Global IB exam chief: how jazz provides lessons in management

Two childhood inspirations have permeated the various career and managerial type of Olli-Pekka Heinonen, the sometime Finnish politician, policymaker and general public official: schooling and new music.

As he plots out system in his new purpose as director-standard of the International Baccalaureate process 1st introduced far more than half a century ago, he is drawing on each these influences. He will take in excess of a advanced international organisation as it seeks to grow and satisfy the switching demands of children and society in an era severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My father was a teacher and I was born and lived in an apartment in a main faculty,” he claims. “I also analyzed in the [Turku] Conservatory [of Tunes] and for a yr was a new music teacher.” Heinonen, 57, then educated as a law firm and — at least as he describes it — virtually just about every stage in his professional life has been guided by requests and nudges from other individuals.

He was asked to grow to be a parliamentary adviser, then minister of schooling at only 29, just before he experienced been elected an MP. The moment that experienced happened, he became minister of transport and telecommunications. From 2002 he used a decade working Yleisradio, the Finnish point out broadcaster, but later on rejoined govt as point out secretary to the prime minister.

The only placement for which he ever used was his last submit as director-standard of the Nationwide Company for Education in 2016. That set him in demand of a faculty process held up as a showpiece all around the entire world, judged by benchmarks this sort of as the OECD’s Programme for International University student Assessment, for its perception in balancing powerful academic achievements with life outdoors faculty.

“My philosophy is that you should not location your have faith in in organizing items,” Heinonen, claims. “There will be surprises and you should just go alongside with what evolves. The only placement I have used for was at the Company. I felt it would be a superior time to return to the crime scene of the subject of schooling.”

He cites as 1 of his best achievements the period of time as schooling minister in the mid to late 1990s, when he granted autonomy to cities, educational facilities and teachers on their own. He stresses the groundwork experienced been laid in excess of the previous two decades by requiring all teachers to have masters’ levels. That boosted their competence, embedded a lifestyle of constant pedagogical research and reinforced their substantial position and respect in society.

Important management classes

  • Grant autonomy — in Heinonen’s circumstance, he devolved schooling conclusions to cities and teachers on their own

  • Embrace the ‘humble governance’ thought and take that leaders do not have the correct responses

  • Leadership is not about 1 person, it should be spread in the course of a company or organisational process

  • Conversation to generate have faith in with personnel and stakeholders is crucial

“My method was to include things like most people in the process,” he claims. Motivated by his government’s type of “humble governance”, he embraced the plan that “at the top you never have the correct responses, you have to contain men and women in co-producing them. Leadership is not about a person, it is a high quality that should be spread extensively in a process. If you emphasise the purpose of 1 person, you are failing.”

He claims he learnt humility, but also the require to connect far more. “I’m not by character somebody who wishes to be in the spotlight. I’ve discovered to do that. We Finns at times connect as well minimal. We consider to be incredibly precise and depart other items out, but speaking to generate have faith in is central.

“In the starting, I experienced the plan that staying in a management placement intended you should glimpse, speak and dress to glimpse like a chief,” he claims. “That will not function. You require to be yourself, the person you are. Authenticity is so vital, and the integrity that arrives with it.”

1 of his best frustrations arrived as minister of transport and telecommunications, when he struggled during the spin out of Sonera from the Nationwide Postal Provider. Its shares rose sharply and then collapsed during the IT bubble. “It did not go as easily as I hoped,” he claims. “I realised how challenging it is to incorporate the entire world of politics and business. I should have involved all the associates even far more strongly to obtain a typical answer.”

He then took a split from politics, partly reflecting a require to “balance function with household and restoration time”, as he claims. “I learnt to constantly have far more of these items in your life that give you power than get it away. Usually make confident you have a reserve to cope with surprises. If you never have that form of spare power, they [superior and lousy surprises] will get you.”

He took demand of the point out broadcaster, and designed his identity as a supervisor, drawing parallels with his experiences as a hobbyist trumpeter main a jazz band. “You generate something new with a shared melody that most people is aware of but with a whole lot of home for improvisation. It is the identical in an organisation: you should have a few regulations most people is dedicated to and depart home to generate new items with everybody by way of listening and connecting.”

He set about gathering a mixture of survey information and particular diaries and interviews from the Finnish general public to fully grasp their values and attitudes, which disclosed how various they were being from these of most of his workers. “You can have a stereotypical watch of items. That led me to actually consider to fully grasp our citizens as customers.”

A few questions for Olli-Pekka Heinonen

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

Who is your management hero?

The incredibly substantial level Finnish conductors Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Susanna Mälkki. I experienced the satisfaction of observing them in action in rehearsals and in live shows. It is marvellous how these specialists can generate a link on the place, give feedback and make specialist musicians do something jointly that you want them to do and do it in a way that they are supplying their finest.

What was the 1st management lesson you learnt?

I played new music from a incredibly youthful age and a incredibly early lesson was when I observed how vital inner commitment is to management: staying able to generate internal commitment for a team of men and women to reach something jointly.

What would you have done if you experienced not pursued your career in schooling and politics?

Tunes would have been something I would have seemed to do, I would also have actually enjoyed staying an academic researcher. The ability to inquire about and discover about new items, attempt to obtain something new and by way of that to make a difference.

On the lookout again on his experiences, he questions the notion that management centres on conclusion producing. “Actually implementation is the system,” he claims. “The way you are able to apply items is a incredibly significant strategic decision. Academics will not obey mainly because somebody claims they ought to. They have to fully grasp why and have the inner commitment to do so. We should be chatting far more about the thought of imperfect management: to confess uncertainty and generate finding out paths for the more substantial process to obtain the answer.”

The IB process is now applied by far more than 250,000 learners in virtually five,500 educational facilities all around the entire world. It has prolonged sought to educate learners in a huge selection of subjects with broader knowledge of the idea of knowledge and the use of venture and group-primarily based function alongside “high stakes” remaining prepared examinations.

To several, that demonstrates the aspirations of several nationwide schooling reformers to prepare for this century’s problems — though some IB teachers bemoan that whilst they enjoy the basic principle of the qualification, they are disappointed with the organisation powering it and its sluggish tempo of change. Like other test bodies, it was criticised for how it modified its marking devices during the pandemic.

Heinonen is confident that the IB embodies an method — also mirrored in the Finnish schooling process — in which “competences are becoming far more central. It is about what you do with what you know and how to educate for an unsure potential we cannot predict.”

He sees “strong motivation to get the IB heritage into the new era” by personnel and teachers. “It’s not the system, it’s the implementation,” he claims. “We have to have that more substantial jazz band hoping to play the identical tone and improvise.”