For the 49th St Gallen Symposium we have introduced our new format – the Interactive Sessions – to foster more interaction and ideation space among our participants. Each session focussed on a central issue related to this year’s symposium topic “Capital for Purpose” to develop solutions within a short time. In a specific design thinking setting our participants produced different approaches to solve the challenge they had been facing.
We have prepared the completed results of four Interactive Sessions to give you some insights. Each of the concept posters consists of a solution to the issue or a way to foster and enable impact. After seeing several of our communities' outstanding ideas coming into action in the last years, we look forward to inspiring many more in the future. Become part of this initiative by sharing your brilliant ideas.
Your International Students’ Committee
Individuals can generate an almost unlimited set of potential options for their future careers and endeavors; however, not all paths are equally attractive. An important first step is to identify and really clarify your values, not only now but also in the future by articulating your values in the first column. Remember that these are your values – not those of your parents, mentors, or others. In this process, you must really think hard about: what does success look like to you now and down the road? Next, you will weigh the importance of each value; for example, you may place more or less importance on financial success as compared to a personal mission. As a next step, in each column, you can briefly describe each option, and expand the table as needed to capture the many options available to you. For each option, attempt to place a value- quantitative and/or qualitative- that you might hope to achieve. The final step of this first template is to examine your values’ corresponding importance and ability to achieve across options. You want to focus on options that satisfy your most important personal values.
An illustration of the values matrix is Geoffrey See of Singapore who - like so many St. Gallen attendees over the years - faced a number of possible future career paths before pursuing his personal passion for helping North Korea and subsequently establishing a nonprofit to teach entrepreneurship in North Korea. See believed that gradual social and economic transition is the best path for North Koreans, in contrast to other NGOs/governments’ preferences to collapse North Korean institutions.
In our conversations with St. Gallen attendees, we learned that very few implemented the original brilliant idea. Successful implementers often roadtested their original underlying assumptions about a potential service/product and modify, seeking out “devil’s advocates” who would actively challenge their ideas, and incorporate the (sometimes painful) feedback from potential customers, funders, and other stakeholders. We offer a template for examining some of the most common decision-making bias heuristics and then highlighting a potential scenario in which this brilliant idea might be biased. As next steps, you develop and implement necessary action steps as well as brainstorm means to counteract such biases in the future. These potential bias heuristics include utilizing non-statistically significant samples in which to test your ideas. As an example, a brilliant idea should be piloted on the target market for that brilliant idea, and not a convenience sample of friends and family who are often positive about one’s ideas but really aren’t close to the market. As each individual is a culmination of what he/she experiences, reads, sees, etc., then you must go beyond this idiosyncratic past experience and consult others, including potentially incorporating a formal devil’s advocate in the decision process. A second potential bias is sunk cost in which an individual may continue to put his/her time and money into a project even after there is disconfirming evidence. This is an unfortunate scenario when an individual may fail to incorporate the feedback from the above-mentioned communication plan, or when the competitive environment has changed or your internal capabilities have diminished. A third potential bias is an individual’s overconfidence in our ability to solve problems, and belief that one can identify the best alternative early on—that is, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” As an example, an individual might cling to the first information and guestimates. He/she might also have a confirmation bias in terms of looking for evidence that supports these views, and then possess this illusion of control in terms of an enduring faith in his/her own skills. This category of biases also incorporates information volume where an individual might believe that quality equals quantity. To mitigate, you must adapt a critical external view which is not biased from prior relationships and seek out more diversity in discussion and active debate. A successful entrepreneur will consider a range of possibilities and focus on quality and quantity, and integrate worst case scenarios. A fourth bias occurs when bad news does not filter up. It may be that the entrepreneur (and his/her organization) has inadvertently created a culture where failure is considered career-ending, rather than as a learning opportunity. This manifests in an organizational culture which rewards communication of good news over the bad news upward, and enables the afore-mentioned blindspots to filter up. To mitigate, you must build a culture of transparency, performance-based appraisal, manage expectations, and cultivate an open dialogue.
One example of uncovering potential biases in decision making and working around them is demonstrated in St. Gallen participant Kamil Mroz’s work in tackling youth unemployment in Europe. Kamil determined that prior youth employment efforts failed due to the lack of bringing potential employers together with potential youth employees to have thoughtful and engaged conversations about future work. As an illustration, Kamil organized a job fair in which young people could receive real-time feedback on their résumés and skills, and then incorporate this feedback to better prepare.
We live in a world of ideas, many of which are potentially ‘brilliant’ and could lead to real change if effectively implemented. At the annual St. Gallen Symposium, hundreds of decision maker of today and tomorrow gather to exchange ideas and pursue their implementation. In this 48th year, the organizing team of the International Students Committee brought together a group of former student participants to share their stories and build a framework of principles for what it takes to put excellent ideas into action. Drawing on the team’s collective entrepreneurial experiences in their start-ups and corporate venturing, and also leveraging insights from other St. Gallen attendees, the St. Gallen Handbook for Making Brilliant Ideas Work framework encompasses seven components: personal values, vision statement, resource requirements, psychological capital, communication, action plan, and the mitigation of decision-making biases. We hope that this framework will be a useful resource for other aspiring and alumni St. Gallen Symposium participants bringing their brilliant ideas into practice.
Once you establish that your idea satisfies your personal values and set your vision, the next step is to determine resource requirements and brainstorm pathways to an acquisition. That is, to bring a brilliant idea to reality, you must acquire and utilize both tangible and intangible resources. While you might personally possess at least some critical resources, most will need to acquire resources through connections. We suggest a potential template in Table 3 where you first determine what resources you require in the form of human, social, financial, physical, intangible, or other capital. As a next step, you brainstorm how you might acquire this capital. For example, if you need to acquire some new knowledge, can you access it through a book, website, or course or might you need to connect with an individual with extensive previous knowledge, and how might you find this individual?
As an illustration, during her first St. Gallen Symposium, Wings of Excellence Winner Ashwini Vanishree formed the brilliant idea to prevent sexual abuse of women and children across India. To achieve her dream, Ashwini needed to reach hundreds of thousands of women across India, and engage hundreds of volunteers to conduct workshops. In one of the projects she did for an organization called SKDRDP, rather than trying to build this massive network from scratch, Ashwini trained district coordinators of Self Help Group communities which drive financial inclusion for women to get the word out to over several lakhs of women in communities, with these district groups’ coordinators conducting the workshops.
To bring a brilliant idea into action, an entrepreneur’s sixth step involves employing a table of actions. While this staging of activities can be particularly complex as the organization grows, initially we recommend a quite simple template to craft an action plan. First, you must articulate the outcome in as specific and measurable a target as possible. Your plan should set an individual (or individuals) responsible as well as an achievable deadline. You should also identify some potential early warning signs of failure which can then be monitored.
An illustration of a successful action plan is St. Gallen participant Jagdish Kharel, a TV presenter in his native country Nepal. In Nepal, one of the world’s most natural disaster-prone countries, floods and earthquakes claim thousands of lives each year. Although many perceive these disasters as inevitable, Jagdish was inspired to craft an action plan which involved lobbying politicians and organizing communities to establish an Early Warning System to prevent the loss of human lives. Sustained advocacy and the media spotlight eventually led to legislative and political action, thereby creating Nepal’s National Disaster Management Agency which enforces the building code and regular updates to citizens via SMS. One of Jagdish’s key innovations is to bring politicians and other change makers onto his weekly talk show, Hot Seat, where they discuss the issues and each change maker signs his/her commitment to meeting a goal.
Once you decide on a path, it is critical to set a vision for what your path will really look like and the desired outcomes. Vision in a very short statement of intent that drives or commits individuals and entities to achieve certain outcomes. This second framework towards making brilliant ideas work requires you- as an entrepreneur- to articulate a compelling vision that inspires you and others. That is, just as the focal entrepreneur can pursue many possible paths, his/her team and stakeholders also have a world of available options. This vision statement serves as the backdrop for the strategies used to achieve the desired outcomes. A good vision answers a series of questions, focusing on what is in scope (yes) as well as out of scope (no). As an example, you will need to determine what the goal is, as well as what is not in scope as a goal.
As an example, following his participation at the St. Gallen Symposium as a student, Franklin Cudjoe founded Ghana-based non-profit IMANI with the vision: “To be the most influential think-tank in Africa, promoting peace and prosperity through rigorous research analysis and advocacy, and commitment to educating society on the benefits of a free economy and policy issues concerning business, government and civil society.” IMANI is sub-Saharan Africa’s second most influential think tank, ranks in the world’s top 100 think tanks and works with a range of like-minded organizations. IMANI leadership constantly contend with the challenge of whether to say or no to a range of potential value propositions, for example including a deal to sell 50% of IMANI to large multinational firm in exchange for 50% board memberships which was ultimately rejected due to a lack of perceived fit with the organization.
Our fifth framework harnesses the power of for communicating brilliant ideas to others. In sharing our stories, we developed a template for how you can identify communication audiences (both internal and external) and their perceived awareness of your idea. You can then determine the desired action and corresponding messages to share, including delivery methods and frequency over time. We encourage you to rehearse your “pitch” to others in a way that communicates the product/service offering and its benefits, and motivates listeners to want to help. In many cases, this pitch might involve some factual data points, emotional stories, and sometimes even a demonstration of the potential for success of the idea. Brainstorm and pilot the many possible means of getting a message to others. At some stage, invested audiences can also serve as communicators and evangelists of the product/service offering.
One example is former St. Gallen Wings of Excellence winner Mauricio Cordova of Peru who most recently built a water filter that can sort dirt and other toxins, when deposited into a water bottle. Mauricio left a well-paying job with a Fortune 500 company in Europe and visited the rainforest back home in South America - an experience that shaped his personal mission to making safe, affordable drinking water available to everyone. Although Mauricio had no technical expertise, his zeal drove him to communicate with a variety of global experts whom he convinced to help him build and test product prototypes. In parallel, Mauricio entered and won several competitions to provide funding. Most recently at St. Gallen, Mauricio demonstrated his water filter device when meeting attendees and initiated conversations with potential partners such as UN leaders.
Since 1989, students from all around the world have sent essays trying to qualify for a chance to attend the St. Gallen Symposium. Thirty years later, the St. Gallen Symposium reached a milestone having successfully invited more than 4,500 students to Switzerland and sparked an uncountable number of original ideas. To celebrate this anniversary, eight former essays finalists were invited back to the symposium to share their stories and how they successfully implemented ideas and project inspired by their time in St. Gallen. Find below a video documentation featuring three former participants, all of whom have been able to implement their ideas in their community and far beyond.
Franklin Cudjoe (GH) founded Imani Centre for Policy and Education, the most influential Think Tank in Africa, as a way of responding to the people’s needs and helping government solve pressing social issues.
Ashwini Natajara Vanishree (IN), Founder and Director of the Muktha Foundation, fights the stigmas around mental health in low-income countries.
Following the wave of natural disaster that hit Nepal, Jagdish Kharel (NP), a Television Journalist from Nepal, made his priority to raise awareness on Disaster Risk Reduction. He went to the people most affected by such disaster and spread prevention which started receiving recognition from the diverse government levels until the Parliament passed the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.
All of them are proof that a brilliant ideas can change lives and help society work towards a better future. The St. Gallen Handbook for Making Brilliant Ideas Work was thus created to inspire the generation to come with their essays and present the participants with insights on the Leaders of Tomorrow’s original ideas. The former winners took great pleasure in teaching to and sharing their ideas with the participants and enjoyed reliving their past experience as Leaders of Today this time.
In addition to human capital, social capital, financial capital, and other resources, you will need psychological capital in order to bring your idea into action. In the context of entrepreneurial endeavors, psychological capital comprises those resources and strengths an individual possesses in order to conceptualize, implement, and sustain an entrepreneurial idea. Although you may be armed with a vision that meets your values and some idea of how to make difficult resource acquisition decisions, you may also face a variety of challenges related to the need to think creatively and critically and employ problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Psychological capital describes this empathy, grit, resilience and other inner strength when facing frustration and failure. One means of developing psychological capital is the stress inoculation method which is similar to the principle of vaccination in which a mild dose of the virus or bacteria is introduced to the body over a period of time to build immune response within the body. In practice, you should think about an unfavorable scenario that may occur way before it has presented itself in reality and how you might react. Individuals who can imagine the problem and experience stress in milder form can then develop and employ strategies to deal with the potential reality. In this way, you can be prepared to deal with any circumstance and inoculate yourself from stress and anxiety.
An illustration of the stress inoculation method can be found in St. Gallen participant Sidharth Srinivasan who, together with his online retail team at TataCLiQ, encountered several failed feature launches and failed brand launches. To inoculate himself against further stress of running a fledgeling business that encountered a variety of sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges, Sidharth put himself in the mindset of his customers. He initiated more frequent and direct communication with customers through visits, WhatsApp, and customer service calls. These actions not only offered insights into the business but also built a loyal set of customers who serve as ambassadors.
From DLE to DLC
Dharma Life improves the quality of life in rural India through an entrepreneurship model that provides the rural poor with livelihoods and access to socially impactful products and services. The territory map revealed relevant areas to scale the model and expand reach: distance, communication, infrastructure, financials, organisation, logistics and key personnel. The problem statement identified was how to capture (technology, social media), share (with community, across large regions and rural villages) and multiplicate (find who wants to follow and become a spokesman for her region). The group set out to tackle this capturing stories with video; creating a marketing strategy to spread the word, considering social demographic aspects; considering how to create Dharma Life Entrepreneurs (DLE) celebrities, or influencers, developing a leadership program and teaching leadership skills.
Dharma Life improves the quality of life in rural India through an entrepreneurship model that provides the rural poor with livelihoods and access to socially impactful products and services. Some main areas identified include: the complex issues related to Dharma Life, community trust in Dharma Life, spending capacity of local citizens, stakeholders involved and the need for standardization of processes and recruitment. Problems identified include lack of strategy and pricing reference due to lack of knowledge about local demand because of missing access to data. The group set out to tackle this is gaining a more in-depth understanding of consumers in the local communities and the potential of the market. They suggest: doing A/B testing of products with local communities, working together with other sales representatives to share prices and data, collecting data through surveys of the local community, and bundling products to gain insights on when certain goods are bought in combination.
Dharma Life improves the quality of life in rural India through an entrepreneurship model that provides the rural poor with livelihoods and access to socially impactful products and services. The idea was created to address the challenge of “How can we equip the Dharma Life Recruiter (DLR) to more successfully hire the right Dharma Life Entrepreneurs (DLE)”? The identified key challenge is to identify and engage the right people in the village to become social entrepreneurs in the Dharma Life network. One barrier to sustainable and efficient network growth is the relatively high number of “drop-outs” and entrepreneurs who do not live up to expectations. The envisioned solution or key idea is to build up and leverage a (social) network – The Dharma Life Network Club consisting of the Dharma Life “family” with existing entrepreneurs at the core. Recruiters and other employees of Dharma Life would also participate. Incentives would be provided to participate in the network, like “Seller of the Month” or similar awards, including rewards for successful referrals.
Better World Talent
The „Better World Talent“ concept describes a recruiting platform (an online tool) for university students and fast-growing startups. In order to gain access to the platform, the startups first have to commit to the Entrepreneurial Impact framework. The recruiting platform then combines different stakeholder who care about more than purely financial return. This idea can provide tremendous value to students who want to find their first employer. Furthermore, it can greatly benefit the companies that take part because they gain access to a new talent pool that is purpose driven. This will vice-versa also contribute to establishing an ESG awareness within the startups because they are recruiting talent that cares about the ESG impact of their employer.
Within the workshop, we developed the concept of the "Impact Accelerator," which addresses two major needs startups have concerning the implementation of ESG into their business processes. First, many founders do not have the know-how of how to implement ESG-measures appropriately. Second, to facilitate the adoption of ESG within the startup ecosystem, founders need to be incentivized.
Our solution approaches these challenges by building up a community around an accelerator program for early-stage startups, helping them with the implementation of ESG and verifying their improvements. In the accelerator, a startup goes through different stages and for each step receives an ESG-certificate (lowest=bronze, mid=silver, highest=gold). Only proven startups with financial success as well as an established ESG-measurement receive the gold certificate.
Besides the accelerator program, community events are organized to connect the startups from the multiple stages with each other as well as investors and other institutional partners. Last but not least, the certificate is also useful signaling. On the one hand, to hire better talent (sign for better corporate responsibility and culture) and on the other hand, to boost fundraising (sign for a sustainable but financially successful business model).
Empower patients in making better decisions
Driven by the need of supporting patients to access top-notch medical information and optimal access healthcare providers regardless to where patients are located.
They advocate the view of missing sufficient access to opinions of trusted experts – digital or face to face – for their personal case, no matter of their location.
They suggested to address this issue by setting-up a multi-sided platform, which should Empower patients in finding better decisions, as they seem to lack confidence in recommended therapies & core decisions made by their respective doctors or other health consultants. motivation.
Universal her plus
Addressing the seemingly low adoption rate of new technologies within the public health sector. Their Universal EHR Plus (Electronic Health Record) concept promised to change that by building up the digital base, which is essential for future improvements. Running on a central system, either enabled by government bodies or other players, the platform would act as the single source of truth for the patient, medical associations, providers but also insures – if granted access by the patient.
Data sharing obligation law (DSOL)
Establishing an obligatory top-down framework of data sharing for all patients within an economy by governmental bodies, through an approach that builds on gamification & education. The chance to leverage big data sets of one specific data set & user group for scientific reasons will maximize the healthcare benefits for society, whereas the individual patient still get the possibility of opting out (cf. similar laws/practices for organ donation).
The name already suggests how the idea works. The hashtag needs to be earned by a good deed. It enables to show a dedication towards sustainability in form of an earned hashtag for corporates, consumers, farmers, suppliers, the public and of course influencer. More than a service or product the idea makes use of a self-evolving movement. It has a gamification aspect to it, which makes people want to use/earn it from an intrinsic motivation.
Local solution distribution
The essence of this idea is to collect individual, sustainable knowledge and help to distribute it to the people, companies that need it. For example, a farmer has a great idea how to make the parasite disappear from a certain plant. She is very happy about it but has no tools to share this great idea with other people in need of an inexpensive, sustainable solution. Local Solution Distribution makes sure that great, simple ideas are shared with the people in need of them. A grassroot-attempt that allows important ideas to be spread.
The goal is to build an Accelerator Network that allows to identify, promote, fund and scale innovative ideas helping local businesses.
The St. Gallen Symposium is a global gathering of Leaders of Today and Tomorrow that takes place annually in May at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. It is organised by the International Students’ Committee (ISC), a team of students from the university. The goal of this student initiative is to provide a setting for relevant debates between Leaders of Today and Tomorrow on topics of management, politics and civil society. Further information about the symposium is available on the official website.