My journey through Africa to IMD

This is Satoshi, MBA candidate from Japan.

Our journey at IMD is almost at an end. Time really flies. I would like to use this opportunity to reflect on my experiences prior to, during, and after my MBA.

My interest in the “international world” first came about in Geneva.  I spent 4 years there in my youth where I became interested in working for United Nations Humanitarian agencies in the developing world.

After university I went to Cameroon to work for the local Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. I spent two years living in the rural village, working on income generating activities for local farmers. Then, I had a chance to work for an NGO in South Sudan, where ethnic conflict was severe. I was running around, delivering emergency food supplies to internally displaced people and constructed health care facilities across the region.

Working with rural farmers in Cameroon

However, when the battles between the ethnic groups in 2013 destroyed what we had constructed and we had to evacuate, leaving local people and our staff behind, I questioned myself. What could I do when international organizations can not intervene in ethnic conflicts? How could I provide effective support to this developing world?

Bringing emergency supplies to conflict front line in South Sudan

I decided to move into the private sector which created value by bringing employment to the local African people. I joined a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and was dispatched to Kenya, from where I travelled to over 10 countries in Africa, creating employment by expanding business. But here, I questioned myself again. Was I good enough to be a general manager who could create more positive impact in the continent?

With my local staff in Kenya

This is why I came to IMD – to grow as a business leader who can help an emerging market. IMD’s focus on leadership, its intense one-year program and strong exposure to Industry made it my number one choice.

Learning at IMD has been impressive, mainly because of the different aspects covered within the year. Not only were the core classes mostly exceptional but also the Innovation lab, Digital analtyics lab, Startup projects, Discovery expedition, ICP and business & society course (during which we visited the United Nations and the World Economic Forum), were all insightful. From guest speakers who were high executives from both private and public sectors, I learned about their serious commitments on sustainability, inclusion and diversity. It made me think a lot on how leaders should also be focusing on aspects outside of financial statements.

Inspirational day at World Economic Forum with my classmates

The IMD Leadership stream gave me a good chance to reflect on myself. Regular interaction with a psychoanalyst and leadership coaches, plus numerous feedback sessions with my classmates, clearly deepened my self awareness.  Eventually, my passion and career goal became clearer and more sharpened: I want to create a sustainable, growing business in the emerging market and bring positive impact to the world.

Finally, I need to mention my classmates. These guys are great. Humble hardworking, friendly and helpful. I couldn’t have gone through this tough year without them.

With these great future alumni of 2019, I wish to create positive impact in the real world.

Thank you!

Work Hard, and Play Harder – A retrospect of our “fun” ICP

If you had told me last year that during the MBA I would be working on an international consulting project with a toy brand, and understanding how little kids play with their toys, I would not have believed you; I would not even have been able to imagine it. Yet, after 7 weeks of this fun experience, I am now a proud owner of two sets of our client’s product (Age 16+)!

Our ICP is exactly as advertised: learning through playing. With only a very high-level scope, we were given the maximum freedom to brainstorm innovative ideas from scratch, by talking with experts from different industries and fields, and also by leveraging our learnings from the MBA classes. In order to test our concepts, we went to Germany – the target market – to interview little kids and their mothers. At least for me, I had never imagined that I could have such an insightful dialogue with an 8-year-old. Also, to understand the history and culture of our client, we were invited to visit their establishments and their headquarters for a fully immersive ICP experience.

Learnings have not just been from the project work itself, but also from unexpected places during this playful journey. We were impressed by how innovative our client’s brand has been since its inception, how durable and well received their products are in German families, and how committed the brand is towards a sustainable future – with a constant focus on quality education of the next generations. Personally, I am delighted by the unique sense of humor showcased everywhere in the territory of the brand.

Of course, our ICP team has been just as playful as the client. During these seven weeks, we grew to learn about each other and more importantly, to learn how to perform and at the same time have fun as a team. We worked hard together, and we played hard together as well. We acknowledged every progress, and we celebrated every small success; we made fun of ourselves, and we laughed with each other. Sometimes there were heated discussions, but we were able to resolve them and became a better team. Just like playing with the products of our client, we built our team through exploring all the possible combinations of five different pieces, and we came up with one that may not be perfect, but is definitely fun and unique.

Junyi, Maki, Jesuad, Yizhe and Pedro

Seven weeks is not a lot of time, but we harvested great learning and joy. It was the perfect ending project for a year that has been full of exploration and adventures.

By Junyi

The ICP Experience

Everyone claims their ICP is special. But ours actually is. I say this half-jokingly with trademark IMD-self-awareness, half-serious. And this is because, we set out to “provoke the CEO”. When we chose our project, this was our scope description and at the same time – if you ask a set of MBAs-in-the-making – it was no scope at all. This left us with the beauty and pain to systematically identify which mountain to climb from a number of peaks surrounding us. 

The team that got together to work on this feat consists out of 5 people who have in total 7 nationalities. Clearly this is only one of many indicators of the diversity of our team, but I can truly say that the mix of people, mindsets and personalities has made the project challenging, exciting and successful at the same time.

Mirko, Carl, Hameed, Diego, Da Eun

Our main stakeholder was the CEO of a globally acting company as well as the executive team. It has been quite an experience to work on such a high profile project and discussing strategic options that will help the company to gain a competitive advantage. What was especially impressive for us was to deliver a fresh perspective on the business and bring in opportunities that would have never been considered otherwise.

During the course of the project we’ve experienced it all: spending 3 weeks plus weekends at the client site, travelling 10h per leg; working late nights; presenting to our faculty directors on the weekend per teleconference out of our hotel rooms; visiting a heavy industry production plant; client dinners (and drinks); and much more.

It was a fun journey which culminated this week in our final presentation of our recommendations. Our client is excited about the result, we learnt a ton and grew close as a team. Who could ever ask for more?


What lovely days – from Lausanne to the UAE

What lovely days…

“What lovely days we had, walking to school, chatting with classmates every morning in Lausanne!” said Peter. I didn’t think about that until he said so, but yes, I also feel a little homesick. We are now in Abu Dhabi and commute by car from our hotel to the office because it is still too hot and sticky here to walk outside, even in October. Maybe that’s the reason we miss our beautiful walk to IMD.

Our team is in the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) for the full seven weeks of our International Consulting Project (ICP), engaging in retail strategy in a financial industry. The ICP is comprehensive learning opportunity where we leverage what we have learned over the year to contribute to the client project.

Impactful Classes

Structured Thinking helped us to analyze the company issues using a logic tree, taking care of MECEness: what was the issue, why we needed to think of it, how we would solve it, etc.

Change Management, taught us how to transform an organization. Of particular help, was the simulation exercise we did, where we had to recognise the different perspectives of each stakeholder in the company. We’ve had a lot of interviews with internal stakeholders to map the current situation: heads of each product, Relationship Management, and functional teams such as Marketing or Digital. Once we could see the situation objectively, we followed the Scope of Work and listened to the opinion of the project owner, so that we could suggest a tangible plan for the final presentation.

High Performance Teams, classes that fell under the Leadership stream, helped our team to work collaboratively and deliver an innovative result from the multiple perspectives.

Fabulous team- Alex, Atsushi, Lukasz, Filipa, and Peter

Our team is diverse team of five: a South African from a start-up, a Polish from a consulting firm, a Portuguese from an investment bank, a Russian from a private equity fund, and a Japanese from a trading and investing company. Each colleague has different viewpoint, so every moment we discuss takes a certain amount of time and patience, before the long but constructive discussions help us to reach the best joint idea.

I need to add one more comment. We have also been enjoying some sight-seeing such as Louvre museum, Grand mosque, Burj Khalifa, etc. and playing squash with our teammates! I truly appreciate this precious experience and chance to learn more about the cultural difference and team dynamics. If I had not had this opportunity, I might not have had the chance to come to the Middle East. In the future, I’ll be thinking “What lovely days we had working in the UAE” …

Dinner with our Faculty supervisor: Professor Omar.


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


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!