Day 5 – Innovation Challenge

The entrepreneurial rollercoaster is on, and we start to enjoy the ride. It is day five in the IMD Innovation Challenge and our master coach made it clear that we are passing through the informed optimism phase, an excellent place to be. This week has been a constant spin of ups and downs, it started with the great excitement of an idea, it passed from the hard crisis of a reality check, to when we critically readdressed our project towards a new and unexpected dimension. Continue reading “Day 5 – Innovation Challenge”

Day 3 – Ideate: be wild, weird, absurd!

Peter Vogel, Professor of Family Business and Entrepreneurship
Debiopharm Chair of Family Philanthropy

On the first two days of the challenge, my colleagues and I had met new team mates, explored the healthcare scenario in Lausanne and finally found a problem we wanted to solve. So, day three took us to ideation stage. In a single day we had to come up with a solution for a problem we were passionate about, for Team Misfits (us!) that was helping elderly people to have more autonomy and move more freely. And if the two first days were all blue skies, making friends and exploring, day three is where things go crazy.

Even though we had known each other for a few months, the time constraint of this project put a lot of pressure on the team. And we also needed to onboard our new team mates Georg Foster, a designer from écal and Mohamed Jerad, our very own physicist from EPFL. As IMD’ers we were already used to the idea of pushing the team, giving loads of feedback and working like hell. But how were they gonna see it? How can we achieve the goal of the week and still be sensitive to their needs and motivations?

During our day we were all trying to come up with as many possible solutions as possible, no matter how absurd they were, the idea is to stimulate creativity, and avoid idea killing. Judging is forbidden! Expressions like “yes, but” and “that doesn’t make sense” are banned… So we had the funniest, weirdest mobility solutions: like the suction grip,  the spring cane and the booty hammock, my personal favorite, just because I like the name.

Building a solution for a problem is a messy process, you bring a bunch of smart people together and ask them to come up with absurd, weird and out of the box ideas. And maybe out of all or of a combination of some them you may end up with a good solution. The problem is, this process requires letting go of the fear of looking stupid, of the fear of failing, of the fear of being wrong. And when you finally find that sparkling, elegant life changing idea you discover either one of two things: someone did it before or it has some major flaws and it is not life changing after all.

I learned that innovation requires a good deal of resilience because at this point I was frustrated, tired and I started to question myself. Is this the right solution? Is this a good model? Does this problem even matter? So what you do is you gather some courage and a lot of humility and you ask for help and guidance (thank you Eric, for coming to our rescue!).

Truth is, coming up with innovation is messy, crazy and sometimes frustrating. And that’s how it is supposed to be, ideas need to collide before they can build upon each other. People need to fail in order to learn and succeed…
Well at least that’s what we are told by Cyril Bouquet and Peter Vogel, our professors for this madness challenge.



Day 2: Connect, explore & nail down!

On a second exploration day of our innovation week adventure, we were “deployed in the field”. In our teams we split to look for innovations across the entire value chain of the healthcare system. We consulted professors, nurses, researchers, medical doctors, specialists, and owners of testing laboratories. We visited an array of different sites in the Lausanne healthcare ecosystem: the main Lausanne hospital CHUV, specialty lab Unilabs, biomedical research workplace CLE – Centre Laboratoire d’Epalinges, firefighters and Brain Mind Institute of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). Continue reading “Day 2: Connect, explore & nail down!”

Whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Eureka means “I found it!” and was the phrase that Archimedes exclaimed after discovering that the volume of water that ascends is equal to the volume of the submerged body.

While Archimedes may have single handedly discovered the principle of buoyancy, the same cannot be said for innovations from the wheel to the iPhone.  These inventions and innovations were led by collective thinking and group dynamics rather than any individual effort. Continue reading “Whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

Leadership petri-dish

Featured image: The MBA 2018 class with George Kohlrieser

Last year when I was accepted into the IMD MBA program, I received a welcome book, from the MBA office , called “Hostage at the Table” written by George Kohlrieser. Besides having a tremendous influence over me at that time,  book had a certain symbolic meaning to me. I was choosing not to be hostage to a traditional career path by embarking on the MBA program. Little did I know that I’d be learning from the man himself for an intense and enjoyable couple of days.

Module 2 kicked off with a bang. We had Richard Hahlo, a stage actor teaching us how to deliver a message and own the stage. We had Ina Toegel teaching us the importance of shared leadership and bonding in high performance teams. Learning from her research on the Beatles and their complementary leadership styles was fascinating. We had  another business case protagonist come over to deliver Change Management 101 disguised as an accounting case.

And to cap it all, we had 2 fantastic days with George Kohlrieser. George took us on a roller coaster ride to discover our true motivations, griefs, fears and joys. All throughout those 2 days, we learnt how to let go, understand the other person and lead with an appropriate mix of caring and daring. We learnt that conflicts are something that as leaders we should learn to like. We teamed up several times with our classmates, practicing effective negotiation and bonding with them in the process. At the end of it all, the whole class came out as a tighter unit and a much more emotionally aware bunch.

We were also assigned a new Module 2 team and we chose our own innovation team for the “Innovation Challenge” next week. In the middle of this all, we also managed to squeeze in sometime with a brand new country analysis team for Economics. In essence, the last two weeks were spent working with 4 different teams. Although constraining in time, this opportunity has provided us with a training ground to apply newly learnt leadership concepts and experiment with different leadership styles.

Its been enjoyable transitioning from a content rich Module 1 to a petri-dish for leadership these past few weeks. Can’t wait for a deep dive into innovation next week.

Parth Reddy


Module 2 Group (Shingo, Mathieu, Candice, Maksim, Marco and I)


Innovation Group (Joyce, Rafael, Oriane and I)

Innovation group

Of Ambition, Belonging, Clarity, Direction, Encouragement and Fear

Looking back at a life changing year – this is the final post of the three part series by Abhijat Chahal.


I write this part inspired by a knock on my door last night from a classmate. He felt I had not been myself the last couple of days and wanted to check on me. It was a touching moment indicative of the strong bonds that have developed over the year and takes me to probably the most memorable part of my MBA journey. In January 2017, we all arrived in shiny armours, ready to showcase our best side. With passing weeks, those defences started dropping as we were confronted with chinks in our armours, not least the behavioural traits that were detrimental to the groups we worked in. There is an incredible transformation that took place in how relationships evolved, akin to having been in the trenches together. The IMD MBA took control of our lives and my 89 classmates became the all-consuming universe this year.

Through the year, we found moments of joy together in between working for our start-ups, studying Finance and Accounting, and all the cases that needed preparation. Paintball, bowling, laser tag, rafting on the Aare, celebrating Holi, go-karting, curling, gathering for huge meals, Lausanne 20km and Lausanne marathon, Red Bull 400… in retrospect, it is remarkable that we squeezed in time to do all of this. White Horse, Lacustre and Etoile Blanche became a part of our daily lives as we found comfort in familiarity to let off steam!


No matter the amount of pressure or the long hours of work, a good laugh was just a matter of taking a minute to have a fun conversation. It is amazing how we calibrated our sense of humour, our work ethic and largely, learnt to disagree without being disagreeable. Discussing and debating a host of topics under the sun, within the first weeks I found myself connecting deeply to people I didn’t know before this year. Soon we were discussing our hopes and fears. The armours were off, and the exposed vulnerability built connections that can be hard to fathom while looking from the outside.

Many of us found the courage to confront our demons and speak about it openly to new found confidants or even in the larger group of the class. I take away two great lessons – 1) We all have our stories and the baggage we carry, and 2) we are not alone, it’s just a matter of reaching out. Moments when I mustered the courage to talk about my challenges chipped away at the burden, piece by piece.

I saw this class cry at learning about the pain of some of our classmates, as we dealt with the frailty of our humanness. In the Leadership stream, we learnt that the group behaves like an organism and takes a life of its own. That some of us laid bare our emotions in front of the class speaks of the character and trust in this group. Any exposed vulnerability was nurtured in a sea of empathy, support and most importantly, encouragement.

Whether it was help in studying finance, preparing cases to crack consulting interviews, practicing behavioural questions, or connecting classmates with contacts – finding someone backing you to take that step to improve wasn’t hard. Preparing for Navigating the Future (NTF) conference was an aspirational moment as despite the absence of authority, many in the class volunteered their time and effort to take our show to the next level. The Class of 2017 came together to put together an NTF par excellence and the joy and togetherness of success was a moment to cherish.

abijat 2

If there’s one word that adds to the ambition we all came in with that defines what the year is encouragement – to try new things, to face our fears and dare to explore who we wanted to be.

Remove the broken parts you know were wrong
And feel the calm when the problem’s all gone
Part of Me (1999)


For all that I may have learnt about the world of business, living the experience in all its softer elements has made the decision of coming to IMD worth it. It is now the last week and time is racing. With job offers rolling in for some and working their way to others, there’s an eager anticipation in getting absolute clarity on our next steps.

I also feel a nervous uneasiness and I ask myself if I am ready to acknowledge what I feel.

Am I ready to admit the fear that’s gripping me?

I feel a desperation in wanting to hold on and live this experience a moment longer. I don’t want it to be over. Leaving the safety of our IMD bubble feels daunting. These strangers from a few months ago now feel like people I have known all my life, and the thought of them stepping away into their own lives in a week is disorienting. I don’t feel ready to let go yet.

We are all running away from something, or towards something. It is just the nature of ambitious individuals. I want to make sure in madness, I take the time to pause, reflect and acknowledge this incredible year of my life.

“There are things that we can have but can’t keep.”
One More Light (2017)

To my classmates, my friends…

I take the liberty of using the words that were used for Chester – your powerful voice and generous spirit is what I will take with me as I leave on the 8th December 2017, grateful for what we shared and hopeful of better times to come, pulling down the curtains on an extraordinary year in my life.

As a shipping man, I wish you fair weather and smooth sailing – remember, we can not direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. Look at the person next to you, and remind yourself of the difference they made to your life.

For the late-night knock on my door, for listening to my fears, for keeping me calm in moments of distress, for laughing at my jokes, for challenging my ideas, for sharing this journey… of Ambition, Belonging, Clarity, Direction, Encouragement and Fear, merci beaucoup!

This concludes my three part blog post.