Reimagining Business Education

CEMS Communities of Curriculum Practice 2017 event April 18-21, Prague.

The power of co-creative methodologies to connect all parties towards a collective future.

During this conference, more then 100 people from 14 countries and 40+ organisations gathered to re-imagine their collective business education program. Through an intelligent mix of keynotes, world cafe and pro-action cafe, the foundation was built for 4 boards to start working on the next level program. By opening up the space for people to interact and connect, their level of trust increased and they co-created something bigger than their personal possibilities. Including a sustainable action plan to be executed by 30+ business schools.


During 4 days, academic members, students and business people from 14 countries and 30+ organisations came together to start a global Community of practice to improve, revisit and co-own the curriculum of the Master in Management (MIM) program of CEMS.

The CEMS – MIM program is unique in its form: it is organised through a collaboration of 32 business schools worldwide, aiming to offer students (between 23 – 30 y) a maximum exposure to the best knowledge and networks possible. Every year, close to 4000 students graduate and make a huge step forward in their lives.

The challenge ahead is that CEMS senses that, in order to keep pace with what changes in the world in general and in education in particular, they need to act as a community of practice themselves.


Rule #1:“the discipline of pleasure”

In order to realize a flow between such diverse groups of people that also creates the foundation for further cooperation, there was a necessity to have a clear purpose and approach. In several on-line gatherings, the steering group refined both the purpose and approach for the event.


  1. The more clarity the key persons created around the purpose of the community and this first step, the further we could open up the possibility to step into co-creation.
  2. Switching the use of the interactive methodologies from being “conversational” to “operational”: the moment our questions changed from informative to generative, we could start thinking “out-of-the box”. Generative questions are aimed at creating the new, focussing on insights and answers to build solutions.

Rule #2: Do the things in the right order: the “funnel principle”

We knew that, if we wanted to create a good common ground for boards to start working together, we needed to do this in a specific order. Therefore, we worked in 3 steps:

  1. We opened up with 2 very strong keynote presentations to create a common understanding of the world around us.
  2. We created common ground through a world cafe, in which the whole group tackled the same questions at different tables and shared a great harvest that expressed the richness of the community.
  3. After that we started working groups, the operational engine for the next two years, launching again a content pitch, and we concluded with 4 parallel pro-action cafes, helping these new groups to co-create a first common action plan. 


This conference has been mind shifting and installed a new vibe and culture within the huge CEMS network. It is key now to carefully host this new phase of development. This will be done by the management of CEMS, who have become hosts “by doing”, and are co-hosting the event. The mentioned rules are strong tools to use in these kind of settings, when you want to have direct impact and results in a very diverse community. AND: good hosting at this gathering could only happen because we prepared intensely with a team of 8 people during 4 months!!! The qualtiy of your inviting field defines your outcome as much as the quality of you being a process host.

Lieven Callewaert