Theseus International Management Institute

Introduction

The dawn of the 21st century will be looked back upon as being a period of enormous emergent change and yet one of unbelievable myopia on the part of contemporaries. A bit like how we tend to look back on the 18th century and ask "how is it that intelligent people could not see what was going on."

Globalization, irrespective of whether one concentrates on its pro's or con's, is challenging the very roots of our established governance systems and the processes that used to legitimize the acquisition and use of power. The roles that corporations used to play, as well those of other social actors such as NGO's, are getting modified at an accelerating pace. Demographic changes are causing massive structural modifications in the way the (aging) industrial countries operate relative to the (younger) developing ones. Changes in our physical environment are causing a radical rethink of how resources are being used and to what end. The technologies of digitalization and miniaturization, the twin pillars of the information revolution, are playing havoc with known economic and social structures. The spatial and temporal natures of work relations are changing dramatically and current technicities are becoming commodities. Industry boundaries have become "fuzzy" and the competitive rules are being redefined even as the game is in play. And the list of "signals" goes on and on.

Many commentators (and most management education institutions) look upon all this and insist nothing is really that different than before; that the "dot com" bust "proves" that such a thing as the "new economy" does not exist, that the "business of business is business", that all that would be required is a bit of flexibility and speed and a dash of client relations management. In essence, nothing to worry about, one just has to get the "basics" right, the rest will follow.

At Theseus we believe that this is an extremely shortsighted and erroneous assessment of ongoing events and their implications resulting from a mechanical view of social phenomena. Indeed, under the influence of Newton and the celestial mechanics he enunciated, the image of a "machine" has exerted a seemingly irresistible influence on most areas of the social sciences and in particular the study of management. This has led to the belief that once the initial state and equations of motion of a system have been determined, its behavior could be predicted and controlled. If there are any deviations from the predicted sequence of causal events (as there seems to be lately), this can only be due to human errors of reasoning or measurement and the cure has to be found in training people to be technically more proficient.

And this is what established management education, where the "manager-as-technician" paradigm still reigns, seems to insist on doing.

Yet there has been an explosion of research in adjacent fields challenging our understanding of how the brain and neural systems operate, how cognition and emotions interact, how linguistics and semiotics may contribute to our understanding of the world around us, modifying our views on causality and our ability to control complex systems. There is an intellectual cauldron that is bubbling with exciting new developments and mental habits for understanding and "managing" the world around us. There is a need to incorporate these new developments into our thinking on organizations, markets, business, and management.

At Theseus all of our activities are infused with this excitement and the prospect of going beyond established norms of thinking in a relevant way. We cherish this challenge.

The role of the executive has become too serious an occupation to be left to people whose major form of action is a knee-jerk, codified, reaction to shareholder demands. The "hard-nosed" executive of tomorrow is the person who can play with ideas as well as bring closure to a debate.