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

Entrepreneurship and Easter Break!

We are done with our startup presentations and deliverables!

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 12.41.11 AM

What a whirlwind it has been for all of us! From sustainable footwear to reframing early-stage education, from innovative crop development to customized orthopedic liners, we’ve seen it all over the last four months. With a single mission on our minds; bringing these novel ideas to consumers.

By challenging market segmentation, conducting customer deep dives, and engaging in debates over value propositions, we have moved the needle for these fledgling companies. I know my team has been so vested in the product and concept, it will be a challenge to move on to the upcoming adventures on our agendas. Or perhaps we’re a bit nostalgic since we bonded, and will now need to recalibrate within a new team and create new friendships and memories. Nevertheless, massive congratulations to my peers on achieving this milestone.

And we are not to fear any lack of intellectual challenge … before we know it, we will be in the thick of Innovation Week! But let’s save that for another post.

Onward to a well-earned break. Wishing everyone at IMD Business School and all blog readers a restful and fun Easter! Soak in some sunshine 🙂

Surbhi

Module 1: Three Months, Three Life Lessons

ecef6521-0386-4d8f-b5c8-e86f5adbb87b.JPGPost-exam Lausanne exploration 🙂

Exams are done! And we have recovered (somewhat).

Tomorrow my group presents our startup project, and so we wrap up the first module.

It has been three months, full of highs, some lows, lots of laughs, and more late-night, caffeine-fueled, impassioned discussions in the dungeons that I would like to admit. And we are just getting started.

Here are 3 learnings from Module 1 that will stay with me in the days to come…

  1. You can never know everything: I can safely say that the majority of our class has had at least one “deer in the headlights” moment. It is particularly uncomfortable when you are used to overcoming hurdles and enjoying success and find yourself thinking “huh” in class as brand new content whizzes past you on a daily basis. This is when you need your peers. And the acceptance that you won’t learn it all, but you will learn how to prioritize and fill knowledge gaps effectively, a skill that allows you to focus on your contribution to the team.
cb002555-5c0a-4335-b8ba-c1167a0bed72In life, as in ping pong, a good team has your back

2. Conflict, not such a bad thing: Culturally, we grow up with the idea that conflict may be considered rude. It leads to tension and friction. But, you put 90 high achievers into groups of six for three months and then how can conflict can be avoided? My team, fortunately, is almost always on board with each other. But we have had our not so congenial days as well. I think we are better for it, mostly because conflict presents us with a fork in the road; how will you move beyond disagreement? Our reptilian brains tell us to defend our turf, that it is personal when it often is not. But we have a choice in our reactions. Are they helpful? Necessary? True? Not always possible to follow, especially after consecutive hours of clicking away on laptops, the next test only a Canvas update away, but a good aspiration nonetheless.

PHOTO-2019-04-11-20-28-45.jpgParis at twilight, by Shriekanth

3. On occasion, leave the bubble: After exams, many left Lausanne for the weekend, or at least the dungeons. Some further out in Europe, others within Switzerland. I jumped on a train to Florence and hung out with a visiting friend from home. Over delectable pizza and while strolling through the Uffizi, I was reminded of a life beyond the MBA, and that it would be a mistake to focus so much on the minutiae that I forget the context of the world that IMD is preparing me for. Work hard, and walk away sometimes. Find those roses or tulips. Perspective never smelt sweeter.

The Uffizi’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit displayed the Adoration of the Magi, mostly still in sketch state. This unfinished piece, infused with talent, is considered a worthy piece from the master, the center of a famous museum exhibit.

During and after the MBA program we will remain in sketch state, works in progress. As our experiences compound, the lines become clearer and the colors better defined, but never entirely done.

And that is the beauty, is it not?

We are incomplete, a long road lies ahead, and we are yet masterpieces.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adorazione dei Magi 1482 c.

“The recently restored Adoration of the Magi, commissioned by the Augustinians for their Church of San Donato a Scopeto and left unfinished when Leonardo had to move to Milan in 1482. Yet it is this very state that allows to follow Leonardo’s mind’s creative processes, in all his sketches, ideas, second thoughts and reconsiderations.” – Uffizi Museum, Florence, Italy

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