Skip to main content
About HEC About HEC Faculty & Research Faculty & Research Master’s programs Master’s programs MBA Programs MBA Programs PhD Program PhD Program Executive Education Executive Education Summer School Summer School HEC Online HEC Online About HEC Overview Overview Who We Are Who We Are Egalité des chances Egalité des chances Career Center Career Center International International Campus Life Campus Life Stories Stories The HEC Foundation The HEC Foundation Faculty & Research Overview Overview Faculty Directory Faculty Directory Departments Departments Centers Centers Chairs Chairs Knowledge Knowledge Master’s programs Master in
Management Master in
Management
MSc International
Finance MSc International
Finance
Specialized
Masters Specialized
Masters
X-HEC
programs X-HEC
programs
Dual-Degree
programs Dual-Degree
programs
Visiting students Visiting students Certificates Certificates Student Life Student Life
MBA Programs MBA MBA EMBA EMBA TRIUM EMBA TRIUM EMBA PhD Program Overview Overview HEC Difference HEC Difference Program details Program details Research areas Research areas HEC Community HEC Community Placement Placement Job Market Job Market Admissions Admissions Financing Financing Executive Education Executive Masters Executive Masters Executive Certificates Executive Certificates Executive short programs Executive short programs Online Online Executive MBA Executive MBA Train your teams Train your teams Summer School Youth Leadership Initiative Youth Leadership Initiative Summer programs Summer programs Admissions Admissions FAQ FAQ HEC Online Overview Overview Degree Program Degree Program Executive certificates Executive certificates MOOCs MOOCs

Reinventing Business Education

Blended teaching, learning by doing, virtual classrooms, simulation games... Pedagogy at HEC Paris is reinventing itself, with professors experimenting with new ways to train and coach the leaders of tomorrow in a changing and challenging environment.

Regularly, Knowledge@HEC will share stories and insights about pedagogical innovation, via interviews with our professors, program directors, chief digital officer, and digital learning staff. They explain their new teaching practices, how they integrate technology to best enhance the learning experience and open up new opportunities for HEC Paris.

Business Education Innovation In Depth - vignette

Structure

Part 1
Reinventing Business Education
Editorial by Marc Vanhuele, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean. We live in a world of constant transformation. The role of research and education at a business school like HEC is to constantly innovate in order to give our students the knowledge, skills and mindset to live and work in a world with opportunities and challenges that may already have shifted by the time they graduate.
Part 2
How HEC trains future professors to design effective learning situations
Kristine de Valck is Director of the HEC Paris PhD Program and Associate Professor of Marketing. Together with Digital Learning Project Manager, Caroline Meriaux, Kristine teaches a pedagogy course to HEC Paris PhD students. She explains the method and challenges of training future professors to become great teachers.
Part 3
How digital tools can improve teaching and learning in a business school
Caroline Meriaux is Digital Learning Project Manager and teaches a pedagogy course together with Associate Professor Kristine de Valck. She is passionate about Educational technology and Innovative Pedagogy in Higher Education. Interview.
Part 4
Promoting digital education at HEC Paris thanks to major donor Sebastien Breteau
On Wednesday, November 7, the inauguration of Sébastien Breteau room took place. In recognition of his generosity and support towards the HEC Foundation, HEC has inaugurated a classroom on behalf of Sébastien Breteau (MS.97), Founder and President of Qima.
Part 5
Making a change: teaching sustainable and inclusive business
“Continuing to do business as usual is no longer an option,” argues Professor Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot. She explains the push at HEC Paris to develop programs dedicated to sustainability and inclusive business and, just as importantly, to integrate those principles throughout the business school’s mainstream core offerings.
Part 6
Posing dilemmas: an MBA ethics course incites students to question themselves and their beliefs
Five years after its launch as a core course, Ethics and Sustainability is now one of the most successful courses in the HEC MBA program. Through a lively combination of debate, discussion, game playing, and surveys, see how this course leads students to question their own beliefs, gain an understanding of other points of view, and become better decision makers in the process.
Part 7
Jean-Michel Gauthier: from the oil industry to the Energy Transition
Jean-Michel Gauthier began his career in the oil industry before switching to consulting. Having spent a total of 30 years in international energy, he now shares his expertise by training leaders from all sectors in energy-transition issues. Jean-Michel is affiliate professor in the finance department at HEC Paris, where he holds the Energy & Finance Chair sponsored by Société Générale.

Part 1

Reinventing Business Education

Editorial by Marc Vanhuele, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean.

We live in a world of constant transformation. The role of research and education at a business school like HEC is to constantly innovate in order to give our students the knowledge, skills and mindset to live and work in a world with opportunities and challenges that may already have shifted by the time they graduate.

Business Education Innovation

HEC has always been a place that encouraged individual innovation among its faculty and teachers and where it is easy to get an initiative off the ground. In the domain of pedagogy, we need innovation more than ever, both in terms of what we are teaching and how we are doing it. Our objective with this section of Knowledge@HEC is to inspire our internal discussions on pedagogical innovation and to influence our daily practice. We also want to share our insights with the outside world in a spirit of open innovation.

Digital technology has dramatically changed learning over the past decade. Information on any topic is readily available at our fingertips on the internet. Excellent pedagogical content on a very broad range of topics can be found there for free. What then is the future of higher education in business in this digital landscape? What strategy should HEC adopt in terms of its offer and pedagogical formulas? And how should each individual teacher innovate in order to adapt to this new reality and leverage the opportunities it creates? While digital technology raises these questions and forces us to put a lot of our current practice into question, becoming more digital is not the answer to each of them. 

How can we as a faculty design a combination of activities that will attain our learning objectives?

Pedagogical innovation has to take a much broader perspective. It is clear that the classroom is no longer a place to just transfer content. And only part of the learning in a program takes place in the classroom. How then can we as a faculty design a combination of activities that will attain our learning objectives? And how can we as program directors and managers create an overall experience that, during their time at HEC, fully develops the potential of our already talented students?

Marc Vanhuele Business Education HEC
Marc Vanhuele, Professor and Associate Dean at HEC Paris

Because society is being transformed, we must, in addition to changing how we teach, also change what we are teaching. New degrees need to be created, new courses designed, and the content of existing courses revamped in order to make sure that our offer remains relevant for our students, their future employers, and society as a whole. 

Because society is being transformed, we must, in addition to changing how we teach, also change what we are teaching.

We start this section with three articles on pedagogy, to present how we think pedagogy at HEC Paris. Kristine de Valck explains how courses can be designed in a methodical way with the objective to make them maximally effective for their learners. Caroline Meriaux focuses on the role of technology in pedagogy and on the support system that HEC puts into place in support of innovation.

In the next four articles my colleagues present examples of how we make our courses relevant for the future. Today’s students need to know how business is done today. Some theories and frameworks from the past are as useful as ever. But even more important is that we prepare our students for the future and for the many transitions that the world is facing. In the articles we zoom in on the themes of social business, sustainability and ethics.

I hope that this section of Knowledge@HEC will stimulate your individual creativity and open up discussion on how we can keep innovating together.

See structure

Part 2

How HEC trains future professors to design effective learning situations

Kristine de Valck is Director of the HEC Paris PhD Program and Associate Professor of Marketing. Together with Digital Learning Project Manager, Caroline Meriaux, Kristine teaches a pedagogy course to HEC Paris PhD students. She explains the method and challenges of training future professors to become great teachers.

Kristine de Valck HEC professor

Hello Kristine. What are the implications and challenges of training researchers to teach?

Ph.D. programs are good at developing the research skills of their students, but we also train them to be teachers. What this essentially means is that they need to become managers of learning situations, an approach to teaching I adopted from Michel Fiol, HEC Paris Emeritus Professor of Accounting and Management Control, who has been very involved in the training in pedagogy for PhD students. Often, the first thing to help them with is unlearning the habits they have developed while presenting their research projects. Giving a research seminar for peers is not the same thing as teaching an entire course to Master or MBA students! 

Can you describe how we teach pedagogy to Ph.D. students at HEC Paris? 

The twenty-hour pedagogy course consists of both theory and practice and offers a mix of lectures, exercises, workshops and discussions. 

The "Theory" part

We first address the basics of pedagogy: what is learning? What is teaching? What are the different learning styles, teaching methods, and pedagogical tools? 

This seems trivial, but our Ph.D. students often have very different educational experiences (due to their international backgrounds and diverse disciplines), which brings richness to our collective reflections. You cannot teach mathematics and management in the same way, which implies an adapted learning design. This introduction also helps us to assess what they know in terms of pedagogy, and to adjust the course to their needs. For example, students who already have had some teaching experience often like to exchange about classroom discipline, and how to deal with “difficult” students.  

The "Practice" part

The teaching lab consists of a 20-minutes teaching session by each participant, followed by a collective reflection about the learning design and implementation (including classroom management). We pay close attention to how the “teacher” attracts students’ attention with a hook, how he/she makes the learning more dynamic by means of interactions, and on whether the teacher assesses whether the learning objectives were achieved. Like this, each student gets to practice teaching and receives feedback from his/her peers. Caroline and I act as session facilitators and we offer theoretical frameworks and practical tips to further enhance learning. 

Kristine de Valck HEC classroom

 

Can you describe how you help students to prepare for a teaching session in the Teaching Lab?

Yes. We base the teaching-learning process on four pillars: defining objectives, designing the learning scenario, implementing it by teaching, and evaluating the learning.

First, we define objectives. You have to understand the audience and determine what they need to learn. Before designing your learning scenario, you need to ask yourself who the students are that you will have in your course. What is their background? What do they know from other courses or experience? What are their expectations, their emotions vis-à-vis a topic, their biases toward their success? For example, students taking a course with a lot of mathematics may think they will not understand. This influences how they will approach the learning material and which kind of guidance they need from you. 

You need to try to take as much into account as possible, before you have even started with your learning design. This is often an eye-opener to the PhD students who may wrongly believe that you can give the same course to any audience (undergrads, MBA, executives). 

Secondly, we design the learning scenario. Once you have determined the learning objectives and you know your students’ profile you can start designing your learning scenario. Here, it is very important to be modest about the material you will be able to cover. Many professors are passionate about the topics they teach – this is great, but there is also a danger. Teaching is like filling a glass of water, at one point, the glass is full and everything else that you try to pour into the glass will be spilled. To increase students’ absorption of knowledge, it is also important to vary teaching approaches, to alternate theory with exercises, and lectures with discussion. We encourage our students to be creative in their learning designs and to try out methods that they would not naturally choose. The teaching lab is a safe environment to experiment in front of a benevolent audience. 

Thirdly, we implement the learning scenario, meaning that we put it in practice in the classroom. We advise our students to carefully plan their session with the help of a teaching grid. Still, our students need to be able to improvise and adapt to the circumstances the learners find themselves in. What happened the evening before? What occupies their mind? You have to be flexible. The planned content does not always follow its plan. You need to learn how to deal with uncertainty.

Finally, there is the evaluation phase. Evaluation is something we tend to postpone to the end of a course, but it is essential to check regularly where students are in their learning. You can do this through formative assessments, which do not count towards a grade, but which give both you and the student an insight as to whether they have understood the material or not. Like this, if many students score poorly, you can adapt your course before it is too late. 

In this context, digital tools can be very useful, for example to do small online quizzes. This is what we do in our new online Master in Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE).

What role does technology play in this pedagogy course? Do you address it? 

The use of digital tools does not change anything in the preparation of your course. You have to think about the same four pillars. Caroline Meriaux adds her point of view: "Indeed, some learning tools are innovative without being digital. However, we use several technologies in this course to show students how technology can be used for learning purposes. One example is a reading assignment that students need to do before coming to class. To make sure that all have read it and reflected on it, we ask them to post a comment on the "blackboard" discussion board we have created. The instructions are the following: "What is your main take-away from this article? Do you agree with the author? Did anything surprise you?" Posting a comment is mandatory and we use their comments as discussion starters in class. We have also used a telepresence robot to enable students who cannot make it to campus (e.g., research visit abroad) to attend the course." We now also film the teaching sessions during the course, for the students to be able to view it afterwards.

Awabot Telepresence Robot HEC
Associate Professor Kristine de Valck teaching Ph.D. students. A telepresence robot allows remote teaching

How does the course affect the Ph.D. students’ vision of teaching?

I believe that a lot of them walk away with the knowledge that teaching is more complex than one might think. It entails much more than mastery of the subject matter and developing content. Teaching is also about managing processes, emotions, relationships and context. Everything is complementary. Based on the Teaching Lab experience, they also realize that successful teaching depends on thorough preparation. For most of them, the 20-minute session demands one whole day of preparation time. 

Do you have some final suggestions on how to improve teaching and learning?

I believe that we could exchange more about our teaching practices. To share tips, but also to discuss challenges. Many of us feel quite alone when we face difficulties in the classroom. In the end, many professors love to teach and innovate, so why not join efforts and improve together. 

Finally, I feel strongly about the fact that improving learning is not only in the hands of the professors. Students should also question their role in the learning process. With the rise of the flipped classroom, customized learning scenarios, and online learning formats, students can no longer be passive spectators. They need to take active part in the learning process by discussing, questioning, experimenting, and putting in practice, all the while being accompanied by the professor-as-facilitator.

Kristine de Valck HEC professor
Kristine De Valck
Associate Professor
See structure

Part 3

How digital tools can improve teaching and learning in a business school

Caroline Meriaux is Digital Learning Project Manager and teaches a pedagogy course together with Associate Professor Kristine de Valck. She is passionate about Educational technology and Innovative Pedagogy in Higher Education. Interview.

Caroline Meriaux Digital Learning Manager HEC

Hello Caroline. How does HEC Paris innovate its education with technology?

With the evolution of technology and in the era of social media, education has undergone many changes. A new theory of learning has even emerged, Connectivism (Siemens & Downes, 2008). Teaching without technology is nowadays impossible, not only because technology is part of our everyday life, but also because digital tools can really improve learning, if used effectively. For example, research shows that live-polling tools increase attention and engagement; discussion boards facilitate collaborative learning; and videos are an effective way of engaging students and supporting their understanding.

Our professors not only integrate in their courses the online content and resources they have developed. They also use digital tools inside the classroom or beyond classroom time to support students’ learning.

At HEC Paris, our professors not only integrate in their courses the online content and resources they have developed (videos, simulation games, etc.). They also use digital tools inside the classroom or beyond classroom time to support students’ learning. In addition, some of them are experimenting with new forms of pedagogy such as the flipped classroom methodology or blended learning, which are highly appreciated by students.

How do you adapt to this fast-changing environment in education?

New technologies for education are rapidly changing and we see more and more providers offering new solutions. So on one hand, we need to stay informed about all of these new tools and test them. On the other hand, we always need to ask ourselves: “Does this tool or solution really add value to a course?” If not, we don’t propose it to our faculty. 

Technology in higher education
Breteau room: equipped for new educational uses: teaching with in-class and remote students, inviting a distance guest speaker

Like many schools, we have an LMS (Learning Management System) which is now used by most of our professors to share teaching material, create online activities or assignments, or even to deliver small online courses. On top of that, we offer a range of various solutions like live-polling apps, a virtual classroom tool, telepresence robots, a mini-video studio, etc. 

Awabot Telepresence Robot HEC
An "Awabot" Telepresence robot at the pedagogy course at HEC Paris allows remote teaching and learning.

We have equipped several rooms to run webinars. Professors and students can also book a “creative room” or “co-working room” at the HEC Learning Center (library) (with interactive white boards, writable walls, a camera and movable furniture) to experiment with more interactive forms of pedagogy.

How do we motivate professors to change their teaching habits? 

To me, two elements are very important to embark our faculty in digital learning: communication and support. The first one is to communicate about professors’ initiatives. We always have some “early adopters” who are experimenting with new teaching formats or testing new tools in the classroom. When the outcome is positive, we need to share this information in order to inspire others. 

Kahoot Quiz in Finance classrom by Olivier Bossard
Olivier Bossard, Exec. Director of MSc of Finance, assessing students' understanding with Kahoot's quiz in his Trading course

I recently created an internal website called “Digital Academy” where professors and staff members can find information about the different tools available at HEC and the online programs we have developed, as well as many faculty testimonials on how they use digital in their courses. I have also started sending a very simple newsletter to the entire faculty, with updates on the digital learning initiatives taken by professors. It is very successful: after each publication, numerous professors contact me to discuss about how they can start using digital tools.

To me, two elements are very important to embark our faculty in digital learning: communication and support.

The second element is to provide strong support. Using technology can be time consuming for professors, not only because they need to master the tool but also because it usually involves a redesign of their teaching scenario. It is a long-term time investment. So, the HEC Digital Learning team is here to help them make the right choices. 

Implementing digital learning into a faculty can also be driven by the needs of a specific program. For example, as our Executive MBA wished to reduce the face-to-face time by 10% and replace it with distance learning, the professors involved in this program had to develop online activities (such as virtual classrooms, online videos, simulation games, etc.). Again, with strong support and good communication, we managed to reach this objective! 

Digital Learning Formats_HEC

 

Digital Learning Tools HEC
Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

 

Test your knowledge on e-learning online with this quiz!

 

See structure

Part 4

Promoting digital education at HEC Paris thanks to major donor Sebastien Breteau

On Wednesday, November 7, the inauguration of Sébastien Breteau room took place. In recognition of his generosity and support towards the HEC Foundation, HEC has inaugurated a classroom on behalf of Sébastien Breteau (MS.97), Founder and President of Qima.

tech in the classroom HEC

Sébastien is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist and created, in 2013, the Breteau Foundation which aims to promote digital education for children in developing countries. Sébastien has been a supporter of the HEC Foundation for many years, and he is an Honorary Member of the Big Donor Circle.

Thanks to this support, the classroom T32 has been equipped with innovative solutions and meets the new educational uses: group work, video recording of classes, interaction with a remote classroom, video calls with academics worldwide...

This classroom supports both traditional and modern teaching styles, thanks to the installation of the following equipment:

• Furniture casters allowing for a number of different layouts (e.g. small groups of 4 to 6 students or a classic arrangement)
• 4 video projectors, each with an independent display (e.g. the teacher’s computer screen on the main projector, live footage from a remote location on the second, and a student’s tablet on the third…)
• A short-throw video projector, to avoid shadows on the whiteboard (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• A T.V. screen allowing professors to see their presentation whilst facing their audience (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• An interactive white board (all renovated classrooms have this feature)
• Each projector can be paired with a range of devices: the classroom PC, a professor’s laptop, or a wireless device such as a tablet
• A sound system with ceiling speakers to ensure better sound quality and greater comfort for students
• Smart microphones that detect who is speaking, even when a student is asking a question
• 2 cameras for filming classes. The footage can be watched at a later date or on a live broadcast (via web conference)
• For advanced features, these devices can all be controlled via a tablet.
 

A number of demonstrations will take place at the beginning of March so that the staff can experience these innovations first-hand, assisted by the IT services.

salle T32 HEC
Sébastien Bréteau classroom: equipped for new educational uses with various technologies
Related topics:
Reinventing Business Education
Technology
See structure

Part 5

Making a change: teaching sustainable and inclusive business

“Continuing to do business as usual is no longer an option,” argues Professor Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot. She explains the push at HEC Paris to develop programs dedicated to sustainability and inclusive business and, just as importantly, to integrate those principles throughout the business school’s mainstream core offerings.

Benedicte Faivre-Tavignot S&O

As Executive Director of the Society and Organizations (S&O) Center, Professor Faivre-Tavignot is quick to note that she and other like-minded colleagues within HEC Paris are focused on promoting not only disruptive business models, but also a change of culture, based on more inclusive, low carbon and circular mindsets.

“Our mission is to train future generations to be more aware about today’s challenges and creative leaders, capable of reducing the negative externalities of their businesses and even creating positive value for all their stakeholders – shareholders of course and also customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and so on,” she explains. “If we succeed at this objective, together we will change our global society.”

Our mission is to train future generations to be more aware about today’s challenges and creative leaders, capable of reducing the negative externalities of their businesses and even creating positive value for all their stakeholders.

 

Embracing the world’s new vision of the role of business

"The recent yellow vest movement demanding social justice and the students strike for climate has triggered an awareness and a sense of urgency among decision makers. We are at a turning point, where businesses are being asked not only to be more ethical and responsible, but also to provide answers to today’s major issues by being part of the solution, not the problem. The growing awareness of the unsustainable state of our world in terms of challenges like climate change, resource depletion, and rising inequalities is resulting in new perceptions of the role of business,” says Professor Faivre-Tavignot, who also explains to her students that there will be no ecological transition without taking into account the social issues.

She points to the high visibility of these issues in public discourse today. “The ‘2030 Agenda’ set by the UN General Assembly outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and highlights the role of businesses in achieving those goals,” she says. “Another example is the new law, “Loi Pacte”, defined by the French government, asking firms to take into account the social interest of the companies and proposes to the ones that wish it to define their ‘raison d’être’ and put that purpose at the heart of their governance.”

Once you understand the mounting pressures and challenges, 
continuing to do business as usual is no longer an option.

 

Lack of awareness, skepticism, and the question of financing

But not everyone is fully aware of today’s challenges or feels the same sense of urgency: “Some people genuinely believe that sustainable development and social problems are public sector issues and should remain purely the state’s responsibility. As highlighted by SDG 17, however, there is an urgent need for new partnerships and co-creation of new business models involving public actors, together with civil society and private companies.” 

Missing media.
sustainable business ©Dmitry-AdobeStock

 

There is an urgent need for new partnerships and co-creation of new business models involving public actors, together with civil society and private companies.

“To overcome skepticism and lack of awareness about the need to change, our role is to create and develop new dedicated programs or courses (electives and also compulsory courses), and also to integrate social and environmental perspectives into core courses like finance, marketing, strategy, supply chain management, and so on.”
 
Using pedagogical innovation to make change happen   

“To do so in an efficient and impactful way, we need to propose (or develop) innovative pedagogical approaches and materials such as new case studies, online programs, simulations, immersion and experiential learning, etc.,” says Professor Faivre-Tavignot.

Case studies: to explore how firms innovate and try to transform themselves, which is helpful to understanding the key success factors and complexity of these fast changes. We are currently writing a whole set of new case studies.

Online courses: to reach more students, in new and interactive, even playful ways. A school-wide compulsory course on sustainability would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but this is exactly the plan for next year’s academic session. In 2019-2020, the aim is for all HEC Paris students to complete sessions in an online course on today’s largest social and environmental challenges, and on the transformations of corporations to tackle these issues. It seems that change truly is afoot!

Simulations: similar to business games, playful simulations challenge and stimulate students to increase awareness of environmental business models. It's about learning by virtual scenario, and in a fun and competitive way. As an example, this year, HEC Professor Van Delft offers a new simulation on how to integrate environmental constraints into supply chain management to 600 students. 

On Strategy, we use the Triple Bottom Line Globstrat strategic management simulation. The learning objective of this game is that coherence is key to success and that triple (economic, social and environmental) performance is the condition for mid- and long-term competitiveness.

globstrat strategy
Globstrat, Strategy Game

 

Scaling up inclusive business with immersion and experiential learning

“To develop their creativity and ability to design truly disruptive business models, we want to help students be more connected with reality and deepen their understanding of low-income people and societal needs,” says Professor Faivre-Tavignot. “To do so we have developed several programs that include a learning by doing part with both social enterprises and multinationals.

In the Inclusive & Social Business Certificate, for example, students focus on a specific social issue, immerse themselves a few days in a social business, and then try to contribute to a specific management question. 

 “Le Carillon” is one of HEC Paris’s social business partners. It is a French solidarity network that strives to make homeless people’s everyday lives easier, in particular by lessening their isolation and providing them with material support. Students worked on how to multiply the impact of one of their initiatives, la Cloche à Biscuits, by proposing a model of itinerant sales of biscuits by homeless people.

In the Summer School on Inclusive & Social Business, students co-create disruptive business models with HEC corporate partners. Last year, participants reflected on a challenge launched by Groupe Renault, a major French car manufacturer, to increase mobility in rural areas in Africa.

S&O - MSBI - Renault
A automotive project resulting from a collaboration between students and Renault at HEC Paris

“The trend in business is to increase your social impact, while the trend in NGOs is to become more business savvy. We work with students and participants to build bridges between the two,” Professor Faivre-Tavignot explains. In addition to the immersive and experiential learning initiatives described above, the HEC Paris community connects with NGOs, philanthropic agencies, social enterprises, and traditional businesses via the organization of brainstorming sessions, internships, conferences, chairs, and other partnerships, which helps impactful initiatives to scale up – and multiplies the opportunities for truly innovative pedagogies within HEC Paris.

The trend in business is to increase your social impact, while the trend in NGOs is to become more business savvy. We work with students and participants to build bridges between the two.

 

Partnering with a top university in India 

“The international dimension of social and inclusive business is very important to us, and to the S&O’s 5 corporate partners, all members of the Movement for Social*Business Impact (MS*BI) – Danone, Schneider Electric, Renault, Sodexo, and Veolia,” notes Professor Faivre-Tavignot. “We want to connect to the emerging world’s disruptive social business approaches.” 

ashoka university HEC Yunus
HEC Paris partnering with Ashoka University and Prof. Mohammad Yunus

Hence this year’s partnership with the Ashoka University in India that received the support and collaboration of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and microcredit and microfinance pioneer. “We developed a social business initiative there: starting with an event at the French Embassy with Ashoka Univ people, Professor Yunus and more than 80 business people, to share about social and inclusive business. And the day after we moderated a 3-day program on inclusive business, with around 30 Ashoka Univ students. This class was composed both of theoretical courses and of a creative session led with Tata Steel, on how to conceive performant and inclusive business to provide access to solar cooling systems to small farmers in India.”

 

S&O - MSBI logo

 

Useful Articles: 

Movement for Social * Business Impact Donors Encourage SnO Research on More Inclusive Global Economy

Have a Cause, Make an Impact: Students Lead Change On and Off Campus

S&O Launches New Tool to Measure Social Responsibility Impact

Inaugural HEC Impact Careers Day Hits Home

“Fact Impact Planet” awarded Best Pedagogical Initiative by HEC Foundation

Based on an interview with Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot, Affiliate Professor of Strategy and Executive Director of the Society & Organizations (S&O) Center, HEC Paris.
See structure

Part 6

Posing dilemmas: an MBA ethics course incites students to question themselves and their beliefs

Five years after its launch as a core course, Ethics and Sustainability is now one of the most successful courses in the HEC MBA program. Through a lively combination of debate, discussion, game playing, and surveys, see how this course leads students to question their own beliefs, gain an understanding of other points of view, and become better decision makers in the process.

Students in MBA lounge

Every year, at the start of our course on ethics and sustainability, we face a certain amount of both cynicism and passivity from some MBA students in the classroom. How could thinking about such issues mesh with these students’ focus on business and career? Yet at a time when the environmental and social impact of business is increasingly under the microscope, and stakeholder organizations have exhibited an unparalleled ability to influence both individual businesses and whole sectors, a consideration of social and environmental issues is no less than a business necessity.

Studying topics as diverse as corporate governance, whistle blowers, fraud, complex stakeholder environments, and responsible investing, we use a variety of methods to encourage student engagement. The aim is to challenge students’ assumptions and give them analytical and interpersonal skills that will allow them to make better and more responsible decisions in their future professions.

I really enjoyed the course as it helped us to reflect on ethical and personal issues which are rarely tackled on. The course helped me a lot to reflect on career's perspectives in terms of meaningfulness and focusing on what I would like to do post MBA. - Student

Would you pay a bribe to get a contract?

To start the class on a lively footing, I pose a dilemma related to corruption: Would you pay a bribe to get a contract in the oil sector of a developing market? Often 40 % — and sometimes more — of the students say they would pay the bribe. Students must be able to argue their positions. Those students who would pay the bribe might have presumed that their attitude was the prevailing one. After the poll, they realize that some people have a differing opinion. This creates a constructive tension between the two sides, leading to a debate that is essential for a deep level of engagement in the course.

It brought to evidence the range of positions that motivate people in the business world and where their sense of responsibility lies. - Student

 

business ethics ©Sikov-AdobeStock

 

Students tell me that they often continue their discussions of class topics in their group work, in the cafeteria, and elsewhere outside the classroom. A key element to how we conduct the class, and keep the debate open and unhindered, is that the professors do not dictate any particular stance. We are there to moderate a debate among students, giving them the tools to reflect on their decisions and take a long-term view of issues. The class is not meant to transfer content but to inspire and enable questioning. We aim to raise issues that are frequently left out in business education and practice. 

Very engaging professor, with tough topics. There was no "this is right/this is wrong" discussions, but mostly debates, which is nice. I was not expecting such a good class, and loved it. - Student

ethics course ©MarekPhotoDesign.com-AdobeStock
"There was no "this is right/this is wrong" discussions, but mostly debates, which is nice"

 

Who are you?

Another key element of the course is that we ask students to examine themselves: Who are you? How do you make decisions? How is your decision-making process different from others’? We have students take the MACH IV survey, an online psychometric questionnaire that measures how Machiavellian their attitudes are. Are their decisions driven by strongly held core values or by the desire to achieve results? Among MBA students, we consistently see that the orientation towards results and expediency is higher than that of the society at large.

Students, who take the survey anonymously, can compare themselves to the class average as well. We ask them to take note of the differences and ask themselves what those differences mean. Suddenly, students become aware that others do not share their beliefs, which leads them to question their opinions and approach to decision making.

Game playing to increase stakeholder awareness

To expand on the work on self-awareness, we do class exercises, such as employing the UN Global Compact Dilemma Game, which, through a roll of the dice, assigns dilemmas in four areas related to business practice: labor, human rights, corruption, and the environment. Players must then choose their stance and make decisions based upon that choice. Others in the group emulate different stakeholders, and question decisions from the point of view of these stakeholders.

afshin mehrpouya ethics course
Professor Afshin Mehrpouya answering to questions about his course on XerfiCanal

By exchanging roles, students have the opportunity to take the role of different parties, which obliges them to see the issue from various points of view. The empathy that the game facilitates — the ability to see the world through diverse viewpoints — is an essential trait for managers today, who must operate in complex situations involving a dense web of parties affected by and/or making claims upon businesses.

Links to the real world

Finally, to bring topics firmly out of the theoretical realm, we emphasize an engagement with working professionals. Mobilizing my research contacts and professional network, I bring the people at the center of the business cases we study to speak to the class, either in person or by Skype. For example, we study Bangladesh’s leading telecommunications companies, Grameenphone, which reaches out to the country’s poorest communities through a variety of initiatives and enables economic self-sufficiency.

I found the majority of the cases we analyzed to be pertinent as practical examples of where businesses failed or struggled to meet societal expectations. - Student

During that session, we invite the company’s founder, Iqbal Quadir, to speak to the class. By examining this case, students are also introduced to a job sector that a traditional MBA course would not introduce, namely an entrepreneurial firm that has been financially quite successful but has also changed the lives of millions of people. We have had talks by directors from social enterprises, international organizations, NGOs, responsible investors, and CSR departments of large firms during different course sessions. 

I believe this has been the ethics course with the most insights I’ve had. The situations were not obvious to answer and it meant really looking into your values and impact of decisions. I enjoyed the UN game a lot; I liked that we had some cultural clashes that helped us understand better one another. – Student

ethics decision making ©hofred-AdobeStock
"The situations were not obvious to answer and it meant really looking into your values and impact of decisions"

To bring ethical questions even closer to home, I raise the situation of former students, now out in the working world. In one case, a former student encountered an ethical dilemma during a restructuring initiative at her workplace. I share with the class an anonymous interview in which she speaks about acting in a way she later regretted, and about the factors that contributed to her actions. Hearing from a former student who is suffering because of her decisions ensures a lively discussion, because students realize they could soon be in the same situation.

 

See here the interview in French of HEC professor Afshin Mehrpouya on Xerfi Canal:

 

 

Based on an interview with Afshin Mehrpouya, Associate Professor of Accounting and Management Control Systems at HEC Paris.
See structure

Part 7

Jean-Michel Gauthier: from the oil industry to the Energy Transition

Jean-Michel Gauthier began his career in the oil industry before switching to consulting. Having spent a total of 30 years in international energy, he now shares his expertise by training leaders from all sectors in energy-transition issues. Jean-Michel is affiliate professor in the finance department at HEC Paris, where he holds the Energy & Finance Chair sponsored by Société Générale.

Jean-Michel Gauthier Energy Transition

What kind of assignments did you carry out as a consultant?

I spent 15 years in consulting, helping companies with the financial impact of various energy scenarios and energy prices. The challenge was to find a balance between the different perspectives: the markets, investments and climate.

In addition, I advised major public stakeholders about their energy issues, including the French Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Defense. I also worked for the European Commission on opening up the markets to competition, and for the Japanese government on nuclear regulations.

Why is energy transition now included in corporate performance indicators and even in HEC’s academic programs?

The leaders of the World Economic Forum in Davos identified climate risk as the greatest and most far-reaching threat to the global economy for the third year in a row. That applies to all companies and all countries. Energy is the first sector to be affected, and it’s going through an unprecedented transformation, with decentralization, decarbonization and digitalization. It is the duty of managers across the board to learn about the challenges of the energy transition. 

The leaders of the World Economic Forum in Davos identified climate risk as the greatest and most far-reaching threat to the global economy for the third year in a row. That applies to all companies and all countries. It is the duty of managers across the board to learn about the challenges of the energy transition.

The consequences of this shift, which has been forced on us by climate change, are economic and financial: no company can afford to ignore climate or energy criteria in their decision-making. The impact is also geopolitical: the priority isn’t to hold mineral, oil or gas rights anymore – it’s about owning low-carbon technologies.

My courses at HEC Paris are aimed at Grande Ecole students, whether they’re considering a career in energy or not. They’re also intended for managers, junior or senior, who are taking a course as part of the executive education program or MBA with the aim of moving towards an executive career.

The priority isn’t to hold mineral, oil or gas rights anymore – it’s about owning low-carbon technologies.

HEC Paris is unique in that it follows a dual approach, with cross-functional modules, Professions (strategy, finance, etc.) and Industries (energy, aerospace, etc.) that meet learners' demands and lead to certificates. The courses are tailored to suit new professions in booming industries, and can be short (18 hours) or long (100 hours).

The project is backed by HEC’s dean, Peter Todd, and its goals are as follows: to promote HEC Paris’s excellence as a world-class management school; to showcase our expertise in sectors such as energy or luxury (or "design"); and to highlight HEC Paris’s ability to offer its own "vision" about the challenges of tomorrow, generating and sharing value, and the price mechanisms of resources.

Energy Transition ©leowolfert-AdobeStock
"No company can afford to ignore climate or energy criteria in their decision-making". Photo ©leowolfert-AdobeStock

 

What does research contribute to the professional sector?

Companies naturally do their own research: banks, for example, or insurance companies and consulting firms for their clients. But they also need input from academic research that analyzes or models market developments and tests new business models under laboratory conditions, so to speak. And that’s exactly what the energy and finance chair does, sponsored by Société Générale.

My students benefit from my operational experience as well as my contacts in the world of business. We all work on the major, internationally-recognized databases (World Bank, IMF, OPEC, IEA, etc.) with the invaluable help of the HEC library staff.

Why does the energy revolution concern everyone, and not just the energy companies?

On the energy revolution

To understand the need for solid expertise in the field of energy and climate – which has to be as solid as finance and management skills – we have to keep in mind two major transformations. Between 1990 and 2000, the natural resources markets – known as commodities (gas, electricity, etc.) – became increasingly regionalized or even globalized.

Demand from emerging countries such as China and India caused prices to skyrocket. As a result, business leaders had to protect themselves against the financial risks associated with their exposure to global markets. They also had to develop trading skills, including the much talked about derivative contracts. In short, they had to learn about the globalization of markets.

smart sustainable city ©jamesteohart-AdobeStock
"Everyone – the local council, companies small or big, or even homeowners who’ve got a roof – is becoming responsible for producing and trading energy". Photo ©jamesteohart-AdobeStock

Then a second energy revolution occurred, driven by the growing recognition of the climate problems and public policies in support of the “3 Ds”: decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization.

The energy model that has prevailed since the Second World War is based on huge production units, large-capacity power plants and long, high-voltage power lines that supply energy to big consumption centers. But the current decentralization trend is breaking up this model, giving precedence to small solar collectors on the roofs of houses, as well as storage units and local production units financed by innovative or participative ventures. This is completely reconfiguring the entire balance of the energy sector. 

Everyone is becoming responsible for producing and trading energy.

If I'm a supermarket manager, for instance, I can buy electricity from my traditional suppliers or I can go to the markets. But I can also install solar panels on the roof of my store, and even become a self-producer or sell my production surplus to my neighbors. In other words, I can become an energy company! 

Everyone – the local council, companies small or big, or even homeowners who’ve got a roof – is becoming responsible for producing and trading energy. Eventually, they’ll be able to do without the major electricity companies. The entire economy and all actors are concerned.

What’s more, digitalization is making it easier to identify everyone's energy needs in real time. It makes it possible to adjust supply more precisely and avoid unnecessary infrastructure and capacity projects, the financing of which is a heavy burden for local authorities. Smart grids are the digital networks that will be created for this purpose.

Old and new energy players

Historically, the world's largest capitalizations, or the companies at the top of the world's major stock market indexes (the Dow Jones, FT 100, CAC40, etc.), have always been oil companies, infrastructure providers for energy firms (Exxon, Shell, Total, General Electric, etc.), or banks that financed the energy sector. 

Today, the five largest global capitalizations are all digital companies: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. In the future, the main energy players may not even be energy companies but will come from the world of telecoms, IT, infrastructure management, retail or transport.

In the future, the main energy players may not even be energy companies but will come from the world of telecoms, IT, infrastructure management, retail or transport.

In parallel, energy companies will be compelled to diversify their offer to include flow management (energy, broadband, etc.), services to individuals and user-friendliness – a lifestyle, in short.

 

Jean-Michel Gauthier HEC
Jean-Michel Gauthier
Affiliate Professor

Related content on Reinventing Business Education

Benedicte Faivre-Tavignot S&O
Reinventing Business Education

Making a change: teaching sustainable and inclusive business

By Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot

Students in MBA lounge
Reinventing Business Education

Posing dilemmas: an MBA ethics course incites students to question themselves and their beliefs

By Afshin Mehrpouya

Caroline Meriaux HEC teaching
Reinventing Business Education

How digital tools can improve teaching and learning in a business school

Kristine de Valck vignette
Reinventing Business Education

How HEC trains future professors to design effective learning situations

By Kristine De Valck

Business Education Innovation In Depth - vignette
Reinventing Business Education

Reinventing Business Education

By Marc Vanhuele

salle T32 HEC
Reinventing Business Education

Promoting digital education at HEC Paris thanks to major donor Sebastien Breteau

Newsletter knowledge

A monthly brief in your email box and 3 issues of the book per year.

follow us

Insights @HECParis School of #Management

Follow Us

Support Research

Our articles are produced thanks to our reader's support