A simulated professional environment to better learn about management

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“Quentin, hello, welcome to FlashTel, phone book, what can I do for you? Like Quentin, 16 teleoperators with headsets respond tirelessly to calls that resonate on the first floor of a tall gray building. From the hubbub of words to the clatter of keyboards, the atmosphere resembles in every way that of a classic call center. The difference is that we are not here in a real company but in a school. Located in the heart of Grenoble School of Management, FlashTel is a pedagogical device created from scratch to train first year students in management by simulating a professional environment. In turn, the students will put themselves in the shoes of a teleoperator, a supervisor and then a platoon leader. Objective: to bring them to live concrete experiences, revealing the great theories in management and their possible consequences, individually and collectively.

Experiment to understand

If the term management is part of everyday language, it is actually difficult for students to understand what it covers. A detour through the specialized literature in management alone demonstrates the full scope of the concept and the plurality of activities to which it refers. In subtle nuances is added a century of history of complex and evolving doctrines, as well as the thorny question of what real managers do in everyday life. If, at first glance, the teaching of this subject is recognized as difficult, it faces an additional pitfall insofar as it is badly perceived, sometimes even discredited with regard to other major disciplines taught in business schools, for example finance. How to arouse the curiosity of students? It is in this spirit that FlashTel was conceived, following the credo of active pedagogies. Over three scenarios, the students are immersed in different organizational configurations, from which they will perceive the concrete impacts and specificities. These three fields of experimentation and symbolic confrontations will iteratively initiate the first pedagogical process, described as “experiential”, the starting point of the construction of management knowledge.

Moving from practice to theory

If the novelty of the device lies in the place of direct experience, it is only the visible part of a larger architecture, articulated around four complementary stages allowing students to move from observation to observation. theoretical analysis. For this experience to be fruitful, it is indeed a process of maturation which is the main issues:
  • Taking a step back: Once the scenario has been completed, students are invited to appropriate FlashTel’s experiences by deconstructing the functioning of this professional environment, by analyzing the different situations and then interpreting them.
  • Making connections: The analyzed experiences are then “objectified”. Students will gather their insights to connect FlashTel’s experiences with organizational structures and managerial practices.
  • Mobilizing Theories in Context: This fourth step, described as the construction of knowledge from the analyzed experiences, refers to the time of the encounter of knowledge resulting from experiences experienced and analyzed within FlashTel and their understanding through key theoretical contributions.
  • Transforming knowledge: This fifth stage, described as the maturing of the knowledge acquired, consists for the student to write a learning diary on the water by exploiting the reflections revealed through previous processes.
Born from the understanding of the real challenges inherent in management learning that can not be satisfied with theoretical contributions alone, FlashTel has come to respond to the unavoidable need for a direct confrontation with the main principles that have made and continue to make history. management. We are aware that a simulated experience can in no way replace the experience of reality, but we rely on the potential of this device to help students open up to a more responsible human management.

Towards a global vision of the company

By living each situation from different angles, depending on the role assigned to them in each of the scenarios, students can indeed become more aware of the impact of each decision on the day-to-day lives of teleoperators and the effectiveness of a service. Through this teaching module we find the inseparable characteristics of a winning formula for the student’s progress: to be both an actor of his learning and a driving force in the development of collective knowledge. In the coming years, the goal will be to expand FlashTel with new topics, such as human resources management. In this specific case, we will integrate in FlashTel a remuneration policy which will allow to put in context the corresponding theoretical learning. In addition, students often have a fragmented view of the company, it will help them better understand the exchanges between the various services that influence its operation. Author Bios: Lionel Strub is Enseignant-chercheur and Emmanuelle Villiot-Leclercq is Enseignant-Chercheur en Education et pratiques pédagogiques de l’enseignement supérieur both at Grenoble École de Management (GEM)