A few days ago, 11 of my MBA classmates, 4 alumni and I had the chance to participate in the MBA Bocconi Regatta in Santa Margherita Italy, one of the top MBA sports meetings of the year, and an opportunity to meet people from other prestigious business schools.
Most importantly, it was a true stretching teamwork and leadership experience that could not have been “taught in a classroom nor induced through group assignments in an MBA class setting”, as Hassan, one of my crew members, highlights it. “There’s something about being on a sail boat with 6 of your classmates and an alumni in the middle of the Ligurian Sea, competing for Regatta glory by carefully pulling ropes and forcing tight maneuvers to get ahead of the competition, that brings home what teamwork is all about. It’s observing your crew, anticipating issues, being available to them, reinforcing communication, and giving your best that matters when the horn sounds and the boats set sail.”
What was particular about our setup was the lack of sailing experience of most of us MBAs. This was a real challenge given that safety, on top of performance, was at stake. Martina, recalls that, “Every wrong maneuverer was immediately visible, no mistake was forgiven.”
So how did it play out for us? The truth is that Daniel and Claude, our skippers and IMD’s alumni from 2014 and 2017, played a pivotal role in our success. In less than 3 days, we managed to pull two crews together, get up to speed and perform.
“Daniel and Claude were not “only” skippers, they were leaders who gained our respect by leveraging the talent which each single individual brought in, by staying calm in tense situations and by focusing on our learning experience and development. Martina.
From our skippers perspective, the Regatta was also a stretch, as Daniel Emeka (MBA 2014) highlights:
” I had to bear in mind that since we didn’t have time to practice much I would be relying on people taking initiative within prescribed limits and a framework. Both Claude and myself made sure we held an initial briefing, and sought to reassign where we thought roles weren’t aligned with requirements and break the entire sailing experience into phases such as getting in and out of the harbor versus racing (third phase) which had a different set of roles. The team then only had to think one phase at a time and focus on those tasks.
The team had heightened IQ and EQ, so they quickly picked up on concepts like wind direction and tacking/gybing (it helped that there were quite a few engineers) as well as self-motivation, team dynamics management, …and waiting for the right moments to bring up issues. This really added to the morale and kept us focused on important things for prolonged periods. As for the usual rookie mistakes, we got the course wrong once, misjudged weather patterns, sometimes didn’t notice some problems early enough. But these were all corrected for and no mistake was made twice”
From Claude’s (MBA 2017) perspective:
“For the second time in two years, I had the chance to be on the IMD racing boat for the MBA Bocconi regatta as skipper. Unlike last year, I was not familiar with most of the crew members who were current MBA students. Getting a crew of seven to perform coordinated specialized activities in the limited space of a boat with the pressure of competitors like Harvard, MIT, INSEAD, HEC, and Chicago is a thrilling and sensational challenge. For the boat to move, turn, and accelerate, everyone needs to know his/her role and objectives, communicate effectively, and understand how to react to unexpected events. The learning curve is steep, and the crew needs to take risks and dare to make decisions with a limited amount of information and time. After a few initial adjustments, we were able to improve our maneuvers, increase speed, and reduce reaction time. And after the first race, I had already forgotten that I wasn’t part of this class: it felt like we were one team and that I knew the crew as well as I knew my classmates last year. Unfortunately, we did not win the regatta, but we don’t need to be on top of rankings to be successful. And for me success, was creating meaningful human bonds with 2018 class, enjoying the time together and leaving in some of them a bit of my passion for sailing.”
This Regatta remains one of the most symbolic, memorable and sensational events of our MBA experience, and a great sports tradition I would like to help future classes maintain and improve. On behalf of the sailing team and the MBA sports committee, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to our dean Sean Meehan, and the MBA staff for their support in making this happen!
Sara, for the MBA Sports Committee