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

Hold tight – the process of change

The MBA International Consulting Projects are well under way, with participants travelling around the globe, working as teams to find solutions to an issue faced by the top mangement of the company they are working for. They have another four weeks to complete their projects and make an impact. But at the same time, the clock is ticking as graduation approaches and the pressure to secure the next phase of their career is also at the forefront of their minds.

Here are some words of encouragement from one of the MBA partners:

“An overwhelming time of the year has come for our MBA’s who might feel a bit submerged. They’re spending all their time  looking for jobs, reaching out and making connections networking, interviewing for jobs, supporting one another and juggling big ICP projects.

It’s honestly a trialing time for the best of us. Not achieving what they wanted may have some of the participants discouraged at this point, but we, as partners send this message:

We are proud of you all, we stand behind you, and we believe in you.

Dear participants, I hope you find some inspiration in the words below. 

Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry, weepy and hysterical or we may feel utterly hopeless. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled upon a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger that we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on the way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be eventually become the periods we wait for. For it is in these periods that we realize we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability a new level of your being is about to be revealed. 

Hold tight… all will happen at the exact moment you are waiting for.  

Maddie (MBA partner 2019)

“Your ICP mission, should you choose to accept it…”

What is the International Consulting Project? It is the business-school equivalent of the agoghé (ἀγωγή) for the ancient Spartans. Just as the young Spartans were tested to prove they were worth the title of warriors and citizens, the MBAs are challenged to demonstrate they deserve the IMD hallmark. Teams are formed by selecting five of the most complementary players in the class market, and supervised by more experienced Faculty “Generals”. With this line-up, for seven weeks they help the most innovative and brave clients face some of their hottest challenges. Seven weeks of passion, seven weeks of poetry, seven weeks of chemistry, blood, and magic.

Our first-string team is fielded with a clear attacking spirit: as goalkeeper, a Taiwanese illusionist, a little lady with a powerful gaze and words of wisdom. In front of the goal, an Italian defender, proud disciple of the “catenaccio” school of thought, and a Greek-Croatian hoplite, trained in the elitist schools in Libya, now in charge of the defensive phalanx. Midfielder, the Russian scientist creating the alchemy, a brain stolen from the Intelligentsia and two arms stolen from a bright future in the Ping-Pong School of Moscow. In the forward position, a Spanish striker with a humble appearance and a tiger heart, a unique specimen, as Catalan supporter of Real Madrid. As Coach, a man who fearlessly defies the laws of finance, prominent Director of the “Derivatives and Coffee Academy”.

Javier Linares (Spanish), Damianos Kiramarios (Greek, Croatian), Luca Facchini (Italian), Kerry Hsiao (Taiwanese), and Alexander Burasov (Russian)

Our ICP journey has the traits of a classical adventure story. You may wonder why (“why map” attached).  The story takes place in an unknown territory, an industry unfamiliar to the team, a new setting for each of its members. This poses the first challenge: to decipher the complexity, the drivers, the dynamics, the key levers in a new industry environment. The hero of this story is our client, an international player with a glorious legacy and ambitious dreams. The hero is seeking a treasure: understanding how to grow in a new market. During his research, our hero encounters a Dragon, a deep interior dilemma: growing organically or acquiring other heroes? But our hero is a warrior, a fighting man – he is not a heroes recruiter. And he knows that. But he has us.

We will travel around the world for him. We will test the abilities of the best fighters in NAFTA and APAC. We will evaluate the potential synergies with these heroes, especially in terms of incremental energy (cash) flows.

Our hero’s endeavour is just at the starting point; the best is yet to come.

[This message will self destruct in five seconds – four – three – two – one – … ]

ICP team 3

A “Swiss-made” Impact

Getting to know more about how Swiss companies operate their day to day business was one of my key criteria not only when choosing to join IMD but also when it came to my selection of the ICP (International Consulting Project). Our client is a classic example of a company rooted in Swiss culture but with an international footprint. Their products are sold across Europe, Asia, and the US. Their customers range from multinational corporations to SMEs. Working with such a client allows me to effectively practice what I have learned from IMD over the past 9 months on a worldwide stage.

Ever since our preparation stage in early May, my team and I have met our clients and visited their company and factory so that we can familiarize ourselves with their business and products. The visits have opened my eyes and taught me what “Swiss-made” really means. From design to manufacture, each product is perfectly made by Swiss manufacturers who represent reliability and resilience. I never appreciated how a spare part of machinery can be a piece of art.

Our client’s customers share a similar impression. For the first project week we travelled to Germany and China to interview a range of customers. Coming from a marketing background, I see this is a valuable experience to understand the reality of the local market and get closer to the end-users, which is imperative as a start to solve the problems of our client. I was also excited to learn a lot of manufacturing industry knowledge hands-on that was completely alien to me in the past. With our team effort as a whole, I am confident we can contribute to the growth of our client’s business.

Real learning, real impact.

Jillian Xu

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

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