Time will tell whether history will record the Zeitgeist of our times as one of isolationism or internationalism. But one thing is certain: in today’s world, business leaders need to be comfortable collaborating across borders and cultures. Here, Professor Hervé Remaud, director of KEDGE Global Executive MBA of the KEDGE Business School outlines how the truly global ambiance of the school and its international partnerships makes an ideal training ground for executives.
Interview with Professor Hervé Remaud, Director KEDGE Global Executive MBA, KEDGE Business School
March 27, 2020
Q: Good day, Professor Hervé Remaud! We are delighted to speak with you today. First, we would like to congratulate KEDGE Business School and the KEDGE Global Executive MBA on being globally recognised as one of the best business schools and top executive MBA programmes. How do you feel about these recognitions?
I would be lying if I said that it is not a good feeling. But this is a 2019 feeling that will be challenged in 2020, and then again in 2021, although I believe we definitely are on track …
First, such recognition is that of the value of our Exec MBA alumni in their respective jobs and in the market. In the FT EMBA survey, 55 percent of the ranking is due to the alumni, who are interviewed three years after graduation.
These results are also the fruit of collaborative teamwork towards the same ambition: making the KEDGE Executive MBA programme amongst the best in the world, in terms of the personal and professional achievement for our participants. This fully illustrates the values that our school advocates and that we wish our participants to foster: values of innovation and open-mindedness to new technologies and ways of achievement; caring values to others and themselves; and sharing values, be they knowledge, best practices or skills-sharing.
The KEDGE Global Executive MBA ranked thirty- ninth in the world (fifteenth in Europe, fourth in France) in the 2019 Financial Times survey, and we are collectively proud of this result, though it does not yet totally reflect the quality and value of the EMBA to our participants. There remains room for further improvement.
Q: With ten campuses spread across three continents, KEDGE Business School is a truly international school. What do you think are the advantages of KEDGE Business School that set it apart from other business schools in Europe and globally, and what are the inimitable attributes and highlights of the KEDGE Global Executive MBA programme?
Actually, KEDGE Business School has seven permanent Campuses (four in France, two in China and one in Africa) and three associate campuses in France.
KEDGE’s campuses abroad definitely give the school an international reach in terms of faculty, students, global network and image. It also paved the way for some of the international programme partnerships, such as: the Global Executive MBA in partnership with JiaoTong University in Shanghai – China; and the recent partnership developed with Athena School of Management in Bombay, India. This international exposure and implantation overseas is related to our capacity to train executives with an international ambition and with an international background. It also enables our EMBA participants to interact both professionally and socially with participants from different cultures. Starting with the next intake, we will organise one of our core courses – Negotiation – with European- and Chinese-based cohorts all together. My objective is to motivate KEDGE cohorts to mix and network, right from the beginning of the EMBA programme. Likewise, French-based EMBA participants will visit their Chinese colleagues in 2021 for another core course in Shanghai, which is Leadership across Culture.
In the same perspective, we initiated a collaboration with two excellent universities and executive MBAs in Europe: Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany, and Bocconi SDA.
Apart from this international openness for our participants and faculty members, we are enthusiastic about the attribute of flexibility that we bring to the delivery of the programme. The KEDGE Global EMBA can be taken over a period of from 20 to 48 months. The participants set their own pace and can either accelerate or slow down, according to their professional agenda. The whole team is dedicated to facilitating the participants’ journey through the EMBA.
Another attribute of the programme that we put a lot of focus on is personal development, with guidance through individual and group coaching, as well as a mentoring programme.
We work to promote participants’ self-confidence and open-mindedness through practical business cases and multi-cultural teamwork.
Q: The KEDGE Global Executive MBA programme has a unique flexibility option that offers not only a fully transformational learning experience for the executives, but helps them to have a good work-life balance. What do you think are the particular facets of the executive education curriculum that are the most valuable tools for your participants?
We are in a business world that requires more and more adaptability from high-level professionals. At KEDGE, due to the geographical split between our campuses in France and abroad, we practise agility on a daily basis, and are in a good position to share this experience with our EMBA participants. Physical agility favours intellectual agility. As we offer schedule and geographical flexibility, there is a constant movement of participants attending the courses. Even if you are part of a specific intake, you can easily find yourself mixing with participants from earlier intakes who have delayed or anticipated courses, and happen to share yours at a point in time. This is a good way to enlarge networks and learning experience. International business seminars and international majors are also outstanding opportunities to grow both networks and the sharing of best practices. We fully understand the value of creating a cohort spirit, with some participants knowing each other very well after a few courses. But extending their networks through participation in courses delivered for previous cohorts is a real chance to get to know other EMBA participants at KEDGE.
Q: For 14 years, KEDGE has been a key player in higher-management education in China, where high quality of education is given the utmost importance. The KEDGE Global Executive MBA is also the only French MBA recognised by the Chinese government. Can you tell us more about your experience and plans for engaging with the Chinese market?
For many people, saying that you “build a relationship over the years with your partners” is somewhat of a cliché. What our Chinese friends call “guanxi” is actually important. We may be doing fantastic things, and sometimes things that are less fantastic but, in any case, we trust each other. Trust is the key to foreseeing what the future could hold. We have been building our collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University on one side, and with Renmin University on the other, with a long-term perspective in mind. Today, that positioning is rewarded with the recognition of our Global MBA by the Ministry of Education of China, and we operate (with two other French institutions) a French Chinese Institute in collaboration with Renmin University. A couple of other initiatives will be announced before the end of the year, so stay tuned …
Q: Most of the executives who have successfully completed the programme describe the KEDGE Global Executive MBA as “transformative” and “entrepreneurial”, adding that it has opened more opportunities for career growth and personal improvement. Can you share a particular student’s success story or the career paths of some of your participants?
We have quite a number of examples to share. There are some entrepreneurship successes, such as Nino Sapina, who founded Realcast in 2017 after a successful career with UbiSoft. His start-up creates innovative solutions using augmented reality, and was a finalist at the Aurea awards 2020. Our graduates also either achieved positions of higher responsibility in their companies or entered new ones. I can mention Hermann Chenal, who became Head Supply Chain Director at LIM (Leather In Motion) Group, a mid-sized company with strong expertise and “savoir-faire” in leather, saddlery and tannery. He is based today in Florida, where he reorganised the entire LIM business in the US. Nadine Gouba became Purchasing and Project Director at Amaury Group, a family press group specialising in sports, and well known in France for its newspaper (and app) L’Equipe; or Dr Maximilian Hemgesberg, who became Global Head of Business Development Coatings-Adhesives-Specialties at Covestro (Germany). On a different perspective, Pierre-Jean Laine became Head of Procurement, Vehicles & Tactical Systems BL at Thales; or Max-Ariste Metadier, who took up the position of General Manager EMEA for Mercury Marine. There are many more examples, of course, of people who developed their competencies and displayed their leadership skills, reaching the next step.
Q: KEDGE Business School houses a diverse and unique learning community and global network. What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in handling a multicultural group and addressing the varying needs of business leaders across the different industries, and how do you overcome them?
A big challenge is probably encouraging participants to be patient and open-minded with each other, especially when dealing with cultural gaps: differences in approaching business cases, or communication misunderstandings. Some participants are very sharp in the financial aspects, others in management, others have marketing and communications reflexes or international experience … but the fact is that everyone is bringing something different to the group, and there is always a period of adaption going on. A second challenge is to have them sharing these experiences and for everyone to assimilate and build on this knowledge. In the KEDGE Global Executive MBA programme, our aim is to refresh and update hard skills, but are very keen, too, on developing soft skills. This will ensure that participants are agile and adaptable, and able to cross-fertilise. We mix groups culturally, and forbid any use of languages other than English. The Negotiation course with Chinese and European participants is a big success in this regard.
Q: How do you make sure that the participants and their organisations will gain the highest return on their investment in terms of knowledge acquisition, career advancement, long-term profitability for the business, and other measures of ROI for executive education?
This is a good point and let us be clear on this. KEDGE assures its EMBA participants of high-quality content and cutting-edge faculty members (all with doctoral degrees and work experience, or close to the business), offers optimal learning conditions, maximises exchanges, listens to participants’ proposals, provides opportunities to meet in France and abroad, and offers individual and group coaching. But in the end, an Executive MBA is what you make it through your personal involvement, work, posture development, open-mindedness, and your will to network.
ROI is measured not only in terms of salary increase (as demonstrated in the FT ranking), but also in terms of soft-skills development. Our last graduate survey (June 2019) shows that 84 percent of graduates developed their self-confidence, 88 percent felt an impact on their professional evolution within two years after completion of the EMBA (66 percent within a year), 80 percent developed their personal performance, and 75 percent their leadership. We’re rather proud of the fact that 97 percent of our graduates would recommend the KEDGE Global Executive MBA to people looking for an EMBA.
Q: Today’s leaders need to adapt and respond quickly against the digital disruptors to generate new value for customers and to manage their workforce better. How does the KEDGE Global Executive MBA programme help companies and leaders achieve their goals of creating a high-performing workforce in these fast-changing times?
To put it briefly, the KEDGE EMBA is not about making sure they become experts in blockchain, IoT, big data or Industry 4.0, etc. My job is to make sure that they understand what it’s all about, and how this can disrupt the business model of the company they work with or manage. I want to make sure that, with all the seminars and experience they gain from the EMBA, they can connect the dots between all pieces of information and assemble them as a result of their EMBA journey. Then, they can make sure to recruit, bring aboard and work with the real “technical” experts in these domains, to help them implement the strategy they come up with. It would be fantastic for many of them to be expert in everything, but somewhat impossible. However, we can help them to understand the big picture, and give them the knowledge and tools to catch the opportunities that our fast-changing environment generates.
Q: You are also known for your research expertise on the interface between consumer behaviour, marketing research and integrated marketing. How does this help you in developing the KEDGE Global Executive MBA programme into a stronger international brand?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to discuss the research expertise I have developed during these last 15 years. I spent five years at the University of South Australia, working at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, where empirical generalisation is the way of producing knowledge. As part of that, I analysed the real purchase behaviour of people buying wine and spirits. Although you may think this industry is far from an EMBA type of business, in fact it’s not. Part of my job is to make sure that the KEDGE EMBA brand is easy for candidates to “buy” and easy to think of when they look for an EMBA. In brief, along with various marketing and academic contents, I try to maximise the physical and mental availability of the KEDGE EMBA brand in the international EMBA market. Being well ranked by the FT is one such content, but just one of many.
Q: As the director of KEDGE Global Executive MBA, what excites you most or what do you eagerly anticipate in terms of the programme’s present and future endeavours and partnerships with elite schools?
We look forward to welcoming more high-level foreign candidates to our programme and, to this end, I anticipate quite a few international exchanges in the context of our partnerships, which is very exciting. International partnerships are on the corner and the next few months will see the first intake of our Indian participants in Bombay, in partnership with Athena School of Management.
An exciting partnership is currently building in the form of an alliance with Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and Bocconi SDA. I do believe in a coopetition world. But to develop efficiently, I believe that we need to partner with institutions that share similar values and similar challenges. In that perspective, alliances are a chance to have three brains and wills building the future development of our respective programmes, instead of just one.
Q: Based on your experience working with senior leaders and executives from different industries, what advice would you give to aspiring leaders and seasoned managers in terms of building a successful career? What do you think are the essential qualities a 21st-century leader must have? Can you give any examples of leaders whom you consider to be inspiring?
You may be disappointed, but I don’t have in mind any leaders who are really inspiring, not because they don’t exist, but mostly because I don’t try to imitate or get into the shoes of someone who might be perceived as a successful leader. On top of that, a successful career is very personal. Long story short, I enjoy my job today because it gives me an equal opportunity to learn and a deliver knowledge… If I really have to give you a leader persona, it would be someone who accepts risk when building and developing a business.
The essential qualities of a leader today, to answer your question, would include understanding the big picture of the business environment you evolve in, anticipating and implementing the changes in your organisation that are required to survive tomorrow, demonstrate empathy for others and for society at large.
Managing people is a different story… somewhat of a daily learning process and experience! You can be a good leader and a poor manager, and vice versa. We tend to focus a lot on managers, but having good people to work with is also important in that relationship and exercise.
Q: Lastly, can you share with us what success means to you?
As the director of the Executive MBA, success means having the chance to congratulate EMBA participants onstage during their graduation ceremony – not because of the piece of paper with “MBA” written on it, but because of the transformational journey that they achieved. In that perspective, I would make mine this quote from Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” The KEDGE EMBA promotes values of innovation, sharing, diversity; it encourages participants to take risks. These values bring them out of their comfort zone, enable them to fail, and try again. This is what will make participants successful.
Thank you very much Professor Hervé. It’s a pleasure speaking with you.
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