What got you here will not get you there

It has been over 4 months since we started here at IMD. We are done with first term exams and the results have started to trickle down. Before you know it, next term is on us. Four more weeks and we will have our second term exams. A lot of exciting things to come after the second term exams – Navigating the future conferences, Company engagement projects, International consulting projects and above all the intense phase of career talks. Stay tuned!

There are two oft-repeated slides by almost all professors. One with the iceberg and another with some form of “what got you here will not get you there”. They are kinda interlinked.

iceberg-underwater-wallpaper-wallpaper-1

For me personally, the last four months have been intense and also emotional to some extent. In a matter of few weeks, IMD has this way of breaking you down completely. Within weeks, I started doubting all my hard and soft skills. The leadership experiential simulated a tough environment  and showed me how I react under extreme pressure. The startup project put me in a diverse group of very opinionated people and tested my people skills. All our projects and tight deadlines put me under a lot of pressure in a short span of time. IMD promised a pressure cooker and boy, did it deliver!

I look back at my career so far and I often try to put these 4 months into perspective. Like the other 89 students in my class, I had a decent international experience. I also had modest success in my career. Looking back, I think there were few skills that I had that had helped me in my career. What is amazing is, those skills have not been particularly useful! Now, this is both good and bad. Good because I am adding more skills and difficult experiences to my toolkit. Bad because it makes the journey a lot harder. Why is this the case?

It is almost as if, IMD predicted that students will go through this brooding period this year and added the leadership coach and the Personal development elective in the program. I spend a lot of my time talking to these experienced professionals and psycho-analysts about why I do what I do. I also talk about why others do what they do and how I am knowingly and unknowingly influencing them. To me, these discussions have been pretty eye-opening. I certainly hope I take these learning back to whichever company I end up working for.

This is why I think the iceberg makes an excellent example. Our actions and reactions to things in life usually have the visible component and the invisible component. IMD is constantly showing us we need to be aware of the invisible component. This is why I think what got me here will not get me there. The world is full of challenges ahead. Dealing with ambiguity in life and in career is common place. The companies we all hope to work for after MBA and roles we hope to get will be more challenging than we did before MBA. If anything the pressure will be higher than it is now.

No one can be prepared for every challenge and every opportunity, but it is possible to pick up the fundamentals that can be applied to analyse problems. I believe that is what I am learning here and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to look at daily occurrences in life in a different way. From conversations with classmates, almost all of them are going through something similar this year.

Career services update:

Our IMD CV version is now officially done. We were told the CV books have been published to the recruiters. Our calendar for June is full of career talks by companies. As early as June we will begin mock interviews and case preparation etc. The next 7 months of the program looks as action-packed as the last 4.

Keep calm and carry on.

Sathappan

 

IMD MBAs immersed in innovation

Professor Cyril Bouquet leads the MBA class through an intense week for the Debiopharm-Inartis Challenge.

Over the course of last week, the MBAs gathered information, created new ideas, protoyped, pitched and much more. They spent time in Renens at the innovation incubator UniverCité and visited a number of healthcare sites in Vaud and Geneva as part of their challenge to improve the lives of patients.

The great projects they conceptualized will be entered into a real call for innovative projects: the Debiopharm-Inartis challenge whose winners will be chosen later in May and for which prizes include up to CHF 50,000 in cash and more in kind. Let’s wish the teams luck!

A big thanks to our friends at Debiopharm, the Inartis foundation, and our associates, business model specialists Alexander Osterwalder and Greg Bernarda, as well as Greg Serikoff and the rest of the Codesign-it! team in Paris, Christian Saclier, Head of Industrial Design at Nestlé, and many others who helped make the week a great success.

To find out more about what went on:

IMD News Story: IMD MBAs immersed in innovation

Video: Introducing the Debiopharm-Inartis challenge at IMD
Video: Day 1
Video: Day 2
Video: IMD’s MBAs Prototyping Ideas in the Makerspace

Media coverage: Tout un Monde from Swiss Radio RTS on IMD improving innovation with Design Thinking (in French)

Getting to know the Faculty

Today’s guest entry is written by one of our newer Faculty members, Jennifer Jordan. Jennifer is a social psychologist and is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD. This year she is teaching part of the MBA Leadership stream along with Professor Anand Narasimhan.

After almost 11 months at IMD, I can look back with some fondness – as well as struggles.

The greatest parts of being part of this institution is the cool experiences you get to have and the great people you get to develop relationships with. In a relatively short period of time, I have visited several countries for the first time – including Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Denmark. But I have also been fortunate to start this wonderful journey with four other awesome colleagues and professors – Jay, Knut, Ina, and Stéphane.

As probably all the MBAs can relate to, it is SO MUCH EASIER AND MORE FUN to go through challenging experiences with others. And each of my new colleagues brings something different to the group and my appreciation for them. Jay and I have a similar background in social psychology, so we “speak the same language” when it comes to leadership. And as a true whipper-snapper in negotiations, I also have so much to learn from Jay in this area (not to mention that he is just a super duper fellow!).

With a background as partner at BCG, Knut has been such a valuable colleague in terms of learning about client engagement and adding value for the client. We have also started putting together some material to stretch his strategy concept on Exploration-Exploitation into the personal leadership domain.

As for Ina, I am so grateful to have her as a colleague. Not only is she extremely smart and competent at what she does (I learn so much from her!) – but she is just an overall great person. We have become true friends, which is priceless to me.

And last but not least Stephan. Coming from such a cool background – both professionally and personally (French and Italian origins!), I have really learned a lot about the luxury industry from him and was reminded of his strategic expertise and insight during a recent client visit with him to Italy.

While the pace of this place is completely insane and often times tests my patience and resolve, the great experiences and people I have met in my last 11 months make all the struggles truly worth it.

My philosophy around teaching MBAs is really to just engage in a guided dialog. I have learned that as long as you constantly keep in mind the overall objectives that you want to convey during the session, letting the audience guide the discussion can often lead to the richest take-aways for the group – as the outcomes are most meaningful for them. And I truly love to teach, which I hope comes through in my work!

I have included a photo of one of my favorite memories with my fellow IMD newbies. The five of us got to spend an evening and day at beautiful Chateauform in Champery.

IMD Champery

Jennifer

 

Transition and Reflections

“Spring is the time of plans and projects” said Tolstoy in Anna Kareina and this reflects so aptly in our time at IMD. The first block of the program is done, exams seem long gone and we are trying to get back to the rhythm of life in school post Easter.  The chatter about finding Company Engagement Projects (CEP) is getting louder while classes are picking up pace. This phase marks a transition in many ways: From our startup groups to the new ones, from Accounting and Finance to just Finance and from the academic rigour to thinking about our careers. From an academic perspective, we just wrapped up a course on Negotiations and started Strategy too. All in all many new things are coming up.  And while there are new beginnings, this phase also marks the end of courses such as Entrepreneurship which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t think of any place else where I could have learnt to dissect a VC term sheet so well! All credit to Prof Benoit Leleux. The individual learning definitely matters but after having attended over 500 hours of classes, the beauty for me lies in tying it all together and fitting it like the blocks of a jigsaw puzzle.

Talking about transition, writing this post felt very difficult. A lot has been happening post the break and yet I am finding it hard to put my finger onto something specific. A part of the difficulty in writing this post is also attributed to all the assignments (write-ups) that were due or announced just after we got back from Easter.  As I wrestle to get out of catch-up mode, I have been using the very limited time left to think about my career options post IMD. Having always worked in a bank, trying to do something completely different for my CEP has been playing on my mind. After all there seems to be no better way to experiment and learn! A lot of my classmates are in a similar frame of mind and with so many of us coming from different industries and backgrounds, talking and exchanging ideas is definitely helping!

Our life here is in transition but so is the weather. Spring has brought some sunny and beautiful days to Lausanne and there seems to be no better way to make use of this time than getting out of the dungeons.  All work and no play for sure makes Jack a dull boy 🙂  So on a very bright and a lovely Saturday afternoon we gathered together to celebrate Abeer and Sophie’s daughters’ Viola and Chloe’s birthday! Sunday was amazing too as many of the IMDers participated in the Lausanne 10km and 20 km run while others cheered! It’s hard to imagine how close we have all gotten in the last 4 months.

Writing this post has also made me realize that time has been flying. Almost a year ago at this very time I was here for my assessment day. This is a very different May and at this pace December would be knocking on our doors faster than I could imagine! But that is still some time away and till then we are all here as a batch to welcome the transition into summer and autumn..

Roaming and constraining

TGV France 2

As the TGV from Paris to Lausanne blasts through the French countryside, green patches of forests and yellow fields of rapeseed zipping behind the window, sounds of French, Swiss German and English colliding in this wagon number 6, I catch myself gazing into the distance, mentally going through the last twelve weeks at IMD before diving back into it after a short 4-day break over Easter.

Having put both mind and body through the MBA grinder over the past few months, I know more or less what’s coming now; the rhythm of the program has been internalised. Regarding how I approached the challenges of the past three months, my personal assessment remains – however – slightly tainted with mixed feelings.

Spending a tremendous amount of time and energy on group works, to the detriment of individual exam preparations, might have been a costly choice (I will find out about that once the marks fly in). On the other hand, as pointed out in a reassuring manner by a wise soul, coming here to focus on acquiring knowledge through readings and individual studies wasn’t the objective from the get-go. There are multiple other ways of doing just that at lesser costs than those of an MBA.

I also gravitated – naturally – towards tasks that suited my interests more than others, thereby missing some valuable opportunities to extend beyond the reaches of my comfort zone. I have to remind myself that strengths are not lost because they stop being used for a few weeks or months, but that not taking chances when opportunities to enlarge myself manifest ultimately prevents me from building up new ones.

As someone who usually requires a lot of space to roam and changes of scenery to thrive, spending so much time inside the IMD bubble sometimes felt like going against my very own nature. I must concede that – although I continue to believe that being here and experiencing all this is a real privilege – I did have moments when the routine of certain parts of the program felt constraining. After some initial resistance and just like during my previous studies, I arrived at the conclusion that the captivity and immobility of the body is sometimes necessary for the mind to unleash.

“…the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; it needs trouble and difficulty to hollow out various mysterious and hidden mines of human intelligence.

Pressure is required, you know, to ignite powder: captivity has collected into one single focus all the floating faculties of my mind; they have come into close contact in the narrow space in which they have been wedged. You know that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced and from electricity comes the lightning from whose flash we have light amid our greatest darkness.” (Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo)

The coming transition from a purely class-driven setting to a broader environment, encompassing Company Engagement and – later on – International Consulting Projects around the globe, hints at the importance of making the most out of this remaining period with the entire class before we all scatter like sand in the wind. Some of us are thinking of going into Venture Capital in Japan for the one-month break in July, others are keen to explore the healthcare sector in Switzerland, others again mention Hyperloop One in Dubai; the range is mind-boggling.

I personally find myself moving back and forth between the possibility of going for something completely out of the ordinary that will remain with me as a unique experience (think NGOs in Emerging Economies) or opt for a more strategic approach and select an industry I have a knack for in order to gain some precious on-the-job experience before graduating at the end of the year. The debate is still raging inside of me at this stage, fuelled by the desire for social conformity and a more risk-averse approach on one hand, while at the same time, I can’t deny the opposing desire to completely discard all those external factors and hope for the fire inside me to eventually burn brighter than the one around me. Rage on.

 

Lucien