International Women’s Assessment Day

International Women’s Day last Friday is hopefully indicative of a world that is ready to accept and adapt to ensure there are more women leaders in business and society. Not only will this deliver positive performance outcomes, it just doesn’t makes sense to do anything less than be fully inclusive.

But while this day sends out a clear signal, to really encourage a genuine future impact on society, education needs to play a key role. Here, we want to play our part in creating a future where equality and diversity is the norm.  The IMD MBA, with our successful history of delivering Leadership Development in an extremely collaborative and diverse program, has set ambitious goals with regard to gender balance. We seek parity. We think we can get there because our class, being one section with such a high faculty to student ratio, creates a powerful and supportive community. A great context: participants know one another well, respect and trust is high, and support is endless.

This year we have partnered with the Forté Foundation for women and added new scholarships specifically targeting female applicants. In honour of the International Women’s Day, we also hosted our first exclusive women’s MBA assessment day on Friday. Experienced women, from different countries, with diverse professional backgrounds, spent the day on the IMD campus meeting the admissions team, faculty and some members of the class of 2019, sampling class and, importantly, participating in our assessment routines. As I said to them, they would not have been invited to campus if we had any doubts about their ability to get through the course. The point of our assessments is not to test basic ability but rather to test for fit and help us identify who will thrive in our special environment. It isn’t for everyone. They should be testing us as much as we are testing them. 

It was a pleasure to spend a little time with such highly motivated and talented people. We wish them, and all women with the ambition to lead, the courage and determination to persevere. We are committed to working with them all to pave the way to a more balanced future.  

Professor Seán Meehan, Dean of MBA Program

The changing place of International Women’s Day in the modern world

I was honored when the MBA office invited me to write a blog entry for International Women’s Day. Despite how far we’ve come in the last several decades, in both my work and personal life, I still see the many (many) ways in which women across the world are fighting for equal opportunities to be heard, acknowledged, and recognized as equal contributors to society.

However, in the last few years, I’ve started to question the importance that International Women’s Day, and other women-specific initiatives, continue to hold in society – especially for the next generation of women leaders.

As a professor of leadership, I regularly hold special gatherings or topical sessions for the women in the class (who are, more often than not, the minorities in the room). Five-plus years ago, these were always extremely popular and well attended. But in the last few years, a couple things happened.

  • First, more women expressed dissatisfaction at being part of such special programs – they felt that they were unnecessary, unproductive, and even, reverse discriminatory.
  • Second, more men requested to join these programs. I always allowed men to join and was initially delighted about their enthusiasm to be part of the conversation. But each time, having a mixed-sex group changed both the focus of the conversation and tenor of the sessions (even in sessions on women’s leadership, more often than not, the men ended up being the ones who talked more than the women).

I’m not sure to what these changes can be attributed. Perhaps it is the move to recognize more than two genders in society, and the accompanying attitude that people should be recognized for who they are rather than what gender they are. Perhaps it is the fear of being labeled as a “feminist” and the sometimes negative connotations that go with the label (e.g., that you prioritize women’s issues over other important issues of human rights). Perhaps it is a natural change across generations to see themselves as distinct from the needs and wants of the generations that precede them. Or maybe it is the new trend for more male-championed equality initiatives in organizations (e.g., see the latest women’s leadership program at the oil company, Chevon, which is led by the male, not female, leaders in the organization).

I’m also not quite certain how I feel about these changes. On one hand, I still see the huge distance that women across the world need to come in order to take their rightful place in society (e.g., as of 2016, only 14 of the 350 largest publicly-traded companies in Europe (the “S&P 350”) have female CEOs and according to UNESCO, worldwide, there are 4 million fewer boys than girls who are out of school before the end of primary school). But on the other hand, I also see the dangers of recognizing women as separate and unique from other genders and seeing their aim for equality as something that they are solely responsible for initiating. I also see the many ways in which men are discriminated against. Maybe not when it comes to getting to the top of the corporate ladder. But certainly in how they get to the top or in wanting something besides the corporate ladder to strive for; throughout the world, we still want our men to be strong, traditionally successful, and several pieces of research show us that we are far more likely to accept the arrogant man than we are to accept the vulnerable man.

Thus, if we have an International Women’s Day, should we also have an International Men’s Day?

But at the risk of seeming like a classic Generation Xer, I am still proud and delighted to see an International Women’s Day – and to see that IMD is taking a strong stand in recognizing it and supporting women to overcome barriers to leadership – both visible and invisible.

I come from three generations of strong women. My grandmother did not get an education past 13-years-old,and yet managed to ensure that her daughter went to university and then law school. And my mother struggled to be seen as legitimate in her profession as a lawyer in the mid-1970s US. I am extremely proud of the struggles that women have gone through to get where we are today, and think that these should be loudly celebrated. I am also aware of the journey left to go. In this push for continued change, I am open and curious to see how International Women’s Day will transform (and be transformed) in the years to come.

Professor Jennifer Jordan

Everything Is Going To Be Fine

It is one thing to write about transformation. It is a completely different keg of wasps to experience it.

March is here. Temperatures have risen but the forecast says a spell of cold rain is headed our way. I hope not! As we proceed into what legend says the most intense month of the IMD MBA program, we need sunshine to keep our spirits and Vitamin D levels up.

Last week we had a guest speaker session in our Operations class with Erik Winberg, Vice President of Strategic Planning at Tetra Pak. We spent the day learning about Tetra Pak’s Digitally-Enabled Supply Chain transformation project. It stemmed from visible unmet needs in a demanding market. As the team designed and implemented their strategy, they had to overcome challenges to achieve a strong, reliable, and effective structure. We discussed Industry 4.0 and how digital tools can be applied to the supply chain, and the dynamic and critical nature of operations became all too clear. This is reflected in the process we’re going through at IMD, through supply chain simulations and peer CV reviews. In iterative motions, we’re learning, improving, and accepting the discomfort that precedes a better version of ourselves.

thumbnail (1)Erik Winberg and Professor Seifert in discussion with IMD MBA students on digital transformation in the corporate world

If inner transformation is difficult then it is good that we begin work with our Personal Development Elective (PDE) analysts in the coming days. The PDE optional stream is one of the reasons IMD was my school of choice for an MBA program. Of course, I wanted to develop an understanding of the subjects that make up business fundamentals. But all programs offer this at the very least. PDE work stems from the idea that while managing a challenging course load and life transition, students would (and should) have dedicated time for individual reflection with a qualified professional. We may all have different pain points and issues to work on, but the goal is common, to get comfortable with ourselves, and thrive while we are at it.

During the Leadership Experiential almost a month ago (has it really been that long?!) I said “Everything is going to be fine” to my start-up group each time a new challenge arose. We had a good laugh and the line stuck. Yesterday, in the dungeons, I was not smiling as much as I usually do, preoccupied with swirling thoughts of assignments and my python-like to-do list. My teammate and fellow blogger, Lukasz @lukaszkaczynski13, took a second out of his workload and said, “Surbhi! Everything is going to be fine!”

I certainly hope so, for all of us 🙂

Surbhi

Diversity: the art of thinking independently together!

Leadership, Experience and Intensity are some of the words people relate with IMD MBA. Over a month ago, I started my IMD journey expecting a lot of academic rigor, a vastly diverse group of colleagues and world class faculty. However, within 8 weeks, I have come to realize that IMD is not just any school, this is a unique experience that will test and impact every aspect of your personality.

A lot has happened in the last 8 weeks. From Risk models and Cartel Pricing to Snow excursions and Leadership camps, we are being exposed a host of different experiences. Add to this the start up projects, study groups, assignments and essays, and the plate looks quite full, if not brimming. But this is not all. Not even close.

What makes IMD a truly transforming experience is the systematic way in which the course intends to bring behavioral changes in candidates. A key lever to this is diversity within the class. Probably the most “glorified” word in the corporate world in recent times, we all know how organizations are trying to leverage diversity to foster creativity and growth. IMD is doing this and something more. It is harnessing diversity to create world class leaders.

The 2019 IMD MBA scholarship winners

90 people, 39 nationalities. Add to this the differences in age, experience, industries and educational background, and you know it’s a riot of flavors (or maybe just a riot!). But at IMD, diversity is not a poster boy. It is a strategic tool to test and transform personalities. As fancy as it sounds on paper, the fact is that most managers don’t know how to deal with diversity, let alone embrace or harness it. At IMD, candidates are being taught to develop this skill by what I call an EPIC strategy.

It starts with cranking up the pressure levels in a highly diverse environment, which Exposes all aspects of one’s personality. To ensure that you don’t miss on any fault lines, feedback sessions and coach interventions are strategically placed to drive the point home. Following the exposure, comes the Planning phase. Equipped with the knowledge of your blind spots and a better understanding of your unconscious behaviors, you are now required to put in place your own behavioral development plan. However, every good plan has to be put into effect and helping us in Implementation are our PDE analysts. Having deep understanding of subconscious driven behavioral patterns, they are our guides as we enter the realm of grey (matter). And finally, comes the Change of perspective and personality, enabling us to become a truly global leader.

As we embark upon this adventure, I feel exposed, but I also feel strong. I feel lost, but I also feel anchored. I know that with me in this journey are 89 others and they won’t let me fall. They will push me till I reach the finish line. And with them as my secure base, I feel ready to change, more than ever before!

Swati Dalal

Leadership development in practice

This week was different from the very beginning. It actually started on Sunday afternoon, when the Magic90 reached IMD’s doors to get to know what was awaiting us in the first Leadership experimental – the first of the many elements of the IMD MBA leadership stream – the heart and the backbone of our MBA journey.

The Prelude

It all began so innocently. We met our coaches, got to know the initial exercise and were sent to the dungeons (study rooms!) to start discussions within our six-person study groups. Plain and simple. The magic happened later…

In the evening we lowered our masks and hung up our personas to share a few pages from the books of our lives. Going home few hours later, we knew each other better than we would have thought the day before. And that was just the start, a prelude to the following days. Tired, thankful and excited we were looking forward to the experience.

The experimental

The next days were full of activities in the beautiful (yet cold 🙂 ) Swiss mountains. Physical and mental challenges to solve, discussions to be held, feedbacks to give and receive. However, that was only the surface, something that a cameraman would record in a documentary movie summarizing ‘student adventures’. The true story lies deeper, invisible to the naked eye.

Emotions. We experienced a lot of them. Positive and negative, mild and extreme. Excitement, passion, frustration, sadness, you name it. We lived through them together and individually. Although uncomfortable at times, they let us be even more who we really are.

Discovery. What is critical is that we have not stopped at living our emotions. It was a challenging learning experience about recognizing and analysing what happens to us, to the others and why, when working together on a joint task. How do we react to certain behaviours? How do our actions influence others? What is the impact of emotions and feelings for the effectiveness of a team?

As an example, I remember the discussions we had while analysing the challenges we solved vs. those we did not manage to cope with. One of the learnings was the importance of communication, giving each other enough space to share ideas and identify the talents and knowledge some of us had that were highly relevant for a given task. Sounds simple, does it not? But so often people think they ‘know better’ instead of listening to others…

Irrespective of how trivial it sounds, we realized and felt how critical the human, soft factor is in everything we do. And that is something you cannot learn in a class. You need to experience it.

The impact

Today’s business environment is a world of teams. We may have the brightest minds and most creative ideas in an organization but it will not take us far if we don’t manage to collaborate with and lead others. This week we made a few additional steps to better understand who we are and how we can effectively interact with others. Self-awareness and leadership – two simple words. Mastering them is a difficult and long path, but the award awaits those who dare to walk it persistently.

The award of truly connecting to inspiring and fascinating people that we onboard onto this journey. Financial and business success will be just by-products.

With warmest thoughts to my team: Anya, Kerry, Surbhi, Mischa and Tiziano.

Lukasz

新年快乐: Celebrating Chinese New Year, IMD style!

Despite being in the throes of the relentless calendar that is Module 1, we find time to bond with and learn about those who seem different from us. I say “seem” because of the learnings from the last few days at our Leadership Experiential. I have learned that if you scratch below the surface of apparent divergence, you find many points to connect on and much common ground. This is a transformational strength of being part of a mind-bogglingly diverse MBA program.

One such experience has been with my peers from Greater China. As I approached them, pen and paper in tow, ready to jot down salient points for a blog post on Chinese New Year, I was greeted with the same joy, excitement, and nostalgia, irrespective of their hometowns. Here are some snippets about their memories and emotions for the Chinese New Year.

China.jpegThe Greater China contingent from the IMD MBA Class of 2019

“For me, the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival – as we call it, means family. It is about traveling thousands of miles or even across the globe to go back to where you belong, be with family, and enjoy together the food that brings back memories of childhood. As a child, during the festival, I was always trying to peek into the kitchen to see what was on the menu today, and even take a bite while the adults were not looking; and I still do that now, so many years later as a grown-up. Every year my mom would experiment new dishes, but some are not changed and are kept as our family “signature” dishes; every year I just can’t wait to go back home and be comforted and surprised by the food made of love. When I am abroad and cannot go back, my mom would send me pictures of the dishes, and I miss being with families that I treasure and share the food that cures me.” -Junyi Wang, China

2016 0626 lo bak gow.jpg

“My (and I would say most Hong Kong people’s) favorite New Year food is definitely Turnip cake (Chinese: Lo Bak Go). This is a traditional food for Lunar New Year. I like the taste but I also enjoy making the cake with my family. My family never cook together. My mother or my grandmother do most of the cooking. Only when it is Lunar New Year, everybody will gather together to cook – some of us peel the turnip, mix the sauce etc. We also enjoy shrimp for dinner on New Year’s Eve. In Cantonese, it is pronounced, “Ha” which means “hahaha” and lots of laughter in the coming year. Fish is “Yu” which means “having plenty” so we have that too. We play mah-jong and it is good for catching up with family and relatives. I will prepare tea for my mother, father, and brother early in the morning on the first day of the year. I would say thank you for your love, care and support for the year and wish them to have good health for the year.” – Angelina Cho, Hong Kong

Related image“Typically on Chinese New Year, parents and elders who are working give the children and younger family members who are not earning yet, red envelopes with money. It is a bonus to the regular pocket money and is considered good luck and blessings. We visit relatives and at home, there is a constant supply of food. Even if you are not hungry you have to keep eating! In Taiwan, we get to see the Electric-Techno Neon Gods do a traditional dance. One the New Year’s day we usually do a big get-together at home, and on the second day, married women are supposed to visit their families. The celebrations continue for a few days and it brings everyone together.” – Kerry Hsiao, Taiwan

a92c2bc0-30a9-46e1-a4e8-24b1201642a1.JPGChinese New Year Hot Pot celebrations!

IMG_8366.jpgFinding precious time to reflect and celebrate among the consecutive academic and leadership activities of this week, out peers from Greater China kept their festive spirits high and involved all of us! They gifted us with red envelopes filled with kind messages and sweet treats. The IMD Restaurant is also treating us with special Chinese New Year themed lunches this week, enjoyed by all, with many laughs at the end as we read out our predictions to each other from fortune cookies. In reality, it is hard to predict where we are headed. But with our families just a phone call away, memories of our cultural celebrations, and the company of our MBA friends, we can be sure that good things await ahead.

Wishing the IMD MBA Class of 2019, our professors, MBA support team, all IMD staff and students, and our blog readers a blessed and spectacular Year of the Pig!

Surbhi

 

 

 

 

Our first month: measurement of time

It’s been a month since most of us moved and started calling Lausanne “home”. A lot has happened in the last 30 days and there are many ways in which we could measure it. If we go by the calendar, most days were filled with an overflow of information, from great classes with a couple of guest speakers to getting our personality test results and looking at ourselves with new eyes. If we go by meeting new people, we went from names on a WhatsApp group to people with wonderful life stories and a lot to learn from, we went from being acquaintances to classmates and are on the road to become great friends. If we go by changing our routines, this month meant going back to being students (something that was long forgotten by most of us) having classes for 8 hours a day and then spending the night reading and doing homework while trying to have a “life”. Either way, it was an overwhelming month in more ways than one, and it only takes one quick glance at the February calendar to know that January was actually just the beginning and things are about to get tough.

One of the things that will make our lives interesting was officially launched this past week. From day one we were talking about the Start-up project when we got the list of the 15 companies that the MBA 2019 class will be working for and were asked to select our favourite four. It also meant that we were being assigned to our study group, the groups of six that will be spending a lot of time together for the next couple of months. We got a few weeks to get to know each other and our work style before we met with our start-up at the end of the month. The day of the meeting you could feel the anxiety in the room, all of us wondering what it will be like, what are they expecting from us and what could we do to help them.

Meeting our start-up turned out to be less stressful than many of us expected, it meant meeting really passionate people working for an idea they really believe in. It also allowed us to bring all our experience to the table and start thinking outside the box, looking at problems from different angles while thinking how are we going to do this on top of all the classes, readings, homework, leadership and career exercises. Time management will for sure be something we are all tested on in the upcoming weeks and as the stress rises, is going to be fun to see how our dynamics change.

I close this post sharing this picture of one of the class speakers we had this month. The reading for the marketing class was about Tag Heuer and we had the pleasant surprise of having the protagonist of the case, Jean-Claude Biver, talk to us about his career. As my classmate Adrian puts it:

Jean-Claude Biver, former CEO of Blancpain, Hublot and most recently Tag Heuer, along with too many accomplishments to list. It was a masterclass in how to be creative in business and how to find your inner entrepreneurial spirit. Incredibly inspiring!

20190130_111949

All in all, it was a great month that flew by and I can only look forward to what is to come!

Helena