A Moroccan ICP Adventure

“Shukraan”, I told my driver, as he warmly said goodbye from Casablanca Airport. ‘Shukran’ translates to thank you in English.  As the plane gained altitude, I settled into my seat reminiscing about my experiences – the intensity of the cobra as it swayed to the snake charmer’s flute in Jemaa el Fna, the sweet smell of mint tea drifting in the bazaars of Marrakesh and the broad smile of street vendors serving sweetmeats and tea in Chefchaohen. Morocco had amazed and sometimes overwhelmed me by its sights and smells and the kindness of its people. The country in one word is “eclectic” in terms of its people, languages and terrain but these eclecticisms make it a whole.

Very much like my consulting project team members – a Romanian, a Japanese, an American, a South African and an Indian. Each having his own quirkiness and experience of around ten years to base it on. Brought together in May, to consult for a large Moroccan company, our ICP project goal is simple – analyze the market opportunity and define an entry strategy for a byproduct of current operations. Six months later, even after spending numerous hours in the dungeons we are still struggling. We must balance client and stakeholder expectations, deal with changing priorities and learn to work with each other. Combine this with job search and personal commitments and the task seems overwhelming.

However, like most experiences this year, the ICP experience has taught me to persist and prioritize. My team is a support system, each member filling in for the other and helping to manage failures with banter. Over the course of this year, I have transitioned from having to take time off after a failure to planning weekend trips right after I have received a rejection phone call. This year at IMD has taught me to “get knocked off and stand right back up, ready for the next punch.” Having a peer group which, like you, is constantly setting stretch goals despite failures, motivates you.

Setting stretch goals is a theme that resonates with my client as well. A national company quickly diversifying its products and geographical focus. Our client team is young, with many folks educated outside the country but returning to serve in their country of origin. It’s fun learning that their lives are just like mine even though spent on another continent. The support from our faculty coaches has been outstanding. For all these experiences – working with a Rockstar team on a challenging problem in a new continent and getting a chance to experience the hospitality of its people, I say “Shukraan”.

Moroccan Mining Team – Adrian, Takashi, Peter, Jaco and Perwez

Perwez

Implementing a B2C digital retail strategy, with an international mindset

In my opinion, an ‘International’ MBA program has as much to do with having a diverse cohort, as it does with enhancing a student’s ability to appreciate the nuances at play when interacting with people from different cultures. Furthermore, leveraging this understanding to forge meaningful rapports in both a personal and professional context is imperative.

The robust team dynamics of my International Consulting Project group was testament to the fact that IMD was successfully able to instil a high degree of cultural awareness and emotional quotient in its participants over the course of the year. Given that our ICP is positioned at the latter stages of this intensive program, this gave us an opportunity to showcase the aforementioned capabilities.

Our group comprised of individuals from four countries; China, Brazil, Monaco and India. Throughout the course of the project, we had our fair share of disagreements, arguments, differences and scenarios where I recall the tension in the room being palpable for days on end. A lot of these issues could be attributed to an eclectic set of beliefs and expectations, as a function of group diversity.

Alexis, Isabella, Gavin, Marcelo, Shaunak

What resonated with me most was each individual’s willingness to take critical feedback in their stride and make a relentless effort to work on areas of improvement. I was pleased to observe the tangible progress in the quality of our cooperation, mutual respect and interdependence, amongst other facets of team dynamics. This was validated by our ICP mentor. We also made a conscious decision to give every member an opportunity to lead the team through different phases of the project and this turned out to be an enriching experience for us all.

We had the privilege of traveling to France and the Netherlands for our client interactions and primary consumer research. The subtle variation in the work cultures in these two regions was eye-opening. For most of our team members, elements such as the travel, the primary and secondary research and the client presentations were a unique preview into the world of consulting. Moreover, the scope our project entailed implementing a B2C digital retail strategy; a topic that had us engrossed right at the outset.

We also developed a strong sense of camaraderie outside of the dungeons, courtesy of our very own in-house five-star multi-cuisine Chef Alexis, who took the initiative to get our group to bond over exquisite risotto and wine dinners. I also have a vivid memory of the seventeen-hour Sunday, a day before our second client presentation and the jovial spirit with which we supported each other, given the exigent circumstances, was heart-warming.

To my Professor Stephane Girod, thank you for the tremendous support, the attention to detail, wholesome feedback and for ensuring that the learning was fruitful for us as participants. And to the rest of my teammates, Gavin, Isabella, Alexis and Marcelo, “as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure!”

The full team – including Professor Girod!

Shaunak Grover

A Brazilian, Colombian, Indian, Italian and Spanish walk into an American Dive Bar in San Francisco

Please don’t ask what happens next! I won’t be able to tell you anything without breaking the ten commandments or non-disclosure agreements.

You guessed it right, our group is consulting a US company. We recently presented our first phase findings to the client. The project has been a great learning opportunity for us to understand the consultant way of thinking and working. Long working hours has been the norm of the day, but the enrichment in terms of the depth of the experience is exceptional.

Learning the team dynamics and honing leadership skills continues with the ICP and part of what makes the ICPs so special. The constructive conflicts, challenging of ideas are a few examples of things that will transform into lifelong learnings. However, it’s not all work and no play! As our ICP advisor would put it…. “NO NO NO NO!”. When things get too serious, our group has a solution called “5-minute nonsense” where we resort to stress alleviating activities like funny YouTube videos, sharing weird personal experiences or even a quick game of ping-pong or a rubbish flash video game.

Roberto, Purnendu, Cyan, Helena and Sebastiano

Although most of our team has prior experience related to the project, the ICP has provided us with a toolkit to look at the problem from a different lens. Things like issue trees and hypothesis testing have become part and parcel of life. Interviewing about 30 relevant stakeholders from the industry and digging through hundreds of industry reports seemed an arduous process, but it was all worth it after seeing the happiness on the client’s face.

Our next phase is underway, and we are pumped to generate valuable insights to close the project with a big bang. Next stop, Boston Massachusetts for the final workshop with the client!

Purnendu

From marathons to MBAs: Leadership lessons I have learnt from running

 

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I don’t think my MBA class would believe me if I told them that I use to hate running. I’m known amongst the year as that crazy girl who trained for her first marathon during the notoriously busy Module 1. This means I now know Lausanne’s running tracks almost as well as I know IMD’s dungeons.

However, when I was a child, I genuinely did hate it. My least favourite day of the whole school year was Sports Day. It was pure humiliation. I would be persuaded into running distances like the 1500m (around 3% of a marathon’s distance…) and spend the whole race wheezing, walking and complaining my way round.

Something changed when I was 18. I spent a year off, part of which working for a charity that looks after boys who lived on the streets in Kenya. When I came back to England, I felt compelled to do something to continue supporting them, so I decided to run a half marathon and raise money.

With that decision, I became a runner. It was difficult making this transition; going from someone who genuinely could not run longer than 2 minutes to someone who felt happy trudging round the London parks took perseverance, dedication and a total change in mindset.

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The reason I’ve carried on running for the last 10 years is not because of what it does for me physically. Yes, it is great to be fit, sleep better and have improved focus during the day, but the real reason is because of what it does for me mentally. Forcing myself to get up for early morning runs whilst others are still sleeping has strengthened my drive and self-discipline. Spending hours on training runs has taught me the importance of practice to improve a skill. Finding a good running buddy has shown me the benefit of support during challenges. And bad running days have made me more resilient whilst good running days make me feel empowered.

This MBA year has put all these skills to the test and the current job search is no exception. There are highs and lows. Many hours are needed to hone your interview technique and discipline to say no to opportunities that are not right for you. I have had setbacks, like I am sure some of my classmates have. With these I find it important to remember the resilience I showed during the marathon, pick myself up from momentary disappointment and carry on. There have also been some fantastic opportunities that have come up as well, and like that moment when I crossed finish line after 4 hours and 13 minutes of running, I make sure to celebrate these.

As another week begins where I find, like all of the Magic 90, I have the near impossible task of fitting in ICP work, job applications, interviews and a personal life into a limited, ever-accelerated amount of time, I like to remind myself of that 18-year-old girl who hated running. Who would have thought she could have run a London Marathon this year?

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Great achievements are possible with hard-work, determination and a little bit of luck. So good luck to all the Magic 90 as we move into this final phase of the year. By supporting each other and applying that determination we have shown throughout, I know that the possibilities for us all are endless. There is ultimately nothing more rewarding than putting a goal out there, working hard for it and seizing it with both hands when you achieve it.

Maisie

 

 

A truly international experience

The question that was stuck in my mind while deciding to do an MBA was, “Will it really be an international experience where I will be exposed to different cultures, ways of thinking, and people?”.

After 9 months from the start of the program, I am sitting on a plane that is taking me back to Geneva from Dhaka in Bangladesh, after three intense weeks of fieldwork for my ICP, with a team of diverse people, both in terms of nationality and work experience, and the answer to my initial question is definitely “YES”.

MBA ICP team in Bangladesh

Already before this last experience, the program’s international exposure was significant: a class of 90 people of 39 nationalities, a diverse faculty, and a 15-day trip to visit the world’s best hubs of innovation in three continents. But the ICP experience has been the icing on the cake. In 20 days, we have completed field visits with different teams from both local and multinational companies thanks to IMD’s strong network. We clearly saw how diverse and creative a local business can be; we talked in our own words (via a translator) to local people to learn about their lives and habits. All these learnings will be crucial not only for our final deliverables to our Client, but also for our future international careers – in particular, business development in high-growth, developing markets.

What I found inspiring during our trip and the multi-cultural experiences so far, is the fact that your curiosity and ability to ask the right questions set the learning boundaries. In Bangladesh, for instance, I saw how some multinational companies wisely created a competitive advantage through the pioneering application of technology. And how significant this competitive edge can be, even if today the pace of change has increased dramatically. Equally, I was amazed to see the commitment of local companies to increase the size of their business, while at the same time improving the quality of life for their nation and compatriots.

The ICP is definitely a unique opportunity to put into practice what we have learnt over the whole year.

I want to thank all my colleagues: Priscila, Yang, Stepan, and Georgii for these incredible three weeks and for the insights for this post, as well as Professor Dominique Turpin.

I only have one comment for the next part of the project, “AD MAIORA.”

Matteo and the ICP team

When consulting gets disrupted!

Scene 1

90 MBA students at a leading international business school, all them completely high on an overdose of management theory, sit in close attention as they are told about the final challenge between them and their golden degree.

International Consulting Projects, or ICPs as they are called, are consulting projects that they will have to undertake with clients across the globe. ‘Consulting’… ‘Global’…‘Clients’… stuff dreams are made of!

Thoughts of international travel, business suits, midnight meetings and coffee fill the room as they are told that they will all be assigned projects in groups, which will be led by faculty directors, akin to a partner in a consulting firm.

The stage is set. It is time to go and shine, and most importantly, to keep up with the highest standards set by their predecessors and the institute.

Scene 2

Five super confident, self-assured and clueless MBAs have come together for their first ICP meeting. The carefully curated team comprises of a Swedish investment banker, an Italian ex-naval officer set to become a consultant, an ‘Uber’ cool tech master from Brazil, a Japanese Sales superstar and a growth strategist from India.

The ‘S.U.P.E.R.’ team: Tulio Barcelos, Kei Takizawa, Swati Dalal, Andrea Teja, and Fred Wallenberg

The project is as concrete as their future. They will help a swiss startup, that is disrupting a certain industry, to scale up. Simple.

While doing so, they will work under the guidance of a Rockstar faculty member, a recovering consultant by his own admission, whose area of expertise is structured thinking.

Scene 3

Three weeks into the project, the team has been through a ‘S.U.P.E.R’ journey so far.

First came the ‘Structure’. As the team started understanding the key question, they got an opportunity to apply multiple strategic frameworks to define the scope with the client and address the most critical challenges.

Then came the ‘Understanding’. A few days into the project, the team realized that while structure is all about putting thoughts in boxes, disruption is all about thinking out of the box. This was a different beast and it would take way more than just the consultant swag to tackle it (the suits stay of course!).

‘Preparation’ was the key. Dwell deep inside business models. Talk to employees. Talk to experts. Talk to clients. Scan reports. Gather data and more data. Build a fort of knowledge. There is no room for shallow cosmetic treatments here. Go deep or drown.

Now is the time to ‘Experiment’. Like Jean-Claude Biver once told us, getting lucky is like hitting the right string, but to hit the right string you must hit as many as it takes to get lucky. When it comes to start ups, when it comes to disruptive technologies and especially, when it comes to business development, you knock on every door until you meet lady luck. Think prototyping (or think whatever, but get down to action!).

And finally, with the right structures, a deep understanding, thorough preparation and robust experimentation, we will reach our destination and get our ‘reward’. That will be the end of this S.U.P.E.R. journey or maybe it will just be a beginning!

Swati Dalal

(cover photo: scene from Zürich)

IMD ICP Dream Team – From Finnish to Start

After successful completion of module 3, IMD rewards you with another steep learning curve: the International Consulting Project (ICP). In our case, the holy grail is to figure out how to scale up an IoT AI solution focused on energy optimisation in district heating.

Our ICP adventure starts with a cold weekend in Helsinki where our first stop is a local fish restaurant. After eager consumption of salmon, shrimps and beer, our story continues with an e-scooter tour and a late night visit to a Finnish Karaoke bar.

The Dream Team: Leo Suvorov, Kirill Nagorskiy, Becky Holst, Ashley Yeh, and Philipp Kainz

We learn that ‘Kiitos’ means “Thank you” and we feel ready to join forces with our Finnish client on Monday morning. After stepping into the IoT AI company’s slick, Scandinavian office, we are quickly immersed in back to back meetings.

Through engaging with senior management, R&D, and sales teams, we start to transform our initial birds eye view of the company to a more multifaceted picture. We learn about the client’s success story in Finland and that a different business model may be required to expand the business abroad. The devil seems to be in the detail, and our brains are swimming in new knowledge about the heating ecosystem.

Besides acquiring new knowledge, we enjoy the company’s no shoe policy and their excellent cafeteria lunch on par with IMD. During our final and third day in Finland, we manage to visit an important Finnish energy customer which is in the process of disrupting themselves.

After flying back to our Swiss safe haven at IMD, we try to digest our thoughts and create a compelling story for ‘where to play’ abroad. Numerous team discussions with our faculty coach Seán Meehan, Dean of IMD’s MBA program, bring us closer to finding our holy grail which may take us on a new adventure to Poland…

Becky Holst