Marathons are not always run on tracks. For the IMD MBAs, they also take place in classrooms in the form of integrative exercises that last 48 hours instead of 42 km...

As the first couple of hours back on campus passed, we quickly faced the famed and feared Integrative Exercise – IMD’s acid test of our ability to assimilate all that we have been taught till date. It involves viewing a complex business problem from various lenses provided to us during the course and thereafter presenting a wholistic recommendation to a faculty board twice over the next two days.

With the added twist of working in randomly chosen groups of 4 or 5, chaos summarized the state of our minds and teams early on. After running to the market to stock food supplies for a full night’s work, our group started by discussing expectations and setting boundary rules (read sleep hours). The interaction soon turned to deliberating conundrums presented in the case, trade-offs therein and building on each other’s ideas to graduate towards the final solution.

As the night wore on, the corridors became replete with group members and frenzied classmates discussing cash flows, distribution models, marketing campaign spends and market selection strategies. Putting the finishing touches to our proposal in wee hours of the morning, we departed to our homes for a couple of hours of well-earned rest. The next morning, the board stress tested our plans from various standpoints and highlighted areas for improvement in its feedback. We were satisfied that we were on the right track and needed to only tie up a few loose ends to reach on the finish line.

Day Two was all about addressing the board’s feedback and subsequently brainstorming new ideas to further bolster our well thought plans. With each passing hour, increasing anxiety levels were kept in check by leveraging our strengths to arrive at a common understanding and the exhilaration of putting yet another piece of the final puzzle in place. In between, some of us also took out time to have enriching philosophical conversations about learnings from our journey through the exercise, the course till date and ruminated where life would take us in the next few months.

We were the first group to have the final board presentation the next morning. After a gruelling 40 minutes of scrutinizing our plans in excruciating detail, the board gave us a thumbs up and validated our work from the past two days. While we had entered the boardroom with equal parts nervousness and anticipation, we emerged all smiles and congratulated ourselves on a job extremely well done.

By noon, as last few groups appeared from their final presentations, we had 89 faces with wide smiles of contentment for reaching the finish line, a few teardrops of joy, enhanced self-beliefs and newfound respect for the some of the formidable shoulders that had propped us up during the last 48 hours.

Atul

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