FLIGBY at KIMEP Business School – Interview

Interview with Dr. Zoltan Buzady, Associate Professor of Leadership, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary 

Conducted by Dr. Alma Alpeissova, Interim Director, Executive Education Centre, KIMEP


Alma Alpaissova: Good morning, Dr. Zoltan Buzady, welcome as our visiting professor. My first question is: what was the main purpose of your visit this time to KIMEP? 

Zoltan Buzady: I am teaching a highly innovative course on the principles of positive psychology and flow in the field of leadership and we use a world-class simulation game called FLIGBY (☛www.fligby.com).

However, as you mentioned, it is not the first time for me to visit beautiful Kazakhstan. This trip is organized through the Erasmus+ Programme. And so, that is one of our additional steps to internationalize KIMEP, and to connect it with my country also: Hungary, which is located in the heart of the European Union.  I have been in Kazakhstan about 20 times, teaching at various organizations, like national oil companies, banks and universities. I’ve considered myself as an expert in Central Asia, but also, as an international leadership development expert.

A.A.:  How is your leadership course structured? 

I am here for two weeks and the course is held with your great colleague Elena Lichman. But usually, this type of leadership development is more intensive: For executive MBAs and MBAs it consists of two weekends and for the companies, it is even shorter. However, with the use of FLIGBY digital technology, our unique simulation game, the training is actually supported over six months, to go deeper, if participants want to experience and re-experience their personal growth and skills development.  Students, whom I had the course with now, have the opportunity to replay the simulation, restart their experience, and the story individually and develop their leadership skills.

A.A.: Which skills do you consider the most important for the entrepreneurs and which are key skills for being a great leader? 

Z.B.: First of all, luckily all of the skills of a person can be developed. That’s why we have business schools, like KIMEP! That’s why we have leadership developers such as myself and that’s why we develop new technologies to develop skills. 

The skills are dynamic and different, depending on areas of business and function, but also in the wider context of life circumstances.

Of course, for entrepreneurs the skills, which are the most interesting, are? the ability to take risks, to turn the ideas into reality, ie. organizing, and to inspire their team to fulfill the ideas (ie. motivating).  For top leaders and top managers on an executive MBA, key skills are more around stakeholder management, around being able to manage conflicts, but also skills such as building a long-term vision and turning those ideas into business projects and into actions, like managing teamwork. So it’s not possible to say what are the most important skills in general for managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs. 

However, we can name the four most important skills, which we think are the most universally appealing, because those are related to FLOW theory. We call them the 4 Flow-promoting Leadership Skills.  

Faculty lunch: Dr. Zoltan Buzady, Dr. Alma Alpeissova and Dean Dr. Nejad Capar.

A.A.: In total, how many leadership skills do you measure during this course?

Z.B.: Whilst playing the simulation game, participants take strategic 150+ decisions, individually. They concentrate on the game, but we as the trainers observe their actual behavior. Based on this data, we can scientifically measure 29 universal leadership skills. In our Leadership & Flow Global Research Center (www.flowleadership.org), we have established and well-researched this field. And published many Q1-category journal articles. But as I said, the foremost importance for creating this mantra, the state of FLOW, is strategic thinking (1), being able to give feedback to team members (3), being able to assess their skill level (3), and to be able to balance the type of work you delegate on them (4).

The ‘Flow’ book is also available in any book store around the globe, also in Kazakhstan.

A.A.: So these four are the foremost important leadership skills for creating the FLOW. Maybe we should say a few words about why the FLOW is important. 

Z.B.: The FLOW phenomenon is a universal human mental experience, which happens during an activity, most people know it as a beautiful feeling, when they do sports for example, or when they’re cooking when they’re with their friends and they notice that the time just flies by. They feel really happy, and life is meaningful in these moments. So, with the world-famous professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (see his book on photo above, it is available in all bookshops in Kazakhstan also), we have created a digital game called FLIGBY. This serious game, a simulation, creates an atmosphere and conditions when people realise that they spend their lives wisely also at the workplace. Remember we spend 8-12 hours every day at work! Do not waste this opportunity to bring meaning to your own life, also at work, as a leader! Therefore in the simulation each  player is put in a leadership position and has to make managerial decisions, which influence the team and the company’s prosperity. In this game we use positive psychological experiences to make companies more effective by allowing people to perceive the work as leaders, as responsible managers. The learn to be in FLOW! 

Our motto is “T.E.A.M.  – Together Everyone Achieves More!”

And this is the mission which I have, this is what we teach and I think it’s very important for ‘New Kazakhstan’. Also, apart from all the political changes and the power races, it is very important to see that in the modern world organizations, institutions, and workplaces need to create an atmosphere in which employees – young, middle, and top managers – think that their work is part of their life. We need to enhance life quality by creating Flow in Leadership and for teams! 

Alternatively, they will continue simply to find work boring, meaningless, or be in apathy, and will ask for more and more money, they will ask to increase their salary, but they will not be more productive or creative at work. So the ideas of ‘New Kazakhstan’ and FLOW, I think, are very well connected through my teaching and this simulation game.

A.A.: At the end of last year we received the sad news that the world-famous Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronouncing hint: “Me-High-Cheek-Sent-Me-High-Ee”), had passed away. I know that you were very close colleagues. You two have been working together for years, you published also the book “Missing Link Discovered, Integrating Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory into Management and Leadership Practice by Using Serious Game ”. You become the academic ambassador of this simulation and you are the Head of the Leadership & Flow Global Research Center (www.flowleadership.org). Can you tell us more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi?

Z.B.: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is really one of those, who can be called a guru. Why? He is a guru because of his groundbreaking work on discovering what makes people happy and creative by finding meaning in life. He was the first person to have started scientific research on those who made progress, achieved fantastic results, and created masterpieces.  What makes people progress, what makes them learn, and how they can achieve outstanding results? This is so important that this is my real ambassadorship.

The second level of my ambassadorship is to use scientific insights in an academic context. So I publish with colleagues from all over the world on their applications of this Flow theory in the business context. 

The third level of my ambassadorship is actually related to Central Asia. Eight years ago I took the decision that this is going to be the world area where I will have a major impact. This is why I have educated hundreds of MBAs in Kazakhstan already. So, my work as an academic ambassador is well connected to KIMEP, because here, your University has also been serving the region for over 30 years: to educate the best leaders of the country, and you were doing it professionally and ethically clean at a very efficient level. This is exactly what I do as well. 

A.A.: Back to the Flow theory, you know many businessmen, entrepreneurs, and company owners who complain that they have problems with their personnel. They raise people, train them, and create favorable terms for them at their workplace, but within a short period of time, they leave the company. Even if they are paid very well.  So just a good salary is not the only reason to keep the personnel, right? 

Z.B.: You know, in the United States, the national income has been constantly rising, but since the 1960’sthe percentage of people in the US society, who report that they are happy, has not increased! This leads to the fact that a good income, a pleasant workplace, and nice office come to a plateau very soon. Money makes people not happy, but good work and Flow create a meaningful life. Therefore a leader needs to learn through a good Business Schoo that good leadership education is very important: how to communicate with employees about the meaning of their particular work and their particular life context. Simply giving work orders and attaching bonuses to the staff is not the way to motivate the majority of people That is the way to motivate a few, very proactive salespeople maybe, but not the engineers, not the people who take care of the customer service, not the specialists who operate the systems or the administrators. So my message to leaders is that in our leadership training here at KIMEP, we teach the Art of Flow-Leadership and secrets to creating more loyalty in your company, creating FLOW in your company, and creating an atmosphere of happiness in the workplace.  

At KIMEP we can teach and train the ‘Modern Art of Flow-promoting Leadership!’

This is the approach, which is used in many advanced societies, that managers develop how to lead people and how to influence them other than with money and nice offices. This Flow experience is the true competitive advantage. Flow experience is the reason why people will say: “I enjoy my work in this company. Here, I can create something, that makes me happy for myself.”

A.A.: What message can you send to KIMEP students? 

Z.B.: Well, my message is rather to KIMEP leaders and administrators: that we should involve this simulation game at a larger and wider scale in your various courses and portfolios. It can be used very effectively for different audiences because it measures and it develops 29 leadership skills. People are always very happy to know who they really are, and what their strengths are. So young people, middle managers and top managers are all keen on getting positive feedback. 

Here is an example. These tables show, in aggregated form, the top results of the course participants, such as total time to complete the strategic mission, the usage level of the media learning library, the level of the corporate atmosphere created, the profitability achieved, the sustainability of the company, the sum of Flow achieved and the trophies earned. Only 33% have earned the epic win, the “Spirit of the Wine’-award. But in the second game round, this ratio increased and they have reached the global level of around 45 % winners. Some will now again replay in the coming months to achieve this complex prize! They are very keen to find out whether they can succeed. Very ambitious!

FLIGBY Simulation Results: KIMEP Students (blue), Global Benchmark of 12000 global managers (brown), Kazakhstan Benchmark of 427 (Green).

But we can also analyze the individual and group averages of the skills in this group. In green you can see the Kazakh averages, in brown the results of 12000+ global managers and in blue we see that the top leadership skill in this student group was Involvement.

Involvement is the readiness to participate in the activities of formal or informal teams/groups, all the way to the execution process. As you can see the younger participants are more enthusiastic (75%), than the average managers globally (70%), but you can also see that more experienced Kazakh players had lower values (69%). The other top leadership skills on average of these students were organizing skills (71%), emotional intelligence (69%), Information Gathering (69%), Delegating (68%), and Recognizing Personal Strengths (67%).   

Top 6 Leadership Skills of KIMEP Students (blue), Global Benchmark of 12000 global managers (brown), Kazakhstan Benchmark of 427 (Green).

A.A.: I know it is not correct to say weaknesses, because you measured existing levels of skills –  so which leadership skills did the younger players use less frequently? Which needs to be enhanced?  

B.Z.: Actually, nobody needs all the 29 skills, only those skills need to be developed which are related to the leadership challenge and function. Otherwise, you better concentrate on your strengths, which leads to Flow. 

But since you asked me, here are the data results: Assertiveness (54%), a skill which most persons in Kazakhstan do not even know -they tend to be too aggressive or over-submissive. Setting priorities (54%), Solving problems by being proactive and diplomatic (55%), Doing the work yourself when needed (Execution of tasks) (58%), applying the art of Active Listening (59%), and Doing work when appropriate by Empowering team members (59%). I could go on and on when analyzing these numbers….

Most-to-be-improved  6 Leadership Skills of KIMEP Students (blue), Global Benchmark of 12000 global managers (brown), Kazakhstan Benchmark of 427 (Green).

A.A.: Thank you, Dr. Buzady. I  wish you all the best and hope for the other great education projects, together, here at KIMEP!

Z.B. My hope is that soon we will do a faculty development course, here in KIMEP in the fall period,  to make it visible to more and more colleagues. 

My other hope for KIMEP is that we will put the theory and practice of Flow-promoting Leadership into the premium leadership development segment. It works well in other countries. This is my key message. 

Thank you very much for this interview, dear Alma!. I would like to thank the brilliant KIMEP participants on this FLIGBY course last week and you and your colleagues for the great support!

May the FLOW be with you! 

Да пребудет с вами ПОТОК!  

Dr. Zoltan Buzady (zoltan@buzady.hu)


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