An Odyssey of Challenges and Secure Bases


“It is exactly what we expected from this project. On top of that, the practical action plans appended with the business models will help us to move forward with the pilot phase”, were the appreciative closing words from our ICP client during the final presentation.

Yet, the journey to get there was everything but an easy walk.

Mid-October, the project seemed to be as dismal as the rainy days in Lausanne. It is only during the first presentation, the client and we concurred on the final project scope.  To make things worse, our team dynamics were confidently entrenched in the so-called “storming” phase, which is, according to the theory, the much-needed step before reaching the “performing” phase of teamwork …. The five of us, totaling 43 years of cumulative work experience in various industries, got stuck for days. After designing a bunch of occult graphs (our NDA, but also our pride, prevent us to disclose those here), the most serious man of the team started self-mockery: “We’d better prepare some AEDs for next presentation. Either the client or our faculty may need them.”

However, thanks to the experiences acquired during this year, every one of us knew how to navigate this situation. Rounds of argument shaped our prototypes of new business models. Following the tradition of leadership streams, we took frequent feedback sessions which helped the team moving out of the storming stage. Meanwhile, continuous and subtle guidance from faculty coach, Professor Ralf Seifert, helped us to maintain ICP on the right track. Nemawashi, newly taught in the ICP preparing sessions, was applied to build consensus between clients and us (Yes, we avoided using AED during client meetings).

When looking back at the ICP journey, we think our team performed like the sailors of Odysseus, confronting a series of unknows and challenges. Everyone experienced frustration, confusion, and pressure. The support and specific expertise from each other made the team stronger, and hence we finally passed the whirlpool and sailed to the destination.

Soon, we will leave the IMD campus and re-enter into the real world – real jobs as well as real life. Like the ICP, the only certain thing in our future life is uncertainty. But we will not freak out. We have experienced ICP. And more importantly, we have ICP teammates who are friends and secure bases for the future.


Finally, thank you to Vivekanand Pandey and Olivier De Liedekerke. Their commitment and optimism are the true inspiration for our ICP. The team’s success would not be possible without their contribution (as well as tolerance on my demand for MECE).



The ICP Experience

Everyone claims their ICP is special. But ours actually is. I say this half-jokingly with trademark IMD-self-awareness, half-serious. And this is because, we set out to “provoke the CEO”. When we chose our project, this was our scope description and at the same time – if you ask a set of MBAs-in-the-making – it was no scope at all. This left us with the beauty and pain to systematically identify which mountain to climb from a number of peaks surrounding us. 

The team that got together to work on this feat consists out of 5 people who have in total 7 nationalities. Clearly this is only one of many indicators of the diversity of our team, but I can truly say that the mix of people, mindsets and personalities has made the project challenging, exciting and successful at the same time.

Mirko, Carl, Hameed, Diego, Da Eun

Our main stakeholder was the CEO of a globally acting company as well as the executive team. It has been quite an experience to work on such a high profile project and discussing strategic options that will help the company to gain a competitive advantage. What was especially impressive for us was to deliver a fresh perspective on the business and bring in opportunities that would have never been considered otherwise.

During the course of the project we’ve experienced it all: spending 3 weeks plus weekends at the client site, travelling 10h per leg; working late nights; presenting to our faculty directors on the weekend per teleconference out of our hotel rooms; visiting a heavy industry production plant; client dinners (and drinks); and much more.

It was a fun journey which culminated this week in our final presentation of our recommendations. Our client is excited about the result, we learnt a ton and grew close as a team. Who could ever ask for more?


What lovely days – from Lausanne to the UAE

What lovely days…

“What lovely days we had, walking to school, chatting with classmates every morning in Lausanne!” said Peter. I didn’t think about that until he said so, but yes, I also feel a little homesick. We are now in Abu Dhabi and commute by car from our hotel to the office because it is still too hot and sticky here to walk outside, even in October. Maybe that’s the reason we miss our beautiful walk to IMD.

Our team is in the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) for the full seven weeks of our International Consulting Project (ICP), engaging in retail strategy in a financial industry. The ICP is comprehensive learning opportunity where we leverage what we have learned over the year to contribute to the client project.

Impactful Classes

Structured Thinking helped us to analyze the company issues using a logic tree, taking care of MECEness: what was the issue, why we needed to think of it, how we would solve it, etc.

Change Management, taught us how to transform an organization. Of particular help, was the simulation exercise we did, where we had to recognise the different perspectives of each stakeholder in the company. We’ve had a lot of interviews with internal stakeholders to map the current situation: heads of each product, Relationship Management, and functional teams such as Marketing or Digital. Once we could see the situation objectively, we followed the Scope of Work and listened to the opinion of the project owner, so that we could suggest a tangible plan for the final presentation.

High Performance Teams, classes that fell under the Leadership stream, helped our team to work collaboratively and deliver an innovative result from the multiple perspectives.

Fabulous team- Alex, Atsushi, Lukasz, Filipa, and Peter

Our team is diverse team of five: a South African from a start-up, a Polish from a consulting firm, a Portuguese from an investment bank, a Russian from a private equity fund, and a Japanese from a trading and investing company. Each colleague has different viewpoint, so every moment we discuss takes a certain amount of time and patience, before the long but constructive discussions help us to reach the best joint idea.

I need to add one more comment. We have also been enjoying some sight-seeing such as Louvre museum, Grand mosque, Burj Khalifa, etc. and playing squash with our teammates! I truly appreciate this precious experience and chance to learn more about the cultural difference and team dynamics. If I had not had this opportunity, I might not have had the chance to come to the Middle East. In the future, I’ll be thinking “What lovely days we had working in the UAE” …

Dinner with our Faculty supervisor: Professor Omar.


A Moroccan ICP Adventure

“Shukraan”, I told my driver, as he warmly said goodbye from Casablanca Airport. ‘Shukran’ translates to thank you in English.  As the plane gained altitude, I settled into my seat reminiscing about my experiences – the intensity of the cobra as it swayed to the snake charmer’s flute in Jemaa el Fna, the sweet smell of mint tea drifting in the bazaars of Marrakesh and the broad smile of street vendors serving sweetmeats and tea in Chefchaohen. Morocco had amazed and sometimes overwhelmed me by its sights and smells and the kindness of its people. The country in one word is “eclectic” in terms of its people, languages and terrain but these eclecticisms make it a whole.

Very much like my consulting project team members – a Romanian, a Japanese, an American, a South African and an Indian. Each having his own quirkiness and experience of around ten years to base it on. Brought together in May, to consult for a large Moroccan company, our ICP project goal is simple – analyze the market opportunity and define an entry strategy for a byproduct of current operations. Six months later, even after spending numerous hours in the dungeons we are still struggling. We must balance client and stakeholder expectations, deal with changing priorities and learn to work with each other. Combine this with job search and personal commitments and the task seems overwhelming.

However, like most experiences this year, the ICP experience has taught me to persist and prioritize. My team is a support system, each member filling in for the other and helping to manage failures with banter. Over the course of this year, I have transitioned from having to take time off after a failure to planning weekend trips right after I have received a rejection phone call. This year at IMD has taught me to “get knocked off and stand right back up, ready for the next punch.” Having a peer group which, like you, is constantly setting stretch goals despite failures, motivates you.

Setting stretch goals is a theme that resonates with my client as well. A national company quickly diversifying its products and geographical focus. Our client team is young, with many folks educated outside the country but returning to serve in their country of origin. It’s fun learning that their lives are just like mine even though spent on another continent. The support from our faculty coaches has been outstanding. For all these experiences – working with a Rockstar team on a challenging problem in a new continent and getting a chance to experience the hospitality of its people, I say “Shukraan”.

Moroccan Mining Team – Adrian, Takashi, Peter, Jaco and Perwez


Implementing a B2C digital retail strategy, with an international mindset

In my opinion, an ‘International’ MBA program has as much to do with having a diverse cohort, as it does with enhancing a student’s ability to appreciate the nuances at play when interacting with people from different cultures. Furthermore, leveraging this understanding to forge meaningful rapports in both a personal and professional context is imperative.

The robust team dynamics of my International Consulting Project group was testament to the fact that IMD was successfully able to instil a high degree of cultural awareness and emotional quotient in its participants over the course of the year. Given that our ICP is positioned at the latter stages of this intensive program, this gave us an opportunity to showcase the aforementioned capabilities.

Our group comprised of individuals from four countries; China, Brazil, Monaco and India. Throughout the course of the project, we had our fair share of disagreements, arguments, differences and scenarios where I recall the tension in the room being palpable for days on end. A lot of these issues could be attributed to an eclectic set of beliefs and expectations, as a function of group diversity.

Alexis, Isabella, Gavin, Marcelo, Shaunak

What resonated with me most was each individual’s willingness to take critical feedback in their stride and make a relentless effort to work on areas of improvement. I was pleased to observe the tangible progress in the quality of our cooperation, mutual respect and interdependence, amongst other facets of team dynamics. This was validated by our ICP mentor. We also made a conscious decision to give every member an opportunity to lead the team through different phases of the project and this turned out to be an enriching experience for us all.

We had the privilege of traveling to France and the Netherlands for our client interactions and primary consumer research. The subtle variation in the work cultures in these two regions was eye-opening. For most of our team members, elements such as the travel, the primary and secondary research and the client presentations were a unique preview into the world of consulting. Moreover, the scope our project entailed implementing a B2C digital retail strategy; a topic that had us engrossed right at the outset.

We also developed a strong sense of camaraderie outside of the dungeons, courtesy of our very own in-house five-star multi-cuisine Chef Alexis, who took the initiative to get our group to bond over exquisite risotto and wine dinners. I also have a vivid memory of the seventeen-hour Sunday, a day before our second client presentation and the jovial spirit with which we supported each other, given the exigent circumstances, was heart-warming.

To my Professor Stephane Girod, thank you for the tremendous support, the attention to detail, wholesome feedback and for ensuring that the learning was fruitful for us as participants. And to the rest of my teammates, Gavin, Isabella, Alexis and Marcelo, “as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure!”

The full team – including Professor Girod!

Shaunak Grover

A Brazilian, Colombian, Indian, Italian and Spanish walk into an American Dive Bar in San Francisco

Please don’t ask what happens next! I won’t be able to tell you anything without breaking the ten commandments or non-disclosure agreements.

You guessed it right, our group is consulting a US company. We recently presented our first phase findings to the client. The project has been a great learning opportunity for us to understand the consultant way of thinking and working. Long working hours has been the norm of the day, but the enrichment in terms of the depth of the experience is exceptional.

Learning the team dynamics and honing leadership skills continues with the ICP and part of what makes the ICPs so special. The constructive conflicts, challenging of ideas are a few examples of things that will transform into lifelong learnings. However, it’s not all work and no play! As our ICP advisor would put it…. “NO NO NO NO!”. When things get too serious, our group has a solution called “5-minute nonsense” where we resort to stress alleviating activities like funny YouTube videos, sharing weird personal experiences or even a quick game of ping-pong or a rubbish flash video game.

Roberto, Purnendu, Cyan, Helena and Sebastiano

Although most of our team has prior experience related to the project, the ICP has provided us with a toolkit to look at the problem from a different lens. Things like issue trees and hypothesis testing have become part and parcel of life. Interviewing about 30 relevant stakeholders from the industry and digging through hundreds of industry reports seemed an arduous process, but it was all worth it after seeing the happiness on the client’s face.

Our next phase is underway, and we are pumped to generate valuable insights to close the project with a big bang. Next stop, Boston Massachusetts for the final workshop with the client!


From marathons to MBAs: Leadership lessons I have learnt from running



I don’t think my MBA class would believe me if I told them that I use to hate running. I’m known amongst the year as that crazy girl who trained for her first marathon during the notoriously busy Module 1. This means I now know Lausanne’s running tracks almost as well as I know IMD’s dungeons.

However, when I was a child, I genuinely did hate it. My least favourite day of the whole school year was Sports Day. It was pure humiliation. I would be persuaded into running distances like the 1500m (around 3% of a marathon’s distance…) and spend the whole race wheezing, walking and complaining my way round.

Something changed when I was 18. I spent a year off, part of which working for a charity that looks after boys who lived on the streets in Kenya. When I came back to England, I felt compelled to do something to continue supporting them, so I decided to run a half marathon and raise money.

With that decision, I became a runner. It was difficult making this transition; going from someone who genuinely could not run longer than 2 minutes to someone who felt happy trudging round the London parks took perseverance, dedication and a total change in mindset.


The reason I’ve carried on running for the last 10 years is not because of what it does for me physically. Yes, it is great to be fit, sleep better and have improved focus during the day, but the real reason is because of what it does for me mentally. Forcing myself to get up for early morning runs whilst others are still sleeping has strengthened my drive and self-discipline. Spending hours on training runs has taught me the importance of practice to improve a skill. Finding a good running buddy has shown me the benefit of support during challenges. And bad running days have made me more resilient whilst good running days make me feel empowered.

This MBA year has put all these skills to the test and the current job search is no exception. There are highs and lows. Many hours are needed to hone your interview technique and discipline to say no to opportunities that are not right for you. I have had setbacks, like I am sure some of my classmates have. With these I find it important to remember the resilience I showed during the marathon, pick myself up from momentary disappointment and carry on. There have also been some fantastic opportunities that have come up as well, and like that moment when I crossed finish line after 4 hours and 13 minutes of running, I make sure to celebrate these.

As another week begins where I find, like all of the Magic 90, I have the near impossible task of fitting in ICP work, job applications, interviews and a personal life into a limited, ever-accelerated amount of time, I like to remind myself of that 18-year-old girl who hated running. Who would have thought she could have run a London Marathon this year?


Great achievements are possible with hard-work, determination and a little bit of luck. So good luck to all the Magic 90 as we move into this final phase of the year. By supporting each other and applying that determination we have shown throughout, I know that the possibilities for us all are endless. There is ultimately nothing more rewarding than putting a goal out there, working hard for it and seizing it with both hands when you achieve it.