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

Hold tight – the process of change

The MBA International Consulting Projects are well under way, with participants travelling around the globe, working as teams to find solutions to an issue faced by the top mangement of the company they are working for. They have another four weeks to complete their projects and make an impact. But at the same time, the clock is ticking as graduation approaches and the pressure to secure the next phase of their career is also at the forefront of their minds.

Here are some words of encouragement from one of the MBA partners:

“An overwhelming time of the year has come for our MBA’s who might feel a bit submerged. They’re spending all their time  looking for jobs, reaching out and making connections networking, interviewing for jobs, supporting one another and juggling big ICP projects.

It’s honestly a trialing time for the best of us. Not achieving what they wanted may have some of the participants discouraged at this point, but we, as partners send this message:

We are proud of you all, we stand behind you, and we believe in you.

Dear participants, I hope you find some inspiration in the words below. 

Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry, weepy and hysterical or we may feel utterly hopeless. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled upon a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger that we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on the way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be eventually become the periods we wait for. For it is in these periods that we realize we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability a new level of your being is about to be revealed. 

Hold tight… all will happen at the exact moment you are waiting for.  

Maddie (MBA partner 2019)

“Your ICP mission, should you choose to accept it…”

What is the International Consulting Project? It is the business-school equivalent of the agoghé (ἀγωγή) for the ancient Spartans. Just as the young Spartans were tested to prove they were worth the title of warriors and citizens, the MBAs are challenged to demonstrate they deserve the IMD hallmark. Teams are formed by selecting five of the most complementary players in the class market, and supervised by more experienced Faculty “Generals”. With this line-up, for seven weeks they help the most innovative and brave clients face some of their hottest challenges. Seven weeks of passion, seven weeks of poetry, seven weeks of chemistry, blood, and magic.

Our first-string team is fielded with a clear attacking spirit: as goalkeeper, a Taiwanese illusionist, a little lady with a powerful gaze and words of wisdom. In front of the goal, an Italian defender, proud disciple of the “catenaccio” school of thought, and a Greek-Croatian hoplite, trained in the elitist schools in Libya, now in charge of the defensive phalanx. Midfielder, the Russian scientist creating the alchemy, a brain stolen from the Intelligentsia and two arms stolen from a bright future in the Ping-Pong School of Moscow. In the forward position, a Spanish striker with a humble appearance and a tiger heart, a unique specimen, as Catalan supporter of Real Madrid. As Coach, a man who fearlessly defies the laws of finance, prominent Director of the “Derivatives and Coffee Academy”.

Javier Linares (Spanish), Damianos Kiramarios (Greek, Croatian), Luca Facchini (Italian), Kerry Hsiao (Taiwanese), and Alexander Burasov (Russian)

Our ICP journey has the traits of a classical adventure story. You may wonder why (“why map” attached).  The story takes place in an unknown territory, an industry unfamiliar to the team, a new setting for each of its members. This poses the first challenge: to decipher the complexity, the drivers, the dynamics, the key levers in a new industry environment. The hero of this story is our client, an international player with a glorious legacy and ambitious dreams. The hero is seeking a treasure: understanding how to grow in a new market. During his research, our hero encounters a Dragon, a deep interior dilemma: growing organically or acquiring other heroes? But our hero is a warrior, a fighting man – he is not a heroes recruiter. And he knows that. But he has us.

We will travel around the world for him. We will test the abilities of the best fighters in NAFTA and APAC. We will evaluate the potential synergies with these heroes, especially in terms of incremental energy (cash) flows.

Our hero’s endeavour is just at the starting point; the best is yet to come.

[This message will self destruct in five seconds – four – three – two – one – … ]

ICP team 3

A “Swiss-made” Impact

Getting to know more about how Swiss companies operate their day to day business was one of my key criteria not only when choosing to join IMD but also when it came to my selection of the ICP (International Consulting Project). Our client is a classic example of a company rooted in Swiss culture but with an international footprint. Their products are sold across Europe, Asia, and the US. Their customers range from multinational corporations to SMEs. Working with such a client allows me to effectively practice what I have learned from IMD over the past 9 months on a worldwide stage.

Ever since our preparation stage in early May, my team and I have met our clients and visited their company and factory so that we can familiarize ourselves with their business and products. The visits have opened my eyes and taught me what “Swiss-made” really means. From design to manufacture, each product is perfectly made by Swiss manufacturers who represent reliability and resilience. I never appreciated how a spare part of machinery can be a piece of art.

Our client’s customers share a similar impression. For the first project week we travelled to Germany and China to interview a range of customers. Coming from a marketing background, I see this is a valuable experience to understand the reality of the local market and get closer to the end-users, which is imperative as a start to solve the problems of our client. I was also excited to learn a lot of manufacturing industry knowledge hands-on that was completely alien to me in the past. With our team effort as a whole, I am confident we can contribute to the growth of our client’s business.

Real learning, real impact.

Jillian Xu