The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more positive energy comes back to you.
Spend some time with Eric Cornuel, President of the European Foundation for Management Development, EFMD and you immediately feel the positive charge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eric began his entrepreneurial career by setting up a hydroelectric plant in France while still a student.
With an MBA from HEC Paris and a PhD in Strategy and Management, Cornuel has experienced first-hand the positive impact of business education. And since 2000 he leads the institution dedicated to the development of management created in 1972 with 193 European members in an organization that now includes 977 institutional members from 90 countries around the world.
Under his leadership, EFMD manages the EQUIS accreditation of higher education institutions in business management and administration and provides a forum for information, research, networking and discussion of innovation and best practice in management development for a network of over 30,000 professionals management.
Catching up with Eric Cornuel at the EFMD Deans and Directors Conference in Madrid, he moves quickly from recording an interview about his thoughts on Because Culture is the backbone of a company with IE Insights, the thought leadership publication published by IE University in our joint discussion on the impact of management education on both individuals and society and how the future of business education is imagined.
I started by asking him what he is most proud of in the last 23 years at the head of EFMD.
“Well, I might surprise you. I could say the accreditation, the success of CEIBS.” EFMD co-founded in 1994 with the Chinese government, the European Union and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1994 the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) which is ranked among the best business schools in the world.
“What’s most important to me has been to keep the spirit and family feeling that people have when we interact together. And for me this is unique. We laugh together, it’s great. And I’m very proud of that because when an organization grows, you very often lose that closeness and quality relationships.”
“Keep in mind that in 2000, we had 16 schools accredited by EQUIS. We had just over 300 members. Of course, there was no program accreditation or impact assessment tool, BSIS and the rest. “We only had conferences and a team of 16 people at EFMD in Brussels. Then we grew, and we grew, and we grew and at the same time we kept that community spirit and I’m very proud of that. That’s my number one.”
As a student who founded a hydroelectric plant, did you ever imagine the leadership role you would later have?
“No, not at all. You know I was born in Limoges, in provincial France. And my goals were certainly not international at all at the time. But thanks to my studies and, of course, the people I met, I finally embraced this career.”
As you might expect, Eric Cornuel strongly believes in the power of management education to transform lives and empower individuals to pursue their own hopes and dreams. “I think management education has been playing that role for many years and especially in Europe. I think when you look at the trend, the development in terms of quality, the personal development of students and participants, I think our institutions have done a very, very good job. And we’ve seen that through accreditation.”
He acknowledges that there is much more to be done, “particularly to enhance the impact of the business school on stakeholders in general to optimize the career path we can offer students and participants and also how we can continue to collaborate and work with them after graduation.”
As editor-in-chief of BlueSky Thinking, which draws on the expertise and research of teaching staff from many of EFMD’s member schools, I am interested in understanding EFMD’s commitment to reconnect business school research with societal and industrial needs. For Cornwell, it is one of the critical elements for the profession.
“Academic research has gone too far in an inward direction. The widely recognized research is more or less axiomatic and hypothetical based on the principles of the German explorer and polymath Von Humboldt and his work dates back to 1804! So a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.”
“Too much research is not hot enough. Published years after all corrections and modifications. I am not saying that we should exclude this research, but we should have a much wider scope for our intellectual contribution to society.
We need diversity and we need people doing very sophisticated scientific research. We also need people who do applied research, work with companies, mentor companies, sit on boards, write articles for newspapers and business magazines. This is the richness of academia. We cannot limit our intellectual contribution to a very limited number of articles a year.”
The EFMD President does a quick calculation to illustrate his point. “How many reviews are typically reviewed by top institutions – 50, 60, 70 three times a year. That is, 150 to 200 publications. And if each of them publishes 10 or 15 articles, you have a little over 1,500 to 2,000 articles. Is that all we produce? It is not possible.”
Cornuel is keen to review this, and in particular his work on Responsible Research in Business and Management. “We’re very involved with RRBM and trying to instill the idea of much more heuristic research – research that contributes to society and its stakeholders.
Like the interview with IE Insights, all of these ideas share the positive energy of a person who loves the role they have. So what advice does Cornwell have for the many hundreds of thousands of business school students about to start their own careers.
“Keep your spontaneity and kindness,” he says, “even if you take the occasional hit. At the end of the day, you’re always able to look at yourself in the mirror and move forward.”