Friday, September 29, 2006

Singapore, Philly, and another exam next week

This week, Dean Antonio Fatas introduced us to the campus exchange programme.
It is quite early, but decisions will have be taken within 2 weeks already.

As you all know, INSEAD has two campuses -Fonty and Singapore- in which classes are identical, and where students can spend periods with few restrictions. In reality, the School guarantees students to spend at least one period in the other campus. The only problem is, students seem to want to swap campus at the same time -you might call it the INSEAD trashumance. This is how it happens: because Fonty alledgedly is soooo cold during winter, close to 3 sections out of 4 migrate to Singapore during P3, while only 1 section out of 2 does the reverse from Singapore to Fonty. That is, during P3 (January and February), Fonty and Singapore accomodate the same number of people, with 3 sections each. Actually, strictly speaking, Singapore had more people in P3 this year -I believe it had 4 sections to 2 in Fonty, and that School's Admin did a magnificient job in satisfying everyone.
After a quick survey, I found out that this year again, a lot of students will apply for P3 swap. I guess Singapore campus has really entered INSEAD culture -after what is believed to have been a shaky start- and students make the most of the campus for the following reasons: exposure to Asian business and culture, week-end travels to Asia, and lenient weather.

On the other hand, Wharton exchange did not have the same success. Last year, for instance, of the 35 seats up for grab, 20+ only were taken. The exchange is more sought after by December intakes -as their P3/P4 coincide with Recruitment in the US. Another reason why the outflow to Wharton is not so great has to do with limited courses availability (semi credit courses due to Wharton's 4 months credits), competing with INSEAD's electives which are more intense and more diverse.

First deadline is next week: Wharton application. I'll decide as well whether going to Singapore in P3 or not.

Next week we also have our second Microeconomics quiz. This course is getting more and more interesting, mainly because Professor Van Zandt shines. It is still last in my P1 priorities, but as is becoming more visible in terms of business application, and taught in a superb manner, it is among my favorite classes. I expect a not stellar grade though.

Week-end's programme: INSEAD fellow's birthday party in Paris, and revisions for quiz. I'll miss the Sex and Rock'n'Roll party :-(

Yesterday, we all went to Fonty's BAKARDI -close to the Chateau. It is head and shoulders above other Fonty bars. Lively, and crowded. Just don't take the mojito...

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

"What are you worth?"

To that question, which I was asked by my Finance Teacher, for which I was enclined to answer using past experiences, there is only one response: the Net Present Value of all your future Cash Flows.

It makes sense, when you think about it. You always have an inclination to reason in terms of what you have done in the past and how you have reacted to some situations, solutioned a problem, or brought value to a company. But while the Finance teacher probably does not want to devalue your past, he claims that your value is what you will bring in the future, not what you have done in the past.

I guess it ties in nicely with some current MBA students' preoccupations. You see, a lot of students want a transformation experience out of INSEAD. I talked to some very bright Americans who did not have the chance to get out of Ivy League undergrad (because tuitions were way too high for them) and, after some years at work, found out that top positions were out of their reach. I talked to some engineers who were confined to operations because they were the best of the bunch, but who wanted more. I talked to B-Schools undergrads who wanted to be given at least a CV look by Big 3 Consulting firms, after having experienced boutique firms or Next 5 firms.

But there is more than just this visible change. Yesterday, in my group at the end of class, sipping beer on the lawn on a sunny day, we came to some interesting conclusions.

Fact 1: P4 students (ie. in the intake just before us, graduating this December) are "different" from us. Mature, fun, interesting. We all are, but they had this "je ne sais quoi" more.
Fact 2: P4 students are 3 periods ahead of us (P4 vs. P1)
Assumption: P1 and P4 are no different re. backgrounds diversity, past experience, GMAT, coolness, or intelligence.
Conclusion: INSEAD has changed P4s and got them more mature, more asserted, more a lot...

Well, you might disagree with this, and I was not very good at GMAT inferrence questions, facts are undeniable though. I guess this is one reason why INSEAD's symbol is the Salamander: it is the mythical Renaissance animal which turned some metal into gold, did not fear fire, and regenerated perpetually.

Anyway, on the good news, we are witnessing inspiring moments of celebration on campus, as P4s are getting their job confirmations. Yesterday, one guy was being asked to provide his offer to Bain and Co. London office (he'll claim around USD 180.000 ), and a girl joined him celebrating for a position we could not get from our table. We could just figure out that they all were elated.

This week also is the Consolidation week. By that I mean, all teachers reveal the interactions between classes. In that sense, we are seeing the light, finally, and get to see how Uncertainty, Data, and Judgment has implications on Finance and Prices and Markets, how Prices and Markets uses NPV, and how Financial Accounting provides sound data for Finance. As to Leading People and Organisations, I guess the tie-in comes from the fact that, without good people management, firms cost structures are higher.

On the gossip side, a group of girls are inviting guys on secret dinner excursions to Paris, as in speed dating party (albeit the guy has, in this case, one night to convince, instead of the customary 7 minutes).
Besides, this Saturday, following the Increasing Territory theory, I will be going to Paris with friends to celebrate another birthday.


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Friday, September 22, 2006

Week 4: First exam and First hormons outburst...

Would you believe it! Already week 4 - time has elapsed so fast.

This week, we had our first exam, a mini quiz to test whether students follow the Prices and Markets class.
For exams, we are allowed to have one A4 help sheet -known as a cheat sheet, although it is authorized. It is amazing how ingenious people can be in the face of adversity. Previous cheat sheets have started to circulate, and basically they look like miniatures. Some of the cheat sheets, you really need to have a lens to read...
Anyway, I crammed like mad on wednesday, and managed to get a decent 80%. Remember, students have different objectives. You have the Dean's Listers, or top 10% guys, because the Dean's List guarantees jobs in top consulting and investment banking firms. You have the Learners, more or less 60% of people, who want to be decent in classes that do not matter for their future, and work hard in subjects they have targeted. Which is my case, and in particular in Prices and Markets. And you have the Party guys, who just want to party and do crazy stuff.
From the beginning, I have said loud and clear that P&M have little interest to me. Supposedly we will see applications in Market Finance, but also in Strategy and Entrepreneurship later, which is my only motivation to stay in the pack.
Anyway, 80% on all accounts would be good. But INSEAD distributes students along a bell-shape normal curve. Meaning that, since the class mean is about 80-85%, I'm in the middle of the pack, which is good enough for me. Of more value is the fact that I probably came from about 50% prior to starting the class, so any improvement is perfect!

Groups seem to settle. I like to talk to other people about their group issues and how they have solved them. I believe that students do not pay enough attention to group dynamics -it is fascinating, I mean, it is a course in itself just to observe how groups evolve.

My group is doing better and better. We managed to spend adequate time on group cases (read not over 4 hours). We get along well - although the strong bond does not yet exist. Yet everyone on board is great. I have discussed that issue of bonding with several people, and we are very much asking ourselves the same questions: will we become friends? Is it possible to make friends for life in 10 months?

Other groups issues collected for you: groups in which 1 or 2 persons exert Power by controlling the cubicle computer or working beforehand to come up with their solutions as a base for discussion; groups in which 1 or 2 are regarded as dumb by the others and don't get to express their ideas -until someone regarded as not dumb comes up with the same idea 1 hour later; groups with ghost members; groups which escape tensions but accumulate frustrations.

That said, this week was very much about transforming your working group into a team. Presumably, the difference is vast: working groups do not share a common goal and accountability, whereas teams do. We had in Leading People class a great reading about quartets as examples of teams: The Dynamics of intense Work Groups: A study of British String Quartets (J. K. Murninghan, D. E. Conlon, 1991 Cornell University). To summarize, by analysing success factors in quartets, the academics found that best-in-class managed group paradoxes in a similar fashion: the leader vs. democracy paradox, or how a leader is needed but needs to listen; the second fiddle paradox, or how to accomodate power conflicts when 2 people want to lead; the confrontation vs. compromise paradox, or how compromise or decision voting mean mediocrity but how confrontation on contents (as opposed to persons) can bring immense value. I think that our group escaped discussion on this text because we still have not solved the leadership issue. So we're still officially committed to rotating leadership -although frankly, patterns emerge.

Let me do a quick recap of P1 classes so far.

Leading People and Organisation.
I see the course as a theoretical support for the live experience/experiment we are all having in our groups. Readings and exercices really are on the same wavelength of group dynamics and issues on a given week. It is just amazing how Professors have foreseen all our issues and WHEN they would arise.

Prices and Markets.
Although the course is last on my priorities for P1, I find it great, and all credit to Professor Van Zandt who is so committed and takes his classes to heart.

Uncertainty, Data and Judgment.
Here too is a case of a fascinating Professor who turns a potentially killing subject into a killer. I mean, in normal circumstances, I would have found the subject boring, even if necessary. But, like all classmates think, UDJ really is great fun!

Potentially the most interesting for P1. I like it, teacher is great, cases interesting. This is a course I enter with 20% level, and anything above at exam will be a great victory, an invaluable takeaway from INSEAD

Financial Accounting.
I have mixed feelings about it. To a great extent, Professor Monahan does his best out of a bound-to-be impopular course. I had great expectations coming in, expectations which were risen by Business Foundations Professor Jake Cohen. The fact that poor Pr. Monahan has to answer to (ir)relevant questions all the time makes it hard to follow, and somehow you get to understand why preconceived accounting boredom is, well, a universal preconception -because it is true, accounting can be boring... Pleeeeeeease Jake, come back to our rescue!

On the gossip side, date and shag gossips start to flow from all over campus. Must be hormons expressing themselves...

Here's tonight's party theme:

"Since we seem to be having some particular area of interest: our theme will be MARITAL STATUS :-)
The rules for dressing up are:
yellow sitting on the fence - between committed and tempted
green available and scanning
red desperate
blue your gfriend or bfriend is one ocean (or far) away
white virgin or married
no T-shirt buys you a free entry ticket for the 'sexiest man/woman of the evening' competion
black recent (or anticipating near) break-up and in urgent need of affective support

of course you can 1) change colors throughout the night 2) dress up as the person that you WANT to be, instead of who you really ARE :-)
If no color is clearly dominant, we'll be handing out some red shirts :-)"

Tomorrow is a House BBQ. Sunday is another House dinner.

Someday, I'll need to post about how better INSEAD is compared to the UN...

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Heard and Read at INSEAD

I don't have much to feed you on this, because the week has been intense preparing for one exam.

But I did attend classes, and here's what teachers and fellows said this week.

"You have to do your homework, otherwise I'm going to put 70% of the grade on Homework."
Students (in choir):
Professor (thinking):
"Ok, 30%..."
Professor Vermaelen, on how to motivate us to do our homework exercices before class.

"You get this formula CVt=NOPLATt+1(1-g/RONIC)/(WACC-g). Nothing in the sleeves here."
Professor Vermaelen, explaining a difficult formula to puzzled students.

"P/E method is poor. It's a good method if you think the other party is stupid."
Finance Professor, commenting on the failings of Price/Earnings ratio. He gave us example of company in the red that would be valued for nothing.

"Maybe, in the long run. But in the long run we're all dead."
Finance Professor escaping question from a student asking about a long-run trend.

"It smells Poisson"
Stats Professor Enrico Diecidue on giving clues to students on which statistic law to apply for a particular problem.
To know more about Poisson Law's_law_of_large_numbers

"It's strange, I always use 2.58. Are you confused?"
Professor Diecidue, to a student giving him the wrong Normal Z coefficient for a 99% confidence interval of a sample.
To know more about confidence intervals:

"These guys over here are obsessed whether size matters."
Stats Professor, commenting on why so many students were asking questions about sampling sizes, and coming up with a great slide showing various outrageous bell curves (ie. whatever the original distribution, samples do follow a Normal law distribution to the mean).

"Do you want to be my random device?"
Stats Professor, selecting a student to choose randomly a sample of other students.

"Our standards are really falling at INSEAD."
One French student commenting to another French student, both checking out the same bird...

"EBITDA, EVA and RONIC is so 80's.
We are obsessed with the Balanced Diamond Framework."

P4 Student answering to newer intakes P1's following message:

"These P4's... They are too serious... They are obsessed with EBITDA or EVA or RONIC. They love calculating NPV’s. They party once a period. They need to relax a bit."

To know more about the Balanced Diamond Framework:

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Read at INSEAD

I'm on a roll today.

Here's a mail sent by a student, re. Cubicle Policy, that students should leave them clean and ready for the next-in-line chaps.

Subject: RE: My Cubicle
To all you MBA students,

This is my cubicle. I love it. I even kiss the whiteboards with my luscious lips and wipe off all the dust from the desk. This is my cubicle and I don’t want anyone to come and write stupid graffiti on the boards. I do not come over to your house and spray paint economics equations or silly Leading People slogans like “Better Time Management”, and “Self Development”.

I will protect my cubicle with my life. I will sacrifice my left kidney for it, hell I already gave out my right kidney to pay for the tuition.

Please respect my cubicle.

I am naked.
I am bald.
I have a bad eyesight
I see everyone beautiful
Thats why I smile when I look at the mirror.

I found it hilarious. It's in the same mould as Drive Safe Campaign - I don't know why it is that in the Real Life, we need to police things in a threatening way, while messages can be passed smoothly and funnily in a much more efficient manner.

To finish with W3, it has been full of Company Presentations and there's Recruitment Fair as well next week. That is to say, it's true that 10 months is short to learn AND search for a job, but you need to know a bit about yourself and what you want to do. Times and times, people will say that INSEAD is not for career switchers, and they are right.
This said, you can enjoy the benefits of your previous intake job searches. INSEAD thus has 2 recruitment periods during the year, ie. for December intake in Period 4 (the currently ongoing recruitment targets) and July intake Period 4 (in April, more or less), which is more than any other B-school. The good thing is, when you start like me, you can enjoy to pop in some presentations just to have the feel of it. Next week, Google is coming to campus for recruitment. There are assured of a massive turnout, as most students I have spoken to about jobs either wanted to go to Consulting, Private Equity, or Google, whatever that may mean.

Ok, I'll get ready for the Pirates party - I plan to wear a symbolical eye bandage as a costume...

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Week 3: When pace has increased A LOT

Well I guess it's time to review classes of Period 1 (P1).

But first, a quick summary of the week.
The pace has increased dramatically this week, to such an extent that I'm considering skipping the Pirates of the Carabeans tonight, and the Bourron Marlotte party on Saturday.
You see, you can really go to a party every night, it's crazy! I feel pretty tired, having slept at 1.30 to 2.00 AM the past 3 days to complete my homework.
On Wednesday, we had the Drive Safe Campaign at INSEAD. The School presumaly set up this day after some students either passed away, or injured some passersby in car accidents after parties. We had to come up with School campaigns for the year.
Our Group did pretty well I must say, given that we really did not want to spend too much time on it. Whilst last year's campaign focused on the damages of accidents (brilliantly comparing 2 lying corpses with 2 lying copulating people for instance), we emphasised solutions to the problem. Our main assumption was that INSEAD Students know that alcohol kills on the road, and they may wish to be informed on what to do, ie. the HOW instead of the WHAT.
We consequently chose to advertise on the Designated Driver Policy.

Our proposals:
- to communicate in a positive manner on the Designated Driver (no stigma of not drinking, responsible person)
- to communicate on how to take care of the DD in parties as well (have food, have soft drinks, have non-alcohol fun drinks, do not serve alcohol to DD, do not tempt him)
- to develop a tradition of DD at INSEAD (hand out cool T-shirts to DD so that they can be recognised in parties etc.)

To be honest, I don't think this has been much of a problem so far in parties. People have been very responsible.

Week 3 is also when groups or teams have started to boil up. I know because I have asked many of them. And I know because our own group has had its crisis point.
I've already talked about some issues most of groups have faced so far. Most problems dealt with personality or leadership clashes. I guess that Week 3 dealt more with circumstancial issue, by that I mean that the vast majority of groups, regardless of their particular problems, had the same boiling point. It can be summarised as: explosion, as a consequence of accumulated frustration within the group.

You see, I like my group. Individuals are really cool, bright, nice, with a good mentality. But because we did not have the chance, or rather escaped the chance, to talk about what we want and how we want it, we each of us developed some frustration, more or less depending on how much commitment each wanted to put in, and it exploded. Let me explain why.

General context: my group is an all male group; 2 younger, 2 older, 1 in the middle; 2 engineers, 2 finance, 1 business; 2 Asians, 2 Europeans, 1 American; 2 ESTJ MBTI types, 1 I something type, 2 E other types. Diversity is sort of there, and conflict potential is high.
Our group issues can come from: cultural diversity (American vs. Asian vs. German vs. French, you know, very defined stereotypes), clashes between the two ESTJ (which are the most headstrong people in the group, less willing to compromise), but could not come from diverse educational/professional backgrounds (all in full-profit orginisations, and wishing to stay in there).

Particular context: we were assigned to prepare a team handbook, or Charter if you like. Some group members read bullshit, some took it very seriously as an opportunity to set up rules and set in motion the group dynamics.

So what happened?
Again, contextual divergences and contents divergences.
As a context, people rather individualistic wanted to shorten the meeting and limit the importance of the exercice as a cap to their group commitment, while people rather gregarious wanted to commit everyone to agreed rules, and bond the team.
As contents, we put in light a major stretch in objectives: 2 people wanted to be on the Dean's List (that is, to get the best grades possible), 3 people wanted to learn as much as possible. These are TOTALLY conflicting goals at INSEAD. Let me explain why: people who want to maximise grades tend to believe that first, they are better off limiting time "waste" in groups and do their homework on their own; and second, that the group would be better off when assignments are allocated to specialists. That means that our Finance guy would do the Finance cases as he has done this all his life, our Business Econ guy would do the Economics cases and so on. On the other hand, people who want to maximise learning tend first, to emphasise group work in which ideas from diverse backgrounds can be expressed and enrich the group, and second, to want to work on their "unknown" or "weak" fields assignments. For instance, a person who wants to learn Finance may want to work on the Finance case, especially because he's never seen it before.
Culturally, the French guy kept disrupting the meeting with things out of focus; the German literally set in motion a ticking bomb, always reminding people that past the time, the meeting would be over; the American was pretty good refocusing everyone and the Asians moderated tensions.
It exploded when the German kept reminding the remaining time every 5 minutes, the French kept checking his mail, and I told the German that this exercise was important to me and that nobody would die of 10 minutes overtime.

How did it end?
Ok, sorry to disappoint, but it wasn't WW3. Actually, we all kind of realised that it got too heated up. The American joked on German stereotype, and it cooled down a lot. As a result, I would say that, subtly, we unconsciously decided to be more friendly and compromise. I was genuinely crossed, but appreciated gestures by the German guy in the end: making sure everybody understood, shaking hands in the end, etc.

What next?
This morning, all seemed so cool! Our project lead on the Finance case did a great job in walking the team through the Finance case, and redid it with everyone. The German guy was really nice, giving out his economics homework to those who did not have the time to do it. I feel good vibes in this group!


Oh, I'll review P1 classes next time, I'm heading to the pool right now ;-)

To know more about MBTI Types (in English or French):


Friday, September 08, 2006

Heard at INSEAD

"Why do we teach more theory than other classes? Because we have a theory."
Professor of Finance Theo Vermeulen, as opposed to Organizational Behaviour, Accounting, and other classes.

"If you want to do good, do it with your own money."
Professor of Finance, as opposed to the Company's money, presumably against companies that advertise Social Responsibility in their Statement. Professor Vermeulen later demonstrated that Social Responsibility creates a gap in the market which other companies use to undertake hostile raids.

"Shareholders Value is not screwing up everybody else."
Same Finance Professor. A brilliant guy, for sure. He advocated on this instance that focusing on shareholders value does not mean not taking care of other stakeholders' interests.

"Protect your mentor when a young manager. Stab him only when you're ready."
OB Professor Michael Brimm, on why young grads should always stay under protective wings at the beginning.

"Never commits until you have to."
OB Professor, on keeping several options opened and closing them only when compelled to make choices.

"Promotion is a chance to screw up on a larger scale."
OB Professor.

"I want to get laid."
MBA female student to fellow female student. And I will not reveal names...


Parties at INSEAD

Social life at INSEAD is vibrant.

You hear many stories about how much one can pack activities in one day, one week-end, one week, at INSEAD. And guess what: they are all true.

I have never practiced so much in sport, yet studied and read so much, yet attended parties so much. And it's only the beginning!
Right now, it's Indian Summer in Fonty. That is called this way when Autumn is hot and sunny. Yesterday (ie. on Tuesday when I wrote this message), I went running then to a BCG presentation. The day before, I went playing rugby followed by an impromptu BBQ next to the playing field. Last Saturday was the famed Bain & Company School Opening Party. Thusday was Student Council's BBQ. This coming Saturday is my first INSEAD themed party: Space! It's been like that for the past 10 days. You honestly can go out every single evening of the week, should you want to. For my part, I think it will be a challenge to select and turn down some.

If I can get some pictures I will try to upload them for you.



Group Work

I am like writing in one night all messages that should have been posted day by day, but that should soon change once I receive my brand new laptop!

Today I would like to write about group work at INSEAD. A large part, if not major part, of the learning experience comes from group work.
Apparently some teachers at Organizational Behaviour have designed algorithms to create groups with a maximum conflict potential.

Conditions to form a group (for Periods 1 and 2, ie. 4 months), according to empirical evidence:
- Either 2 girls or none. Interestingly, that would be designed to avoid two side-effects: 1/ the Princess syndrom whereby the sole girl would do nothing because she would be spoilt by the guys. The rationale, of course, being that guys have strings attached - and remember that girls are a rarity on campus, so vey much in demand. 2/ the Harassment issue, presumably when the Princess does not succumb to her courtisans.
- One Indian in each group; or maximum diversity of nationalities (one French etc.)
- Mix of ages, to get an average of 29-30 per group.
- One consultant/quantitative person per group.

So far, after 10 days, I have collected group issues for you:
- Groups in which 2 or more people want to be the Chief.
- Groups in which the young partygoers team up against the (most commonly) hard-working older ones.
- Groups with personality clashes, like Arts vs. Science, Prada vs. Ralph Lauren, Hollywood vs. Nouvelle Vague.
- Groups in which everybody relies on the McKinsey guy.
- Groups that are not yet groups for several of the above reasons.

For the record, my group actually is great. Great people, intelligent. I sense the possibilities of clashes, but will write on them later, if they ever materialize. As I see things for now, 2 will rotate some kind of leadership, with 2 other teammates who would provide content and all-round skills, and another one who would play the group brakes (you know, the kind of pessimistic person, who has great value in not to letting everybody rushes head down).
I'll keep you posted on interesting developments.


Week 2: First classes

Today was Ethics Day at INSEAD, Wed. 6.

This is not a fad, a new topic at School, since this Day is the 17th.
I like the idea of Ethics day, in the beginning of school year.

As you can imagine, the debate, most of the time, could not fly over the "what is moral in my country may not be in yours" altitude.
Some girl even ventured to claim that ultimately the Google censure on Tien An Men was good for the Chinese people because otherwise that could refresh bad memories and that could not be what Chinese people desired after all. The good thing at INSEAD is respect. That girl (not Chinese) felt safe enough to say clear and loud such a thing!

Conclusion of Ethics day: ultimately you have to know when you face an ethical issue and answer lies in your inner self.

In Period 1, or P1, we have 5 classes.

1. Leading People and Organizations, by Professor Michael Brimm.
It is quite a fun class. The title speaks for itself, and Prof. Brimm does a good job of conceptualising a subject that, in all honesty, could be fuzzy and buzzy.
It is all about psychology in management, knowing people through their types (essential features, such as MBTI types), and learning how to deal with diversity. I suspect that it also mixes up our own team experience to learn about team dynamics.

2. Uncertainty, Data and Judgment, by Professor Enrico Diecidue.
Funny how the Professor's name (12 in Italian), was predestined for that man. The class is about statistics and more broadly, how to make sound judgments with data.

3. Financial Accounting, by Professor Steve Monahan.
Balance sheets, Income statements, ratio analysis, you name it it's there!

4. Financial Markets and Valuation, by Professor Theo Vermeulen.
Another good class with a Professor displaying astounding Belgian humour.

5. Prices and Markets, by Professor Tim Van Zandt.
It's about economics, basically. Nice games in there, as introduction to game theory, and market pricing. Quite fun, but not so easy.


Week 1: Discovering Class of July 07 - Welcome Week

Week One at INSEAD has elapsed. The Dream Year is finally starting.
I have so many things to say and wanted to write earlier but INSEAD's computers do not allow to pop-ups from blogger so I could not manage it before.

INSEAD's first week somehow was tough for some people as we were all confronted to the reality of school and MBA and got the first glimpse of whether INSEAD would fulfill expectations of bridging our past experience to future high ambitions.

Here are some reasons I came accross:
- Great brand, perfect to go into Consulting
- Don't want to spend 2 years in MBA
- Rejected from Harvard/Wharton or Stanford
- Rich European kid's place (mostly untrue reputation)
- Growing reputation in entrepreneurship
- Expensive (but why not?) one-year break to reflect and meet like-minded people

For most people though INSEAD was the one and only place that combined brand name, excellence, short intensive course in fitting values. It is interesting to see that, although INSEAD has star professors (Chan and Mauborgne for instance), it is the students who really make its reputation. Diversity, tolerance, fun, are no fluke values.
Occasionaly you may encouter the arrogant bloke, the daddy's blonde, but that is really rare and certainly far more so than in the real corporate world.
Students then are INSEAD's true treasure. Think about it: 450 people with 6 years experience on average -that is 2.700 years of combined experience; and for the qualitative experience, coming from 70 countries, having lived and worked in nearly all countries of the planet, from Olympic gold medallist to architect, from Army officer to trader.

Most represented coutry: India, then France, then US.
Less represented countries: Benin, Zimbabwe...
Biggest country: Russia
Tiniest country: Mauritius
Coolest country: Britain, Spain, and Middle East, great cohorts!
Hottest country: Russia (those Russian girls...)
Most unheard-of country: New Caledonia

More broadly, allow me to reflect on Welcome Week.
INSEAD has become a reality for all of us. On Mon. 28 August, my email switched to (that tells you something about the probability of failure!) Welcome Week was light in terms of workload but really heavy in partying and socializing. We net MBA Dean Antonio Fatas (a trully extraordinary guy), and INSEAD Big Boss Dean Franck Brown on Tuesday.
Dean Fatas is absolutely amazing: sharp, funny, very welcoming, chatting to everyone. Dean Brown seemed nice and competent. July O7 is his first intake. After his speech, I do remember one American student though complaining that he compared the school to Harvard. That student argued that Harvard specifically was not the school that she wanted, and that INSEAD students should choose the school because it is not Harvard, but in the league of Harvard. Anyway, clearly Dean Brown's mission is to boost INSEAD brand name around the world. On Wed. we had exemptions exams (for people who knew too much about Period 1 subjects), and language exams. I got a "Fluent" grade in my 3rd language, which means that the exam is not so difficult.

Welcome Week is also when P4 students, ie. the intake before you, recruits Club members from P1. Clubs are ESSENTIAL to INSEAD's culture. Everybody tries to enter a club which becomes a place of intense socialising of like-minded people. You have to get into a Club, they are a good networking tool as well. I got rejected by the Action Team Club (presumably I was not extreme enough, which is true), but managed to get into the Rugby Club.

During Welcome Week, you discover your group mates that will follow you throughout Periods 1 and 2. I will talk about group work more specifically later, but basically the School tries to mix backgrounds, nationalities, and characters so that we have fun (ie. we fight a lot, then try to find solutions to work together, then become good friends). In itself, this groups could be a class in themselves, called Group Dynamics. First step to discover your team, is through Outward Bound Day, in the Fontainebleau Forest. Through the day, you face problems that only can be solved in group. I will not reveal how our group performed, to keep the magic of Outward Bound, but one exercise is pictured on top of the post. I was taking the picture of what seems a darn confused group...

Then we had our first INSEAD official party organised by P4 which was brilliant. I must add that I have truly felt that I belonged to the school from that moment on, and that I love my school and school mates.

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