Coincidentally, the opening lines to Bohemian Rhapsody played as I walked out of Bellerive 32 for the last time before we went into lockdown. At times it feels as though our batch will be defined by COVID-19, and whatever it has in store for us. That thought is hard to escape from because every bit of news, every conversation, even the act of getting out of bed in the morning and not going to IMD is a reminder of the situation we find ourselves in.
There are also moments of happiness, like when those emails arrive from the team at IMD with beautiful words of encouragement. It is incredible how dedicated they are to making sure that we have the best experience that we possibly can despite the difficult situation, and dedication that is matched by their ability to gracefully adapt to this situation every time it has changed. When I arrived here in Lausanne three months ago, I expected to read case studies in leadership. I did not expect to witness one unfold in front of me! What you don’t know when you sign up for the MBA at IMD is that the program is run by a team of superstars.
To hear from them feels as though the refresh button has been hit and in an instant the mind goes back to the all the sights and sounds of BR32 – people chatting and laughing, the grinding of coffee beans, the same old jokes about how many oranges and bananas someone had for breakfast. I’d give anything to hear those jokes again.
And then it happens. Once the mind is back on campus the body reacts like it is too. Almost three months of training kicks in and you snap back into the zone. A quick look at the agenda for the day and then get stuck in. Lately, it’s been exam prep, followed by some more exam prep. And, of course, the start-up projects.
As part of the Entrepreneurship stream run by Professor Benoit Leleux, groups of six MBAs team up with a Swiss start-up to help them solve some of their problems. Our team is working with Geneva-based Foodetective, who aim to help restaurants reap the benefits of the digital age in a manageable and cost-effective way. The founder, Andrea Tassistro came up with the idea when running a food truck in a previous life and was inevitably confronted by tech-overload taking up the time that he needed to run the business. It is something that food businesses need to get on top off, and this will be particularly true once life returns to normal (or something like it!).
Which quite nicely brings us back to our current situation. The disruption caused by COVID-19 preceded the exam preparation referred to earlier. Obviously, this played havoc with our plans with Foodetective, much like every other plan! The reality is that these start-ups must continue to function, virus or not. Like that saying about lemons and lemonade, the upside of this schedule disruption is that once the exams are over, we get about a week or so to go full steam on Foodetective. So, even though we’re not quite full steam now, Andrea and his team just roll with it. They get that uncertainty is the only certainty in life, and their actions are a first-hand account of how entrepreneurs have learnt to live with it. That’s the beauty of this project – we’re not just here to help them, we also learn a lot from them. When IMD says ‘Real Learning. Real Impact’ they mean it!
And so, it is that another day goes by in this lockdown. It will end with a session of socialising on Zoom where many of us on the program get to speak to and see each other and get that feeling of all being back together again. As they say, the show must go on and for this team – the Mighty90 – there can be no other way.