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!)

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

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!

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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

Another building block in our MBA journey

Our first integrative exercise is done! And even though exams are looming in the horizon we literally saw the light on Saturday after our second presentations were done and we were freed from the dungeons.

I knew the basics of the exercise before coming here: we will be given 48 hours for an assignment that will require using all the knowledge of our module 1 classes. I knew we will need to present and defend our proposal in front of a jury. I knew it would test our team dynamics and really take us to the next level. But I also knew that knowing all of the above was not going to help prepare for it, so I chose to follow Sean wise words at the beginning of the program and just “trust the process”.

The experience was different for everyone so I can only speak for myself when I say that the exercise as a whole was so enriching that it will be a memorable moment of this year. It is one of those things that you can only understand once you live through it and if I had to choose the best part, it was the way the feedback was given by the jury during both presentations.  It was then when it clicked in to place that this exercise was just preparation for the next part of the program, especially the start-up presentation and the ICPs during module 3.

I leave you with some really nice pictures shared by my classmates

The dungeons became home for two nights

After!

Notice the happy smiles because we know it is over! (for now!)

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