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

International Consulting Projects: Bringing IMD MBA magic to the world

How is it the last weekend of September already? It feels like yesterday when we were navigating the snow drenched sidewalks of Villars, a memorable nine months ago!

And yet here we are, classes and startups and summer projects behind us, survivors of the intense and enriching Discovery Expedition. And, we made it through Digital Week!

When the International Consulting Projects (ICPs) were announced earlier this year, there was a lot going on with exams and travel, and we didn’t really grasp the impact that these projects could have on the host companies. I spent the last week with my team in the UK, where we began work on a digital marketing project for a large multinational. We realized very quickly that our work would not only be given high visibility, but it would also play an integral role in the company’s marketing strategy for key product portfolios. One beneficial aspect of the project is that it pulls us out of student mode and places us into work mode, except that now we have heightened awareness and business knowledge to make better decisions.

In essence, our class of 90 is divided into teams of five and staffed on real-world projects for the next seven weeks. The preparation for this has been year-round, with Professor James Henderson leading the charge. In the summer we submitted our project preferences and were soon informed of the team structures. No surprise, the companies hail from a wide range of industries, with ICPs that span the world. While my team doesn’t have extensive travel, our peers are happily trotting around the world, to Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, the United States, and then some.

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Adventurers bound for Bangladesh

In this sense, the ICPs are vastly different from our start-up projects. They are also a change from our class schedule, all of us in Lorange every morning at 8AM, some sleepier than others, poring over finance exercises and marketing cases. But then again, it couldn’t have gone on forever, enjoying the safety of the classroom. It was inevitable that we would have to step out and showcase what we have learned. We are, however, still guided by our faculty directors, who ensure that we stay on track and are able to navigate challenges as they arise. So we’re flying the coop, but with supervision.

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ICP city explorations

Personally, my hopes for this project are that my team delivers valuable contributions to our client, that we learn new and critical skills and concepts, and that we use this opportunity to inform our perspectives on the continuous career and job discussions that are currently are the forefront of our minds.

Over the next two months, we will share our ICP stories, surprises, learnings, hurdles, and successes. And at the end, we will have our deliverables, of course, but also the satisfaction of overcoming our personal fears and biases, expanding our cultural and culinary palates, and applying lessons learned in the classroom to companies and their customers.

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Having some fun amid ICP seriousness 🙂

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All smiles in Morocco

Wishing all of us many spectacular ICP experiences, amazing (and safe) travels, and memories of a lifetime.

Surbhi

The Many Faces of Digital Week!

It’s our last week as a class, in class, working on the same projects. I’m not emotional, yet, mostly because of a ton of ICP and recruiting work that envelopes all of us. But Digital Week, led by Professor Amit Joshi, has promised us plenty of “Code-ak” moments that have kept us entertained and motivated as we delve into programming and data analyses. Enjoy!

Step 1 (Confidence, poise, smiles): We’re a team! We can do this. It’s just Python. And Anaconda. How tough can programming languages named after lethal serpents be? We are IMD MBA champions! 🙂

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Step 2 (Apprehensive yet confident): Okay, this is going to take some more effort than I realized. But still, I can figure it out. We’re going to be fine. We have coaches and we’ve done the Codeacademy course on Python. All good, I hope.

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Step 3 (The realization that there is much to learn sets in): Why is Python not listening to me?! We invented it to make life easier, no?

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Step 4 (Surrender to the inevitable): I’m going to go look for the coaches in the dungeons. And maybe grab a snack. And remember the calming tips my PDE gave me.

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Step 5 (Innovate, observe competitors, get back into the MBA “never-say-die” frame of mind): What are you guys doing? #sharedknowledge

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We are heading into the semi-finals in 15 minutes! Wish us luck 🙂

Yours in code,

Surbhi

So why IMD?

You might think that I should have asked myself this question long before I signed the papers. And you are right! That’s what I did, but reading about the journey and jumping on the plane are two different things.

With over 6 years of management consulting experience in my backpack, it was time to rethink: who I was as a professional; what led me to where I was (scary thought); and what I needed to rethink to move forward (even scarier). IMD’s focus on leadership and the mysterious PDE (Personal Development Elective – 20 individual sessions with a pyschoanalyst) were at the core of what brought me here.

Now, several months into the program, with countless classes, multiple PDE hours, extensive coaching sessions, challenging leadership experientials and a file of reflection papers, comes the moment to reflect … was it worth it? Oh yes, it was.

Firstly, I tend to call the stream ‘the total leadership stream’. I say it as it covers a very broad spectrum of what leadership is in today’s complex environment – starting from typical suspects such as self-discovery (e.g. through psychological tests), team dynamics and building and managing high performance teams through less obvious topics of ethics, culture, lie detection and trust building to unique 1-2-1 psychoanalysis sessions.

Secondly, it is immersive. Quite often we discuss leadership as an abstract concept in a vacuum. It is easier to discuss it when you analyze a scientific paper or when you work on team dynamics in a laboratory-like exercise. And do not get me wrong – these are great experiences… to start with. At IMD the leadership stream goes further and is an integral part of the entire program. Innovation week? Sure, why not add coaches to the team to facilitate team dynamics learning on a real project. Start-up projects and ICPs (International Consulting Projects)? Why not include coaches again to teach us how to open ourselves up and build trust through team bonding exercises. These are practical tools we can bring to the professional life post-MBA.

Lastly, it goes deep. Going through leadership experientials where we were put under pressure as a team to observe and learn about the team dynamics or facing uncomfortable questions during the coaching and PDE sessions were not easy. IMD created an environment where we could put away our personas to work with the true “us”, with all its beauty but also with all its imperfections. Hours of honest conversations helped me to confront my demons and that was a very helpful experience.

The Leadership stream is truly the foundation of IMD MBA program. It transforms you in so many ways, repairing some of the damage you carry and opening eyes to the areas you have never looked at. It’s a fascinating, yet oftentimes painful journey. As with everything in life, there is no free lunch. To get the most out of it, you need to open up, face the uncomfortable truths about yourself and help others through sometimes very tough conversations.

If you are looking to transform who you are, IMD MBA is the place for you. If not, then hmm … there are many other MBA programs that are perhaps a better fit 🙂

Thank you Jennifer Jordan, Ina Toegel, George Kohlrieser, Bettina Court and all other faculty, coaches and PDE analysts who are with us along this journey of the discovery of self and the world around us!

Lukasz

Keep Calm, and Embrace the Chaos

What happens when you hurtle ahead from January through June at breakneck speed, and then suddenly pull those screeching brakes?

You catch up on your “do-absolutely-nothing” debt.

During glorious July, the much-needed month off in the IMD MBA program, I, and most of the class, purposefully did nothing of obvious value, unless you consider puttering around the house and meandering through glistening malls, frigid with air conditioning, in the middle of a desert nation, productive. I do. My best ideas arise in sloth.

IMG_0389.JPGSea view from the Arabian Gulf on a hot, lazy day in Dubai

And now we are back in lovely, sunkissed Lausanne. Whizzing through Finance, Negotiations, Structured Thinking, and most recently, Leadership sessions on distinguishing between truth and lies. With my peers, Takashi and Jia, I’ll be doing project work with IMD alumni looking to bring precision agriculture to East Africa. Plus, International Consulting Project (ICP) prep is underway. Also, recruiting is officially ramping up! In just two weeks!

I blocked this weekend for quiet time, hoping that if nothing else, I can assimilate in my mind the learnings of early August. And yes, we learned loads about valuation from Professor Arturo Bris, honed our negotiation skills with Professor Sam Abadir, pushed our logic and structuring capabilities with Professor Arnaud Chevallier, discussed culture and strategy with Professor Ina Toegel, and took on the beast that is “difficult conversations” with Professor Jennifer Jordan.

This immense trove of knowledge is valuable when we are in the right state to use it. An overarching lesson is the acceptance of uncontrollable factors. You can read and test as many frameworks as you like, test a million scenarios and have all manner of analytics and research at your disposal. The outcome of it all, our efforts, the risks we take, remains unknown. And maybe being at peace with darkness is an answer. Maybe as we cross the chasm, from being frantic about output versus serene and focused on the process, we evolve from our former selves to impactful leaders. So, there is power in just this, being okay with the unknown.

IMG_9654.jpegLac Léman tranquility

Whether we look at the time value of money, understanding our position versus who we are negotiating with, grasping the emotions behind the misgivings of a disgruntled colleague, or structuring options to approach an abstract problem, the present moment is all that matters. The past can cloud judgment, in finance and feelings, and the future sits on so many variables beyond our influence. Suddenly the concept of mindfulness doesn’t seem as restricted to yoga-studio, crunchy granola stereotypes as it previously did. It applies to our everyday dealings, especially in business.

I am grateful to our wonderful Sports Committee for organizing yoga classes. Simple things like deep breathing and self-awareness are gold when navigating the rest of this program, which has made a marked shift from the first academically focused half, to now, when we’re practicing cases and feverishly writing cover letters.

One thing is for sure, I will schedule “aimless time” on a weekly basis, even if for a few minutes. Because when the world is still and your calendar isn’t pinging in nagging anticipation for your next commitment, you can reconnect with the person who brought you here in the first place, “pre-IMD you”. You can remember her dreams, recharge, and redirect your efforts, so that, in spite of the unpredictable nature of all things external, you can be sure of one thing, your sense of self.

Signing off with this tribute to Toni Morrison, the first African-American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, who passed on last week.

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Surbhi

One Year at IMD: it’s all about us and about all of us

Admission to IMD was an unexpected ticket for our family. We used the last deadline to submit our application last year, so had no time for fears.

We married in February 2015, our son Anton was born in January 2018, and my husband, Alexander, moved to Lausanne for his MBA in January 2019, just before Anton’s first birthday party.

Us in Moscow, last year

I was on the way to visit my parents near Moscow. I still needed more time to think and realize what had happened to us. I was sure Alex had got a lucky ticket for his career, but had no idea what was in that year for me.

I am a careerist and a successful journalist in Moscow, Russia. We had been enjoying a very smart life here, but now my comfortable and predictable life was under threat.

I am not a woman who follows, but it was impossible to work full time in Moscow with a baby. Finally, I decided to live in both countries – that was my safe step. And I came to Lausanne in February.

Here are some conclusions from my experience

  • IMD year is a great challenge for relationships. If you manage you become stronger. The main thing for me was to get freedom to stay in Moscow, the main thing for Alex – freedom to go to Lausanne. This trust to be free has made us closer.
  • This has been a good opportunity to reconsider our values. The price of the year is comparable with the price for a nice apartment in Moscow – considered the biggest asset in life by most people in Russia.
  • Now I value my husband and all our relatives much more. We used to live rather independently. This year I’m getting a lot of help from our relatives and have realised how great it is to have support.
  • I am learning a lot about my personality. I have gone a great way from unconscious fear to self confidence and inner freedom. I have become stronger and wiser. I am coping and learning to be open-minded like the MBA-participants.
  • This summer I have started new projects for which I did not have enough energy before, and am returning to Moscow motivated for new experiences.
  • I am still not a woman who follows, but I am really proud of Alex and of being his partner and am sure that we can both develop ourselves.
Anton and I at one of the IMD MBA Partner lunches

So if your partner enters IMD, it’s not only their MBA. It’s an MBA year for all of you – partners and relatives. IMD is all about us as it changes and motivates all of us.

Anna Chukseeva