Executive Education Manifesto | École des Ponts Business School

Our Executive Education Manifesto

Business School Unusual or the Future of Business Schools?

By Martin Calnan, Dir. of Executive Education, and Alon Rozen, Dean, École des Ponts Business School

In a world that prefers big schools with clear-cut answers, we have a confession to make: we are an unconventional business school that prefers staying small and asking the right questions. Besides making us unusual in the increasingly-saturated business school landscape, this philosophy is the cornerstone of how we approach most everything we do.

We believe that small size, a question-oriented mindset, and an unconventional approach are the three essential pillars on which to build the edifice of a very different approach to the Future of Executive Education as we see it…

The agility of the small, the open-mindedness of the inquisitive, and the daring to take untrodden paths to excellence are necessary:

  • IF we are to help Executives successfully create innovative cultures in change-resistant corporations;
  • IF we are to accompany Executives in exploring new ways of doing things, rather than resorting to the supposed safety of the “tried and true and a little bit new”;
  • IF we are to inspire executives to transform themselves in order to transform their companies;
  • IF we hope to introduce the “What-if?” mindset necessary to successfully navigate a VUCA world.

Our size gives us the privilege of staying agile. Our unique ecosystem – customers, partners, faculty, researchers, labs, creative thinkers, designers, alumni, and experts – allows us to ask the right questions of the right people. And our unconventional approach ensures that we co-design “training programs” with our customers that not only feel fresh and different, but that make a difference.

Given the rate of change and increasing complexity in today’s business environment, best-practices, buzzwords, and recent management trends no longer cut it. Successfully addressing the challenges of tomorrow, today, requires starting with an empty page, an open mind, and the ability to bridge the gap between advanced science & technology and global business & management.

Luckily, we are uniquely suited to do this as the business school of École des Ponts ParisTech – one of the oldest engineering schools in the world, and a founding member of the ParisTech consortium of Paris-based Grandes École network. As such, part of our DNA is precisely to bridge science, research, business, management, and innovation.

So, what does all this mean in terms of Executive Education?

First of all, you’ll find no catalog of our programs. In fact, we’ll usually show up empty-handed to our first meeting. Just a pad of paper, a sharpened pencil, an interest in dialog, and a lot of questions. Then we’ll go off and do what we do best: something we call the “deep dive”.

Each deep dive is different and takes multiple forms – an exploratory audit, a review of relevant business and academic literature, a study of related technologies and start-ups, discussions with a wide range of experts, including labs and researchers, etc. Only once we are sure we have a deep enough understanding and that we are asking the right questions, do we co-design the specifics of a program with and for our participants and/or their management.

The prism of research, expert, industry, start-up, and business perspectives, augmented by relevant technical expertise and our proprietary co-design process allows us to create programs that are not only unique, but also uniquely able to catalyze long-lasting impact in people and their organizations.

Recent examples include creating an executive series on the impact of Big Data on the broadcasting industry; rethinking the in-house manager development of an international transport operator for future managers of large-scale operations; designing an agile-based C-suite and Board training program for a new aerospace organization; co-developing a complete regional ecosystem (industrial cluster and university) makeover to boost export capabilities; and training a digital consulting agency on how to achieve flow in their teamwork.

Sometimes this requires involving horses, martial art experts, hypnotists, storytelling consultants, script doctors, movie directors, chocolate chefs… whatever is needed to help our participants, learn, inspire, transform and achieve.

The examples are endless and the variations countless, but the philosophy and underlying conviction remain the same. In a world of flux, the future of business and the Future of Business Schools are being written in real-time. Solving the problems of tomorrow with the answers of today seems futile. We believe that leveraging the questions of today to help our executive participants survive and thrive in tomorrow’s reality is the better option.

Furthermore, we are convinced that all change begins at the personal level – whether we are talking about transforming an organization and its culture, a team, or an individual. And if personal development is the key, then the real challenge in Executive Education is not how to transmit the hard skills, but rather how to be an effective facilitator of personal transformation. The first step on the path to organizational change.

Creating Executive Education that makes an immediate and lasting impact motivates us to offer unforgettable experiences – journeys of personal learning, growth and development – that we (not-so-secretly) hope will change participants in all areas of their lives.

Brands speak of customer engagement and user experience. Well, at the core of our programs lies shared engagement and experience. And our participants can’t seem to get enough of it! Unusual? We don’t think so…

Can we co-design the right program to future-proof your organization?

We invite you to meet Martin Calnan, our Director of Executive Education
  • What are the key challenges of your people and your organization?
  • What is really worth knowing in a fast-changing environment?
  • How can the latest research and global best practices inspire your talent pool?
  • How can we design the experience that will really transform mindsets and behaviors?