Since 1991, The KaosPilots International School of New Business Design and Social Innovation in Aarhus, Denmark, has been rethinking business education. Aspiring to be a "modern, value-based, and internationally oriented program focusing on entrepreneurship and leadership," it has mustered 10 classes of 35 students each—hoping to qualify them for the "new global network economy."
I've met many KaosPilots students. We've collaborated on projects and participated in workshops. I've been impressed by their energy and creativity, business smarts, and social conscience. While many business schools train students to be consultants and managers, the KaosPilots curriculum aims to develop leaders and innovators. Staff and students alike are highly individualistic—yet efficient team players. So I've been frustrated that the KaosPilots and their thinking have remained largely a secret outside of Scandinavia.
KaosPilot A-Z (KaosCommunication, 2003), soon available in a few North American cities (and on the Web at www.kaospilot.dk), finally addresses that deficiency. Founder Uffe Elbaek has reworked his 2001 book of the same title (but in Danish), a diverse manifesto on the arts, authenticity, branding, dialogue, globalization, quality, and talent.
Elbaek has enlisted 20 business leaders to expand on the ideas and ideals behind the KaosPilots. Thorvald Stoltenberg, president of the Norwegian Red Cross, argues that poverty is the root of war, violence, and terrorism—and that alleviating it is in the self-interest of the wealthy. Steen Hildebrandt, professor at the Aarhus School of Business, details the role of the corporate chaplain. Other contributors include Dee Hock and Anita Roddick.
The voices reflect one side of the Kaos-Pilots: eclectic intellectualism and a progressive view of business's possibilities. More important, KaosPilot A-Z highlights the experiences and ideas of the program's students and graduates. They describe the program's focus on collaboration, grounding in real client-based projects, balance between personal and professional development—and, as Cathrine Shetelig, a second-year student, puts it, the program's innovation-oriented "tribe culture."
KaosPilot A-Z is a well-designed and inspiring—as well as overtly personal—introduction to the KaosPilots' approach. The blend of formal and informal language suits the school's mission and vision perfectly. Besides—and I think the KaosPilots will appreciate this—the book smells really, really good.
Update: The book can now be ordered in the U.S. through the Penny Store.
A version of this article appeared in the Table of Contents - April 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.