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EMLYON Professor Says Innovation Happens When Cultures Meet

Each year Professor Evalde Mutabazi organizes a Francophone conference on diversity in European and North American business

By  Maria Ahmed

Mon Nov 29 2010

We caught up with EMLYON’s Evalde Mutabazi, a native of Rwanda and Professor of Company Sociology and Intercultural Management, just before the 23rd Jacques Cartier diversity conference in Lyon last week.

The conference, attended by academics and managers, is one of the French-speaking world’s leading discussions on diversity issues in the workplace.

Tell us about the Diversity Conference. What is its goal?
The conference on “managing diversity in intercultural management” is part of the Jacques Cartier talks. These talks, that were started in 1987 and take place in the Rhônes-Alpes area - Lyon, Grenoble and St Etienne - and once every four years in Canada (Québec), are aimed at encouraging meetings and exchanges between the European and North American business worlds.

This year, these talks have taken the form of more than 20 conferences focusing on a range of topics, including social problems and the economy.

All told, about 450 conferences have brought together nearly 50,000 participants and 15,000 speakers (including 6,000 foreigners) in Lyon, Rhônes-Alpes and Québec.

Every year, nearly 4,500 people from Québec converge for a week on Lyon which is building a reputation as a capital of interactive knowledge.

What classes do you teach? How long have you been with EMLYON?
I am originally from Rwanda and have been living in Europe for nearly 30 years where, for 20 years, I have been a full-time professor at EMLYON. I teach company sociology and intercultural management in all the EMLYON program: in the diploma programs as well as in executive education.

My teaching uses research and publications in the areas of Cross-cultural Management and Change Management following international mergers & acquisitions.

What is your role in the conference?
I am the organizer and overall coordinator of the conference and am a member of the scientific Committee that has helped define the key issues. I also ensure the value of the conference results by distributing the best papers presented by the speakers.

Is this conference open just to students and faculty of EMLYON or to the public? How do people get involved?
Our conference is open to various groups: academic experts including researchers and professors from universities and business schools, professionals such as chief executives and human resources directors and consultants, as well as to students and colleagues from EMLYON and the engineering school l’Ecole Centrale de Lyon.

Why did you originally get involved in this project?
As my special area of research is intercultural and international management of Human Resources, I have put a lot into this conference because for me, it represents the realization of the main ideas that I have been developing such as dialogue, recognition and mutual enrichment between individuals and organisations from different cultures.

I see the meeting between different cultures as a powerful lever for innovation and progress.

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