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Alumni

Duet: Shifting the Frame

  • Pat Morden
  • |
  • Mar 14, 2017

Martha Maznevski, PhD ’94, and Rob Austin are revving up Ivey’s Executive Education Programs.

Duet: Shifting the Frame

After working abroad for 22 years, including 15 years at IMD in Switzerland, Martha Maznevski is home. “It was time,” she says. “I did my PhD at Ivey and it was the only place in Canada where I could find the mix of practice and research that I love.” Maznevski is Faculty Director of Executive Education and a Professor of Organizational Behaviour.

Rob Austin, although a U.S. native, also feels like he’s come home. Austin was dean of the Faculty of Business at the University of New Brunswick earlier in his career, and his family has a home in St. Andrews. Most recently, he’s been at Copenhagen Business School, but he started teaching at Harvard. “The approach at Ivey is very similar in many ways. I tell friends in Boston that Harvard is the Ivey of the south!” Austin is a Professor of Information Systems and is teaching in several Executive Education Programs.

Maznevski is passionate about the value of executive education for individuals and organizations. “The business environment is changing all the time,” she says. “One of the most important success factors for sustainable leadership is to keep learning.” Learning in mid-career is different, she says, from learning as an undergraduate. “Executive education is 20 per cent about learning content, and 80 per cent about how you will use that content in innovative ways to create more value.”

Austin says Ivey’s approach, with its focus on cases and other experiential learning techniques, is ideal for executives. “The Case-Method Learning is like pouring glue on peoples’ brains,” he says. “When they see the framework after struggling with a real-world problem, the framework sticks and they are more likely to use it in context.” Maznevski agrees, saying, “Knowledge grounded in practice is powerful, especially for people who have extensive business experience.”

She loves teaching executives because it exposes her to a wide variety of companies, industries, and business challenges. “I’m constantly learning,” she says. “At the same time, I feel my teaching is making a real difference for individuals and organizations.” Austin relishes the challenge of delivering life-changing educational experiences. “Most executives have a big appetite not just for solutions to their day-to-day dilemmas, but also for big ideas,” he says. “We strive to shift their frame in some way.”

Maznevski and Austin are exploring how technology might enhance Ivey’s Executive Education Programs. Online foundational courses in areas such as finance and accounting could make in-person programs more intensive and effective, says Maznevski. At the other end of the spectrum, distance education could help “cascade” learning from the C-suite to middle management and beyond.

“We don’t want to crowd out the in-person stuff,” says Austin. “We want to make it even better because of what we can do at a distance before and after.”

Q&A

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Austin: “No prizes for predicting rain; prizes only for building arks.”

Maznevski: “If everything’s under control, you’re not going fast enough.”

(Maznevski says being an amateur race track driver has taught her the leadership wisdom of this quote from Mario Andretti.)

Best advice you’ve ever given?

Austin: “Keep an eye on what’s happening in the world around, because you might have to adjust to it.”

Maznevski: “Never forget that all business is local.”

Favourite business books?

Maznevski: Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Austin: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, and anything by Michael Lewis.

Favourite business movie?

Austin: Black Mirror (a TV series)

Maznevski: Invictus

Favourite nosh?

Austin: A tie between raw oysters and Mexican mole.

Maznevski: Anything with simple fresh ingredients — could be Thai, Mexican, or Italian.

Favourite way to spend Saturday night?

Maznevski: Cooking, hanging out with family.

Austin: Same!

Photo: Nation Wong
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis