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Los Andes and Harvard Business School record accounts from entrepreneurs

Professor Andrea Lluch is part of the Creating Emerging Markets project, which has researched the development of companies and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Professor Andrea Lluch is part of the Creating Emerging Markets project, which has researched the development of companies and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
06/10/2017
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By: Sandra Gutiérrez P.
admonmercadeo@uniandes.edu.co

Understanding history can be a source of inspiration, allow for the study and understanding of societies, provide solutions through other experiences, explain changes in the world, provide a sense of belonging, as well as other positive elements. Understanding the history of organizations and businessmen from different parts of the world, especially from emerging market countries, can also open the gate of hope to a better quality of life, to innovation, to improving the environment, and the creation of value for societies.

Gathering testimonies so that history is within everyone’s reach, as well as the benefits that this brings, is the purpose of the Creating Emerging Markets (CEM) project. It is led by Harvard Business school (HBS), and the historian Andrea Lluch who is a professor and researcher in the Faculty of Administration at the Universidad de los Andes, is taking part. She has interviewed several of the entrepreneurs in Latin America: material which is now part of this important historic archive.

Creating Emerging Markets has researched the evolution of companies and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America by directly interviewing their leaders. These are people who have had the possibility to contribute to each one of their regions. In their own words, they recall the critical moments through which they have lived; they express their ideas about business spirit, innovation, sustainability, family businesses, sustaining brands, and even situational topics such as corruption and their views on climate change.

Professor Lluch emphasizes the historic nature of the project. Without detracting from the importance of current aspects, she says that these interviews, “as they are not circumstantial, you can continue to analyze to be able to gather evidence and understand how the countries are continuously changing. The project tries not to fall into the trap of talking about the situation, and, as such, the dialogues seek a long-term vision. This guarantees that the material has more relevance than simply being news”.

History of the project

From the very beginning, the project was thought of as a public good in which anyone who needs it –particularly in terms of academic, research, and pedagogical uses– can have access through Harvard Business School Library. (Click here for access)
“The material is in the language of the region, and it is subtitled in English to help the person consulting it,” explains the professor.

Every month an average of one thousand academics from countries throughout the world visit the CEM website, which makes it a unique resource that can help a diverse range of research projects, help resolve a plethora of questions, and function as a basis for articles or books.

Andrea recalls that, “This initiative began in 2009 through a centralized project in Latin America for which I was a researcher. From 2012, and thanks to the leadership of professor Geoffrey Jones from HBS, the initiative went global. When I began working for the Faculty of Business Administration at the Universidad de los Andes in 2015, I had the possibility to include Colombia in this project.”
“It is important to see our Faculty’s contribution as a strategic partner in the region for this project,” she claims.

In order to do this, in 2017, she interviewed two people: José Alejando Cortes, who was the head of Grupo Bolívar for sixty years and is one of the creators of the Foundation for Progress in the Capital Region (ProBogotá Región); and Antonio Celia Martínez-Aparicio, president of Promigas. These are important Colombian businessmen who have led organizations for several decades.
Lluch emphasizes the importance of this initiative as each account “can be used by people who research business management or leadership as this allows for real life teaching of the challenges that the leader of an organization assumes, the resilience they have, the different lessons they have learnt, and their commitment to sustainability”.

It is important to point out that these accounts do not focus on success stories; instead, they highlight the critical moments through which any person or entity passes. “In Latin America, this is very important due to the political, climatic, and even geographical difficulties. I have interviewed eleven people in Argentina, ten in Chile, eight in Peru, and, until now, two in Colombia. I want to continue to look for inputs to be able to recreate the history of our countries from the perspective of business leaders,” she said.

Moreover, other researchers have interviewed people in countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, China, Turkey, and different African countries as every country and region has particularities that contribute to the diversity of the project, which broadens the benefit spectrum.

The historian explains that, “the interviews were previously only recorded in audio, but now they are made in video: when the interviewer accepts. They are all transcribed. Gaining access to the interviews is very simple: you only need to fill out a Baker Library form.”

About the interviews

So they can be used in different situations, the interviews are extensive, designed to be a collective good, and address many different topics that involve emerging economies.

Lluch explains that, “This is a relatively recent concept; they were previously known as developing countries. They are economies that do not have a high level of income, but they have a future projection. The project does not concentrate on businessmen from the United States or Europe where there is a greater heritage and knowledge. It tries to highlight the experiences that businessmen have lived in other contexts with other characteristics. For me, as a researcher, there is an added value in retelling stories that the businessmen have faced; for example, during economic crises or through periods of political instability. It is interesting to see how they handled these circumstances.”

According to the researcher, the majority of businessmen interviewed have been at the head of their organizations for three or four decades, which allows them to tell their country’s story through their successes and failures. “The interviews are like living testimonies for future generations that rescue the value of the oral tradition as a methodological strategy. Although research only based on oral sources can have its shortcomings, it can also have a unique richness. I have learnt so much; maybe more than from reading books: listening to businessmen is almost experimental,” she adds.

“It is a challenge to do this sort of work as a great number of topics need to be addressed. The interviews start by trying to relive the businessman’s profile: his beginnings, his social origins, the path he took. They then move on to the topics that are closer related to the company’s strategy, internationalization, life-cycles, and lastly the role between the businessman and the society. They broach topics such as the sustainability issue, poverty, the role of the state, and corruption,” says the professor”.

There are many differences among the businessmen although the regions do have characteristics in common. “Each country has certain features in terms of crisis and economic instability that has had a profound impact on business. For example, looking at Argentinian businessmen’s realities in comparison to Colombian businessmen’s realities during the 40s and 50s shows us that the former have had to confront greater economic uncertainty due to recurrent crises, severe devaluations, hyperinflation, and military governments while, in Colombia, there have been other challenges: the country’s geography, political violence, and the conflict with the guerilla. Today, it is impossible not to ask a Colombian businessman about the post-conflict, but for an Argentinian businessman, this is irrelevant,” she points out.

“There are common patterns such as the role that the family plays as many companies that we have interviewed are still family companies. Some are the owners of economic groups that have diversified; this is different for each country. This is the challenge: to establish common patterns as well as salvaging individual characteristics. The same is true for the person being interviewed: every one is unique and there is only one chance to record what they want to say. When we know the story, we cannot make predictions; however, we can identify certain trends and patterns that help us better-understand the present,” she elaborates.

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New resource shows Colombian public opinion

Colombians in the Plaza de Bolívar with flags
New resource shows Colombian public opinion
05/10/2017
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Data including Colombian’s party affiliation, confidence in political institutions, satisfaction with public services and public education, and the perception of freedom of speech are part of a huge database that anyone can now be consult.

Thanks to the Americas Barometer, which is led by Universidad de los Andes under the Democracy Observatory, any Colombian can now freely and efficiently access the country’s public opinion surveys.

The Americas Barometer is the main public opinion study for the Americas. Since 2004, the Democracy Observatory, part of the Department of Political Science at the university, has annually published reports, to begin with in book format and on their website. However, in attempt to provide greater reach, the reports are now presented more dynamically, with simpler language and the possibility of cross-referencing information.

An effort was made to thematically separate information in order to facilitate searches. As such, it is possible to access information on Colombian’s opinions in five areas: Peace, Post-conflict and reconciliation, Attitudes and opinions of Colombian women, Democracy and institutions, Inequality, and Discrimination.

The purpose of this information is also so that the citizens can, in some way, own it. Miguel García Sánchez, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Los Andes and co-director of the Democracy Observatory, says that, “Although the data have been periodically published, we realized that this micro-data was not easily understood or used by the average person. For this reason, we devised this way of making one-off, quick, and simple searches.”

As well as separating the report into thematic areas, the new resource offers the possibility to cross-reference information.

Each one of the report’s thematic areas include a series of related variables, which can be selected from a drop-down menu. The system generates a simple graph with the result using which it is possible to cross-reference information with information such as sex, age, urban or rural area, level of education, and region.

For example, if you consult the country’s main problem, according to the perception of those surveyed, the system generates a pie chart with information relating to the conflict, followed by the economy, and then security. When this is cross-referenced with age, a graph will appear that is much more descriptive and shows the perception of the people surveyed based on if they are senior citizens, adults, or young people.

After searching, the user can download the result or share it on social networks.

If the person wants to see how the variable selected has evolved since 2004, they can click on the Trends tab and then select the specific year to make the comparison.

Professor García Sánchez adds that, “As well as providing information that can be used as an input for academic research in the university, the idea is that it is also available to decision-makers, the public sector, student media, and the general public.”

About the study

The Americas Barometer survey is conducted annually and involves 1,500 people from 47 municipalities throughout the whole country. The questionnaires have more than 200 questions and are asked face-to-face in homes.

In even years there is a national sample and in odd years there are special samples about a particular topic of national interest such as Afro-Colombia and post-conflict rural Colombia. All the data from these samples is freely available.

García Sánchez points out that America Barometer is relevant as it offers reliable and regular information on what has been called the ‘political culture of democracy’ and how opinions, attitudes, and some behaviors are compared to citizens from other countries in the region.

The Democracy Observatory is the center for academic research, public opinion and political and social behavior analysis: part of the Department of Political Science at the Universidad de los Andes. It is directed by professors and researchers Juan Carlos Rodríguez Raga and Miguel García Sánchez from the university.
 

Click here for the Americas Barometer Colombia 2016 results.

Access to the full report here.

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Semester with a record number of foreign students

Semester with a record number of foreign students

232 international students began their academic semester in the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. 78 had enrolled for master´s degrees and 154 for undergraduate programs.

20/09/2017
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232 international students began their academic semester in the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. 78 had enrolled for master´s degrees and 154 for undergraduate programs.

The majority of international students are from France (53), followed by Germany (23), Denmark (17), Portugal (16), the United Kingdom (12), Italy (10), and there are also students from Holland, Australia, the United States, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Canada, Norway and China. There are also 43 Latin American students.
 

There are 66 international students in the Faculty of Business Administration, 45 in the Faculty of Social Sciences, 37 in the Faculty of Engineering, 22 in the Faculty of Design, 15 in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, 14 in the Faculty of Economics, 10 in the Faculty of Law, 7 in the Faculty of Sciences, 3 in the Faculty of Education, 2 in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies on Development, 2 in the School of Government, and 9 visiting students.
 

Yadira Mogollón, head of Academic Mobility, which is part of the Office of Internationalization in the Vice-Rectory for Academic Affairs, states that the university offers five programs through which undergraduate students can take part in academic exchanges.
 

She commented that, “As well as students expanding their knowledge during their degrees, they also have the opportunity to find out about other cultures and ways of life, learn a foreign language, and more generally develop on a professional and personal level.”

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Neurons that allow us to understand others

Giacomo Rizzolatti
Giacomo Rizzolatti
31/08/2017
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Have you ever asked yourself, why do we mirror others, especially when we see someone else yawning? The answer was discovered in 1996 and it revolutionized the world of neuroscience, of researchers, and perhaps helped us to understand why we understand others. In that year, neurologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team discovered mirror neurons. He made the discovery when he was studying monkey´s brains and found a group of neurons that became activated not only when the animal was making a movement itself but also when it was watching another animal do so.

As a result of this discovery, subsequent research established that this system of neurons allows us to make other people´s actions, sensations, and emotions our own. It is for this reason that you can “feel” a performer´s pain or emotion and that someone´s smile is contagious. These neurons give rise to people´s connections in society such as empathy and mirroring.

On Saturday 29th July Giacomo Rizzolatti gave a conference in the Universidad de los Andes

Explain to us how you made the discovery?
Giacomo Rizzolatti: In 1996 we were studying the behavior of motor neurons in monkeys, so we implanted some electrodes into them to find out their activity. However, we ended up discovering a group of neurons that activated when the animal performed an action as well as when another person or animal performed it. 

Do these neurons function the same in humans?
GR: We started carrying out experiments with humans and we already knew that there were motor and visual neurons, but the discovery found some neurons that managed to understand another person without that person meaning for them to do so: this is what we call empathy.

Mirror neurons have created a certain amount of trust in other people, but this trust has been lost. What has happened to these neurons?
GR: There are two different mechanisms: in the case of empathy it is the capacity that the person has to picture the situation that another is going through, to feel the pain, make a face of disgust, and laugh, but this mechanism is different from the social element. Just think about the Second World War, which started because it was said that the Jews were bad people. Using this cognitive mechanism, it was possible to change the biological mechanism of empathy. This is one of the biggest dangers that we face: modifying the empathy that we have so that we damage others. Society has the ability to change empathy and turn it into something bad.

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Language assessment: a key topic in education

These tests are always undertaken in schools, universities, and at postgraduate level.

These tests are always undertaken in schools, universities, and at postgraduate level.

31/08/2017
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How did language tests become to be so important in determining peoples´ futures? This question will be discussed in Universidad de los Andes during the LTRC: Language Testing Research Colloquium — LTRC 2017 in which researchers from universities in several cities around the world and experts from leading examination centers (such as ETS´ TOEFL and the British Council´s IELTS) analyze the field of assessment in foreign language teaching. The LTRC will take place from 17th to 21st July.

Isabel Tejada Sánchez from the department of Languages and Culture at Los Andes highlights that this event will echo the need to think about the impact that assessment has on different levels of education. The professor explained that the word assessment is often feared due to the implications and consequences that development in this area can have on our lives. “Even so, as educators and students, this dynamic is part of our day-to-day lives and it is impossible to ignore. However, we very rarely ask ourselves why and for what reason it exists”.

On the same subject, Gerriet Arthur Janssen, associate professor in the Department of Languages and Culture at Los Andes explained that the international congress was useful to analyze in depth the exams that are used to validate the level that someone has in a certain language. “Also, we will study the use of new technologies and innovation in these types of assessments in order to improve the reliability of the results of the tests to make them closer to the person´s real level”.

It is for this reason that, under the framework of the international language conference, -together with CaMLA and Goëthe Institut- workshops on assessment of the different languages taught at Los Andes (such as German, French, English, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish) will be held.
 

Additionally, the creation of a network of language assessment researchers in Latin America is to be planned that will be supported by the ILTA.

Over the LRTC´s 39 year history, this is the first time that this conference will be held in Latin America and will go beyond the Anglo-Saxon tradition of exams such as IELTS and TOEFL, “as we will be joined by experts in the development of exams for: Portuguese (CELPE-BRAS that is provided by IBRACO to pursue higher education in Brazil), German (the sprachdiplom exam), French (the DEFL and DALF), Spanish as a foreign language, and for Japanese there will be a meeting on the assessment paradigm”.

This will be an excellent opportunity to find out first-hand the evolution and current situation of assessment exams for different languages.

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