“Strategy eats culture for breakfast”
This is the motto that our academic director, Bruno Wattenbergh, likes to repeat. As a matter of fact, the best way to study a company is to first understand its culture. And what better ways to do so than by meeting the people that set the culture: the top management of these companies. Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to be connected with top managers worldwide nor can ask them directly about how corporates perform at their higher level of governance. This is why the international company visits organised by Solvay Brussels School are a real opportunity. The chance of being introduced to these professionals eventually becomes possible thanks to the direct multilateral interactions between the accompanying teachers, the hosts and the students. Be ready though, you’re about to live a 48h sprint !
? Day 1 ?
RATP DEV, Station F, French Tech & Usine IO.
We started our day at RATP DEV, where we had the chance to meet with Sandrine Boussin, CEO of the company. If you have already been to France, you must be familiar with RATP as much as you’d be with the Eiffel Tower. It is the largest railway and mobility service company of the country. The public institutions is in its self-disruption process and decided to create its subsidiary RATP DEV to foster change and accelerate the innovation process. Performing in a very challenging environment since competitors like DriveNow, Car2Go, Uber, Lime, Mobike (and others) arrived in the market, RATP DEV is there to give the « Titanic » of public transportation in France the agility of a speedboat. Easier said than done of course, the interaction with the board gave us a good idea of the complexity these companies face as well as the unique opportunity to build new relationships with high level executives.
Although the means and mindsets aren’t comparable, big companies like RATP DEV get inspired by the Startup culture, of which we had a better taste in the afternoon. Indeed, the next visit took place at Station F where we could observe and learn about what is being done in the biggest start-up campus worldwide. After our visit, we met with the founders of French Tech, a recognised start-up label focused on many tech businesses all over France, Belgium, Spain, etc. We also could participate in a workshop at Usine IO, a startup specialised in the creation of MVP (Minimum Viable Product), which is a fundamental stage in the creation of new products and innovations. Honestly, it’s amazing to see the different levels of a product depending on the number of assumptions validated and budget allocated.
It had been a heavy day and we could only finish it with the whole group in a nice place. Little hint: the wine is not only good, it’s also cheap over there.
? Day 2 ?
AKKA Technology, Channel
A good shower, a couple coffees, and there we go !
The first visit was at AKKA technology. We all know these unending documentaries or presentations explaining how technology is changing the world, but without really showing you why. Well, that morning was all but that.
Not only had we the chance to get in touch with the managers and engineers of the lab but we could also get to try their augmented reality technology! Remember this scene in Iron Man 1 where Tony Stark plays with his armure’s digital prototype like if it was tangible ? Well, we kind of tried that… and it’s scarily fun.
We of course covered the business aspect of these innovations too by looking into real life applications and the potential such features could unleash in the right ecosystem.
Later that day, we had our last but not least of the visits. Lucky enough, we could meet with the responsible person at the Chanel HQ for fragrances. Luxury not being my personal cup of tea, I admit that I was a bit reluctant for this last visit. It turned out that the discussion was one of the most interesting. “How do you build a brand and empower women through something as simple as a perfume ?”, “How do you differentiate?”...
In short, innovation and strategy are at the heart of all businesses and depend strongly on the culture of the business. As future managers, there is no better opportunity to learn than by diving into the culture of these giants and understanding how leaders shape it on a daily basis.
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