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.

PHOTO-2019-09-22-14-18-39
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.

PHOTO-2019-09-21-17-45-13
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.

PHOTO-2019-09-23-16-37-11
Having some fun amid ICP seriousness 🙂
PHOTO-2019-09-28-22-20-09
All smiles in Morocco

Wishing all of us many spectacular ICP experiences, amazing (and safe) travels, and memories of a lifetime.

Surbhi

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

So why IMD?

You might think that I should have asked myself this question long before I signed the papers. And you are right! That’s what I did, but reading about the journey and jumping on the plane are two different things.

With over 6 years of management consulting experience in my backpack, it was time to rethink: who I was as a professional; what led me to where I was (scary thought); and what I needed to rethink to move forward (even scarier). IMD’s focus on leadership and the mysterious PDE (Personal Development Elective – 20 individual sessions with a pyschoanalyst) were at the core of what brought me here.

Now, several months into the program, with countless classes, multiple PDE hours, extensive coaching sessions, challenging leadership experientials and a file of reflection papers, comes the moment to reflect … was it worth it? Oh yes, it was.

Firstly, I tend to call the stream ‘the total leadership stream’. I say it as it covers a very broad spectrum of what leadership is in today’s complex environment – starting from typical suspects such as self-discovery (e.g. through psychological tests), team dynamics and building and managing high performance teams through less obvious topics of ethics, culture, lie detection and trust building to unique 1-2-1 psychoanalysis sessions.

Secondly, it is immersive. Quite often we discuss leadership as an abstract concept in a vacuum. It is easier to discuss it when you analyze a scientific paper or when you work on team dynamics in a laboratory-like exercise. And do not get me wrong – these are great experiences… to start with. At IMD the leadership stream goes further and is an integral part of the entire program. Innovation week? Sure, why not add coaches to the team to facilitate team dynamics learning on a real project. Start-up projects and ICPs (International Consulting Projects)? Why not include coaches again to teach us how to open ourselves up and build trust through team bonding exercises. These are practical tools we can bring to the professional life post-MBA.

Lastly, it goes deep. Going through leadership experientials where we were put under pressure as a team to observe and learn about the team dynamics or facing uncomfortable questions during the coaching and PDE sessions were not easy. IMD created an environment where we could put away our personas to work with the true “us”, with all its beauty but also with all its imperfections. Hours of honest conversations helped me to confront my demons and that was a very helpful experience.

The Leadership stream is truly the foundation of IMD MBA program. It transforms you in so many ways, repairing some of the damage you carry and opening eyes to the areas you have never looked at. It’s a fascinating, yet oftentimes painful journey. As with everything in life, there is no free lunch. To get the most out of it, you need to open up, face the uncomfortable truths about yourself and help others through sometimes very tough conversations.

If you are looking to transform who you are, IMD MBA is the place for you. If not, then hmm … there are many other MBA programs that are perhaps a better fit 🙂

Thank you Jennifer Jordan, Ina Toegel, George Kohlrieser, Bettina Court and all other faculty, coaches and PDE analysts who are with us along this journey of the discovery of self and the world around us!

Lukasz

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

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

A mid-year overview of a leadership journey

Ombudsman and Ombudswoman

Sebastiano Pizzinelli and Camila Scaranelo

February 2019: the 90 IMD MBA participants had worked shoulder to shoulder for approximately one month. IMD decided it was time for the class to have two representatives: a male and a female.

IMD took an innovative approach. Our class was simply asked to choose, in an anonymous poll, the people we saw as good class representatives: no popularity contest, no advertisements, no speeches, just true community spirit. The results came shortly after and we had been chosen.

Now, in June, almost half of the program is over and … it was tough! “He who learns must suffer” as Aeschylus would say, but the amazing part has been bonding with our fellow participants and the support we feel.

Here we share what this journey has meant for us so far, and the challenges we have faced.

“Camila, what was the hardest moment for you?”

I believe it was right before the module one exams, when we had so much going on at the same time: meetings with our “start-up” clients, studying for the exam week, and representing all of our class requests. In hindsight, it was a great learning and we could see a clear difference in module two.

“Sebastiano, what was the feeling right after the announcement we had been chosen?”

I was flattered and concerned: representing 88 future leaders is an honor and I knew it would be hard to stand up to their high expectations. I realized not only how much our batch deeply cared about inclusion and bonding, but also how much I cared about it. However, it was all very fast, we immediately had things to do for the class. It has been an amazing journey and a chance to know many of these extraordinary individuals better. I do everything in my power to deserve the trust and responsibilities that were imparted to me.

“Camila, what is the class feeling at the moment?”

I believe the class has come together with its own identity. We are no longer 90 individuals, we actually became the Magic 90. For many, there was this strange sense of relief after the pressure of module one and even when exams were imminent, things were smoother. There’s a lot of excitement for the discovery expedition and the summer break, and we’re using all our spare time to network and investigate the companies we believe will be the best fit for our future.

“Sebastiano, how do you think the class would describe these two modules?”

In the first module, classes are just part of the typical day: a chance to learn and start living the IMD journey together. Then group projects, essays, assignments, presentations, and tons of deadlines drop from everywhere building considerable pressure. But it also creates a tight bond within the groups as a survival response. In Module two the pressure is perceived differently: we are all stretching our limits and comfort zones, and being in groups is an additional push to raise the performance bar. In a way, module two is also about reflection and retrospection, with peaks in the negotiations course and innovation week.

“Camila any final words?”

Overall the experience has been great and the support of our classmates was crucial for this to happen. It’s a better learning opportunity than I could have imagined, and as such, it is presented with many challenges as well. “Learning to lead without hierarchy” seems to be a recurrent motto around here and it is no different for being an ombuds.

Camila and Sebastiano

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!)