Frank Bostyn: We want to educate the manager of the future

Posted: October 24, 2013 by jennroig in English, Interviews
Tags: , , ,

This is the unedited, original English version of my interview to Frank Bostyn, Deat at the brand new Business School in France, Neoma Business School, resulting from the merge between the prestigious Rouen Business School and Reims Management School. The Spanish version was published by AmericaEconomia on September 30th, 2013.

Frank Bostyn, Dean at Neoma Business School

Frank Bostyn, Dean at Neoma Business School

It was recently announced the official new brand name of the newest business school in France, which will be known as NEOMA Business School. Its declared goal is to position among the best ranked European schools offering business education, and also to become a reference for the private sector. Neoma will open its doors with more than 800 students, 200 professors and more than 40 thousand graduates, joining the alumni associations from the original schools: Reims School of Management and Roeun Business School.

Frank Bostyn, dean at Neoma, shares his views about some future projects and current challanges.

Reims Management School and Rouen Business School were both considered successful business schools. What was the main reason inspiring the fusion?

The recognition that the school need, the international visibility that needs to be competitive.

The problem with this environment is that it’s changing fundamentally. B-Schools in Europe and all around the world want to really be relevant and have visibility beyond their borders, they need a certain size. So the main driver behind the merger is the recognition that schools in order to continue their success story, they need a bigger scale because they need more international visibility. That’s why they merged.

New logo of Neoma B-School

New logo of Neoma B-School

As well, both schools had well established brands within the business education universe, what elements were taken into account when deciding for a brand new name and logo? What are the foreseen challenges and opportunities?

Of course, if you have a merger between equals, you’ll have to do it with another name.The way we proceeded and the way we are reflected on the new name was as follow.

First, we clearly set a strategy, a mission and an ambition, and we knew that the new logo and name should be in line with this strategic position. There is an alignment between the new logo, the new name and the strategic position of the school. With a clear mission statement, we defined certain criteria. These criteria were the ultimate elements to select a new name.

We involved our alumni –both schools had alumni associations so we invited those associations to delegate people to a task force to participate in the selection of the name. We did that because the main interest of the alumni in the schools is that schools keep their reputation. If the reputation of a school is having an impact on the quality, the value of their diploma or degree can be affected. So they are in fact main stakeholders of the school who are very focused on its reputation. As the brand name is something that helps to express this reputation, they turned out to be excellent partners in helping to select the name.

We also worked with a professional agency, but final decisions were made by the task force who presented a selected number of proposals to the whole board.

What will be the strategy or policy towards alumni, considering how relevant they are to business schools, while now they must face the change that both of their Alma Mater no longer exist?

Both associations of alumni were very much involved in the merger process. They participated in the whole process of bringing together the schools, and assembling the task force. Both schools had alumni representatives on the boards. So in that sense, there was a continuous involvement of alumni in the merger process. The two associations are working together and are also merging.

We have a very strong backing of both alumni associations; we discussed several things with them to understand their concerns. We are very optimistic and relaxed in terms of our relations.

Rouen Campus

Rouen Campus

Of course, there are 40 thousand alumni. That’s a huge population and we are very pleased with them. We call them ambassadors of the new school. I know that this will not always be the case because some people will be very attached to the old name for sentimental reasons. It’s hard for them to associate to a new name. I understand that, and that’s a concern.

Reims campus

Reims campus

But I am aware of a similar merger in Belgium -Vlerick/Leuven Business School resulting in the now known as Vlerick Business School- and then the vast majority of alumni have been very enthusiastic about the merger process because they understand that it is the way forward. They are glad to take the name and assume it while there’s always a small group who for sentimental reasons are attached to the old name.

It is a matter of time. We will continue to work very closely together with the alumni associations. They are very important stakeholders to our school.

How do you envision the manager of the future? And how is he/she different from today’s manager?

There are several differences. First of all, we see in fact that the economic dynamics and relations are more and more internationalized, globalized. Companies are known to be active in a more international scene. That means in fact that the ability of managers to interact in a multicultural environment is becoming increasingly important.

Secondly, as a consequence of that, if you take into account the innovation driven by technology, which is fostering new business models, you see the environment in which these companies are operating is becoming more complex.

It means that you need managers who are very open minded, who are looking to the future with curiosity, who are willing to adapt and are flexible and open to innovation. Things are less stated than before.

Therefore, as a third point, more than before they even need to motivate people in their organization. A leader alone doesn’t make the difference. It’s the leader with the team, with the people in the organization.

For us, from our perspective, we believe in a style of management that cares about this human aspect of motivating people, of empowering them, of involving them. He must care about success, but also how it impacts other people. We will focus on a kind of empowering management. The right management empowers people in the team so to find new solutions to new challenges. In that sense, you’ll see many differences. This is a gradual shift, but gradually we must adapt the programs so to make it relevant not for the challenges of yesterday but for the challenges of the future.

What’s the role of business schools in this process of helping students to become the new managers?

Students in business programs need to acquire the basics in terms of accounting, marketing, finances, strategy, and so on. But you see more and more aspects of leadership skills that are becoming more important. That’s something we are adding to all programs. We want the students to develop this open mindset, so they will be capable of involving people.

What it is also important is that as a business school we can frame problems, we can understand problems that are emerging, while companies are confronted with new problems stemming from new environments, new contexts. These problems are always particular and concrete, but if you look from a distance, you can see some generalities. That’s the importance of a business school’s contribution. While professors are continuously involved with companies, they can understand those problems and be able to draw from that some general insights that get feedback to our programs.

With a faculty of more than 200 professors, NEOMA seems ready to show an extraordinary quality in education. Could you tell whether it is a strategy of the school to strengthen some areas of knowledge and expertise in order to come out as the place to go to learn about any specific managerial skills and best practices?

We are a broad based management school of business. We have a thousand students and about 200 professors. We offer general management programs and specialized programs, which means we need the diversified faculty with the skills and expertise for all the programs. Our faculty is subdivided in seven departments, which are organized at school level. They entail professors from both sides. As a big school, we have all the expertise in house. The point is that in terms of strategic orientation we are emphasizing the aspect of transformational leadership and organizational development because it’s very important that the managers will be open to innovation and open to change and know how to drive change.

The behavioral aspects are relevant to us and these are the main features of our school. That’s something we will put upfront in our organization. Anyway, it doesn’t mean we are neglecting other expertise like finance and marketing, or all the functional domains of management.

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