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

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“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!)

IMD Conversations: Mother’s Day Special!

They are our first home.

Our first friends. Our fiercest protectors.

They give the best hugs. They help us stand after we fall,  their belief in our abilities unwavering. They teach us how to do our hair, buy furniture, and nourish relationships. They help us get those precious remote controls from our dads.

Mothers. Beautiful. Flawed. All striving to make a better world for their offspring.

This Mother’s Day I caught up with the three moms at the IMD MBA program. I am personally inspired by these women, and how they manage to thrive through this intense year, all while being present and generous in their children’s lives. Let’s learn about Camila (Brazil), Kristina (Russia) and Swati (India) …

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What about IMD influenced your decision to pursue the MBA program here? Which aspects are appealing to you as mothers of young children?

Camila: Switzerland is a place that I find wonderful for kids to grow up in. This environment is super healthy for my son in terms of infrastructure. Also, my family is already based here so that helped me with my decision.

Swati: Agree with Camila. I also feel that IMD has a slightly more mature peer group that understands that you have a family and a life beyond the MBA. This makes all the difference to me, a benefit that I felt only IMD will provide. Also, the partner support services and the work that Marcella does, these aspects make a huge difference for me.

Kristina: I felt that IMD is one of the shortest MBA programs and since my family is in Russia, I felt that I can manage it in a good way and also see my daughter on some weekends. We also have a month off in July which is great. The partners’ program made my husband feel more inclusive and understand the importance of the program for me. It helped him adapt to being a single parent for this year and made our transition easier.

And what has been the role of family support for you?

Camila: This was crucial, and there is the difference between a mother or a father attending the program, with exceptions of course. Usually, a mother can be home taking care of a kid and it is more acceptable and the model that is more widely spread. When a father provides childcare you need some arrangements in place. My husband works so creating a strong support network is critical, and then doing the program is feasible.

Swati: This program is a big decision, especially if a mother is doing it. You do need to be cognizant of the demands of the program, and be realistic and create your infrastructure around it. The IMD community is special. I experienced this last year as a partner and this year as a participant. Last year I needed a nanny urgently and I just didn’t know what to do. So many partners offered help and Marcella called me and told me that she has a nanny available if we needed one. So, the community really makes a difference.

Kristina: For me, there was a commitment from my family to help out, even though they all work. They have helped me much more than I expected. We have planned every weekend throughout the year, who would stay with my daughter and how all the visits would be coordinated. There were unexpected changes. For example, I planned that my daughter would stay in Moscow initially and join me in the summer with the nanny. Now she can’t so I got consents for all my friends who can potentially travel here so that whenever there is an occasion someone can bring her here for a day or two.

PHOTO-2019-05-13-20-06-17.jpgKristina and her daughter, Mia

As future CEOs and change makers, and as moms of future leaders, how do you wish to influence society? What do you think is vital for us to achieve for the next generation?

Kristina: I want to show to my daughter that you don’t have to sacrifice your career or your personal aspirations towards family. You can be successful at both. There is a focus on flexibility in my life which I think is important and I’m teaching to my daughter to be adaptable, to explore, and not to fear change. As a leader, I would want to create in my organization an attitude to dare to change, dare to be flexible, for example going from more bureaucracy in companies to flexible time and allow employees to be with family.

Swati: This is a difficult question. There are individual goals, but as a part of society, we need to think about how we want to transform. As a collective, gender parity is important. We know it will take 200 years before men and women are equal in society. We have studied about bias in class, we know this exists. If we don’t push this issue, it could take us 400 years. If we make enough noise it could take 150 years. I think we have a significant social responsibility in this respect.

Camila: For me, the MBA was an enabler to have a positive impact on the world. I was at a moment in my career where I was thinking, in the future, in 5 or 10 years, how proud will I be with what I do. Motherhood has changed me in that I now think how proud will I be telling my son that I am where I am, making the choices that I did in life. So, this is about role modeling and about thinking deeply on how to make my work more meaningful and impactful.

What would you like female applicants, especially mothers, to know about the IMD MBA program experience?

Camila: Overcome the fear. Honestly, I think as successful women we struggle a lot. And it’s really hard to get where we were before the MBA. I think the biggest fear is what if I leave and I don’t go back to the same level. Or something happens. Or will my husband be able to manage? Just put the fear aside. Put your infrastructure in place. It’s doable and it’s worth it.

Swati: A lot of moms ask me about the MBA program and what I tell all of them is that this is the best thing you can do for your child. Switzerland is a unique experience and children just love it. Lausanne is fantastic for kids. If you plan it well, you can manage a great experience in a cost-effective manner. Do your research and be pro-active. The Partners’ program is so robust at IMD. It can find you jobs, schools, and kindergartens.

Kristina: It is not easy to be on the program and be a mom. But it really is all about how you manage it. I am happy that I am going through it. Even though my daughter does not stay with me full time, even for the short visits that she makes, she’s already made friends with Amaya (Swati’s daughter) and each time I speak to her on the phone she asks for her! This program is not just for me now. It is for her. And this is very precious.

PHOTO-2019-05-13-20-06-08.jpgWhile mums study the little ones play! Mia (Kristina’s daughter) and Amaya (Swati’s daughter) enjoying some sunshine

Massive thanks to Camila, Kristina, and Swati for your time and thoughts!

To all moms, those with us and those watching over us, thank you for all that you have done, and for all that you do. Happy Mother’s Day!

Surbhi

Innovation Week – the Grand Finale and the end of week reflections

Friday. That was the day we were all waiting and preparing for – day when 18 teams presented their ideas and prototypes to the UEFA Jury. Through the semifinals, six teams were selected to pitch their innovation ideas to the UEFA senior management and the entire IMD and ECAL community involved in the Innovation Week.

Our team made it to the finals too. We were excited to present our idea, but also very curious about the work of other teams we could not closely follow through the sprint of the last days. We went on stage, presented and waited… Finally, the verdict came… Although we did not win the competition, we got a very positive feedback and hope to see our idea implemented in EURO 2024. But we were not sad – we were happy for the winning team and very proud. Proud of ourselves and of all the teams who put their talents, creativity and sleepless nights to contribute to the beautiful idea of football.

Tired, but happy we headed back to IMD for in-class and group discussions that was planned for Friday evening and the whole following day. It seemed a bit odd to be back in the auditorium after the emotional rollercoaster of the last days with its peak at UEFA HQ, but I soon understood the reason and the value behind.

This week was about UEFA, about innovating the fan experience of the future, but it was also about us – 90 IMD and 18 ECAL students, learning and living the process of innovation. The closing classes helped us to understand what happened in the last days – we reflected on the methodologies and the process we applied as well as on how to switch on the ‘innovation mindset’ through the ‘A.L.I.E.N.’ framework developed by our professor Cyril Bouquet.

Last but not least (definitely not least 🙂 ), we reflected on ourselves and the team dynamics we experienced. Who were I this week? An organizer, a critic, an idea generator, …? Or maybe I had different roles depending on the day and task we were working on? What about the others? How did we perform as a team?

Contemplating the seven traits of high performing teams and to what extent we were a ‘high performing team’ was the true Grand Finale of this week. We discussed, gave and received feedback on our behaviors, both helpful and unhelpful to better understand ourselves and our leadership traits. I learnt a lot this week about diversity and how the variety of talents and ways of thinking we had in the team contributed to the final product we are so proud of. Finally, I learnt also a lot about myself and how my behaviors can impact the team thanks to the honest, direct and also kind feedback I received.

Thank you IMD, ECAL, UEFA, ThinkSport and all other organizations and people behind this experience for this learning opportunity!

Team ‘Safari’ – Alex, Cosima, Daniel, Lukasz, Mischa and Wasan

With gratitude and pride to my fellow teammates: Alex, Cosima, Daniel, Mischa and Wasan – it would not be the same experience without you.

Lukasz

When the clouds meet the ground

The parkour came to the end, the pitch day arrived. We headed to the UEFA Headquarters in the morning to present 18 unique and fantastic ideas to a jury conformed by @ECAL, @Thinksport, @UEFA and IMD experts. Six incredible ideas made it to the finals and just one got the final prize: autographed jerseys and exclusive tickets for UEFA tournaments.

The winning team

Being outside the business environment and working with ECAL students gave us a different perspective on approaching problem solving. This week we proved that there is never one way to do things and making some room for innovation ignites fantastic results.

The UEFA auditorium, where the final presentations took place

After working together for a week, Jawaher, our ECAL team member, observed: “you guys start thinking on the earth, we usually start from the clouds”. Design thinking and innovative ideas start there, happen up there. Experimenting and navigating them towards the ground makes those ideas tangible, transforming ideas into action. The end of the innovation week is here, today, where the clouds and the ground met.

Ezequiel Abachian

Day 3 of the IMD Innovation Week

I’m told it’s day 3 of Innovation week, however there are moments where I am not so sure! Today has been a whirlwind of discussion and activity as we ventured out of the traditional business school environment and into the tangible reality of innovation and design. 

The challenge of taking the UEFA EURO Fan experience to the next level has been accepted enthusiastically by the class. Each of the 18 teams are now coming to terms with the obstacles that stand in the way of their ambitious design goals and there is a real buzz about the place… 

Peter grappling with the endless possibilities of MDF

Our new location for the next 2 days is the 3rd floor of the UniverCité Coworking design space, a short bus ride away from the centre of Lausanne. Large warehouse-like working areas make up the top floor of this industrial looking building and there is a somewhat controlled chaos of desks, flipcharts, start-ups and people strewn across any and all of the available space here. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on, but something reassures you that, whatever it is, it’s pretty exciting and you should definitely be getting involved!

Alfresco dining meets innovation warehouse

Coming from a start-up myself I was fairly confident that I would have something to bring to the table this week. I’ve dabbled in a bit of innovation here and there I thought and I’ve definitely been to enough football games in my time…

… turns out however, it’s a touch trickier than I had anticipated. Apparently there are a lot of really useful design principles and working methodologies (such as parkour) which have the added benefit of guiding you away from coming up with something that is designed entirely with yourself in mind. Who knew?

Marta from ECAL in action!

So, after a few soul searching moments where I tried to understand my own relevance in the world I awoke to the fact that my team were getting on with things and slowly but surely our idea was beginning to take shape. We are specifically putting the experience of families at the heart of our work for UEFA and after each carefully considered iteration you truly begin to appreciate the investment, dedication and team work required to bring about significant innovation…

As Philippe Starck once said “Getting to the heart of things, is never easy”, but hopefully 2 days is still enough time!

Alex Berry

Innovation Week: Days 1 & 2 – Learn, Question, Engage

Last year, during my Assessment Day, students from the Class of 2018 shared with me their excitement about Innovation Week. I followed their blog and achievements, so impressed with the impact they made on in-hospital patient care in seven short days.

It is our turn now!

This year we take on the 2019 UEFA Innovation Challenge built by IMD, ECAL, and ThinkSport. UEFA is looking for new ways to take football fan engagement to the next level, through enhanced festival/host city experiences, during matches, and beyond, with a special focus on fans with additional needs. The winning idea will be incorporated into the concept of UEFA EURO and implemented during the 2024 tournament.

We know that the fan is the true, beating heart of football. This week we do a deep dive into the fan journey, existing pain points, identify the unsaid, unmet needs, and then brainstorm our way through structured sessions after which we will (*fingers crossed*) land on our novel idea of choice and bring it to life.

IMG_9355.jpgIn-class discussions with Professor Cyril Bouquet before embarking on our innovation adventure

A special part of this journey is that each IMD team is paired with a design student from ECAL’s graduate program. It will be interesting to see our worlds of management and design intermingle. While it may seem that we have differing vantage points, and sometimes we do, both disciplines require plenty of resilience and creativity, qualities we will be banking on to do well this week. I expect that we will push more, and take more risks than we are accustomed to.

IMG_9363.jpgImprov Dinner on Day 1
d67c7825-b75f-47e9-9954-f39bb0165ab2.JPGResearch visits; the sunshine and Swiss scenery are a fun bonus!
de6e88af-fa88-4d48-b444-7cbe5a156177.JPGMore research trips!
a1fe3271-c31b-4645-b9fa-c6189ba83c68.JPGThe research doesn’t really end 🙂
IMG_9376.JPGDiscussing initial learnings and insights over cocktails and a delicious Hungarian dinner

The experience has been quite a whirlwind so far, especially since my football experience is limited to FIFA World Cups and one live match where Spain played Philadelphia (a “friendly” match). Still, a couple of days in, and after many conversations with my football-savvy teammates and the enthusiastic fans we met this morning, I understand the sport better. Following the intensive discussion and study, I expect many light bulbs to switch on tomorrow!

Time to get some shut eye. Sleep, apparently, is conducive to creative thinking 🙂

Surbhi