Monday, 12 January 2015

Imagination Week 2015 - Dmitry tells us about the different activities surrounding this year's theme 'lifestyles'

Photos by Yashas and Ursula, 1st year students from India and Germany respectively

After wonderful Christmas holidays, which I personally spent with my parents, friends and relatives back in Russia, I came to ESSEC to continue my studies in finance, marketing, strategy and management. However, I faced something so unique and creative which I would never have expected from a traditional top business school. 

A new year 2015 started for us students of the Grande Ecole program with Imagination Week – the event designed specifically to foster our creativity, strategic thinking and, literally our imagination. During five days, we worked together to produce innovative ideas and actions about the future of businesses, societies and humanity. But “working” is not the correct word here – actually, we simply created, imagined and envisaged with no limits or borders. While in 2014 the Week was related to Transhumanism, the topic this year was Lifestyles. This theme covered all the ideas and problems related to the way we live every day, so we had no boundaries while working on it.


So, what exactly is Imagination Week? 
It consisted of three activities, which let us think differently about lifestyles.

Firstly, we were set up in teams of six and asked to prepare a proposal. What was the topic of such a proposal? What issues did we need to address? We were absolutely free to choose one. The only requirement was to keep it in line with the theme of the Week: Lifestyles. And that was the most fascinating experience: while some teams focused on more practical problems, such as infrastructure, financial services etc. (still, we are in the business school), others discussed augmentation, nanotechnologies and even immortality. Of course, while preparing our proposals, we were not taught how to calculate net present value or how to analyze cash-flow statements…but we developed our strategic thinking, our vision of where we will be as humanity in several years, and where we should move as a person and a professional. Here, we moved far beyond the operational and technical responsibilities of managers; we became decision makers who are able to innovate. And I believe that this is what differs a good business school from an excellent one.


Secondly, we were given an opportunity to hear testimonies from representatives of truly alternative lifestyles. Experts from a variety of fields, ranging from neurotechnologies to punk rock, presented their ideas and vision of the future. These conferences and workshops introduced completely new issues and possibilities. Did you know that subway maps can be optimized by simply copying the same way mushrooms build their network? That is called biomimicry and there is no class on that subject (so far), but this is our future and Imagination Week exposed us to such innovations.


Finally, we participated in designing the future ESSEC curriculum. As a part of the Build Your Own Course (BYOC) program, professors from different departments and campuses of ESSEC presented us with 11 courses, which we later discussed. After feedback, where we students told then how we would like these potential courses to be constructed, the professors amended their course syllabi in line with our ideas. As a result, these projects were put to a vote and 5 courses, which had received the most votes, were selected to become a part of ESSEC’s curriculum next year. They will then be co-created by the professor and a small group of student volunteers. Within the framework of the BYOC we were given an amazing opportunity to use our creativity and imagination to change the way we learn at ESSEC and to design courses we are interested in the most.



All in all, I personally find Imagination Week a truly unique event, valuable and enjoyable. As a student of the Grande Ecole program, I designed my curriculum of study and explored subjects far beyond the traditional academic framework. As a future decision maker, I raised my awareness on the subjects of creativity, innovation and imagination, and produced ideas and actions I had never thought of before. Finally, as a part of ESSEC student community, I got to know a lot of new people, who turned out to be some of the most intelligent, open-minded and motivated persons I have met so far.




As a side note, unfortunately the events that happened in Paris last week left a mark on this week. The whole ESSEC community mourns the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and sends out their thoughts to the families. A minute of silence was held on Wednesday at noon to collectively show respect to the victims. #JeSuisCharlie

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