Tomorrow is Big Data

Bernard Garrette , Professor of Strategy and Business Policy - February 20th, 2014
Big Data

The Fied of management is forever changing and presenting us with new challenges that we must work to resolve. The collection, analysis and use of big data has become increasingly prevalent in the business world, as companies try and interpret the mass of data that they receive each day to their advantage. The ability to analyze big data is becoming a much sought-after attribute amongst graduates, for big data analysis could be the door to a world of new opportunities, allowing companies to personalize their service and examine the individual behavior of their consumers. In order to respond to this emerging demand, HEC Paris has recently launched its initiative on big data and business analytics, in partnership with IBM Consulting. This course will allow students to leverage IBM’s technological innovation expertise in order to gain valuable business knowledge. 

Bernard Garrette ©HEC Paris

Bernard Garrette, who holds a doctorate from HEC Paris, is a professor of Strategy and Business Policy. He has been Associate Dean of the HEC MBA since January 2011. His research (...)

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Another challenge that must be faced is that of globalization. Whilst it is true that the world is becoming ‘global’ in a sense, given the unstoppable spread of new technologies and certain dominant brands, it must not be assumed that this means that everything is the same across the world. Indeed, the world is as diverse as ever in terms of nationalities, religions and cultures, and the ability to be immersed in and adapt to other cultures and work alongside them is essential for any leader. Every country has its own approach and interpretation of management, and it is essential that a global leader can understand, appreciate and adapt to these differences, something, which is only really learned through direct exposure to other nationalities and cultures. Big companies now seek out graduates with experience of living in a multicultural environment as they seek out those capable of living in any given country and creating links all over the world.

Similarly, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) could also pose a threat to this ideal of the culturally diverse and globally adaptable management course, as students now have the option of learning online from their own homes. Leadership is much more than classroom theory; it is an experience, and students’ ability to work alongside their classmates and learn from them — our students are not just from different countries, but different professional backgrounds, too — is crucial. Whilst a MOOC may seem to offer the students an equally international experience, it must be stressed that talking to people online is completely different than actually going and living with them in another country, and, therefore, MOOCs could be seen to lack the international dimension which is so important in the formation of tomorrow’s leaders. But MOOCs appeal to students due to their sheer convenience, and so the challenge for us is that we must be able to offer our students something extra — the international dimension — that they cannot get online. Yet another challenge, albeit in the field of management studies and not global management, is the dominance of certain business schools whose reputation precedes them, thus giving their graduates an advantage in the job market. These schools are almost global brands, as hiring companies are attracted to students by the prestige of the institution that they studied at, before even meeting the students themselves. It is now no longer enough for a school to offer their students the best training in leadership; the school must also get itself recognized on an international scale by companies and prospective students alike. It is not even enough to be the leading business school in the country or continent — we compete on a global scale with the big schools such as Harvard and Stanford in order to attract the best students and the best recruiters, and to make our name internationally known. 

The timeless blend of theory and practice lies at the heart of management studies.One cannot exist without the other in the context of leadership  


Whilst it is important to recognize and address these emerging challenges in management, we cannot forget the timeless blend of theory and practice that lies at the very heart of management studies. These two concepts share a somewhat symbiotic relationship as one cannot exist without the other in the context of strong leadership; a true leader at the head of a multinational company possesses both the theoretical understanding of management and the necessary ‘soft-skills’ (decision-making, the ability to motivate others, etc). A world leader embodies this blend of theory and practice that is at the core of the HEC Paris MBA curriculum, a unique blend that has allowed us to shape and create some of the leading figures in business today: Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L’Oréal, and Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, to name just two. It is not easy to be good at both the practice and theory of management, but that is what business education is all about, as we work to instil this recognition in students. The field of management is constantly evolving and developing, presenting new challenges that require us to change and adapt to meet demand. It is, therefore, necessary to offer students a ‘future-proof’ curriculum, one that will continue to serve them even when the face of business has changed. At HEC Paris, we do not offer our students a curriculum that is focused solely on finding a job soon after graduation; rather, our students graduate with a flexible and adaptable set of business skills that will allow them to work and prosper in any business, anywhere in the world, at any time. We train our students for a lifelong career, and they will keep this skill-set with them throughout their professional life, allowing them to adapt and respond to the future challenges in management. ‘Tomorrow is our business’ is not just a slogan at HEC Paris; it is a way of life.

This op-ed was originally published in the Times of India , on February 2nd, 2014