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What Would a Digital Business School Look Like?

A Digital Beehive to help Managers get to the Heart of Problems in Business

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François FOURCADE
Doctor in Management Science Assistant Professor

When given the instruction “Tell me about a problematic situation”, it is striking to note how often managers find themselves totally destabilised, reacting by simply reproducing, say, a Powerpoint document from a recent strategic meeting. Most managers are unable to be the authors of their managerial selves and find it hard to approach a situation correctly, i.e. to recognise its intrinsic meaning. It is certainly difficult to be fully aware of what makes our experiences significant to us and to express our inner thoughts: natural reserve means that inner voice is often never revealed.

In response to this fundamental problem, ESCP Europe Business School is creating an innovative digital platform to help its ever-growing community of alumni, most of whom are in challenging management positions, by giving them a new channel in which to discuss fictional versions of problematic situations encountered in everyday life.

This digital platform will be inspired by the beehive society, wherein anyone can upload content to and download content from multiple cells. The knowledge base created will be linked in a lattice structure, creating echoes from each individual experience.

Moments of Reflection within Knowledge Cooperatives

The aim is to help alumni, wherever they may be located in the world, to discuss case studies in real time within small, ad-hoc groups. These ‘knowledge cooperatives’ will complement both the traditional (in class) and newly-launched online business education programmes. The moments of reflection offered will allow managers to step back from everyday issues and develop a broader vision of the global business environment.

ESCP Europe hopes that this type of digital platform will provide a welcoming and safe space for people to share their vulnerabilities as managers, not least because it establishes distance between physical bodies, and can even provide protection via anonymity.

In addition, the fictional element of the cases can be highly effective as it gives access to a form of augmented reality. Thus, the emphasis on a particular detail or character may highlight points of tension that could have remained hidden in classic ‘reporting’.

Facilitated by Business School Faculty and Research

In keeping with ESCP Europe’s research-action approach, we, as professor-researchers will support the personal interactions within the discussion groups, monitoring the cells of the hive regularly. The idea will be to feed debate by providing research articles highlighting specific problems in order to stimulate exchange and deconstruct preconceived ideas.

My colleague Marlis Krichewsky and I are accustomed to using two concepts to describe how research can enrich experience: Sensitive Concepts* that enable one to open up to the world through emotion; and Threshold Concepts which analyse the gap that can exist between what is perceived and what is experienced from different viewpoints.

The new digital platform will aim to mix the two successfully: to help managers to express themselves to others and to increase their self-awareness. We look forward to sharing this ESCP Europe innovation with you!

* Glaser and Strauss

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