Transversality: ICN’s dynamic response to business requirements - ICN Business School

Transversality: ICN’s dynamic response to business requirements

How does the teaching approach developed by Artem take business requirements into account?  

It’s worth a few words to describe the foundations of our teaching approach. In the early 19th century, the Art Nouveau artisans and designers of the Nancy School established the Provincial Alliance of Art Industries. This initiative marked a new alliance between art and commerce, until then viewed as incompatible. This coming together, this dialogue between cultures, is what ICN set out to achieve when it created Artem (Art, Technology & Management). Artem involves an alliance with Nancy School of Art and Design, and Mines de Nancy engineering school, encouraging all students to acquire multiple skills during their studies.

The teaching approach is based on cross-cutting activities that invite encounters between artists, designers, scientists and engineers, etc. and generate new aspirations, professional talents and trades to serve tomorrow’s economic players and society.

Students have to deal with issues and attitudes that seem far removed from their own competencies and knowledge. They become familiar with a real business environment that calls not just for academic knowledge, but that also and in particular requires knowhow, life skills, flair, dexterity, creativity, quick thinking, etc. They learn to think outside the box to tackle business developments.

“….Students have to deal with issues and attitudes, far removed from their own competencies, they become familiar with a real business, they learn to think outside the box…”

In what way are students’ cross-cutting skills an asset for companies?

Over the last few years, we’ve observed a big shift in companies’ call for transdisciplinary skills: not in terms of having expertise in several disciplines, but rather a candidate’s capacity to evolve in different positions, to manage, and to lead projects involving teams with very different profiles.

Our experience of transdisciplinary teaching has shown that by the end of their course students are able to grasp the complexity of social and economic systems. Thanks to this breaking down of barriers, graduates are capable of exploring the unknown and developing open minds and curiosity to understand the world better and look towards new horizons.

An artistic approach, similar to that of an engineer, encourages students confronted with complex problems to “enter into” a process of creative reflection that involves imagining different scenarios. This essential business leader attitude is widely employed in the strategies of large groups. 

Another plus point is the strong cohesion that results from working in group situations, with people from different backgrounds, using unconventional means of expression. Thanks to this experience, our students find it easier to adapt to the workplace and are open to more entrepreneurial opportunities.

Watch the interview with M-F. Clerc-Girard for Major-Prépa

“…Thanks to this breaking down of barriers, graduates are capable of exploring the unknown and developing open minds and curiosity…”

What role do Creative Business Days play in the development of cross-cutting skills?

Creative Business Days are a first step towards breaking down disciplinary barriers. Right from the start of their studies, students from the three schools on the Nancy campus (ICN Business School, Nancy School of Art and Design, and Mines de Nancy engineering school) spend five days working on transversality, during which they undertake a project combining creativity and the development of products and services. Working in mixed teams, coming up against different cultures, they question stereotypical ways of thinking about themes like the “silver economy”, the ecological transition, and intergenerational solidarity. At the end of this week of working together, the thirty or so projects on the chosen theme are presented and evaluated by a multi-disciplinary jury.


Can you mention any other actions that involve transversality at ICN?

Our work with local companies on the specific issues they face (e.g. impact of digital technology on everyday work, impact of work spaces in inter-staff relationships, etc.) led us to set up a project a couple of years ago that totally immerses first-year Masters students in a company consultant role.

ICN is recognized locally for its teaching innovations. The pension insurance company CARSAT GRAND EST contacted us to help them succeed in their digital transformation. The company accepted to work with us to test out this student/teacher collaboration and learning innovation.

The real-life situation gives students a chance to improve their practical skills by coming up with a response to a company problem that combines group management, ideation, strategy, managerial perspective, and the integration of new technologies.

For one week, students work alongside staff in a real office situation, and answer questions put forward by a management committee. The company management expects results from the students’ consultancy field work, which gives them an extraordinary challenge. Their interest in strategy and consultancy work totally engages the students and generates curiosity and creativity.

This learning activity causes some students to ask themselves questions like: How much knowledge and skills have I gained so far? What are my strong and weak points? Working continuously for a week, dealing with daily challenges raised by peers, employees and teachers, and knowing that they have to produce an analysis and recommendations for a management committee at the end of the week, all provide strong sources of motivation. This experience undeniably takes them forward and makes them more professional.

Since this first initiative, other organizations have solicited us. To find alternative solutions to their questions, we have taken on artists and designers in our teaching teams.

“…bringing students and staff together, creates the conditions for breaking down barriers, allows people to speak openly, and generates creativity in companies…”

What’s innovative about Station A, launched last February?

Station A results from an ambition to create synergies between students, research lecturers, and companies. Diversity and the confrontation of approaches are what drive collective intelligence; the intelligence of a group is just as much the result of diverse opinions as it is of each individual’s expertise.

Station A acts as an incubator for trans-disciplinarity. Its objective is to liberate human potential by creating unique, positive experiences. More than a knowledge-sharing place, it’s a concrete meeting place for individuals who come from different backgrounds because of their education, what they have lived through, their experience, and their way of thinking. Station A is a free zone that promotes cohabitation, cooperation and collaboration. 

Thinking about the work space was crucial for us, because it’s the catalyst of business culture, and what we see as the cornerstone of a new competitive advantage. We have had to move from fixed spaces to shifting spaces, take individuals into account within the group, combine remote and face-to-face solutions to create new teaching setups, and work more freely in collaboration with all of our campuses, even foreign universities.

This open, connected space aims to make students active participants in their apprenticeships so that they develop multiple competencies. Teachers will be able to initiate new ways of teaching, moving away from an all-knowing position to that of a tutor. Station A aims to be an innovative learning lab where everyone: students, teachers and companies, will be able to contribute to make learning evolve and come alive.

For example, at the beginning of April, ICN and the Menway Group organized an immersion seminar at Station A on the topic “what skills, talents and training should tomorrow’s managers have?” Following an interactive work methodology, the students were put in a professional project management situation. Their mission was to contribute to enhancing some aspects of the Menway Group’s business model according to a CSR logic. This activity allowed them better to understand the new expectations of companies, and to identify and prepare themselves to meet the skills required for their future jobs.

Find out more about Station A


How do companies benefit from taking part in these initiatives?  

Students from very different fields come up with solutions to business problems, usually related to a means of strategic development. These solutions provide an opportunity to question companies as to whether their values coincide with their strategic choices. Expressing a problem through a drawing, a model, or a theatrical play, and bringing students and staff together, creates the conditions for breaking down barriers, allows people to speak openly, and generates creativity in companies.


Marie-France CLERC-GIRARD is an associate professor at ICN Business School. As well as teaching on Business Strategy & Entrepreneurship, her activity at the school focuses on innovative, transdisciplinary teaching developments.

As director of the Academic and Professional Department at Artem (Art, technology & management), she leads reflections and development of new teaching and learning initiatives with the ICN community for all its campuses and with schools working in other disciplinary fields.

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