The Integrative Exercise: When push comes to shove

I didn’t know they were called “Integrative Exercises”, but I had heard before coming to IMD about the infamous 48-hour-straight assignment that  encompassed much more work than humanly possible, blood, sweat and tears. Or so I thought!

A friend from the 2015 class about a month ago said to me that I would love the integrative exercise. I thought to myself: “Either he is crazy, or he doesn’t know me at all.” Guess what? He was right! I did love it!!!

By saying I loved it, I don’t mean that it was easy, simple or that I’d do it again on my free time 🙂 but it is definitely something I’ll cherish from my IMD memories.

Our group tried to enter the exercise with full power and a clean slate. We had feedback sessions prior to the start and tried to learn about what worked better for us as a group as we advanced through the regular class assignments. We agreed that it would be tough and we would get stressed and committed to help each other cool off if things got ugly.

I won’t say it never got ugly, but considering the situation and lack of sleep (2,5 hours each night, plus a 2hour break mid exercise) I think we did a great job at keeping together as a group.

One of the high points was right after the second night dinner… we felt the energy going low and still had a LOT of work to do. We decided to put a power song to cheer us up and get the energy going. Then one of my group mates had the idea of going around spreading the energy to the other groups and we did a chair tour:


Not everybody loved it though hahah but it took us just 10 minutes and when we were back, the group was energized and ready to start another long shift! (I’d definitely recommend it to future classes.)

Nicolas had the cool idea of shooting us the entire time! Here’s a peek at our room – or should I say our home – during the exercise:


This experience taught me so much! I learned a lot through the board’s feedback and pitfalls that were absolutely real life applicable. Learned about myself and how far I can push my body. Learned how my actions can trigger unintentional consequences in the group, and the other way around. Learned about the incredible power of collaboration and trust.

And my final lesson came later with the grade:

During the exercise I really felt we were doing great work. We were very much committed to it and pushing to get the best out of every part. The first board meeting seemed to have gone well and we worked super hard on the changes for the second board. However, I felt from the board’s final feedback that they had not liked it very much. I had spent 47:30 hours happy and excited and after the final presentation I was super down…

Guess what? I was wrong yet again. We got a very high grade! And I learned I should trust myself and my group yet some more 🙂

Thank you so much, guys. You rock!

The team: Roraj Pradhananga, Philipp DeAngelis, Vladimir Petrenko, Luca Gianaschi, Nicolas Martinez and me 🙂

Au revoir,

Sílvia Simões

Newborns and birthdays, how to keep the integrative exercise interesting

While we are anxious to know what the long nights of the integrative exercise would look like, one of us started practicing a few days early with the birth of his twins…


… and others made sure we took our minds off the exercise for a few minutes on Friday night by organizing a short but fun birthday celebration.

20160303 - Birthdays.jpg

The integrative exercise is always full of surprises!

Congrats Vlad, happy birthday again Sophie and Dustin.


Happy survivors or what does it take to be a team

We completed the famous integrative exercise! A complex case and 6 people to provide a solution to a management board in 2 days. Thirty-eight hours of team work, endless coffee and several packs of snacks, red eyes, head aches and some, but very little, broken hearts and… we are the champions!

Wednesday evening. Excitement is growing, we have read blog posts from previous participants and many of us are stressed and try to build up scenarios to determine survival rules and overcome a feeling of chaos. The next-days events showed that a very small part of those predictions turned out to happen. Conclusion: scenario planning is helpful in managing anxiety, but one shouldn’t too much rely on impression of others – individual experiences are truly unique.

Thursday – here it comes! Who is the first to understand the case? You have a solution? Five others challenge. Time flies. No solution yet. I am tired. A strange noise in the dungeons corridor as if an asphalt roller is approaching. We are looking at each other – what’s up? A neighbor group chills out riding rolling chairs. Come on, tomorrow morning we deliver our presentation! And we need to sleep. We seem to have found our solution. “I don’t trust your numbers”. It’s early morning and other four bent over backwards to reconcile debaters.

Friday after the presentation. We are on the right track – fine-tune here, adjust there and we are done. Let’s finish early! Discussion. Oh, we are tired and slower than yesterday. Let’s split and divide the tasks. Several a-ha moments. After dinner we still have white spots in our story line. Group skids. Group dissolves. Group reassembles.

Friday, 9 p.m. A cake party to celebrate B-days! What a unique celebration spirit! I love our class! Back to my team. Someone challenges the basis. Oh, no! Two short rhythmic stamps, one long clap – “we will, we will rock you”. Group reassembles again.

Let’s make slides! Close the window, it’s cold. Open the window, it’s stuffy here. We need to help you! Go on, we are almost there!

Saturday morning, team dry run. You need to see those handsome smart guys! I know we are well prepared and it’s gonna be fine. But I am nervous. “Calm down, take my banana!”. “No, can’t eat now”.

Saturday after the presentation. Yes, we did it! Why didn’t we consider the other side of the coin? We leveraged our internal expertise, we were great. However, we had some blind spots due to our professional inclinations. At some point during the preparation stage I though I wasn’t contributing, but now I see that I actually did a lot. How much contribution is too much? Would I contribute if I were 100% passive? Definitely, yes, but in a negative way. Did we have fun? Incredibly, yes! I am blessed to be in this team.

From left to right Xu, Jonas, Gianpaolo, James, me and Edison.From left to right Xu, Jonas, Gianpaolo, James, me and Edison.

Till soon,



Flora  commented on  Sunday, March 06, 2016  8:10 PM 

strong team!!!

Grab a thought, be happy

It’s the first week of spring. Suddenly days are more beautiful, sun light during the rain breaks seems warmer and more yellow, primroses follow my morning run to school, and almost half of our class gentlemen have a fresh hair cut. We’ve changed our places in the auditorium and I get to know another neighbors of mine and observe our professors from a new perspective.

Two months of our studies are behind and our operations course is coming to an end. Each session was a discovery into another industry, geography and mindset. Every case was at the turn of various business functions. Our sessions were full of interactions, impressions and fun. We went into new concepts in supply change from the whole business perspective. Within our teams we struggled to find our solutions for complex cases. We presented, argued and had a lot of fun. Curiously, real outcomes in the cases analyzed were very different from our projections. Thanks to our operations prof. Ralf Seifert, we had fantastic learning experience. I envy the next generations of Ralf’s students.

It’s sad to realize that our MBA experience will finish one foreseeable day. This week, when I saw the next generation of MBA candidates coming for an assessment day, my memory brought me to a solar eclipse day a year ago… Now I live a leap-year and, to an extend, I am three times younger, learning from scratch.

The moto of my last week was “trust”. Trust yourself, trust people around, and trust in markets! Financial professionals can achieve amazing results by following the latter principle.

Today is the first day of our integrative exercise. But in the morning session we start working on another group project. Prioritize, overcome uncertainty, stay positive, support each other and have fun!

Till soon,