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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Paolo Taticchi, Imperial College Business School

Paolo Taticchi

Director Weekend and Global Online MBAs

Director of Global Initiatives

Principal Teaching Fellow in Management and Sustainability

Imperial College Business School

“So young yet so impactful. Brilliant yet humble.”

That’s how Eyitayo Orifowomo, an MBA student at Imperial College London, describes Paolo Taticchi. Such talent and character may also explain why he received 100 nominations for this year’s 40-Under-40. At just 35, Taticchi is already the head of the school’s weekend MBA and global online MBA programs (not to mention global initiatives) – a position he has held for the past four years. Along with his administrative responsibilities, he also teaches courses in sustainability, strategic management, and global operations. In fact, the measure of sustainable practices ranks among his biggest passions. That’s because he believes sustainability “underlies the future performance of businesses and social institutions alike.”

“Many companies and entire industries were developed in an unsustainable way,” he argues. “Firms need to develop smarter business models, where profit is sustainable and balanced with environmental and social impacts.”

To succeed in his classes, Taticchi expects his students to “go the extra mile.” By that, he means that they should explore subject matter beyond readings and lectures, to understand how the content can inform their decisions and fuel their aspirations. His students follow his example, inspired by the high standard he sets in word and deed.

“Paolo is probably the youngest MBA programme director in the world,” observes Andrew Shepperd, the director and co-founder of the Entrepreneurs Hub. “He works to an exceptional standard, to provide great experiences and opportunities for learning growth, to a wide range of students. He embraces diversity and uses his extensive network to engage the wider academic and professional world. This network is shared with all, regularly accelerating students and alumni opportunities. At great personal cost, he travels globally speaking at many leading academic institutions both to raise the profile of new learning opportunity formats such as online Global MBA. Through this commitment, he has built a globally respected profile and his many topics are highly appreciated by students.”

Age: 35

At current institution since what year? 2014

Education:  

PhD in Industrial Engineering Operations Management (2008), MBA (2007) and MSc in Mechanical Engineering (2005), University of Perugia

List of courses you currently teach: Sustainability and Competitive Advantage, Strategic Management, Global Operations and Projects.

Twitter handle: @taticchipaolo

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I realized the freedom you get with this job: you can research topics that genuinely interest you; you can develop entrepreneurial projects; you can work with corporations in consulting capacity; and you can teach and inspire people internationally.”

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My research explores how companies can execute sustainability strategies and how you can measure and report performance. In a recent paper with Marco Formentini (Audencia Business School), we provided a detailed characterization of three sustainability profiles (namely sustainability leaders, sustainability practitioners and traditionalists) and a practical and theoretical classification of governance mechanisms that companies can use for sustainable supply chain management.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…I would probably be an entrepreneur. During my PhD, I started together with some friends a couple of companies. One is still running. The life of an entrepreneur is very exciting.”

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

Probably three things. First, my international teaching experience: I have taught in more than 12 countries, and I know how to engage students from different cultures. Second, my consulting and entrepreneurial experiences: students love to hear real stories. Third, it’s my passion and energy in the classroom.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Unprepared! I was a PhD student and my supervisor came to the office and said “Paolo, I have a problem, you need to teach this class on my behalf. It’s in two hours. It’s Project Management. Thank you.” I did not have a choice and I survived!

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?

“Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

The goal to make an impact by inspiring young people to be ambitious and responsible. We need the new generation of business leaders to understand the value of sustainable decisions.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:

That if you are ambitious, it’s a 24-hour job!

Professor you most admire and why:

Three Professors have been pivotal in my career. Aldo Taticchi (University of Perugia), my father, who inspired my career. I have always been impressed by his dedication to work. Kashi Bala Balachandran (my supervisor at NYU Stern), who helped me massively to develop my career internationally. I’ll always be thankful to him for his words of wisdom and the opportunities he gave me. Piero Lunghi (University of Perugia), unfortunately no more in this world. Piero passed to me the mindset that everything is possible; it’s just a matter of how to get there. I owe him a lot, in particular my entrepreneurial skills and the ambition to look always for the top.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I like their critical mindset and their ambition. They are always ready to challenge you!

What is most challenging?

Engaging the younger students. The get distracted very easy, especially by their phones!

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student:

Ambitious.

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:

Uncaring.

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?

Years ago, I visited Ethiopia with a group of students from different countries. Experiencing extreme poverty for a week was life-changing. Despite our different religions, one evening we joined hands and prayed together for a better world. That was an impressive moment. 

What is the least favorite thing one has done?

Make-up during a lecture.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?

Students need to show me that they do not limit to study the book or go over my lectures, but go the extra mile.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…

Fair.

But I would describe myself as…Often too generous!

Fill in the blank: “If my students can reflect on the implications of a decision, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself: I probably became the youngest MBA Director in the world (age of 29).

What are your hobbies? I do a lot of sports (soccer, tennis, skiing), love cooking and enjoy bricolage.

How will you spend your summer? Teaching, traveling and playing with my baby.

Favorite place to vacation: Me and my wife love wild islands, but avoid to go twice in the same place!

Favorite book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

I love TV series such as House of Cards, Suits, White Collar, Homeland or Designated Survivor. I always watch an episode of something before going to bed. It helps me to clear my mind and sleep better!

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: I enjoy acoustic covers of popular songs.

Bucket list item #1: A new motorbike: a Yamaha R6.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Ideating and launching a summer school in New York at the age of 26. It was a complex and ambitious entrepreneurial project.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

Probably when an Indian student told me I changed his life when I gave him a full scholarship to study in a summer program I was organizing in New York. Thanks to that experience, he then got a job and developed an international career. He invited me at his wedding too!

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…

Courses on ethics, sustainability and self-actualization. Biz students need to recognize the importance of a sense of purpose in business and should have the ambition to make an impact.

And much less of this…

Assessments. Today there are too many (and often too boring!).

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?

Many companies and entire industries were developed in an unsustainable way. Firms need to develop smarter business models, where profit is sustainable and balanced with environmental and social impacts.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you:

I aim to keep developing internationally my career. I aim to bring innovation in the academic world through technology and innovative pedagogies. I aim to inspire young people worldwide. Indeed, I can’t imagine this journey without my wife Manuela, my son William and our second son who will arrive in August.

Students Say…

“As a graduating student of Imperial College Business School’s Global MBA program, I have not only witnessed Paolo as an outstandingly skilled lecturer and program administrator, but also enjoyed his personal supervision during my final project. Said projects deals with questions of business sustainability, which Dr. Taticchi is a distinguished expert in. I would especially like to emphasize that Paolo was able to massively improve my learning experience, as well as the dissertation itself, not only with his factual knowledge, but also through numerous very practical hints that he provided. Moreover, Paolo was is kind and easily accessible on campus as well as through messaging, and quick to respond to any inquiries. What I especially admire about him is his broad knowledge with backgrounds in engineering, entrepreneurship, as well as his scientific track record.”

Ottokar Stundner, MD

MBA Student, Imperial College Business School

“Having had the pleasure of working with Dr. Taticchi as my final MBA project supervisor, I can attest to his extraordinary ability to bridge overarching strategic thinking with granular tactical execution. I also witnessed firsthand Dr. Taticchi’s ability to adjust his leadership based on specific student’s needs – as an older and more experienced student, I received strong  support without ever entering the realm of micromanaging decision-making. More junior students receive support proportionally to their knowledge and experience level. In the end, the outcome converges to all – students learn more!

Alongside his impeccable academic credentials, Dr. Taticchi is also very much respected by the student body due to his real-life entrepreneurial experience. Having successfully built and managed businesses, he continuously shares real life experience that inspire Imperial’s MBA students to carve their own path and create a positive difference.”

Pedro Moura Lopes

“Paolo Taticchi is a truly uncommon and influential teacher.  During a live case study, our class was debating the long term viability of a well-known niche corporation and whether the CEO was effective because of his unusual leadership style.  After 30 minutes of moderating harsh scrutiny, Paolo introduced a guest sitting innocently in the back row, who happened to be this unconventional CEO, and next hour was spent discussing/questioning why alternative leadership styles can be recipes for success, and not everyone needs to be a traditional CEO.  Paolo’s teaching style is consistently this sort hands-on and situationally relatable; his students love to learn from his unique approach, and I would wholeheartedly recommend him for the top 40 under 40 designation.”

K. Blair Price

MBA Student, Imperial College Business School

“Paolo has a unique ability to connect with you on the spot. His extensive knowledge and network always come in the conversation and other interactions. The young of his age makes it even easier when you are talking challenges. However the most important aspect is the fact that he loves what he does and this is obvious year on year when it comes to accepting feedback and making all possible efforts to realize students requests. Him and the team are few of the most engaging people. I was very happy to be part of GMBA program and Paolo contributed significantly in that, especially in the last part of the course where tension was high and energy was low.”

Efie Tsikou

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