One Giant Step to Collaboration and Innovation?

Julie Perrin-Halot

Julie Perrin Halot is Associate Dean / Director of Quality, Strategic Planning and International at Grenoble Ecole de Management, Grenoble, France

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Business schools are increasingly looking to alliances to increase their strategic reach. Julie Perrin-Halot reports on one French attempt to break down the barriers between management and hard science.

In a time of shifting dynamics – economic, societal, geopolitical and more – business schools are finding it necessary to think more innovatively about their current and future business and academic models.

As a result, innovations are touching the way we teach, the way we learn, the way we work. They are taking place in our classrooms, our research agendas, our offices, our boardrooms and in our interactions with our communities.

They also affect the collaborative networks of alliances and partnerships that schools are developing.

For some schools, new forms of collaboration may be primarily a response to concerns about strategic positioning or brand leveraging. Collaboration may primarily serve the interest of offering new opportunities or, for some, may simply be a question of survival.

And yet, while for most schools the economic considerations may remain predominant, behind the choice to move towards new collaborative models is a desire to advance and differentiate the educational experience of their students while responding to the evolving needs of society.

The new alliances that schools are entering into are taking different forms. For example, certain schools may decide to initiate mergers with institutions very similar to their own to leverage their strategic positions and build on common denominators to create greater growth and presence.

A recent illustration (January 2012) was the announced merger of two triple-accredited French business schools – Bordeaux Ecole de Management and Euromed, based in Marseille. This merger is likely to produce the third-largest school in France in budgetary terms and one that will dominate the southern and Mediterranean areas of the country.

The Directors of the two schools refer to the critically strategic nature of this choice in the face of globalisation. A global brand must be leveraged and growth must accelerate for they predict that in ten years the French landscape will be dramatically different. While the venture is not without risk, the greater risk would be in not making a move.

Another example shows how schools may choose to collaborate through merging with organisations possessing different skill and knowledge sets in the interest of broadening their scope and impact.

An example of this is the 2011 merger between Denmark’s Aarhus School of Business and Aarhus University’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Undertaken as a part of a major reorganisation within Aarhus University, this merger has sought to create a structure better capable of responding to some of the greater challenges currently facing society by providing a broader interdisciplinary approach to business and management.

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