Finding your purpose by committing to major world challenges
At a time when young business school graduates are expressing a lack of purpose and a growing concern for the world’s major challenges, an increasing number of them aspire to combine professional success with being useful to the planet and society. HEC Paris has responded to this call by introducing, over the years, modules and events dealing with these issues. One notable recent achievement is the creation of the « Parcours Engagement ».
This compulsory path, which runs throughout the first year, is primarily designed to help students question their own role. It seeks to nurture their personal reflection on commitment to society, the meaning of work, and the role and responsibility of organizations. It consists of four complementary modules - the 'Raison d'être et Soutenabilité' seminar, a civic engagement, a course on global issues, and a field placement - punctuated by presentations and a final assignment. A particularly rich and varied path, offering inspirational modules, impactful field experiences, personal and collective reflection, and the discovery of little-known realities and sectors. The 'Raison d'être et Soutenabilité' seminar, which includes an expedition to Chamonix and lectures on campus, is an unforgettable introduction for students.
Focus on the 'Purpose and Leadership’ roundtable
This year again, after the now traditional seminar in Chamonix, first-year (L3) students continued to focus on this theme with a roundtable discussion on "Purpose and Leadership", organized as part of the "Parcours Engagement" of the HEC Paris' Grande École program.
The primary aim of this round table is to encourage students to reflect on their own definition of success, and how they can get involved in the major challenges of our time. The guests, Laurène Tallon (H.13), Geneviève Ferone Creuzet and Hubert de Boisredon (H.86), answered questions from Romain Briat, Executive Director of the Purpose Center at HEC Paris, and the audience. The three speakers agreed to share authentic testimonials of their quest for balance between professional success and commitment to broader values - acknowledging their doubts and difficulties along the way.
What aspects of your personality can you develop to be useful to the world?
This was the underlying question of the ‘Purpose and Leadership' roundtable, as it was aimed at introducing new students to leading figures from the world of business who have successfully aligned their career with their deeply-held convictions and the pursuit of positive impact…
This revolves around self-awareness - knowing who you are in order to know the role you want to play - as well as questioning the concept of success. For each of us, it's a matter of being clear about our own definition of success. For HEC Paris students, success begins with the preparatory classes, then the competitive entrance exam and their training. However, it inevitably evolves into a reflection on the meaning of their professional life and how to harmonize success with their own aspirations, convictions and talents.
Feedback that stimulates self-reflection and freedom
The testimonials prompted students to question the coherence between who they are and what they do. Each response to these questions is a personal challenge but also an opportunity to contribute positively to a constantly evolving world. The trajectories mentioned by the speakers reminded students that aligning success with positive impact on society and the planet is challenging but possible.
Craving your own path
"It's quite exciting to think that yes, there are a lot of problems, but there are also many solutions to find" Laurène Tallon
The planet, or rather its protection, has always been a priority for Laurène Tallon (Class of 2013). Deputy General Manager of Gobi, a 100% French eco-design company, Laurène illustrated during the discussion how Gobi promotes the transition from disposable to reusable. The company designs reusable items such as water bottles, cutlery kits, and lunch boxes, distributed by companies and local authorities. Lorène conveyed her passion for reusable water bottles to the students: “Today, many of you use a water bottle. This shows that it’s possible to change habits, and uses. It's quite exciting to think that yes, there are a lot of problems, but there are also many solutions to find."
Laurène also shared a message encouraging students to chart their own path by seeking to understand what interests them in the deepest sense. “When I was in your shoes, I thought the royal path was finance, consulting, or marketing.' Today, her graduate classmates include a Vendée Globe sailor, social entrepreneurs, finance professionals, and graduates from the National School of Administration (ENA)... And she continued, “You're going to graduate from HEC Paris, you’ll always have this freedom of choice, and that's an incredible luxury!”
"It's not a question of society, it's a question of civilization" Geneviève Ferone Creuzet
Geneviève Ferone Creuzet, co-director of Prophil and a pioneer in social and environmental ratings, shed light on the importance of imposing a new approach to corporate ratings based on ESG data, reflecting the social responsibility of companies. Geneviève emphasizes that students are facing a paradigm shift: they must move from the pursuit of growth at any cost, as if resources were limitless, to a new approach based on building growth from limited resources.
This raises questions about corporate profitability and the need to reinvent what value means today. Geneviève warns: "You're going to experience a new value narrative, which means giving value to social and environmental issues, without locking them into a monetization that will dry them up." Finally, in the face of the monumental nature of the stakes, which can seem daunting and agonizing, Geneviève bounced back with a fundamental question: How can we be fair in an unfair world, where the challenges seem increasingly vast and complex? The answer proposed by Plato is simple, she explained: "It makes us happy and keeps us going."
"Do not follow the traditional path" Hubert de Boisredon, CEO of Armor
After a committed professional career that involved developing a micro-credit bank in Latin America, Hubert de Boisredon capitalized on his experiences to buy the Armor group, a specialist in printing technologies. Hubert transformed the group so that the original technology of this long-established industrial company could be harnessed to meet the challenges facing society. This 1986 graduate stressed the importance of not simply following the traditional path of the ‘successful HEC Paris graduates’ by automatically opting for major corporations. Instead, he encouraged students to ask themselves how to develop skills that make a difference to the world, while remaining true to their core values.
Adopting a trust-based management approach, Hubert de Boisredon also reminded that the role of a leader has four aspects: defining the company's strategy in collaboration with teams, mobilizing all stakeholders around this vision, delegating by questioning whether someone else could better accomplish a task, and finally, making decisions. According to him, a leader is more of a process facilitator than a mere executor.
In conclusion, the 'Purpose and Leadership’ roundtable highlighted the challenges that HEC Paris students are and will be facing, while offering inspiring perspectives on how to harmonize their professional success with their deep-rooted convictions and values. It was a compelling call for reflection on the changing nature of success and the need to contribute to a better world.
Watch the entire roundtable here (video in French):