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EDHEC’s “Creativity Seminar” celebrates its 10th anniversary

For the past 10 years, Professor Isabelle Sequeira, Deputy Head of Management & Humanities, and Director of the MSc in Creative Business and Social Innovation, and Professor Peter Daly, Professor of Management and Director of the MSc in Management & Leadership have been organizing a creativity seminar with Bachelor and Master students. A look back at a decade full of projects

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4 Jul 2024
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EDHEC’s “Creativity Seminar” celebrates its 10th anniversary

Why is it important to teach creativity to future managers?

 

Isabelle Sequeira: Creativity is an essential 21st century competence for business managers and leaders. Indeed, it is constantly cited as a key future skill (1) and figures within the top 10 in-demand, future workplace skills for 2024 (2). A recent Deloitte report (3) outlines that creativity, done the right way, can be a force for growth: “Creativity can go well beyond brand communications and advertisements, using innovative thinking to shape how systems are designed, challenges are converted into opportunities, employees collaborate, and organizations engage with customers and other stakeholders.”

 

Peter Daly: Indeed! Another report by Deloitte (4) shows a decline in creative skills in leaders that could mean stagnation at a time when rapidly growing and protean markets require transformative new solutions. At EDHEC, we believe that creativity is an invaluable skill that all students will need in their future workplace whatever their specialization or profession.

That is why since 2004, we have integrated creativity into the curriculum, initially as part of the orientation week in the Pre-Master programme working with the Louvre Museum or with french personalities such as the philosopher Edgar Morin, and since 2014 as a core module with bachelor and master students. The creativity seminar employs a unique creative methodology working on a real corporate strategic issue within a live case study. Students not only work on a corporate strategic issue but acquire a creativity methodology that they can operationalize in the future projects and internships.

 

How does the seminar work?

 

Peter Daly: The creativity seminar is an 18-hour programme over two and a half days. The objectives of this seminar are to familiarize the students with the phases of creativity and the creativity methodology; to offer them a creative toolbox they can operationalize in future corporate projects; and to provide strategic recommendations to a real-life issue faced by the CEO. The students must produce numerous deliverables: a 10-minute pitch with the key strategic recommendations, followed by 5-minutes for a Q&A session; an action plan and timeline to implement the proposed solution, an advertisement/poster and a 2-minute video to present the solution visually.

 

Isabelle Sequeira: The seminar is designed into three phases using Design Thinking:

1) Appropriation and information-seeking phase – to frame the strategic issue and understand creativity as a concept, its usefulness in business. This is enacted using creativity exercises to spark creative thinking.

2) Divergence - to enable students to come up with creative solutions using brainstorming techniques.

3) Convergence – exercises to formalize the recommendations and produce the deliverables for the company.

The beauty of the seminar is that students go away with a creativity methodology that they can use in creativity workshops in other student projects and in creativity workshops in companies. The seminar is designed using two pedagogical methods: the live-case study and CEO intervention model. This experiential learning approach asks students to work on a real strategic issue the company is facing (the live case study) whereby the CEO presents a strategic issue “a problem from his desk” to the student (CEO intervention method).

 

What real-life organisations have your students analysed?

 

Isabelle Sequeira: Over the past 10 years, we have worked with 10 companies/organisations: AMF (Association de Maires de France – Association of French Mayors) (2014); Thierry Marx, the French chef (2015); the New York Times (2016); the Perfume manufacturer Galimard (2017); Clowns de l’Espoir, a clown association for children in hospital (2018) Emilie and the Cool Kids coffee shop (2019); Voyageurs du Monde (2020); ANDRH - Association of HR Professionals in France (2021), Haut et Court, a cinema production company (2022) and Orange (2023).

 

Peter Daly: For the CEO intervention method to work, some key principles need to be aligned:

1) the live case study needs to be a real strategic challenge that the company is facing and for which s/he is looking for a solution;

2) the person who intervenes needs to be a high-ranking member of the management team with the power to evaluate and implement the solutions presented by the students;

3) the intervention is integrated within an overall pedagogical framework that builds on prior knowledge in other disciplines; and

4) the intervention should create value for the company and for the students.

For more information on the 2017 seminar, we invite you to consult our chapter ‘Digital Transformation at The New York Times: The Usefulness of the Live Case Intervention Method’ (Daly & Sequeira, 2018) cited in further reading below.

 

What types of creative projects have students worked on?

 

Isabelle Sequeira: Creativity fosters decision-making on current and future-oriented issues. This is testified by the types of problems given to students by companies, all of which relate to the strategic dimension of the company.

For example, in 2016, the International Senior Vice President of the New York Times contacted EDHEC to see if students could help guide their reflection on strategy to ensure greater digital reach and audience engagement among 20 – 30-year olds. The specific questions they asked were: How to simplify subscriptions to reach a younger audience? How to optimise content for this generation? How to extend international reach?

In 2017, Galimard, the perfume manufacturer based in Grasse, approached EDHEC so that students could consider how to communicate on the 170th anniversary of their fragrance. Their ultimate strategic aim was to regain market share from Fragonard and Molinard and hence, involved their brand strategy.

In 2022, Haut et Court, the cinema production company wanted advice on their CSR strategy when filming and producing and asked the following question: How can production and distribution companies develop their projects in a sustainable and ethical manner and not compromise their artistic freedom?

 

Peter Daly: One of our mottos is “constraints provoke creativity”, and this was clearly evidenced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when we went online to run the seminar.

In 2020, we worked with Voyageurs du Monde, a travel agency, who was heavily hit by the pandemic, and who wanted students to reflect on the following question: Which creative actions and innovative services can Voyageurs du Monde implement to envisage travel post-Covid?

The following year, 2021, we were solicited by ANDRH (Association de Directeurs de Ressources Humaines – Association of HR Directors) to reflect on going back to work and what work life post-pandemic would look like. They asked students to consider the following question: After several months of remote work imposed by the health crisis, what will the workplace of the future look like? How can we make employees want to return to the office? How can we rebuild the link between the company and its collaborators? This question was at the core of what meaning we attach to work, the purpose and sense of working and where we should work.

The 2020 and 2021 editions of the seminar were awash with constraints, for us as academics on how to teach a creativity seminar online, but also the constraints faced by companies that they wanted students to reflect on.

 

What was most recent creativity seminar about?

 

Peter Daly: In 2023 and early 2024, we worked with Orange to address the following question: How can Orange accompany their collaborators to become responsible actors to encourage the purchase of reconditioned smartphones? This question enabled students to work on a product that they know well, to become acquainted with the smartphone sector, and to better understand the sustainability issues concerning reconditioned phones. We were happy to have store managers as part of the final jury to assess the creative ideas and recommendations. Students focused on creative and strategic ideas that went from internal communication and training programmes, organizing a Green Week to raise awareness on sustainability issues, and designing a green corner in Orange stores to attract consumer attention and hence, train store managers and staff. Orange were delighted with the student creativity, their capacity to innovate and their mastery of the industry in such a short time.

 

What is the feedback from students and companies?

 

Isabelle Sequeira: The students appreciate the applied, novel and relevant nature of the pedagogy employed, which enables them to acquire key soft skills all the while working with a real company on a strategic issue. They find the seminar professionally relevant and list several soft skills acquired over the two and a half days: creativity and innovation, critical thinking, presentation skills, time management given the constraint of a two-day seminar, stress management, and project management. The students feel challenged and are motivated by the real nature of the assignment and they enjoyed the structured creative framework with “specific stages within the seminar to construct the case response bit by bit with creative activities at each stage” (Student comment).

 

Peter Daly: The corporate partners are extremely positive about how quickly the students appropriate the strategic issue, the quality of the deliverables and the enthusiasm and motivation of the students when pitching their ideas in the final jury. The student output provides food for thought for companies and they are often looking for a fresh vision of the strategic issues they are facing: “the project gave us key insights into the motivations of young consumers, and it will enable us to try out their ideas” (company comment).

 

References

(1) Boyles, M. (2022) The importance of creativity in business. Harvard Business School Online: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/importance-of-creativity-in-business

(2) Coursera (2024) 7 Power Skills That Are in Demand in 2024 and How You Can Help Your Employees Develop Them - https://www.coursera.org/enterprise/articles/power-skills-in-demand-2024

Blue Lynx Employment BV. The Future of Work: Top 10 In-Demand Skills for 2024 - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-work-top-10-in-demand-skills-2024-bluelynx-sw51f/

(3) Singer, M. & McCallum, R. (2023) Creativity as a force for growth. Deloitte Report: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/marketing-and-sales-operations/global-marketing-trends/2023/creativity-to-solve-marketing-challenges.html

(4) Deloitte (2022) Filling the creativity gap: Solving modern business problems requires creativity at all levels: https://www.deloittedigital.com/us/en/insights/research/creativity-gap.html 

(5) Daly, P. & Sequeira, I. (2018) Digital Transformation at The New York Times: The Usefulness of the Live Case Intervention Method. In J.J. Turner, & G. Mulholland, (Eds.) International Enterprise Education: Perspectives on Theory and Practice. (pp. 129 – 144) London, UK:  Routledge. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781315518213-7/digital-transformation-new-york-times-peter-daly-isabelle-sequeira

 

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