Frederic Frery

Professor Frédéric FRERY - ESCP Europe

Frédéric Fréry is a professor in the Strategy, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Department of the ESCP-EAP European School of Management, Paris campus. His main teaching focus is on strategy, organization, and management of innovation.

Can innovation be taught?

Of course it can. Many text books are dedicated to Management of innovation and top EMBA programs all propose innovation courses. Researchers such as Clayton Christensen, Everett Rogers or Eric von Hippel have designed useful concepts and tools that can help executives in the innovation process.

In the corporate world, what does innovation mean and why is it important?

Innovation is the gateway to differentiation. When rivalry soars and commoditization threatens profit margins, competitors can escape deadly price wars thanks to innovation. Without continuous change and innovation, long-term  success is a mirage. Moreover, remember that innovation must not be confused with mere problem solving: real breakthroughs cannot be shoe-horned into the problem solving format. 

Can today's rising executives learn how to be innovative, or are they too set in their ways?

The problem is not the rising executives themselves: as human beings, by nature, they are creative creatures. The problem is with corporate obsession with monitoring and control. Today's corporations boast highly structured processes, budgets and control systems (ERP, Six Sigma, and so on) that can easily deter innovation. All these systems are designed for optimization, whereas ambiguity is the critical resource out of which new ideas emerge.

Is innovative thinking simply a question of expanding one's comfort zone and confronting the unconventional? 

Innovation consists in questioning taken-for-granted assumptions, which is certainly not a simple task. It requires a culture opened to debates and controversy, bold innovators and wise executives. Many corporations are too dependent from their established recipes to accept disruptions.

Does the EMBA classroom provide an environment that kindles innovative thinking?

By definition, the EMBA classroom gathers talented people from different origins, cultures, and backgrounds. This is a prerequisite to any innovation process. Of course, in order to leverage this unique context, professors have to prompt innovation thinking by creating positive tensions and challenges. Creativity comes from constraints.

Do corporations expect EMBA participants to bring back innovative thinking to the workplace as an acquired skill?

I am convinced top executives know that an army of clones is the surest pathway to inertia and failure. Long-term success implies a right to dissent. EMBA participants must be change agents in their organizations.

How does ESCP-EAP help participants face the challenge of innovation?

In the ESCP-EAP EMBA Programme, thanks to our unique 5 campus structure, 130 executives from 27 countries solve the global-local dilemma on a day-to-day basis. This unparalleled design creates an extraordinary learning environment. Moreover, our curriculum includes a seminar specifically dedicated to innovation during which participants are exposed to the most advanced theories and practices.

Do innovation and leadership go hand-in-hand?

Of course, managers solve existing issues, whereas leaders define new issues. In order to evolve from management to executive positions, you must be able to spot empty spaces in the marketplace, to implement new business models and above all to challenge taken-forgranted assumptions. A true leader is always an innovator.