Not just a degree: How can Business Schools teach ethics & innovation?

Before I joined Gone Adventurin’, I moved to Singapore to study at ESSEC Asia-Pacific, a leading French Business School.

Business Schools are often criticised of teaching common sense rather than real practical knowledge. Some say that they encourage predictable models and do not really train students how to behave in unknown situations. On the other hand, business schools have proven to lead successful professionals anywhere, in any kind of positions, organizations and industries worldwide! That’s the reason why I decided to join ESSEC in a first place, to broaden my working opportunities and possibilities. I firmly believe it’s possible to learn how to be proactive, innovative and ethical while being a business student.

So how can Business Schools teach ethics & innovation?

As a business student, I was torn between two completely opposite lifestyles:

  • 1. Working for a big corporation where I would have been financially sustainable and evolving in a stable environment;


  • 2. Working for a small organization that would help me find ‘purpose’ into my life through social actions.

I first chose to start a career in an investment bank (option 1) where I worked as an apprentice for a year. Although my supervisor was the best mentor to have in a bank, I promptly realised that this industry and big organizations were not suitable to my personality. Then I decided to move to Asia. And without having completed my Master, I applied for Gone Adventurin’ — a small organization that solved my dilemma. GA is a social enterprise yes, but that speaks a business language and that is able to work with the biggest brands like Unilever, National Geographic and Google.

Gone Adventurin’ helped me to find inspiration and to discover purpose. ESSEC has given me skills that I’ll use to become an even better social innovator and entrepreneur! Now, working with GA, I wanted to go back to my school, and get a different perspective.

It’s not about “quitting” your job or your school to find purpose — it’s about getting out of your comfort zone to work from within.

Therefore, not only I’ll finish my Master this coming Winter 2016; but in May this year, I went back to ESSEC Asia-Pacific through a Gone Adventurin’ project, to help inspire ‘innovation; ethics; and the pioneering spirit’ through our content creation & consultancy platform.

01. ‘The Pioneering Spirit’

According to the Financial Times, in 2014 ESSEC ranked 3rd place globally for Masters in management. Established in 1907 in France, ESSEC established its Asia-Pacific campus in 2005 and was previously located within the National Library building. They moved to the new, permanent campus in Nepal Hill in 2015.

ESSEC has been characterised by its pioneering spirit throughout its history, and focuses its strategic development on three principles:

  • Innovation, Involvement and Internationalisation.

The School is permanently researching new ways of building an educational platform that will encourage students to be innovative and proactive. To do this, they have created of new chairs, partnered with prestigious universities and schools such as Ecole Centrale Paris and most importantly, continue to promote a multi-disciplinary approach between things like engineering, business and design.

In January 2015, they opened their first campus in Singapore (6000 m² to receive 1,500 students each year). This new campus is the first steps towards an internationalisation that will continue to the African and American continents.

02. So why this project?

There are different reasons why we decided to get involved with ESSEC.

  1. Our vision is to encourage people to adopt more sustainable practices, through business and everyday actions. Therefore, in the long term, it’s very impactful toinspire young individuals as they are the ones who will shape the conditions of a sustainable future.
  2. ‘Innovation and Pioneering Spirit’ are values that we share among our team. We always try to use new technologies (i.e. communication tools, workflows) to be more efficient, or to communicate with our clients and audiences. We’re constantly discovering multiple new ways to innovate content creation, exploring with all kinds of social media tools and broadcasting platforms. I feel that innovation in Tech is an integral part of every aspect of business.
  3. Covering the opening of ESSEC Asia-Pacific was an amazing opportunityto meet great speakers and individuals. For instance, we got lucky to interview and make an inspirational interview of Dr. Liu Thai Ker — Director, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd Founding Chairman, Centre for Liveable Cities.
  4. Finally, indeed, as social entrepreneurship is big in South-East Asia and also among the teachings at ESSEC based in Paris, we hope to become the on-the ground partner in Singapore to create customised projects around sustainability. We would help the school to engage students and the ESSEC community into social and environmental projects. Perhaps a sustainable field trip in South East Asia for their business students?
Abishek — Our Project Manager
Tuesday May 5th — Innovation & Design

03. Our inspirational quotes from the week

At the occasion of the grand opening of their campus, ESSEC Asia-Pacific organised events, during a week in Singapore, featuring prestigious guests around 4 different topics.

The opening ceremony was in presence of many prestigious guests such as the Guest-of-Honour Mr S Iswaran (Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, Singapore), Mr Benjamin Dubertret (French Ambassador to Singapore) and the first French female astronaut Mrs Claudie Haigneré!

Mrs. Claudie Haigneré — first female astronaut

“For me to be a pioneer is not only to have been the first to do something. It’s also the capacity to take others with you.”

  1. Innovation & Digital Tuesday, 5 May

Prof Hervé Math — Professor of Innovation and Operations Strategy at ESSEC

“Shaping a Business School as a platform to learn how to be innovative, is an idea we really believe in.”

2. Smart Life Wednesday, 6 May

Mr. Arnaud Vaissé — Co-Founder, Chairman, CEO InternationalSOS

“The healthcare field is the largest economic field and is going be transformed over the next few months. There are tremendous advantages to innovations that are going to drive costs down and to grow profits in the industry.”

3. Entrepreneurship Thursday, 7 May

Dr. Mark Hon, Vice Chairman, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE)

“My advice to Business Students who would like to start a business in Singapore is to get an internship for a startup; try and experience it.”

4. Business & Ethics Friday, 8 May

Dr. Liu Thai Ker — Director, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd, Founding Chairman, Centre for Liveable Cities

“To be a successful businessman, you have to conduct your business in an ethical way. The objective is always to push forward to reconcile business and ethics.”

So, can Business Schools teach students how to be ethical & innovative? My answer is definitely yes! ESSEC Asia-Pacific seems be working hard to ensure this becomes a reality across the campus.

The challenge is to be able to create an educational platform that will allow students to be innovative and creative; while being aware of their actions on societies and the environment. It looks like Business Schools should emphasise their teachings on social entrepreneurship!

I hope this article will inspire business students to use management techniques & skills to find solutions to social problems, which is for me the future of business!

From Left to Right: (Besides ESSEC students) Mr S Iswaran Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry Singapore; Mr Benjamin Dubertret French Ambassador to Singapore; Prof JM Blanquer Dean & President ESSEC Business School; Prof Martine Bronner Dean ESSEC Asia-Pacific; Mr Pierre-Antoine Gailly Chairman, CCI Paris île-de-France.

Article written by Paula Miquelis — Project Manager @Gone Adventurin’

Ashwin Subramaniam
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