Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Useful resources to get a feel of INSEAD

I only targeted one-year MBAs, and some other programmes, as my goals were very precise. Top tier one-year programmes are quite rare on the market: IMD in Lausanne, Kellogg in Chicago (I believe they have a fast track), and INSEAD. For half a year more, you have LBS as well.
I looked at schools' curricula and chose INSEAD for its particular fit to my main areas of interest: family businesses and entrepreneurship. Over the years INSEAD has created a strong and recognised expertise in Family enterprise -governance, ownership structure, inheritance maximisation. That really made the difference.
Further, I discarded IMD on other factors: having already spent some time in Lausanne in my previous life, I had a feel of IMD teachers, and their main emphasis is on General Management.

Some nice resources on preparing for INSEAD application include: Business Week Forum on B-schools, chat transcripts at The Business Week forum is addictive, beware! Whilst you will find the usual troll, or the fake student who will praise his school to draw you in (notoriously bad tactics in Europe), you can meet genuinely friendly applicants who can help you out. BW has the other advantage of sharing the stress during results deadlines; you get to know if results have come out or not. Also, you can get really interesting / inspiring blogs of MBA applicants and students at

At this point, I would like to share a very inspiring graduation speech. I do not know if it is allowed, since the text was shared on INSEAD's intranet, but it only is good publicity...

"Mes chers amis,
Mis queridos amigos,
A chairde mo chroi (that’s Irish),
Meine sehr gute Freunde…Etc etc
Dear Friends
I remember thinking before the MBA began that this year would doubtless involve such changes in me that I could not possibly foresee how or where I would be at year’s end.
Long before last January, I began to feel a buzz about what lay in wait: I logged onto Net Vestibule, the Internet message board for prospective INSEAD students, and in that moment, months before my first class, I became part of this community of friends that lasts a lifetime.

Within days I had discovered several people whom I have now come to consider lifelong friends, all of us sharing interests, the desire to get to know each other, and the desire to participate in this life-changing adventure. Life became a flurry of postings to the message board, checking when and where the next INSEAD get-together would be. I couldn’t believe that here was a community of hundreds of people with whom I immediately felt such empathy, we all looked forward to meeting each other and helping each other find our feet. And thus we stepped on the dizzying carousel of the INSEAD MBA.

I went back to school but this time with money in my pocket and no acne. Through this internet community, I held parties for future classmates in my Madrid flat; I took the cheap flights to London and Paris where not only did I play the same game we all played, trying to recognize each other in Montmartre cafes and London nightclubs from the little passport-sized photos that in most cases resembled reality from our Internet profile; I also became involved something which became a yearlong passion of mine, and formed one of the most enduring memories of the year, and my lifetime: we had the first practice sessions on a cold November night, in a dingy London studio of what would become the greatest rock and roll band ever to come out of Fontainebleau…
Slowly, the Spirit of INSEAD was revealed to us: this school is a meeting of like spirits. Spirits of fun, bravery, freedom, adventure, creativity, intellectual curiosity, indeed mischief in no small measure. Though we missed our families, our common outlook on life meant we became our own extended family. And I already have 6 brothers and sisters. But I got room for about 400 more. Indeed coming to Fontainebleau I thought would be like a return to my roots, as I am a farm boy, my own village is the size of Villecerf, but back in County Cork I didn’t share my day with people from 50 different countries. And then came the radical shift to Asia. So ended those 6 months negotiating the dark wooded roads of Fontainebleau, following any one of the 7 different official PowerPoint maps to Tavers, each twice as difficult to follow in pitch darkness while avoiding deer and wild boars, to where hundreds of students gathered in fancy dress for another legendary party.
But what Singapore lacked in castles, forests, dinners, and free coffee, it made up for in modernity, Asian cuisine, freedom to travel and the ability to take a dip in the pool, 24 hours a day, 365 days in the year. Singapore’s entrepreneurial campus showed me it is catching up fast, and in many ways setting the pace for its elder sibling campus in Fontainebleau. Perhaps the strongest indications of maturity and building a personal character has been seeing how it is building its own traditions including this year alone its wildly successful first-ever cabaret, and the now legendary DASH, but also the ever-strengthening relationships with local entrepreneurs, financiers and hi-tech inventors. Singapore’s campus and faculty are tightly wired to the city and Asian business, making a campus switch not only desirable, but I believe essential to the full INSEAD experience.
But inkling that I might have had of the above, there was nothing to prepare me for all that makes INSEAD special beyond the academic curriculum. Nothing in the INSEAD website or welcome packs to hint at the lavish Indian summer wedding in Bombay, the visits to the Himalayas and New Dehli, finally seeing the temples of Angkor Wat. Nor indeed, dressing in a cravat and beret representing INSEAD’s rugby team as a French gentleman abroad, savouring the cultural delights of various European capitals, singing the Marseillaise in throaty gusto at least 20 times per tour with classmates from Nigeria, Italy, America, Brazil… countless nations it seemed (including, of course, France!). And all for one and one for all. This extraordinary diversity and unity of cultures and nations has been the keystone of my INSEAD experience, what has set the course apart from all its competitors. It is a place people come to, to learn about the world and its people, and not merely tack on additional I-Banking know-how (though they are likely to do so) or get their heads around organizational behaviour and process management. It has not only been the possibility to educate myself in the forest of Fontainebleau while opening my mind to the potential of life in Asia. Not just to learn about entrepreneurship and looking forward to creating wealth of my own. It was that amidst such extraordinary diversity, no restrictions of political correctness stifled the individual expressions of the nations who came together in the forest of “Fonty” and the tropics of Singapore. National weeks hosted by diverse cultures gladly hyped their stereotypes to disarm us, and then charm us with what lay behind the common perceptions. Hence behind the Portuguese unwilling to move out from their mothers, the Australians dividing their time between the beach and the sheep farm, the Latinos constantly dancing and singing, the Indians dressing in fantastic colours while performing hopping dances, the Italians driving sleek sports cars and studying their reflections, we discovered more existed to unite us in our diversity than divide us in our differences. More parts of other people’s cultures existed to charm and attract us than exclude or mystify us. So the Indians wore Italian soccer shirts, the Germans put on Khurtas and saris (doing the hopping dance), the Irish donned a British school shirt and tie, and the Chinese painted stars and stripes on their faces.We will emerge from this year with barriers to cultural awareness broken down enabling us to repeat this attitude no matter where we go, with whomever we interact, and in our own way by being leaders wherever we are, in whatever we do. It is not utopian to state that we will bring the world closer together and help people realize that underneath the turbans, Stetsons and skullcaps, think the same minds, beat the same hearts and live the same lives.
I truly believe we have experienced something few others of any age or society can experience and that is a year of immersion in pure humanity. Our learnings that sustain and differentiate us will be less about corporate financial structure and more about our openness and generosity, less about number crunching and more about personal maturity. I will miss this environment where I know when I walk into a room everyone is from a different country, grew up speaking a different language, and has a different story to tell. I can’t look forward anymore to the next Funk’n’Bleau practice session, unless it’s for the 5 year reunion. I can’t assume that I will go to the cafeteria and play table football with a Brit and a Brazilian, have lunch with a Chinese and a Korean, go for coffee with a South African and Spaniard, and then get cracking on the Corp Finance paper with two Japanese and a Yank.

Now, as the year ends, I see City bankers exploring exciting new opportunities in management buy-ins of furniture factories in Spain, actresses and journalists trying to catch the eye of the banks and consultancies, one time IT consultants angling for a shot at the media. I see now that for me the INSEAD MBA was a swirl of humanity centered on a point of transformation, with career transformation synonymous with personal transformation.

And now, although this is an international school, it is hosted in France, and I would like to honour our hosts avec quelques mots en francais:
Je vous souhaite tout l’amour et la chance que vous méritez
Vous serez mes amis du coeur jusqu’à la fin de ma vie
Vous êtes vraiment
Vous êtes vraiment(sings)
Vous êtes vraiment phénomenal-al-al-al…"

Ok for the copyright, I can only assume it is from an Irishman who graduated in D04.
This pretty much summarises everything I look for at INSEAD, and congrats to that graduate, he beats every speech/brochure/event from AdCom.



At 12:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really amazing! Useful information. All the best.

At 12:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:12 PM , Blogger mad turk wants mba said...

makes me want to go there even more. Definitely my first choice!

At 5:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting to read; useful info.
chennai, india

At 12:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm the guy who write that speech, thanks for the kudos! Small world I tell you, I was chatting online with a girl from China that who randomly texted me who told me that she read a speech from an INSEAD grand and it made her change her preferences of b-school and now she wanted to go there. I said who was the speech by, she said a Spanish fella, I said are you sure? apparently she thought my english was awkward and thus I had to have been from spain (I mentioned my Madrid flat)

anyways, best of luck in life ahead!

Micheal Collins


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