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! 🙂

Unknown.jpeg

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.

Unknown-3.jpeg

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?

Unknown-4.jpeg

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.

Unknown-2.jpeg

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

Unknown-1.jpeg

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

Yours in code,

Surbhi

MBA Lorange Auditorium

I have always wanted to write a blog, but I haven’t so far. Stating petty reasons like, ‘I don’t have the time’ or ‘It’s not the right time for that thought’ or ‘I am not sure if I want my weird thoughts published’!

Today was different.

Like every other night, I was lying on my bed reminiscing about the interesting conversations I had and the interesting events that unfolded today. One train of thought led to another and I started wondering why every IMD alumni that I have spoken to has always exclaimed how life-changing their year at IMD has been and how much they treasure their IMD memories. What makes this experience so special? The place. The faculty. The sessions. The MBA program team. The food. The coffee.

Yes, all these factors and a special element that ties all these together – You – the people whom I share this year with. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am incredibly lucky to have had the pleasure of knowing you. And, it all started here in the Lorange auditorium!

As I mentioned earlier, today was different.

Today, I wanted to write my thoughts down because I simply couldn’t brush off the significance of this day. The last day we will be seated in the Lorange auditorium ‘together’ for a session. The place where we discovered each other, learnt from each other, critiqued each other and pushed each other to be better. A place where we shared tons of laughter, glances, pictures (of each other; often ending up as memes) and inside jokes!

A place we can proudly call ‘Our Safe Space’!

Our first day in the MBA Lorange Auditorium

I started wondering how Lorange got its name. It is a pity that this thought crossed my mind only now because my curiosity led me to discover Mr. Peter Lorange, former President of IMD. As I browsed through his work and his articles, I came across this thought that could have potentially gone into the design of Lorange:

Typically, all classrooms and study rooms should have high ceilings, with windows to allow natural light in. Even though it has not been scientifically proven, it seems plausible that good learning is associated with high ceilings, i.e.  no heavy structure from above “hanging in one’s face,” potentially cluttering one’s mind. Daylight, as well, is probably associated with good learning – we feel that light stimulates a positive mindset and prevents feelings of sluggishness after a day in the classroom.

History is fascinating, isn’t it.

Well, it is 2:30 am now. Too many thoughts are running in the back of my mind – career plan, presentation for the digital lab and the fact that I might regret it if I don’t go to sleep soon!

What is front and center is the amount of time (3 months!) that is remaining between today and graduation.

I am going to make every single day count! And today, I choose to simply enjoy our last day ‘together’ at Lorange.

Tamil Vardani

3 Leadership Learnings from ‘Paddle for Cancer Support’ Dragon Boat Racing

Twelve IMD MBA’s had the opportunity to participate in “ESCA Paddle for Cancer Support” Dragon boat Festival held at Lac de Joux on Sunday 1st September. Together with professors and staff, we teamed up to form a 40 people contingent of paddlers and supporters from IMD. 

Since 2009, IMD has proudly taken part in the Dragon Boat races to raise funds to support English-speaking cancer patients and their families in the Lac Léman region. IMD President Jean-Francois Manzoni, IMD’s management team and the MBA Program Dean, Sean Meehan, are equally dedicated to supporting this cause and encourage inclusiveness between the staff and MBA participants to help to solidify the IMD community.

Two Teams – IMD Real Impact (Captain Kei Takizawa), and IMD Real Learning (Captain Arturo Bris) battled in the corporate category. We competed in three dragon boat races of 350m each with the top teams qualifying for the finals. My team, IMD Real Impact qualified for the finals and finished with the fastest timing – topping the IMD score board from the past 10 years.

We came in Top 5 out of 21 corporate teams, registering a 25% improvement in the final race, and concluding at 1.66 sec from a podium finish.

Over the past six years, I have been part of various dragon boat races with the Ministry of Health corporate team in Singapore. Here are some of the leadership learnings that I would like to share as the team pacer from the Lac de Joux race experience.

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY

It doesn’t matter how much we know. What matters is how clearly others can understand what we know,

says Simon Sinek.

It was hugely visible as many of us were paddling for the first time. As a leader, simple and effective communication to the team on what to do and how to do it is crucial. 

STRATEGIZE A GOOD EXECUTION

A good beginning is half the battle won.

Undoubtedly in dragon boat races, a sound strategy and good start are essential. In order to win a race in competitions and businesses alike, a well-defined strategy is not enough; the right execution of the plans is the key. Strategy needs to be complemented by strong execution.

BACK THE TEAM AND MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM

When you focus your attention on your intention, you gain momentum.

Dragon boating is the ultimate team sport. Field the group with high energy, execute a good start, and continue the pace – keeping an eye on the momentum of your boat. Back the team and trust the process. Keep learning and continue to apply those learnings.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the IMD “Paddle for Cancer Support” organizing committee:  Aurelia Held, Lucy Jay-Kennedy and Kathy Schwarz for the overall planning, logistics, catering,  travel, and everything else. And to Professors Arturo Bris, Arnaud Chevallier, Albrecht Enders and Omar Toulan amongst others for their great camaraderie, strategic insights and enthusiastic support.

Here’s a short souvenir video to relish the best moments: https://youtu.be/xLPdbISDJyE

Shriekanth Iyer

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.

PHOTO-2019-08-08-08-27-17.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surbhi

Real Impact. Real Learning

I have been asked many times, “What does ‘Real Impact. Real Learning’ mean?” during calls with prospective MBA applicants. Although I have multiple examples to share, I would like to share my experience during our Business and Society course.

We as a group (self-named Developing Developers) were scheduled to present a TED style talk on UN’s SDG#1: No Poverty. It was a marvellous day organized by our Professor Knut Haanaes where we went to United Nations, World Economic Forum and the Innovation center in Geneva.

Developing Developers at the World Economic Forum

Priscila and I presented our group’s work to the world. It was followed by a group hug by the “Developing developers” to celebrate our hard work in jotting down our experiences and solutions for tackling the problem of poverty.

So where is the “Real” learning here?

The day before the presentation: I was doing mock presentations in front of my group for feedback in our renowned ‘dungeons’ (study rooms!). The first mock was horrible, the second a little less horrible, you get the idea.

Although I have done numerous presentations, the thought of presenting in public still gets my palms sweaty. In comes my classmate, Joseph, the master of public speaking with his ever helping attitude.

We practiced in our auditorium with Jo providing valuable feedback and support. Understanding our public speaking misery, he uttered his three golden rules for public speaking:

  1. Speaking with a crutch: This phase is speaking while having the paper (the crutch) in front of you to have something to hold on to while getting familiar with the material.
  2. Speaking without the crutch: Just like learning to walk, you leave the paper behind and speak without it. It’s difficult, you feel the anxiety, but it gives you the much needed confidence. Jo also mentioned the importance of using simple words, easy to remember and easy for the audience.
  3. Connecting with the audience: After learning to walk without the crutch, you can now connect with the audience, look at them, feel their reactions.

I am really thankful to Joseph who was in the auditorium with me and Priscila until midnight! Helping us, perfecting us, supporting us!

This was not a learning I would ever find in a book or in a classroom, but only with the special bond we share at IMD!

Developing Developers with Georgii

Purnendu

Discovery Expedition, Part 1: Magic 90 in Silicon Valley!

I am on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, 12 hours of occasional turbulence ahead of me, with 89 other IMD MBA participants and our program team. Two observations of note; first, if you travel quickly enough and have a packed schedule that would put some presidential candidates to shame, jet lag may have a tough time catching up with you. Second, regular passengers are a bit freaked out when they see 90 loud people who all know each other. Haha, I kid. Partially.

26aaf6fd-5475-4dce-98fa-56e1c4dcd3ea.JPGAt Stanford University, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

So, we wrapped up the first leg of the infamous Discovery Expedition. In these reflections, I will not go through the entire list of people met and visits made because some suspense is good for the incoming class and honestly, I would have to list the entire itinerary because they were all incredible experiences. Professor Jim Pulcrano asked us to share three learnings from our time in Silicon Valley. Where to find the best burrito and the secret behind Peet’s delicious coffee do not count.

Here are mine:

Tech will always need a human touch: We spoke a lot about AI during this trip. We discussed extensively on the Future of Healthcare and the Future of Food. We learned about technologies and products that perhaps only the Jetsons envisioned. And yet here they are, things considered the stuff of science fiction, just a few years away from launch. A common thread regarding the development and success of tech was the importance of empathy, and human connection. Peter Schwartz, futurist extraordinaire, spoke to us on how worrying about robots taking away human jobs is not as much of a concern as we, and Hollywood, are making it out to be. The robots will take on mundane, detail oriented, and repetitive tasks. Humans will have the bandwidth to focus on what really crafts our reality, the human experience, managing change, and understanding what customers want by spending time with them. This resonated with me since I cannot imagine industries such as healthcare or hospitality without in-person connections.

Silicon Valley is a mentality: Growing up in the 90s I heard much Silicon Valley lore. The best and brightest go there to create the impossible and make bank. This is true, even today, though this means that San Francisco as a city is raging its own war with astronomical rents and demographic change. But what has changed is the localization of innovation. Ideas influencing humanity are mushrooming everywhere, in Zurich, Bangalore, and Shanghai. Silicon Valley, then, is a mindset, as Professor Pulcrano reminded us. A mindset to embrace experimentation, learn from failure, and move rapidly towards improved products and services. Wherever we end up in the world, we can create this mental ecosystem for ourselves.

b51b3044-90c4-48ff-911d-5863a250157c.JPGDesign Thinking workshop at Stanford

Do not ask for permission: My personal favorite. A lot of moon-shot ideas get lost in social niceties. I absolutely loved that so many of our entrepreneurs, such as the creator of GYANT, Pascal Zuta, and corporate leaders, such as Bask Iyer, CIO of VMware, and our very own IMD alumni encouraged us to walk on the edge and to not ask for approval for doing so. It really is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I suppose the only caveat here is that we ask ourselves if what we are trying to achieve benefits the planet and everyone on it. With power, and borderline rebellion, comes responsibility.

beca062f-235a-4ef3-a427-4ed072fadca3.JPGGary Bradski, on the Future of Computer Vision

I am feeling so grateful for these three and a half days in the Valley. As my colleague, friend and flight neighbor Mischa just said to me, “The first leg of the Discovery Expedition blew my expectations. It was spectacularly well organized. The speakers and the level of seniority they had were mind-blowing. My favorite was the session with the futurist, Peter Schwartz, and Bracken Darrell, CEO of Logitech. I’m leaving with this incredible feeling that there are almost endless opportunities out there. We need to keep thinking about what customers need and being creative while attracting the best talent. It was a new and rewarding perspective.”

unnamed.jpgIMD MBA participants in San Francisco

Suffice to say we are feeling quite chuffed. Time to browse United’s movie selection. Onward to Shenzhen.

Surbhi

The Greatest Glory

DSC_9217

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela

Madiba had foreseen, perhaps, that those who aspire to shape the world need a reminder, that in the pursuit of intellectual and economic success, we should take our hearts along for the ride.

After Module 1’s rigorous training on frameworks and discounted cash flows, I daresay we felt pretty good about our knowledge on the essential MBA toolkit. But is there value in using tools without a burning mission, or a vision that sees beyond profit?

Nope.

Enter Professor Knut Haanaes, Professor of Strategy at IMD and Dean of the Global Leadership Institute at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Since the first lecture of our Business and Society course, Professor Knut asked us to evaluate cases and ideas through three lenses; systemic change, corporate contribution, and individual responsibility. With this in mind, we dived into the tough conversations about maintaining performance while protecting the environment, ending inequality, and driving accountability for ethical behavior. For me, the striking thing is that despite our cultural and personality differences, and even if we disagree on how to proceed, as a class we have been united in our concern for society at large, and are seeking ways to make a fast and effective impact.

DSC_9135.jpg“Magic 90” with Professor Knut Haanaes at the World Economic Forum

A fresh perspective on vision and intent: Stories are incredibly powerful in their ability to change minds. We benefited from many through a range of guest speakers during the course. Our session on the WWF goals reminded us how much in peril our natural world is. Yves Daccord, Director-General of the Red Cross (ICRC) wowed us with his adventures and learnings in overwhelmingly high-stress and often unfamiliar situations. He is one of our most memorable speakers in the program thus far, and believe me, the bar is set high. He achieved this without slides, his stories so visceral and relatable that we hung onto every word. Our President at IMD, Professor Jean-Francois Manzoni, also did a session with us on navigating corporate culture and even redefining it as we progress in our careers.

Challenging companies to do better: This is where it gets trickier. During a class discussion on palm oil, the narrative drove me to question consumer choices. Do we really need palm oil to be in everything? Can we be weaned off of it? Do the orangutans really need to die because we like Nutella on toast? And the corporate argument against ending palm oil use is that livelihoods of farmers are then being taken away. The “aha” moment here is that even if my heart is in the right place, my mind needs to have a business plan. It is more convincing to show that we can transition farmers to other crops such that a manufacturer can still realize profits, just in a new and different, perhaps even more lucrative way, without causing harm to the planet.

SDGs-GlobalGoalsForSustainableDevelopment-05.jpgSustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDGs are a call to action, comprising of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for completion in the year 2030. Professor Knut assigned each group to a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). For each SDG we needed to state the current status, challenges, and the role of business in generating solutions. My team worked on SDG 3, Good health and well being, with a focus on Mental Health in the Workplace. Presentations were conducted yesterday, the last day of the course.

We began early with the sunrise to drive over to Geneva. We met with Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF who reminded us that the future will not just be hinging on technology, but also on talent and trust. Furthermore, he urged us to pursue our goals using brain, soul, heart, muscle, and nerves, all our faculties, to make the best decisions for all stakeholders.

After a fascinating afternoon at the United Nations, we arrived at the SDG space. While listening to my peers’ presentations, I realized these issues aren’t unsolvable. As consultants, bankers, and executives, problem-solving is part of our ammo. “Fix it! Create it! Figure a way around it!” The challenge is really the scale of the issues that plague sustainability. And they are of our own making, our miserable track record of individual focus and ignorance of widespread consequences.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

Professor Knut asked us if we felt optimistic or pessimistic. When I think of the Great Pacific garbage patch or gender equality being 200 years away, my heart sinks. But my friend and colleague, Mirko, shared a message of hope as evening approached and it was time to head home to Lausanne: “I am more positive about the world’s outlook, because all of us in this room are leaders of tomorrow and this course showed us the importance and urgency to act and bring back the balance between profits society and the environment. My wish is that every one of us will take the big responsibility to take these learnings into the real world by adapting our lifestyles and leadership for a better future on our planet.”

DSC_9189.jpgProfessor Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum

I remain an optimist, with good reason.

And I end this post with words of wisdom from Professor Knut. When I asked him about sustainable goal setting and his aspirations for our class, he shared the following …

“Good business is about balancing the short and long-term. If we take a long-term perspective it is clear that sustainability needs to be a top issue for all companies. If we take a short-term perspective, it may look less important, but only until you are attacked in social media. So today any smart company needs to address sustainability for the short and the long-term. That, to me, is great news!

The MBA class will be better leaders that we have seen thus far. In part, because the future will demand more leadership, even put a premium on it. And I think you have it in you. I know you will set higher targets on yourself than even I would have!”

The course has ended, but our contribution to the change has just begun. May we do good, and do well. May we find our greatest glory.

Sustainably yours,

Surbhi

(special thanks to Olivier for the incredible photos!)