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.



Change is just one decision away

Today’s guest entry offers some advice to our participants from one of our 2016 graduates, Patrick DeCaro, Swiss/German/American.

The first part of the MBA is already coming to an end. You might not know it or realize it yet, but you have changed. Being around 90 people from different backgrounds with so varied life paths and being exposed to top notch professor tends to have that effect. And that is actually what you came to IMD for: to change.

But now your minds are focused on the first set of exams. You are trying to find all the notes from all the classes. You are stomping around ranting that you aren’t a finance person, or an accountant or that you don’t want to do operations in your life. You are putting in all the hours that you should have already but didn’t because you were working on other things that were asked of you. But don’t worry, it’s not about all that.

What you don’t know is that IMD digs deep into your soul and messes with all the things you think you know about yourself. It rearranges things in ways that you don’t fully comprehend. The exams are just another tool IMD uses for this. You work with your colleagues, spend sleepless nights, drink numerous coffees, ask for last minute advice and help here and there… Guess what? That is the point! Obviously, you must pass the exams. But you will remember the preparation, the way you all managed a certain question and failed another. The bond between you all is growing. That’s the first point.

For more concrete advice, this is what I believe: like any pile of problems, take one at a time instead of looking at the whole pile. The same applies here: take each exam one at a time. There are several rounds in a fight. Each one is as important as the next. Give each round your all, and you will be victorious and get your hand raised in the end. Obviously, getting enough sleep and eating well is also fundamental to be able to think correctly. A breath of fresh air is also appreciated from time to time. All in all, don’t worry too much, it will be all good. It’s going to be OK!

Besides creating a new network of exceptional people, IMD has a second point. It asks a question to each one of its participants. Listen. Do you hear the question? Listen again. The question is the following: Who are you? Obviously, Ralf will tell you all about the metaphysical and philosophical aspects of such a fundamental question and but only you, yourself, can try to answer it.

Being around different people with different values, different goals, different points of view is a way for you to confront yourself on your own stances. What do I actually value? What is important to me? What are my priorities and why? Less than a week ago, my fiancée’s 36-year-old brother passed away in a car accident. No one was prepared for this devastating news. The flow of emotions is still endless. It jumps from anger, to sadness, to numbness and even fear.

But here is another spin on things. Her brother was a free spirit. He didn’t abide to imposed rules, to the etiquette of “this is what is done”. He moved along in life as he knew was right for him. Sometimes, though, this brought strife and conflict with his loved ones, but it was his path, no matter how unconventional it was. It was right for him. He did not have a differed life plan. His plan was to live life. And that is what he did until the very last spark of life. Through his passing, he shares his way of life and inspires the hundreds of people that remember him, that he touched with his kindness, his smile, his laughter, his bad jokes and much much more.

Life can end from one second to the next; it really can. Ask yourself the IMD question: who are you?

What job would make me happy? What do I love to do? Who do I love being around? What or who do I want to be? And what or who not? Am I happy? Why or why not? And how do I get there?

These are in my opinion the fundamental questions that you have time to explore during your year at IMD. Intellectual and emotional sparring partners surround you daily. Use them to dig deep into yourself, to find the answers, your answers. No matter what the answers are, it’s OK. They will be the guide, the moral compass, that you need to make sure that you are going in the right direction, your right direction.

IMD Leadership is just that. It’s about giving you the tools you need to become a more whole version of yourself. Hard knowledge is just a small piece of the puzzle. The soft skills that you are exposed to is what really makes the difference in life. It’s not about the information you receive. It’s about how you deliver that information in any given situation to any given person. It’s more about the how, rather than the what. That is what you start learning at IMD.

I believe this is all true while writing your CV’s, during your quest for a CEP, during your hunt for that perfect job. Stay true to yourself, and don’t compare yourself to others. You are all different in a unique way!

And if you realize that you aren’t facing in the direction that is aligned with who you are or you strive to be, always remember the following: change is just one decision away…



Exams, class profiles and admissions

As Sathappan mentionned in his blog earlier this week, the first round of exams are approaching and we can all feel the tension building in the class. For the MBA Team, this is normal and expected, a pattern that is repeated each year. But we are not the ones having to do the actual juggling of deadlines and exam prep!

On our side, Career Services have been focusing on releasing the 2017 Class Profiles. These are now available, and if you haven’t already taken a look, they’re a great way to get an overview of each of our participants and their career achievements prior to IMD. This in turn should help you to decide if you would fit in a similar group – could you learn from them and could they learn something from you?

Some interesting statistics about this class:

62% have lived in over three different countries for six months or more

61% already have a Masters or PhD

45% have prior startup experience

It’s seems strange to think this year’s class has only been on campus for a few months, and yet the first round of admissions for 2018 is already finished, offers have been made and the first seats for next year’s class have been filled.

Last weekend saw the second application deadline, and we’ve received some great applications. The admissions team is now reading all the files and then we’ll once again face the tough job of deciding who should be invited for an interview – either here on campus as usual, or alternatively in Singapore or São Paulo next month.

We’ve also organised a variety of options on and off campus for people to get to know us better before June’s third application deadline. If you would like to meet us, all details and registration can be found on our website

After Easter, the MBAs will be adding some new topics to their business skills, including negotiation, strategy, innovation and a week of International Political Economy with about 30 guest speakers coming from renowned organisations around the world – I’m sure they’ll be sharing the details with you.

We wish the MBAs the best of luck with their exams!