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Business As Usual: ESCP Replaces In-Person Project With Online Version

escp business school l'óreal project MSc

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the global population to make many changes to their day-to-day lives, remaining socially distant from friends and family while working and studying remotely.

ESCP Business School has taken the challenge of adapting to this new way of living by the horns and is transforming its master’s programs as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The school’s MSc in Marketing and Creativity and MSc in Digital Transformation and Leadership students have been brought together to work with L’Oréal professionals on the company’s annual ‘Big Picture’ project.

The one-week course, running from April 20-24, is focused around a strategic business issue – timely and relevant to the current climate – presented by L’Oréal. The 54 students – of over 20 nationalities – are coached throughout the week by ESCP faculty and L'Oréal executives to come up with innovative solutions.

Each team produces a one-minute video encapsulating their proposed strategy in response to the challenge and give a short powerpoint presenting the strategy.

Final presentations take place on Friday afternoon in front of a jury panel of L'Oréal senior executives and the top three winning teams are selected.

Given the nature of the in-person project, ESCP and L’Oréal could have called off the event. However, rather than cancel the project altogether, organizers made the strategic decision to take the learning experience online, using ‘L’Oréal Teams.’

Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s Chief Digital Officer will kick off proceedings – and with total digital functionality, students will have access to the senior L’Oréal team like never before.

We spoke with Professor Marie Taillard, L’Oreal Professor of Creativity Marketing at ESCP Business School, to find out more.

Unprecedented changes

Students can practice the ‘new normal’ – working remotely and collaboratively under time constraints to come up with digital solutions to real world problems – during the project, with the brief set to reflect the urgency surrounding digital solutions.

When lockdown first took effect, Taillard reached out to her partners at L’Oréal, asking if they’d be keen to hold the project online rather than cancelling it. She said: “Not only did they immediately agree, but they saw this as a unique opportunity to offer an even more exciting challenge to the students.”

Global challenges have prompted an acceleration of digital transformation, making what we recently called the future of work, today’s new normal.

Taillard said: “As travel becomes more difficult because of environmental, economic or health issues, as markets become more competitive, as consumer needs become more complex, companies have no choice but to respond by deploying teams of agile, multicultural, highly collaborative, adaptable and high performing managers to invent new solutions.”

What makes the project special?

Understandably, most ESCP students see the project as a chance to apply their learning to an exciting strategic challenge, and most importantly, to get noticed by L’Oréal HR representatives.

But this year, the project will be delivered online, offering a ‘new normal’ – working across time zones, cultures, against constraints and high uncertainty – for students to get their heads around. Students will be participating from Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Taillard said the online environment presents opportunities and challenges.

As it’s online, very senior L’Oréal executives are involved – with Lubomira Rochet launching the project on Monday morning. Many of her team members will work with the students, and this is possible as they don’t need to leave their home offices to meet with the students.

Taillard said: “Students will be working on L’Oréal’s collaborative platform and will need to develop the distance collaborative skills that L’Oréal managers deploy on a daily basis in a global, competitive and highly volatile environment.

“Their analytical and creative skills will be pushed further than they ever have been.”

But it isn’t just the online concept that’s new this year, it’s actually the first year the two MSc programs will be brought together for the project.

Taillard said: “We believe the programs develop similar as well as complementary skills. By working together, students will develop more innovative solutions and challenge each other to perform even better.”

Students receive two full days of coaching on average from a combination of faculty and L’Oréal executives – including Directors in the Digital Team as well as senior brand leaders at L’Oréal.

Taillard added: “L’Oréal experts see the project as a unique opportunity to get to know them, observe them at work and select the most talented ones to join their ranks.

“This allows the project to go from strength to strength every year. Interviews with HR leaders may be arranged at the conclusion of the project.”

The future of the program

Covid-19 was the driving force for the changes to the project, but in following years, Taillard believes a new standard will have been set.

She said: “Our partnership with L’Oréal has risen to a new level simply by having to work together in such a short period of time on reimagining the project.

“Students will continue to benefit from the outstanding opportunity of learning from an industry leader as they pursue their degree. They get to experience the optimal combination of academic and industry-led practical learning simultaneously.”

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Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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