In 2023, Bristol Myers Squibb and emlyon business school are celebrating the 10th year of their collaboration. The training programs developed during this partnership have certainly helped the biopharmaceutical group's French subsidiary and its talented people to grow. We look back at a decade of using the ‘action learning' approach to problem solving, along with the ambitious and innovative breakthroughs that have been achieved.

Action learning, a winning strategy

Initially called ‘Break Through', and subsequently ‘Break Through NewGen', emlyon business school has developed a customized training program for Bristol Myers Squibb to accelerate the company's transformation and enhance its business performance. "*For the past 10 years, Bristol Myers Squibb France has been working with us on ‘action learning', a method where people learn by dealing with real-life problems from their work environment. While the structure of the program has remained basically the same, the topics are chosen by the company management and change each year. However, the aim always remains the same: to take what has been learned and apply it to real business cases within the company*", explains Sidonie Chemla, head of customized training programs at emlyon business school.

The strength of the program and the reason for its longevity is its ‘win-win' approach, where all the different stakeholders benefit from the training. "The action learning method helps both the employees and the company to grow. Working groups are often formed after the final part of the program, when projects are presented to the Executive Committee, so that the project can be further developed within the company", says Costanza Gadda Conti, head of talent management and acquisition and HR business partner at Bristol Myers Squibb. In addition to the people chosen for the annual Break Through events, other employees of the French subsidiary are sometimes involved in turning the ideas put forward by program participants into practical action.

Break Through: delivering major transformations

For Sidonie Chemla, the program's success also lies in the range of subjects and the learning resources available. "For three months, the program combines personal development with team building, along with ‘design thinking' to help the ideation process and storytelling, which is essential for presenting a project to the ExCo. Other modules cover leadership and cooperation, with the format alternating between theoretical work and sub-group activities within the project teams.” A methodology that provides tangible benefits, it has led to some innovative and high-profile transformations over the last 10 years.

the program's success also lies in the range of subjects and the learning resources available

"Most of the cohorts have delivered great projects for Bristol Myers Squibb** and its employees”, says Costanza Gadda Conti, who is particularly proud of some of the achievements. A few years ago, for example, a program led to a hospital patient association providing an avatar for use in pediatric oncology to help children become more connected socially. Among the transformations particularly close to her heart, she also cites a project to create a common corporate culture. "When Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb merged, we decided to make corporate culture the theme of our Break Through training program for 2021. This was followed by a company-wide collective intelligence project based around our six values. Ninety ambassadors were involved and more than 200 ‘small steps' were taken to promote our values. It was another good example of turning theory into practice”.

An approach that encourages intrapreneurship

"Over the past 10 years, every member of Bristol Myers Squibb's talent pool has been on the Break Through program. For us, it's a sign of the company's faith in the program and represents further proof of a successful collaboration where the two key words are proximity and intrapreneurship", says Sidonie Chemla. Her view is shared by Costanza Gadda Conti: "As the renewal of this partnership year after year makes clear, we are not only very satisfied with the quality of the program offered by emlyon, which has harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit of our employees, but also with the trust established between us over time.

Throughout these years, the partnership between Bristol Myers Squibb and emlyon has been marked by innovation, cohesion, the desire to break down silos, and the pride that comes from seeing ideas become reality. The human adventure is continuing in 2023 with the theme of the ‘roadmap of the future'. This year, participants will be asked to create the French subsidiary's strategy for 2026, bearing in mind the mission of Bristol Myers Squibb: transforming patients' lives through science.

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