Business professionals, alumni and master students came together at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) for an evening masterclass about global business and sustainability, held on campus on 8 February 2017. The masterclass explored the importance of a variety in communication skills and their role in driving positive change.

Participants learned how social entrepreneurs and change agents can bring change within their organisation and society at large through effective communication. The audience consisted of students from RSM’s MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme, RSM alumni and business professionals. During the workshop, attendees explored what techniques lie behind effective communication skills and learned in what ways this can lead to real change. 

The session was held by academic speaker Prof. Joep Cornelissen, professor of corporate communication and management, and Dorothy Grandia, communication skills coach at RSM.

The power of communication

Prof. Cornelissen talked about the change in global leaders and their communication styles. He explained that global leaders such as US President Donald Trump are very effective communicators as they know how to use powerful and enigmatic body language.

But when it comes to discussing complex societal issues, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Cornelissen explains that people often fail at listening to each other and debates are polarised. This is because of so-called motivated reasoning, with every single person holding their own opinion. So, the question is how to bring everyone’s different ideas together to ultimately solve complex social challenges.

Framing dynamics model

Cornelissen suggested that the best way to send a message that all groups with different opinions are susceptible to, is to use different framings for the messages. He further discussed a model of framing dynamics that can be used around grand societal issues, by providing examples of the new sustainable frame of Coca Cola and Ray Anderson’s complete change of Interface’s mission to have zero impact on the environment in 2020.

Convincing while communicating

In the second part of the masterclass, Dorothy Grandia discussed how to convince when presenting challenging ideas. She suggested that people who want to lead change often have to face ambiguity and resistance as people in general are afraid of change. So, change leaders need to live according to their values and make them as transparent as possible to their audience.

‘’We’d all like to live in a world where the most influence in leadership is awarded to the people who intend to create – and do create – the positive change the planet and the people living on it need and deserve,” said Grandia. “But humans are not ‘designed’ to recognise those people easily. We’re inclined to pay attention to people who communicate in a confident and engaging way.”

The masterclass concluded with an exercise where participants practised in pairs how to promote a social or environmental change to a diverse audience of employees.

Evening masterclasses at RSM

RSM offers continued learning about marketing and business information management in a series of evening masterclasses this spring. Each masterclass blends theory and practical insight about a topical issue, as faculty members team up with leading practitioners. These sessions will not only broaden business professional’s knowledge on the latest developments in these sectors, they will also serve as an opportunity to share your experiences and network.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 research-based business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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