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HEC Paris Is Tackling The Big Questions Around Digital Innovation

Digital Innovation specialization arms MBA students with a mentality they can use for life, says Jean-Rémi Gratadour, executive director of the HEC Paris Digital Center

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Thu Jan 10 2019

BusinessBecause
“Everyone is talking about innovation,” starts Jean-Rémi Gratadour, executive director of the HEC Paris Digital Center. “But the question is how you bring this innovation into [existing] organizations.”

That’s one of the biggest challenges facing leadership in the digital age, he thinks, and one that HEC Paris aims to tackle through its new MBA specialization in Digital Innovation.  

Organizations need innovation today, says Jean-Rémi, and it’s his job to ensure outgoing MBA students from HEC Paris can organize their teams effectively to implement digital strategy wherever they go.

“I joined the HEC Paris MBA with the goal of becoming a strategy consultant in Europe,” says Nikhil Deshpande, part of the MBA class of 2019.

“After speaking with consultants across countries, I realized that a critical issue affecting organizations today is the advent of digital. I wanted to supplement my profile with the requisite skills in the digital space. This is why I chose the Digital Innovation Specialization.”

The Digital Innovation specialization is one of seven MBA specializations the school offers—the others are in Sustainable & Disruptive Innovation, Advanced Management, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Marketing, and Strategy.


Real-time business projects

The first part of the specialization focuses on managing digital innovation in a B2C service; the second on managing transformation within large companies in the industrial sector.

In the first phase, students are split into groups of four or five, and work for two to three weeks on a real-time business challenge set by the executive of a partnering company.

This year, says Jean-Rémi, students worked with Japanese e-commerce company, Rakuten. Their goal was to help imagine new services that would augment the company’s B2C offering, and help it compete more in the global market.

After working with their teams for up to three weeks, each group then faces the final jury, where executives from the company grade them on their proposition.

“This year, the three best projects were direct projects the company were already working on,” says Jean-Rémi. “They are very interested in the approach of the students, bringing value to something they are already working on.”

Digital Transformation participant, Liviu Teodorescu, also part of the MBA class of 19 at HEC Paris, says he chose the program because it is very hands-on. “Working with large global companies showed real-world pain points and challenges across industries, allowing us to work together to provide realistic solutions,” he explains.

The second part of the HEC Paris MBA Digital Innovation specialization teaches students about dealing with consulting within digital transformation. There is the same approach, and students again work with corporate partners on real-time projects.

All of this translates into the best approach for teaching MBAs in the digital age.

“When you are learning about technology, in two to three years everything is out of date and you have to go back to school and learn again,” says Jean-Rémi. “We focus on how to improve their ability to work together to solve problems, and how to share different skills to find a solution.

“The fact is, when you are teaching people this way you are teaching them how to use fundamental skills and improve these skills to create solutions.

“It’s an approach the students like very much, because it makes them creative and innovative, and it brings value to the company as they can present their work directly.”


World's largest startup campus

It’s not all about corporate companies on the specialization either. Students visit Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus backed by French businessman, Xavier Niel, and also the location of the HEC Paris startup incubator.

They visit the campus while students are working on creating their innovative service. Jean-Rémi explains that it helps to immerse them in an environment where creativity and innovation seep out of every pore.

HEC Paris has 75 startups in Station F. On their visit, students meet the founders of two startups who are around two years into development.

“We created this interaction because [executives] are able to teach the students about their company. After that, they ask them to make a proposition to help the startups improve their ideas,” says Jean-Rémi.

“We try to get the students to understand the process they’re going through.”

The whole specialization educates HEC Paris MBA students on the processes necessary for successful innovation implementation into a company today. The answer, then, to the question posed by Jean-Rémi at the start.

“We think when they understand the theme, they can reintroduce it whenever they need to in everyday life,” he asserts.

“If they want to find a solution to a business issue, or create a service or their own startup, or if they need to be innovative inside a company, they will know how to reproduce this innovation.”


Innovation for life 

The mentality aims to serve HEC Paris MBAs for their entire careers. But, although he launched the specialization with this approach in mind, Jean-Rémi says that he has been pleasantly surprised with what he has learned from the students.

Something he says he didn’t have in mind when they launched was the direct consequence the diversity of the HEC Paris MBA cohort would have on the specialization—the current cohort consists of 92% international students.

“We work in a western country and have a common vision of digital processes. When students come from all over the world you have to keep in mind that their vision of innovation and digital is linked to their cultural background,” he explains.

“It’s not just about knowledge, but about the ability to create linked to your cultural background. What came out was very impressive, sometimes really astonishing.”

Student Reviews

HEC Paris

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.