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

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.

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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