. Management mechanisms in companies should be able to detect deviations or symptoms fast enough to prevent them from transforming into major problems that are too costly and may be irreversible when it is already too late. Hence the importance of evidence-based management. Indicators, metrics and critical analysis generally involve good decisions and help to make mistakes an opportunity for improvement rather than a blow to the head.

So innovate and let innovation flow, but you should also set up mechanisms for gauging success and invest time in gauging them. When you detect an error, it should serve as a great learning opportunity without significant consequences. Let your people innovate, but they should have a plan for controlling the outcome in the short, medium and long term at the same time.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the UPF Barcelona School of Management


The culture of peace

Today I had the pleasure of sharing ideas on how we can change the world through the culture of peace with Luz Castillo, a student of the Master’s degree in Conflict Mediation.

What is the antonym of peace?, Luz asked me. It isn’t war. It is violence. Non-violence is peace. But just because there is peace does not mean that there are no conflicts. Conflicts will always exist as a result of differences between cultures, points of view, beliefs, etc. This, however, is positive, because conflicts enrich our perspective of things and encourage inclusive thinking.

The media continually shows us how today’s society has no tolerance for conflict and immediately makes it a legal issue, a confrontation. How many lawsuits do we hear about on TV between celebrities who have not stopped to consider whether their differences could have been resolved by finding points in common, and that they have more in common with each other than things that divide them? And in family circles, and among neighbors…

Luz takes her studies in Conflict Mediation very seriously and she believes that, by applying mediation strategies in our personal and our professional lives, we will develop a much more comprehensive view of the world, one which is open to the understanding that different points of view may, in fact, have points in common. The culture of peace, as part of our sense of ethics and responsibility.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the UPF Barcelona School of Management



When you launch a crowdfunding initiative for a sensible project you may have the feeling that you are asking the wrong people for help. My recent experience has led me to understand how crowdfunding is a natural, positive system from which we can learn a lot. Because crowdfunding means:

  • An act of generosity for those who give and an act of humility for those who ask
  • An ongoing dynamic form of support: today I give and tomorrow you give
  • Awareness that if you have received something, perhaps you have a commitment to give something back when what you have received bears fruit
  • A commitment to quality and improving the project people help you with
  • Discovering that you are always accompanied

The American system is very familiar with this concept, which is why their universities and business schools are largely financed by the contributions of those who have passed through the institution and now want to return what they received, so that these institutions can continue to develop and generate a positive impact on their students. This is fundraising. It is clear that this system implies joint responsibility for the transparent use and management of these resources, as well as a commitment by the institution for it to be a constant incentive to do things better.

Carme Martinell
Director General of the UPF Barcelona School of Management


Analysis, a key factor in decision making

Reading the report “Tomorrow’s MBA” by CarringtonCrisp the academic reputation of its faculty is considered the most important factor when choosing an MBA. This means that, despite the practical guidance sought by potential MBA students, the academic base of the contents developed is a key factor. So that practice is not without theory. And the theory requires strict people. This is why the Barcelona School of Management places the importance of analytics on one of its axes. In a marketing course it is as important to explain the concept of loyalty as the techniques to measure it. Only then will future managers make decisions based on evidence and not only on intuition. In fact, a study by IBM in which 1500 CMOs were asked what is the challenge that current managers are least prepared for; the explosion of data was listed as first, ahead of social networks. The Barcelona School of Management relies on the high analytical capacity of its renowned Department of Economics and Business, to ensure that students not only learn the concepts, but also how to analyse them in the actual case of their company.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


What if we pay attention to unstructured processes?

The obsession with optimising production processes or logistics is a common trait found in many managing directors, and even more so nowadays. Tweaking every part of the chain in order to save a few cents on each unit is the objective of many companies’ CEOs. Nobody doubts the value of doing so, and it is undeniably an extremely important measure. However, we could also identify other processes that are equally as vital, if not more so, and which offer just as many opportunities for optimisation, if not more. These processes are often overlooked as potential candidates for making savings and increasing quality. We are referring to processes such as communication (whether internal or with clients or suppliers), document management, information sharing, etc. We do not devote as much attention to these processes because they are harder to pin down on paper and present in the form of a workflow. They are known as unstructured processes.

Perhaps we should stop and think about how the productivity of our employees could increase if they had easy access to the company’s information, or if they knew whether or not a colleague was available before calling them, or if we make it so that, by default, meetings can be attended virtually or in person.

Sound market solutions are starting to become available for all these ideas. All that is needed is for managing directors to prioritise those areas that are usually overlooked because they are less tangible than structured processes.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


Everything à la carte?

The other day, a friend of mine made an interesting reflection about à la carte services while we were watching the Barça-Madrid match. He said that if à la carte services become the norm (which would seem logical, so that we only pay what we use), we will learn less. Because actually, TV channel hopping in times of boredom makes you watch programs that you wouldn’t normally watch, and discover things (about life, celebrity affairs, sports or curiosities) that you would have never known about otherwise. This friend of mine is a doctor. He says that since he no longer receives the medical journal at work that he used to flick through while he travelled on the underground, he now does not discover things about other medical specialities that he used to. We could use the same argument for those restaurants that bring you surprise dishes that you may never have had the chance to try if you had chosen from the menu. Or those complementary activities at business schools, the ones which aren’t part of the course, but are organized by the alumni association and which you actually get as much out of, or more, than what you expected from the class.

We could probably say that à la carte services help you go deeper into what really interests you. But a bit of boredom from time to time while you channel hop, is probably a healthy complementary exercise that helps give you new dimensions.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


Career Plan

We always explain to our students that a key influence on their future career is the development of a career plan; identifying areas and types of work that they would like to be in based on their future skills and abilities.

Just a few days ago a professional who has a long career behind him but who is now, like so many others, looking for work, came to me seeking advice. He was highly prepared, he had thought long and hard, deciding which areas he was interested in working in and what professional expectations he had: he had really put in a lot of work. As my personality tends towards the direct, I had to tell him that his plan, in these times, was obsolete. These days one does not choose a job, often we don’t even choose the sector. The most we can do is to present ourselves as people with a flexible outlook on life (e.g. willingness to move in order to get to know other ways of life, or to work part-time so that we can work with other personal projects), capable of being agents of change wherever we are, adaptable to whatever arises, which is so often unpredictable.

A positive outcome of this is that now the time has come to work on defining skills and motivations instead of a desired career path. A career will come, and will develop, if we are committed to the project of our lives and allow ourselves to adapt happily to whatever arises.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


Visionaries have few friends

Reimund Fickert takes his time while he talks but each sentence is as important as the last. In his eleven years as Project Director at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park, and having almost certainly been somewhat influenced by the tireless Jordi Camí as director, he has learnt that visionaries have few friends. When too many people like a project, it means that it’s not innovative enough. But when it creates suspicions, doubts, opposition… that makes it more of a breakthrough and worth considering.

Because when novelties are too radical, they take us out of our comfort zone. We prefer progressive changes.

However, in time, these adversaries will almost certainly turn into your best companions on the same projects which some time back, they hadn’t liked.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


Ethical balance sheets

We recently had the honour of hosting a seminar given by Christian Felber in the IDEC-UPF lecture hall on the economy for the common good. Cooperation and contribution to the common good could take over from such questionable trends as competition and the pursuit of profit. We need to include within our vocabulary terms such as Common Good Product, the social equivalent of GDP. And see contributions to the common good as the equivalent of financial profits. This means the natural integration at companies of ethical balance sheets, supplementing the financial balance sheets which are necessary, but which on their own lack meaning.

An ethical balance sheet needs to include those aspects of management which deal with human dignity, solidarity, ecological sustainability, social justice and democratic participation. I do not believe this will be a mere fad, but a requirement for a society which has seen that a perspective skewed towards just one of these two aspects does not work: ethical and financial balance sheets must of necessity work side by side.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation


Sapere aude

Sapere aude is a Latin expression that can be interpreted as “to have the courage to use your ability to think” or “to dare to think”. Kant used this phrase in his essay about the Enlightenment, and its resultant dissemination means that many universities now use it as a motto.

Sapere aude is what we must be able to do in all aspects of our lives. Because it jolts us from our inertia, when it can be all too easy to stay in our comfort zone. Sapere aude is to venture to think that that what you have been doing up until now may need to change, that what you have always taken for granted is no longer the case.  Sapere aude is to think laterally, to see from the outside what you carry inside as though it were new to you, and react to what you see.

Somehow, sapere aude is innovation. And innovation is valuable if it can be converted into something of value.

Sapere aude is the creation of value.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation



In Japan, out of the ten songs most listened to in 2010, seven were created with Vocaloid, a music synthesiser created by the UPF sound research group. Thanks to a individual donations to some American universities, a service can be provided to alumni. The highest processing power reached so far was the sum of the power of thousands of computers worldwide in a network.

The common trait of all these projects was the individual and overall contribution of many people who, by themselves, alone, would not have obtained any result. They are individuals who do not expect anything in exchange, whose objective is simply to contribute. The contents generators of Wikipedia, the users who upload their musical creations to the internet, those who put part of their capital in a project or those who share CPU have already understood that generosity is an essential part of growth and development. Generosity is also a differential characteristic of science, because it seeks contributions of value for society without obtaining a return, or at least not an immediate one. Unfortunately, in our most immediate environment we are not used to giving value to generosity as part of our responsibility. We want to enjoy what others contribute, but we find it difficult to give. In the United States and Japan they understood this some time ago. Generosity means bidirectionality. Unidirectionality has stopped making sense if we want to make society grow in the 21st century.

Carme Martinell
Director General of Continuing Education Institute Foundation