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

Sailing Santa Margherita

A few days ago, 11 of my MBA classmates, 4 alumni and I had the chance to participate in the MBA Bocconi Regatta in Santa Margherita Italy, one of the top MBA sports meetings of the year, and an opportunity to meet people from other prestigious business schools.

Most importantly, it was a true stretching teamwork and leadership experience that could not have been “taught in a classroom nor induced through group assignments in an MBA class setting”, as Hassan, one of my crew members, highlights it. “There’s something about being on a sail boat with 6 of your classmates and an alumni in the middle of the Ligurian Sea, competing for Regatta glory by carefully pulling ropes and forcing tight maneuvers to get ahead of the competition, that brings home what teamwork is all about. It’s observing your crew, anticipating issues, being available to them, reinforcing communication, and giving your best that matters when the horn sounds and the boats set sail.”

What was particular about our setup was the lack of sailing experience of most of us MBAs. This was a real challenge given that safety, on top of performance, was at stake.  Martina, recalls that, “Every wrong maneuverer was immediately visible, no mistake was forgiven.”

So how did it play out for us? The truth is that Daniel and Claude, our skippers and IMD’s alumni from 2014 and 2017, played a pivotal role in our success. In less than 3 days, we managed to pull two crews together, get up to speed and perform.

“Daniel and Claude were not “only” skippers, they were leaders who gained our respect by leveraging the talent which each single individual brought in, by staying calm in tense situations and by focusing on our learning experience and development. Martina.

From our skippers perspective, the Regatta was also a stretch, as Daniel Emeka (MBA 2014) highlights:

” I had to bear in mind that since we didn’t have time to practice much I would be relying on people taking initiative within prescribed limits and a framework. Both Claude and myself made sure we held an initial briefing, and sought to reassign where we thought roles weren’t aligned with requirements and break the entire sailing experience into phases such as getting in and out of the harbor versus racing (third phase) which had a different set of roles. The team then only had to think one phase at a time and focus on those tasks.

The team had heightened IQ and EQ, so they quickly picked up on concepts like wind direction and tacking/gybing (it helped that there were quite a few engineers) as well as self-motivation, team dynamics management, …and waiting for the right moments to bring up issues. This really added to the morale and kept us focused on important things for prolonged periods. As for the usual rookie mistakes, we got the course wrong once, misjudged weather patterns, sometimes didn’t notice some problems early enough. But these were all corrected for and no mistake was made twice”

From Claude’s (MBA 2017) perspective:

“For the second time in two years, I had the chance to be on the IMD racing boat for the MBA Bocconi regatta as skipper. Unlike last year, I was not familiar with most of the crew members who were current MBA students. Getting a crew of seven to perform coordinated specialized activities in the limited space of a boat with the pressure of competitors like Harvard, MIT, INSEAD, HEC, and Chicago is a thrilling and sensational challenge. For the boat to move, turn, and accelerate, everyone needs to know his/her role and objectives, communicate effectively, and understand how to react to unexpected events. The learning curve is steep, and the crew needs to take risks and dare to make decisions with a limited amount of information and time. After a few initial adjustments, we were able to improve our maneuvers, increase speed, and reduce reaction time. And after the first race, I had already forgotten that I wasn’t part of this class: it felt like we were one team and that I knew the crew as well as I knew my classmates last year. Unfortunately, we did not win the regatta, but we don’t need to be on top of rankings to be successful. And for me success, was creating meaningful human bonds with 2018 class, enjoying the time together and leaving in some of them a bit of my passion for sailing.”

This Regatta remains one of the most symbolic, memorable and sensational events of our MBA experience, and a great sports tradition I would like to help future classes maintain and improve. On behalf of the sailing team and the MBA sports committee, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to our dean Sean Meehan, and the MBA staff for their support in making this happen!

Sara, for the MBA Sports Committee