Leadership development in practice

This week was different from the very beginning. It actually started on Sunday afternoon, when the Magic90 reached IMD’s doors to get to know what was awaiting us in the first Leadership experimental – the first of the many elements of the IMD MBA leadership stream – the heart and the backbone of our MBA journey.

The Prelude

It all began so innocently. We met our coaches, got to know the initial exercise and were sent to the dungeons (study rooms!) to start discussions within our six-person study groups. Plain and simple. The magic happened later…

In the evening we lowered our masks and hung up our personas to share a few pages from the books of our lives. Going home few hours later, we knew each other better than we would have thought the day before. And that was just the start, a prelude to the following days. Tired, thankful and excited we were looking forward to the experience.

The experimental

The next days were full of activities in the beautiful (yet cold 🙂 ) Swiss mountains. Physical and mental challenges to solve, discussions to be held, feedbacks to give and receive. However, that was only the surface, something that a cameraman would record in a documentary movie summarizing ‘student adventures’. The true story lies deeper, invisible to the naked eye.

Emotions. We experienced a lot of them. Positive and negative, mild and extreme. Excitement, passion, frustration, sadness, you name it. We lived through them together and individually. Although uncomfortable at times, they let us be even more who we really are.

Discovery. What is critical is that we have not stopped at living our emotions. It was a challenging learning experience about recognizing and analysing what happens to us, to the others and why, when working together on a joint task. How do we react to certain behaviours? How do our actions influence others? What is the impact of emotions and feelings for the effectiveness of a team?

As an example, I remember the discussions we had while analysing the challenges we solved vs. those we did not manage to cope with. One of the learnings was the importance of communication, giving each other enough space to share ideas and identify the talents and knowledge some of us had that were highly relevant for a given task. Sounds simple, does it not? But so often people think they ‘know better’ instead of listening to others…

Irrespective of how trivial it sounds, we realized and felt how critical the human, soft factor is in everything we do. And that is something you cannot learn in a class. You need to experience it.

The impact

Today’s business environment is a world of teams. We may have the brightest minds and most creative ideas in an organization but it will not take us far if we don’t manage to collaborate with and lead others. This week we made a few additional steps to better understand who we are and how we can effectively interact with others. Self-awareness and leadership – two simple words. Mastering them is a difficult and long path, but the award awaits those who dare to walk it persistently.

The award of truly connecting to inspiring and fascinating people that we onboard onto this journey. Financial and business success will be just by-products.

With warmest thoughts to my team: Anya, Kerry, Surbhi, Mischa and Tiziano.

Lukasz

新年快乐: Celebrating Chinese New Year, IMD style!

Despite being in the throes of the relentless calendar that is Module 1, we find time to bond with and learn about those who seem different from us. I say “seem” because of the learnings from the last few days at our Leadership Experiential. I have learned that if you scratch below the surface of apparent divergence, you find many points to connect on and much common ground. This is a transformational strength of being part of a mind-bogglingly diverse MBA program.

One such experience has been with my peers from Greater China. As I approached them, pen and paper in tow, ready to jot down salient points for a blog post on Chinese New Year, I was greeted with the same joy, excitement, and nostalgia, irrespective of their hometowns. Here are some snippets about their memories and emotions for the Chinese New Year.

China.jpegThe Greater China contingent from the IMD MBA Class of 2019

“For me, the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival – as we call it, means family. It is about traveling thousands of miles or even across the globe to go back to where you belong, be with family, and enjoy together the food that brings back memories of childhood. As a child, during the festival, I was always trying to peek into the kitchen to see what was on the menu today, and even take a bite while the adults were not looking; and I still do that now, so many years later as a grown-up. Every year my mom would experiment new dishes, but some are not changed and are kept as our family “signature” dishes; every year I just can’t wait to go back home and be comforted and surprised by the food made of love. When I am abroad and cannot go back, my mom would send me pictures of the dishes, and I miss being with families that I treasure and share the food that cures me.” -Junyi Wang, China

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“My (and I would say most Hong Kong people’s) favorite New Year food is definitely Turnip cake (Chinese: Lo Bak Go). This is a traditional food for Lunar New Year. I like the taste but I also enjoy making the cake with my family. My family never cook together. My mother or my grandmother do most of the cooking. Only when it is Lunar New Year, everybody will gather together to cook – some of us peel the turnip, mix the sauce etc. We also enjoy shrimp for dinner on New Year’s Eve. In Cantonese, it is pronounced, “Ha” which means “hahaha” and lots of laughter in the coming year. Fish is “Yu” which means “having plenty” so we have that too. We play mah-jong and it is good for catching up with family and relatives. I will prepare tea for my mother, father, and brother early in the morning on the first day of the year. I would say thank you for your love, care and support for the year and wish them to have good health for the year.” – Angelina Cho, Hong Kong

Related image“Typically on Chinese New Year, parents and elders who are working give the children and younger family members who are not earning yet, red envelopes with money. It is a bonus to the regular pocket money and is considered good luck and blessings. We visit relatives and at home, there is a constant supply of food. Even if you are not hungry you have to keep eating! In Taiwan, we get to see the Electric-Techno Neon Gods do a traditional dance. One the New Year’s day we usually do a big get-together at home, and on the second day, married women are supposed to visit their families. The celebrations continue for a few days and it brings everyone together.” – Kerry Hsiao, Taiwan

a92c2bc0-30a9-46e1-a4e8-24b1201642a1.JPGChinese New Year Hot Pot celebrations!

IMG_8366.jpgFinding precious time to reflect and celebrate among the consecutive academic and leadership activities of this week, out peers from Greater China kept their festive spirits high and involved all of us! They gifted us with red envelopes filled with kind messages and sweet treats. The IMD Restaurant is also treating us with special Chinese New Year themed lunches this week, enjoyed by all, with many laughs at the end as we read out our predictions to each other from fortune cookies. In reality, it is hard to predict where we are headed. But with our families just a phone call away, memories of our cultural celebrations, and the company of our MBA friends, we can be sure that good things await ahead.

Wishing the IMD MBA Class of 2019, our professors, MBA support team, all IMD staff and students, and our blog readers a blessed and spectacular Year of the Pig!

Surbhi

 

 

 

 

Our first month: measurement of time

It’s been a month since most of us moved and started calling Lausanne “home”. A lot has happened in the last 30 days and there are many ways in which we could measure it. If we go by the calendar, most days were filled with an overflow of information, from great classes with a couple of guest speakers to getting our personality test results and looking at ourselves with new eyes. If we go by meeting new people, we went from names on a WhatsApp group to people with wonderful life stories and a lot to learn from, we went from being acquaintances to classmates and are on the road to become great friends. If we go by changing our routines, this month meant going back to being students (something that was long forgotten by most of us) having classes for 8 hours a day and then spending the night reading and doing homework while trying to have a “life”. Either way, it was an overwhelming month in more ways than one, and it only takes one quick glance at the February calendar to know that January was actually just the beginning and things are about to get tough.

One of the things that will make our lives interesting was officially launched this past week. From day one we were talking about the Start-up project when we got the list of the 15 companies that the MBA 2019 class will be working for and were asked to select our favourite four. It also meant that we were being assigned to our study group, the groups of six that will be spending a lot of time together for the next couple of months. We got a few weeks to get to know each other and our work style before we met with our start-up at the end of the month. The day of the meeting you could feel the anxiety in the room, all of us wondering what it will be like, what are they expecting from us and what could we do to help them.

Meeting our start-up turned out to be less stressful than many of us expected, it meant meeting really passionate people working for an idea they really believe in. It also allowed us to bring all our experience to the table and start thinking outside the box, looking at problems from different angles while thinking how are we going to do this on top of all the classes, readings, homework, leadership and career exercises. Time management will for sure be something we are all tested on in the upcoming weeks and as the stress rises, is going to be fun to see how our dynamics change.

I close this post sharing this picture of one of the class speakers we had this month. The reading for the marketing class was about Tag Heuer and we had the pleasant surprise of having the protagonist of the case, Jean-Claude Biver, talk to us about his career. As my classmate Adrian puts it:

Jean-Claude Biver, former CEO of Blancpain, Hublot and most recently Tag Heuer, along with too many accomplishments to list. It was a masterclass in how to be creative in business and how to find your inner entrepreneurial spirit. Incredibly inspiring!

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All in all, it was a great month that flew by and I can only look forward to what is to come!

Helena

Brand Thyself

As MBAs in training and future visionaries looking to make a dent in the world (we hope), we have already had experience with brand management for products, or expect to learn the latter in the months to come. A subject less often discussed is the nebulous, subjective, and frankly tough job of branding ourselves. In a world where everyone and their pet chameleon are on social media, branding is as universal as it is essential to conducting business, be it medicine, manufacturing, or mergers and acquisitions.

Which brings me to our Career Development session yesterday with Arjen Iwema from W-Focus on Personal Branding. Most of us have some idea of who we are, and are perhaps less clear about where and who we want to be in the future. Arjen, IMD MBA Class of 2003, spoke to us about his journey towards a clear individual brand, professional and personal, and urged us to use a comprehensive framework to begin our exploration into our branding statements.

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The most rewarding part of the day for me was drafting our personal statements and then sharing them within our groups (also our start-up teams). It was a wonderful way to get to know each other beyond qualifications and years of work experience. We shared our feedback with each other and marveled at the various hidden aspects of each other’s personalities. All I can say is, wine enthusiasts, serial marathoners, and auto nerds lurk among us 🙂

A significant takeaway from the session was the value in being authentically yourself because this cannot be replicated. It is difficult at times, especially since many of us come from cultures where humility is paramount, and speaking about yourself is just plain awkward. As we step into pre-executive roles, it may not be required or even advised, to harp on about our abilities. But it would do us a world of good if we have a clear sense of who we are and where we are headed. In a dynamic environment where many things will not go our way, we can at least have a strong sense of self to share with those we want to influence, and more importantly, ourselves.

Now onto prep for Operations class tomorrow! Have a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MBA 2019 two week warm-up: what was it all about

Second week down.

Monday, January 14th. Snowy dreams of our Villars trip are over. It seems that real study time begins.

Finance, Strategic Thinking, Leadership and Managing Cases were just the few content areas we kicked off this week, next to more soft training around public speaking and team dynamics. It is hard to believe how deep discussions can go around supposedly basic, fundamental topics. How can we evaluate market entry in a structured manner using strategic thinking techniques? What critical strategic decisions can be hidden beyond ‘current liabilities’ figures? What is country competitiveness and why are some nations more competitive? How can the application of a relatively simple toolkit take your presentation skills to the next level? It was impressive.

Nevertheless, while reflecting today about the last two warm-up weeks, one thought hit my mind very quickly. Although we have already learnt a lot, these two weeks were not really about content. The fundamentals we tapped into were just the background music, the first necessary ingredients of our professional toolkit.

These two weeks were about us.

Firstly, about the 90 classmates with 39 nationalities, interacting with each other, broadening each other’s view of this world and pushing us out of the comfort zone to see what else is out there. Whether it was about business or private life, discussions with my international colleagues helped me better understand why things in Portugal, India or China (to name few) happen as they happen. What do people think, feel and believe that makes them act in a certain way? Although I only scratched the surface of a few cultures, it made me so hungry for more.

Secondly, these weeks were about inspiration. Last Friday we visited EPFL Campus Biotech in Geneva to meet top scientific minds working on the Blue Brain project – a Swiss brain initiative aimed at understanding the human brain in order to diagnose and treat brain diseases that are imposing an increasing burden on world’s societies. We learnt about breakthrough technologies under development that at some point would also need business minds to get traction and make a positive impact in our world.

Last, but not least, we also had fun 🙂 On Friday evening, we headed up to the hills above Lausanne, to spend some time building bonds that we will keep for life. Cosy restaurant, delicious snacks and even more delicious Swiss raclette were of great help to keep conversations going 🙂

To all my 89 classmates – thank you for making this experience so rich.

Lukasz

“Magic 90”

The IMD MBA Class of 2019 WhatsApp group was born on a warm June day in 2018. The initial participants were 20 odd folk scattered across time zones. Our initial conversations revolved around polite, formal introductions, mentions of when we had travelled to someone’s country, and program administrative questions. Somewhere along the way, as summer blended into autumn, our comfort levels with each other, and the size of the group, grew. A great indicator of how our equation has evolved over the past months is the name we recently bestowed onto the chat group; “Magic 90”.

There is something magical about a group of people who never knew of each other before, now priming to develop some of the more influential relationships of our lives. The common thread? A shared desire to survive and thrive during the IMD MBA program.

We are different. Sometimes the chat is overcome by conversations in Hindi or Portuguese with the rest of us scrambling to Google Translate. On an average day we motivate each other to finish the pre-reads, discuss who makes the best cocktails, inquire about nannies and babysitting services. Some of us volunteered for a babysitting circle to help out our peers with bambinos. We’ve even discussed wardrobe requirements and shopping sales, a conversation primarily driven by the ladies! And all this shared with people we have not even met yet.

Wait, I stand corrected. Some of us have met. While transiting through Taiwan, Basel, Mumbai and Rio, our peers have met over meals and coffee, and then shared pictures with the rest. It’s almost like a blind date, but set up by IMD, and the big smiles show that a fun time was had by all. It makes
me eager to get on campus and get this show started!

We have also seen a great willingness to help out on the group. Whether someone is sharing pertinent HBR articles or sending across finance reading files that another cannot access, there is a high level of proactive giving happening in “Magic 90”. Our friends currently in Lausanne are generous with their time and wisdom. Swati and Camila, for example, have equipped us with nuggets of knowledge on Swiss door locks, grocery shopping strategies, and insurance and phone plans.

Currently, we are sharing vacation (read: pre-IMD relaxation) pictures and collectively enjoyed the IMD MBA Class of 2018 graduation live stream. As this unity grows, we’re not quite sure where our IMD journeys will take us. But if months of daily chatting are anything to go by, our virtually budding friendships are a prelude to the great times and strong bonds that lie ahead.

Surbhi

The IMD Factor

Welcome to the 2019 IMD MBA Blog!

We’re looking forward to officially welcoming this year’s participants in just a few days. The program starts on Wednesday, but we already have a great team lined up to share their insights throughout the year. Surbhi will be our main blogger, with lots of support from fellow classmates. I’ll let her introduce herself next week, but here’s an insight into the start of her journey to IMD.

Suzy

Transformation literally means going beyond your form.

Wayne Dyer

As I marveled at the pristine perfection and organized calm that is Switzerland, it finally struck me. I was in Lausanne, a bit beleaguered after the journey, anxious and elated in equal measure. Tomorrow I would attend the fabled IMD MBA assessment day, the only admissions event across business schools where candidates are vetted for an entire day, on campus, to understand who they are as people.

My 72 hours in Lausanne forced me to pause, reflect, and walk away changed, with a stronger sense of my place in this world.

“Towards a new horizon”
Photograph taken by Surbhi Puri at Lac Leman

The IMD assessment is an extraordinary experience, unlike any I’ve seen for university interviews. As the day progressed I realized that this process went beyond being just a means to an admissions outcome. The behavioral interview, impromptu case, role play, lunch chat, case review with Dean Meehan (with much animated conversation), and attending Professor Seifert’s operations class; the entire experience is engineered such that, regardless of the final decision, you walk away with new thoughts, ideas, and questions bubbling in your brain that can carry you forward.

When Antonio called to share the invitation, he said that the assessment day would provide an accurate idea of what life at IMD is like. In my excitement I took a mental note but didn’t ponder on this statement much till I was in the thick of interviews. And what a transformative day it was! For those who are selected and choose to attend the program, I can only imagine the impact that a year of this experience can manifest.

Here are 3 mantras that I saw exemplified by the staff and participants of the IMD MBA program during our assessment day:

The magic lies beyond your comfort zone

In our cohort, we had all taken time off from our respective jobs and families to prepare for the assessment, and prepare to excel. This is no small feat. You know you are in esteemed company when you share a meal with individuals in their early thirties, an age when roots of routine and familiarity start taking form, and all of you have chosen to invest time and resources in discovering your greater potential. We are comfortable where we are, educated and gainfully employed. And yet the itch to do more, despite the demands it would place on our relationships and lives, is palpable and cannot be ignored. Stepping outside the comfort zone is preached and written about extensively. To practice it takes a higher level of faith in yourself and the program. This speaks volumes about the kind of people who choose the IMD MBA.

Global citizenship is the way forward

Most introductions during the day and with current participants over lunch went along the lines of, “I’m from Country A, studied in Country B, lived in Country C and D before moving to E.” The global reach represented in a relatively small group of individuals was astounding. Possibly because I have lived almost entirely in cities considered to be ethnic melting pots, the current class mix felt familiar, like home, except with cold winds and mountains as far as the eye could see. Our interview cohort represented both genders, five nationalities, and covered a range of professional roles, from pharmaceutical marketing to military service. As we worked through a case that must have been dissected by many before us, we could breathe new life into the discussion because of the unique experiences that we, quite literally, brought to the table.

The transformation (and struggle) is real

Armed with ten years of experience exclusively in healthcare, I was now required to discuss my views on an airline industry case and share astute insights on company finances. The exercise made me consider new aspects of business practices and evaluate unfamiliar data. After returning home and in the days that followed, as I flipped/swiped through the news I found myself thinking more critically of the sources I was looking at, and I explored topics beyond my usual biomedical interests. Not just because my worldview had expanded, but also because I felt confident that I could understand and question arguments on topics unfamiliar to me.

The change isn’t just cerebral, there was a sense of confidence and pride that stemmed from surviving the assessment, and the knowledge that we are made of tougher stuff than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. An early taste of the IMD program pushed me towards a better version of myself in less than three days. I speak for my peers when I say that we feel honored and excited to embrace the metamorphosis that the coming year will bring. We are ready, with coffee and chocolate on standby. Bring it on!

Surbhi Puri