Interview with Prof Allan Fillipowicz, Associate Dean Cornell SC Johnson School of business on Cornell University’s work and Executive Education needs in India.

Brief us on your collaboration with XEd Learning Solutions?

I have known John Kallelil and his team at XEd for a number of years, since starting to work with executives in India when I was on the faculty at INSEAD in Singapore. Since moving to Cornell and getting named Associate Dean of Executive Education, we have had the pleasure of doing several custom programs with XEd. Custom programs require a deep understanding of the client and context. XEd helps provide this for Cornell in India.

Topics that you addressed during your visit to Bangalore?

During my recent trip to Bangalore, I worked with senior leaders at a large, industrial conglomerate on the topic of leadership purpose.
We have been taking a two-pronged approach to leadership development. On one side, we take a very micro-behavioral approach. We focus on the behaviors, and even the micro behaviors, that change a leadership ability to get things done, to act with emotional intelligence, to understand and influence others, and to build and lead teams. One could consider this a bottom-up approach
On the other side, we give executives the luxury of time and necessary frameworks to consider what fundamentally moves them – to find their leadership purpose. Leadership purpose is the culmination of several streams of research, from that on intrinsic motivation to transformational leadership to positive organizational psychology to leadership purpose itself. Leaders who can find their leadership purpose and align their actions with it become more motivated and motivating.

Can you share your views on the accessibility of the executive educations from Ivy League Universities like Cornell?

Prof Allan Fillipowicz, Associate Dean Cornell, on Executive education needs in India

Senior executives are extremely time constrained. They need the education that is immediately applicable and geared towards their specific circumstances. It’s for this reason that we focus on custom programs. For historical reasons, Cornell has kept its Executive Education fairly small. This allows us to offer a degree of customization that would not be possible for other Ivy League institutions of our research caliber.

What are the Barriers to Innovation that you see in Indian Companies?

Roughly Indian companies face the same barriers as elsewhere (with one exception), but the pace and dynamism of the economy here makes barriers to innovation that much more costly.
The barrier that is more severe in India is the high power distance. Power distance refers to one’s acceptance of large power differentials. This leads to a number of complications in terms of innovation, but in particular, it might reduce psychological safety, which makes the organization less able to adapt to changes in the environment, it reduces the upward flow of information, and it increases fear of failure.

What according to you are according to you are the organizational challenges in the face of massive digital disruptions across industries?

This is a great question, and like some of the others, could by itself easily be the topic of a book. Digital disruption creates two types of challenges. It requires a completely different mindset, and in particular, requires the cognitive flexibility to maintain two opposing mindsets simultaneously (roughly think-do-think, the classic approach, and do-think-do, the fast cycle time approach).
The second challenge is that the digital disruption increases the chances that one’s industry will be disrupted by unexpected entrants. This requires thinking about what part of the value chain confers strategic advantage and defending that. But it also requires one to treat each new entrant in a multiple ways. They could be challengers, but they could also be partners, etc. Here again, the cognitive flexibility of senior leadership becomes important.


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