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Global IB exam chief: how jazz provides lessons in management

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Two childhood inspirations have permeated the numerous profession and managerial model of Olli-Pekka Heinonen, the someday Finnish politician, policymaker and public official: schooling and music.

As he plots out technique in his new position as director-general of the International Baccalaureate system first launched greater than half a century in the past, he’s drawing on each these influences. He takes over a posh international organisation because it seeks to increase and meet the altering wants of kids and society in an period severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My father was a teacher and I was born and lived in an apartment in a primary school,” he says. “I also studied in the [Turku] Conservatory [of Music] and for a year was a music teacher.” Heinonen, 57, then educated as a lawyer and — at the very least as he describes it — practically each step in his skilled life has been guided by requests and nudges from others.

He was requested to turn into a parliamentary adviser, then minister of schooling at solely 29, earlier than he had been elected an MP. Once that had occurred, he grew to become minister of transport and telecommunications. From 2002 he spent a decade working Yleisradio, the Finnish state broadcaster, however later rejoined authorities as state secretary to the prime minister.

The solely place for which he ever utilized was his final publish as director-general of the National Agency for Education in 2016. That put him in cost of a college system held up as a showpiece world wide, judged by benchmarks such because the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, for its perception in balancing sturdy educational achievements with life exterior college.

“My philosophy is that you should not place your trust in planning things,” Heinonen, says. “There will be surprises and you should just go along with what evolves. The only position I have applied for was at the Agency. I felt it would be a good time to return to the crime scene of the field of education.”

He cites as certainly one of his best achievements the interval as schooling minister in the mid to late Nineties, when he granted autonomy to cities, colleges and lecturers themselves. He stresses the groundwork had been laid over the earlier twenty years by requiring all lecturers to have masters’ levels. That boosted their competence, embedded a tradition of fixed pedagogical analysis and strengthened their excessive standing and respect in society.

Key management lessons

  • Grant autonomy — in Heinonen’s case, he devolved schooling choices to cities and lecturers themselves

  • Embrace the ‘humble governance’ idea and settle for that leaders shouldn’t have the precise solutions

  • Leadership is just not about one individual, it ought to be unfold all through a company or organisational system

  • Communication to create belief with employees and stakeholders is essential

“My approach was to include everybody in the process,” he says. Inspired by his authorities’s model of “humble governance”, he embraced the concept “at the top you don’t have the right answers, you have to involve people in co-developing them. Leadership is not about a person, it is a quality that should be spread widely in a system. If you emphasise the role of one person, you are failing.”

He says he learnt humility, but in addition the necessity to talk extra. “I’m not by character someone who wants to be in the spotlight. I’ve learned to do that. We Finns sometimes communicate too little. We try to be very precise and leave other things out, but communicating to create trust is central.

“In the beginning, I had the idea that being in a leadership position meant you should look, talk and dress to look like a leader,” he says. “That won’t function. You need to be yourself, the person you are. Authenticity is so important, and the integrity that comes with it.”

One of his best frustrations got here as minister of transport and telecommunications, when he struggled in the course of the spin out of Sonera from the National Postal Service. Its shares rose sharply after which collapsed in the course of the IT bubble. “It didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped,” he says. “I realised how difficult it is to combine the world of politics and business. I should have involved all the partners even more strongly to find a common solution.”

He then took a break from politics, partly reflecting a must “balance work with family and recovery time”, as he says. “I learnt to always have more of those things in your life that give you energy than take it away. Always make sure you have a reserve to cope with surprises. If you don’t have that kind of spare energy, they [good and bad surprises] will take you.”

He took cost of the state broadcaster, and developed his id as a supervisor, drawing parallels together with his experiences as a hobbyist trumpeter main a jazz band. “You create something new with a shared melody that everybody knows but with a lot of room for improvisation. It’s the same in an organisation: you should have a few rules everybody is committed to and leave room to create new things with everyone through listening and connecting.”

He set about accumulating a combination of survey information and private diaries and interviews from the Finnish public to know their values and attitudes, which revealed how completely different they have been from these of most of his staff. “You can have a stereotypical view of things. That led me to really try to understand our citizens as customers.”

Three questions for Olli-Pekka Heinonen

Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Sakari Oramo

Who is your management hero?

The very excessive stage Finnish conductors Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Susanna Mälkki. I had the pleasure of seeing them in motion in rehearsals and in concert events. It’s marvellous how these professionals can create a connection on the spot, give suggestions and make professional musicians do one thing collectively that you really want them to do and do it in a approach that they’re giving their greatest.

What was the primary management lesson you learnt?

I performed music from a really younger age and a really early lesson was once I noticed how necessary internal motivation is to management: having the ability to create inner motivation for a bunch of individuals to attain one thing collectively.

What would you will have achieved if you happen to had not pursued your profession in schooling and politics?

Music would have been one thing I’d have regarded to do, I’d even have actually loved being an instructional researcher. The capacity to inquire about and study new issues, attempt to seek out one thing new and thru that to make a distinction.

Looking again on his experiences, he questions the notion that management centres on determination making. “Actually implementation is the strategy,” he says. “The way you are able to implement things is a very big strategic choice. Teachers won’t obey because somebody says they must. They have to understand why and have the inner motivation to do so. We should be talking more about the concept of imperfect leadership: to admit uncertainty and create learning paths for the larger system to find the solution.”

The IB system is right now utilized by greater than 250,000 college students in practically 5,500 colleges world wide. It has lengthy sought to coach college students in a variety of topics with broader understanding of the idea of information and the usage of venture and team-based work alongside “high stakes” remaining written exams.

To many, that displays the aspirations of many nationwide schooling reformers to organize for the challenges of the approaching century — though some IB lecturers bemoan that whereas they love the precept of the qualification, they’re pissed off with the organisation behind it and its sluggish tempo of change. Like different exam our bodies, it was criticised for how it modified its marking systems in the course of the pandemic.

Heinonen is assured that the IB embodies an method — additionally mirrored in the Finnish schooling system — in which “competences are becoming more central. It’s about what you do with what you know and how to educate for an uncertain future we cannot predict.”

He sees “strong commitment to take the IB heritage into the new era” by employees and lecturers. “It’s not the strategy, it’s the implementation,” he says. “We have to have that larger jazz band trying to play the same tone and improvise.”


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