Andriy Kostiuk talks about business ethics and trends that catch up with us

“Whether we want this or not, we must make the process of learning our way of life, regardless of the field of our work, or status.” On the eve of the 10th LvBS anniversary  we talked with Andriy Kostiukpartner of the Pavlenko & Partners Legal Group, Nexia Ukraine president, and member of the Lviv Bar Council about global trends in education from which you cannot escape, about business ethics, and whether it exists at all.

Andriy Kostiuk is also a lecturer at the UCU Philosophy Department and on master’s programs of the Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS), member of the LvBS Supervisory Board, who is a representative of one of the school founders, owner of the Concern Galnaftogaz, Vitaliy Antonov.

Mr. Kostiuk, can you please tell us your story associated with LvBS? At which stage did you join this project?
I have in fact a double history associated with the Lviv Business School. I joined the UCU much earlier than the School was founded, assisted the University in legal issues, taught social ethics at various departments, and, accordingly, knew about this project and gave advice about it. And after the School’s creation, I was appointed a member of the Supervisory Board; one of the LvBS shareholders, Vitaliy Antonov, charged me with representing his interests in this body, which is engaged in current supervision and in assisting managers in project development. I am also a lecturer, in particular, on the Key Executive MBA program.

How did you imagine the business school at that time, in the beginning, what expectations did you have for it?
From the point of view of the UCU, there was a certain fear about whether the business school even “matches” the university, whether a certain UCU ethos will be disturbed, whether the university is the place to which business representatives will come, or maybe this will be a disincentive instead. But, as a result, we see the true synergy, about which we could only dream at that moment, but there were no guarantees. The business school should not have been simply a unit of the university, since the UCU was not the best business expert, at least 10 years ago, and this could cause misunderstandings. On the other hand, the university already had its strong brand of an institution which does things qualitatively, without the element of corruption, which does things that serve people, and not just exists for some narrow party or career purposes. In the beginning,this positive image helped the business school to become attractive from the marketing point of view for many Lviv residents. That is why, in my opinion, this synergy was successful.

At the same time, the team of the business school, in particular the dean-founder Sofiya Opatska, and those people who came in the beginning, perceived their work as service, as a long-term project, in which a lot of energy and vitality must be invested, and, as a result, it has borne fruit.

 

What expectations did founders have for the business?
For business, this was not a project for which there were expectations of some kind of cash dividends; for them, participation in this project was more of an image-building and social thing. After all, not only does the business function in order to earn money, but also to expand indefinitely. Every shareholder in a company thinks about the future of their children or their city, one way or another. And if the shareholder’s vision coincides with the implementation of some projects that will develop this city, develop the science, educate active people who will do something good in the future, then there will be added value for everyone.

What is your role in the Supervisory Board, in your opinion? It is said that you are one of the most constructive critics?:)
This body can not replace management. The Board meets several times a year and always analyzes the work of the School almost like a stranger. But that is not just an outsider’s point of view, it is the opinion of an interested person. I have experience of work in supervisory boards of various structures, including the Concern Galnaftogaz Supervisory Board. And as a corporate lawyer, not only can I contribute something to the formal side of work, but also to the corporate management, streamlining of certain procedures, relationships between different departments… But the Supervisory Board works as a collective body, it is definitely not a couple of controllers. It is important that the management have an outsider’s opinion about their work, their plans, and projects, which can either be successful, or not. After all, no project is definite, there can always be some risks, and they are often visible to those who analyze from the outside.

 

Is the Ukrainian business, in your opinion, already ripe for the understanding of the value of education, for the understanding of the fact that you have to learn during all your life, regardless of what you have already achieved?
I think yes, it is ripe. Those who are not ripe are not the business school’s target audience or promising entrepreneurs. Once, roughly speaking, you could learn by doing, but today there is such a volume of information that in order to come and familiarize yourself with it, you need the experience of others willy-nilly. We do not know for sure which forms of training will be popular in the future, but I am 100% certain that we need platforms for the exchange of experience, and this exchange of experience must be somehow confirmed by certificates and master’s degrees. Some surely hope that they will sidestep this process, or that they will hire someone, and someone will manage everything instead of them, will come up with new ideas; but all of that is an illusion.

Nobody in business will think instead of you. If someone else thinks instead of you, this will not be your business anymore. Therefore, either you change and adapt, or someone else will do this.

 

Which global education trends, in your opinion, will have a significant impact on Ukraine in the coming years?
These will be probably the ones we are talking about. Internetization, distance and more interactive education. You remember best those events in which you take part. That is why all these projects in the business school in which participants must give feedback, show what they have learned, how their knowledge applies to their business – either the current one or the potential one –, how they would solve a particular simulated situation, are so important. This is a global trend, where a person constantly transfers knowledge from one field to another, stays somewhere on their boundary, and also develops in the third field. We can not comprehend encyclopedic knowledge today, Wikipedia is constantly growing, but we can open less and less files. We do not have enough time, we are limited by the capabilities of our brain, and we have to make the process of learning our way of life willy-nilly. We must be able to always determine the essential things in every situation and to know where to find an answer, in which sources to look, which specialists to involve, which questions to ask. These skills are beginning to be more important than the possession of a certain byte of information, which may already be outdated tomorrow.

We have to make the process of learning our way of life willy-nilly

Volodymyr Turchynovskyi, another member of the LvBS Supervisory Board, told us in an interview that the business school does not need to follow trends, what it needs is to create its own trends. Do you think we can do this? And will it be possible to catch up with the global trends?
It would seem that when there are no problems, when some things do not concern us, we can talk about this; but this will be like a fantastic novel or some kind of a computer game. In fact, things that are now very quickly transferred into some kind of computer games or models tomorrow become algorithms of work of certain companies, and later they are transferred into some goods or services. And they start competing with your goods or services.Or they may be transferred into some advertising or marketing technologies, which you need to deal with, because they are pushing your business. In general, challenges are increasing. Today, when there is always a traffic jam on the avenue, you have to create multi-level junctions willy-nilly, otherwise the city will stop. Multi-level junctions are a consequence of the fact that some kind of a need exists. It would be good to guess it, to outsmart it, but it is unlikely that we will find a solution sooner than the issue itself emerges.

You are a teacher on the Key Executive MBA program. How do its participants transform? Are those who started the training in 2008 different from the present ones?
They also grow, become younger, faster, and are more distant from the UCU. Of course, the first generation of participants was very involved in the university; those were friends of the UCU who believed in the School. Today, participants often include people who follow a clear goal: to get a quality product. And here they learn more about the UCU; this is another side of synergy.

Talking about business, can it be called ethical today? And can the American business be called ethical? I think that the business, unfortunately, is very dependent on the ethos that exists in the society. It is as ethical as the Ukrainian society. Not more and not less. I can not say that the Ukrainian business is completely different from the Ukrainian society. In terms of monetary relations, the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs are honest people when it comes to what is called “contract culture”, i.e. if they promised something, they do this, provided that their counterparties also fulfill their obligations. As for what we call “social responsibility”, everything is very different: many are adherents of the libertarian ideology: I have fulfilled my direct obligations, and thinking of the long-term consequences – the ecology, social responsibility, charity – is either not for me or “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

Enterprises that have been stable in the West for 2-3 generations think quite differently; they do not work looking 2-3 years ahead, but 20-30 years ahead. Unfortunately, in our society nobody makes plans even for the next 5 years. Because it is impossible to plan and understand what will happen in this country in 5 years. You can wish, but you can not understand.  Everything changes so dramatically and sometimes unpredictably.For example, who could have imagined in 2013 that we will be at war with Russia and will lose the Crimea? Nobody. Neither here, nor in Galicia, nor in Donetsk, nor the elite in Kyiv, nor the elite in Moscow. Just as in 2007 nobody anticipated the 2008 crisis in America, the fact that not only will Lehman Brothers, after 100 years of history, cease to exist, but will also pull a number of others down. And nobody anticipatedthat in order to save all of this, the US government will print a trillion dollars a year. Accordingly, as we constantly live from one drama to another, nobody asks themselves: how will all of this look like in 20 years, how do I see my business in 20 years? Everyone either responds to a particular situation, or sets themselves some medium-term goals at best. But in the three-year perspective you will solve neither social problems nor the UCU development. So you either dream or do what you have to!

Since we constantly live from one drama to another, nobody asks themselves: how will all of this look like in 20 years, how do I see my business in 20 years? Everyone either responds to a particular situation, or sets themselves some medium-term goals at best.

 

Today’s LvBS mission is as follows: Ukraine on the business map of the world. Which of our strengths could accelerate its accomplishment?
Speaking objectively, we have two areas in which Ukraine competes on the world market; there is also one more area where we bring up the rear, but still sell something. These two areas in which we are in the lead include agriculture and information technologies. They differ a lot. In agriculture we are, first of all, lucky to have our soil. If you put at least a little effort, information technologies, and a competent approach, then you will be successful and competitive in this field in the international arena. IT have a different nature, because these are services. How did we manage to be in the lead here? It is probably because in the Soviet Union there was a good and sufficiently versatile polytechnic education, and people in this field in the 90’s could join this trend. I do not think that we are ahead of the planet in this area, but we definitely have a strong niche on the market. And the fact that one of the 50 largest IT outsourcing companies in the world is one of the business school’s shareholders speaks for itself. This is our second strength. We still have old metallurgy, which is now experiencing a downtrend. But we still have to fight for everything else. Unfortunately, Ukraine is developing slower than the surrounding countries; we are still below the level of 2007.

How do you see the School’s mission in 10 years?

The school seems to be from another world, like an example of optimism. In order to become an optimist, you need to come here, to see how everything works here, how people who are related to LvBS can work, and you need to draw this experience.

It is an alternative environment where innovations live, where an open dialog and interesting partnership are possible. Where ideas appear, some of which will be dead ends, but some will make a breakthrough. That is why all these clusters and environments are actually a great thing. And all the breakthrough in this city tends to be associated with business education, because it is noticeable that here there is an environment that helps one grow. This is important, and it is another mission of the Lviv Business School of UCU, that is, to be an environment which, through its breakthrough, extends the scope of success to the city, the region, and the country. And people want to be part of this.

Prepared by Olena Yankovska, photos by Bohdan Yemets