Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can-Am Week 2006

This week marks the post-break re-opening week. Some people are tanned from 4 days surfing in Portugal, some are excited from 4 days in Barcelona, and some just got home or visited France with friends and family -everyone is so tired from the break.

So the Canadian American Week is a soft landing to get re-used to our good social habits. After all, we did not party for days before the exams. On programme: Halloweek pumpkin carving contest, Rodeo night, and Poker competition (real money).

One tradition is to prepare CanAm name tags for each MBA participant. It becomes funny when 1/ the new name is funny, and 2/ when Professors call us with our new names.
In example 1, the best I've encountered so far is "SungKyu very much" for a guy called SungKyu. In example 2, Vikram was renamed "Where Have I put my Viagra?", which becomes hilarious when Finance Professor candidly and unintentionnally asks him whether a buyer of underlying asset is short or long of this asset, and when the answer is, well, "long"...

This Saturday is also the Montmelian Ball, one of the famed parties. I'll post something on it later this week.

About more serious issues, P2 has started in earnest. We have 6 core courses this period, which is a lot.

So far, I have had the following classes.

Strategy, by Dominique Heau. Nothing revolutionary here. It's concepts based, with a solid framework to Strategic Analysis, but applied to real-life cases as usual. There seems to be interesting viewpoints as well, such as the implementation of strategy, often overlooked in my previous life, and the notion of strategic management, to adapt tactics from day-to-day changes. Professor Heau seems great. He is a long-time Professor of Executive Programme, so he should bring a lot of insights. However, in one class, he shocked us on a couple of occasions by being condescendent (if not downright rude) to some students' comments. We shall see as we progress in his class as I suspect it's just his tactics of fostering class excitement, so no fuss yet. If everything ticks this could be the great debate class of the period.

Managerial Accounting, by Igor Vaysman, a star class of INSEAD. The guy is really quick, fun, and intuitive. I can't wait to learn more on this. He does cold call though, from a random list of 10 students per class...

Corporate Finance Policy, by Pascal Maenhout. Here's another star Professor. I am very lucky to have had Finance core courses from the School's top faculty. The classe started well, it won't be easy, but interesting.

Foundations of Marketing, by Miguel Brendl. Hum. Difficult to say. Miguel being German will be very helpful and rigorous in providing a framework for devising Marketing Plans. Yet, or And, him being a psychologist will be interesting in tying the course to Consumer Behaviour, but 3 hours were tough to handle. I think this is the first time the Section has behaved this way: wildly, disordinately, distractingly. Because, as said, everybody is physically tired, and Miguel was a bit overwhelmed by us. Anyway we did laugh a lot (presumably not to fall asleep). And signs of tiredness are evidenced in how sexually oriented people were today. As when one candidly claimed that Marketing was a way to stimulate the customer... Or when someone else argued about the benefits of having same-sex experienced hairdresser when discussing Japan's QB House case (a major hairdresser company).

This is how wild we are at this moment.

The remaining classes will come soon. I'll keep you posted.

To end on a lighter note, the Pumpkin Carving Competition. A really nice idea!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

About latest Rankings and this blog's comments

Hi. A break during the break to write a long needed post.

First, sorry about my late replies to comments. I've just answered them all.

1. Comments on Business Foundations Programme:
I loved it, and believe it was worth €1,200. My main benefits were: Jake Cohen's introduction on Financial Accounting (for anything, it makes me believe Accounting can be real fun), Pekka's class on Finance. This is Fundations, ie. Classes will start at the level where you finish BFP. This sounds trivial, but many times we were bogged down in class by non-BFP people. On the non-quantifiable aspect, BFP enables you to start networking with classmates that you may not see afterwards. It is really valuable as you only have a couple of months to know who you want to hang out with! As with the MBA, be sure to know yourself: if your background is extensive on Business Administration/Finance/Accounting, maybe you won't need BFP for the hard skills. If you've been out of academic world for more than 6 years, maybe you need it. If you're an Olympic swimmer champion, definetely you need it (it's not my opinion, but hers).

2. To have answers on Admissions process, or classes at INSEAD, or INSEAD, please send me an email to DomoDomo74@gmail.com ; I promise an answer within 3 days. I'm terribly sorry for those who needed quick answers (InvisibleInk -I understood you decided to attend BFP Singapore, good choice!) but I'm still discovering the blog's functions...

3. I've been asked about the latest INSEAD rankings.
2006 rankings were: 8th in FT -equal (#1 Wharton), 18th in Wall Street Journal International (#1 ESADE, #2 IMD, #3 EPADE, #17 Wharton, #20 Harvard), 22nd in the Economist -down 11 (#1 IESE, #17 Wharton, #20 LBS).
Let's be clear, rankings only have limited value. Do not choose your school according to short-term changes (which sometimes result from marketing gimmicks). Choose it on brand, and long-term trend.
Let's be clear, the rankings are not good.
Let's be clearer, WSJ and EIU rankings do not count. I mean, if INSEAD had been on its own at number 20, there would have been some validity. But to have INSEAD, Wharton, Kellogg, and LBS between 15 and 25 discredits both rankings.
Yet, I do hope that the School does not turn a blind eye to it. I believe Franck Brown is very conscious about that, and has devised the School's strategy (I have no clear sign on this but though, just blind faith, and common sense). It is weird that the School did not communicate on the results though.

4. I've put in links INSEAD Singapore Blog (Zanatos) and Wharton Blog (Laurea). It is funny, if you have time, to get perspectives from the hearts of each schools.

5. Sorry, sorry again for late replies. Do keep up! Thank you for your encouragements.

All Rankings details and methodology in www.clearadmit.com

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Exams over... Break

Exams are over.
After 5 grueling sessions we finally called it a day.
Exams were tough, but fair. Fairness definitely was in everyone's words (with "tough" and "long" and "f*cked up" quite frequent as well), in the way that there was little surprise on subjects. I believe that exams fulfilled their primary roles, that is to convey a fair feedback to the student on his or her understanding of the subject.
There were few tricky computations, even in quantitative subjects, but a lot of intuition was required. Econ, Accounting, Finance, tested our deep assimilation.

Now we expect results in 2 formats: absolute grade (%), which will indicate by how much we have performed -presumably vs. our own personal benchmarks- and Z-scaled grade, which will indicate our position vs. our classmates.

After exams, we all gathered at the cafeteria and drunk Champagne (remember Champagne fines?). Now I'm wondering whether the lawn actually was not the lucky one, as too many people mimicked Alonso in Brasil...

See you in P2.

PS: Thanks for the emails I received during P1, and once again, INSEAD is a tremendous experience. Prospective students, you'll never regret it!

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Great ending for awesome P1

Wow. Now period 1 really is over. Granted, I still have exams next week, but classes and interactions with P1 Professors are over. Chances are, I will not have Enrico, Michael, or Tim again in classes.

This afternoon, Michael made his farewell too, closing his best class of the period. The subject was about Leadership (a leftover from last session), and Negotiations.

Michael Brimm introduced us with the LEAD self model (P. Hersey, K. Blanchard), which I found extremely relevant. I probably have more than average leadership experience, and so many issues echoed in me. Basically, there are 4 types of leadership styles, according to a matrix task/relationship: delegating (low task, low relationship), participating (LT, HR), selling (HT, HR), and telling (HT, LR). If you put your subordinates in your matrix, you get great insights. For instance, low abilities, low motivation people need to be lead with a dictatorial style; high abilities high motivation (or high potentials) should be lead through delegation, for them to make mistakes and learn. Further, the model made an intelligent distinction between Management (participating and selling), and Leadership (delegating and telling).
I found myself scoring Effective Leadership, Selling/Telling type -which I could easily relate to. It also emphasised my needs for improvement in delegating, and participating (although this latter quadrant is not very significant).

That discussion naturally drove the class to getting to the basics. We all talk about management, leadership, hard work. Michael reminded us that we should not forget other dimensions of Life.
We all are launching great projects in our lives, at various points: a career, a business, a partnership, children. Questioned about what was driving us to work hard at INSEAD, we in majority answered (in no order): the fear of regret, long term returns, exams or work deadlines, the drive to invest for a short period of time our most valuable asset ie. our lives. Yet, Michael argued, our priorities are often wrong -but it's not too late- given that all executives tell him they should've known better. He suggested that instead of Today having means towards an end Tomorrow, we should have and END today towards a MEANS tomorrow. The END today is Fun, Growth, Learning, to be a better person tomorrow vs. overwork today to have fun, grow more tomorrow. That all make sense in everyday's life words: as Michael said, your holidays tomorrow at 50 will not be the same as today's, your relationship tomorrow will not be the same as today's (in fact, that other person may not wait for us to invest our life in work for latter returns), your children tomorrow will not be your children of today.

Michal stopped short of saying that we should be more epicureans. He just emphasized that whatever we choose, we should be aware of consequences.

Finally, Michael underlined that we should not neglect our networks, and that INSEAD was a wonderful place for that. In network he meant having people who filled our various needs: intimacy, colleague, self worth, assistance, guidance, nurturing, creative irritator.

Of course, Michael deservedly won a standing ovation; he was sincerely moved, and so were we.
I'm having such an incredible time over here!


To know more about the Hershey/Blanchard LEAD self model click the link. There is a questionnaire that goes with it and enables you to get a score along the different dimensions.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

Farewell P1... Wrap-up Week 9

Tomorrow is our last day of Period 1.
We had our last sessions in several classes, kind of emotional.
Enrico was acclaimed - standing ovation and endless applause until he left the amphi. This guy is just awesome, so nice, yet so sharp. He's the one most intimate with us. As a gift, he gave us 100% participation to all! Nice as a gesture, but useless still as we'll be graded on a Z-scale of normal curve. For people like me who did not say too much too often, it's cool though.
Last quote from Enrico: "Don't worry about the exam, I've seen students afraid of their girlfriend's phone number doing very well."

Tim was acclaimed too, with a standing ovation. He put so much heart in his classes, and after them. He inundated us with great emails about past students still asking him for help, organised all these insightful games, and varied with impressive efficiency his class materials. His course will be so useful in the future, and would have been of such immense value in my professional past.

Theo's last class was yesterday, and he too was acclaimed. His last funny trick was to claim that he'll praise so much P2 Professor that our expectations will shoot up and we'll grade him more critically.

These Professors, so tremendously good, the best I've had in terms of how close they were to us, score around 5/5 in the School's grades (as given by students). P2 Finance Professor was graded 4.95 last year. How appetising could this be? I cannot wait...

Tomorrow: last LPG class with Michael, and last Financial Accounting with Steven. Steven really improved a lot since our Academic Representatives gave him the class's feedback. He's now good, and even really good in his Review Sessions.
On the party front, guess what, it's dead. P4 leaving, and us cramming for the exams.

OK, I'm going to study hard my exams. Cheers.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We need a break!

Somebody sent this ultra-cool pic to Section 4 people.
It's also very relevant these days. I too fall asleep sometimes, albeit for brief moments and in a more discreet manner.

The reason is, final P1 exams start next week, and some projects were due this week. With or without projects, I sleep at around 2 every night, and I can't even finish all my homework. You see, with extra-curricular involvements, club activities, homework, (little) partying, the day becomes very short indeed.

So students are tired, exhausted, and they need to do crazy things. In this category, yesterday was the first DASH ever in Fontainebleau. The purpose of DASH, apart from ensuring some awareness of the School in Fonty, or adding some more fun to us, is that there is no definite purpose. The one and only purposeless thing that I will do during the whole year. DASH (in pictures hereunder) is a 5 minute-race from the Chateau to School wearing crazy costumes. Seeing the pics once again, I have realised the true purpose of DASH: to test us in a ridicule situation, in front of all the outside world!

P4s are starting to say goodbye, as some will go to Singapore for their P5. So this week also is about passing the torch in all various clubs. At the end of it, we'll be grading our current Professors. Discussing with mates, there seems to be quite a consensus on who was a God, who was awesome, and who was good. Here are the July 07 majority results, encapsulating two dimensions -Professor skills and Class value:
- God of the gods: Enrico Diecidue, UDJ
- Gods: Tim Van Zandt, Prices and Markets; Theo Vermeulen, Finance (both excellent)
- Quasi God: Michael Brimm, OB
- Biggest margin for improvement: Steven Monahan, Accounting (although he did improve a lot these latest classes)

Here's another example of people getting so overwhelmed that they need to relax doing stupid things. A log off is when somebody forgets to log off from the network, and someone else uses his/her email account to send crazy stuff...

"Subject: Finally, the truth

Dear all,
I have a confession for all of you. You the people of INSEAD are all my brothers and sisters, and I cannot hold this for long.
There is something strange going on with me. Something I do not understand. Something bizarre, yet pleasant.
I feel the feminine part of me arising.
Secretely at night I try my wife's lipstick and I think it makes me prettier. I do not know how to take it, yet it's a fact.

Thanks you for listening. Now I feel much better. I feel much relief. I feel like I just dropped a huge burden.
Kisses to all."

Here's the reply from another Student:
"The contest for INSEAD’s worst logoff ever is heating up!"

I think the contest is over. This logoff was terrible ;-)

Among other nice quotes of the past weeks:

"When you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys."
INSEAD alumn entrepreneur explaining his HR policy of paying above average.

"Good, but work hard."
Professor Enrico's understatement on a student's wrong answer.

"Do I miss someone out there?"
" Huh, he is sick."
"Sick of what?"
Professor Enrico checking attendence, replying to a student try to cover-up his mate.

Student caught dozing off, snap answering Professor Enrico on what Sygma was, as a Confidence Interval formula.

"It's not very intuitive to me."
Student's understatement on not understanding at all.

"The love is for the Shareholders."
Professor Vermeulen, emphasizing that shareholders value means creating entreprise value.
"The love for Shareholders has limits. First love yourself."
Same Professor, about remembering that MBAs will have to make sure first about their short-term future in their career.

"Everyone needs to scratch once in a while."
Professor Vermeulen, on mistaking a student scratching for a hand rise.

"Everything you read in the Financial Times is useless, because it's too late."
Prof. Vermeulen, on the use of information in Finance.
"If you all fish in the same pond, what do you get? A shoe, not a fish."
Prof. Vermeulen, on "Desperate PhD hypotheses, torturing the data until they speak" people who want to prove that the market always is efficient.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Aussie Kiwi Week 2006

This is at last the first National Week. The tradition is about as old as the School, and serves, according to me, many purposes.

The obvious one is to introduce cultural diversity and have people know more about one's culture (how they do business, eat, have fun).
Another obvious objective is to party. INSEADers are serious fun-loving people!
The main interest though, to my mind, is networking with co-nationals. As P4s pass the baton to us, as we spend a great deal of effort and time in realisations, we get to know all students from our countries or regions. And since the probability to end up working in one's own region, at some point, is high, you increase your network by adding another "team circle" to your already numerous ones. I've already mentioned, in a previous post, the importance of networking in clubs, sections, groups, houses, house dinners. This is just another opportunity.

National weeks are organised around a given format: films, free breakfast, lunch or dinner, conference, fun, and the big closing party. Ever popular are the memorabilia t-shirt, the amphistorming (ie. when organisers get to introduce the week after class), and the party.

On other fronts, work is soooo tough now. Exams are in 10 days, everybody is cramming, attendance in tutorials reach world-record levels. Prices and Markets Wharton letdown has been uncovered: students over there did not participate in time, for reasons ranging from lack of time to unmotivated because ungraded. To all of you: we have just as little time, and over here too it is ungraded! The learnings from the game are pretty interesting though, it's all about cooperating in a business world, and sending signals.


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The VilleSurf Party in pics

The Villecerf Party was the second major INSEAD Party -the first being the Bain inaugural night. It was held on Saturday at the stunning Lower Villecerf Demeure.
By "major", I mean, organised with some help from the Student Council and in traditional INSEAD places. The next one will be Montmélian, on November 4.

Pics give a good idea of the ambience: the live-band is entirely made of students, and people tried to wear costume (beach wear dress code). I'm not sure the Endless Summer theme was appropriate though, as dozens of people got a flu afterwards. It got, after all, to 5 degrees celcius that night...

Anyway, this was a resounding success, and credits go to the Villecerf people!

By the way, I borrow the pics from the K drive at random... Most of the time I am not on them. Sometimes I am, though ;-)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The importance of networking - or how parties are part of the curriculum

Up to last week, I had succeeded in maintaining a good balance between work, fun, and sport. The last week-end has caused havoc in my well-greased organisation, and now I am getting a little behind in everything but fun.

The best reason to explain this is that pace is now mad for everything, ie. it is not me slowing down, but the rhythm speeding up!

Take parties. We used to have one scheduled every day of the week -not counting private house dinners. Now we often have 2 running the same night!
Tonight is bad example though, since only Eyes Wide Shut party is on.
I believe that this party culture is so entrenched in INSEAD because of the remoteness of Fontainebleau, sure, but also because we only have one year to know each other. In the same spirit, houses host "random" guest dinners, or guest from other sections, to enlarge the network and make sure we don't miss each other.

You see, I really get the importance of networking here. Network with section, network with co-nationals, network within industry. It is more than making friends. Actually, probably very few people will stay lifelong friends. But most of them would help in some way.

On Monday, we had great insights from alumni entrepreneurs. All of them concurred in the following: at some point, networking was key in their business - one MBA04J because he launched his venture with a fellow INSEAD student, and one who got all his key contacts through friends' friends or contacts.
Other key takeaways from the conference: don't try to make the difference with the "great idea" but with great execution, choose high growth/high margins sectors, fail or succeed but don't lose your time in the middle, and don't hedge your bets, just go for it.

Take classes.
Some courses have really reached the upper limit in terms of what individuals can digest before overstuffing.
For instance, Prices and Markets, definitely a most interesting subject taught admirably, has reached its peak. One reason why the peak is past us, is the Wharton letdown. We were all getting so excited about the Game held at Wharton and INSEAD (Fonty and Singapore), but Wharton gave up after 2 rounds, for technical reasons, and misunderstandings between Professors and students over there. Consequently we all started over on Monday, yet at that point the fun was gone...

Take sports.
Although I am still a serious sports addict, I have dropped a couple of activities. Rugby has become too tough for me, as the big guys are the only one left. Still a couple of Asians showing up, but more as a constant reminder that the game can be physical (ouch!).


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Friday, October 06, 2006

Week 6 wrap-up: Happy mid-Autumn to all, let's go surfing!

I'll be very quick tonight, as 2 parties are scheduled this Friday: mid-Autumn dinner and Punch-Drunk Love at Villa Vivante.

Some applicant asked me about girls at INSEAD, many friends told me there were not enough pictures. Well, here's killing two birds with one stone.

You see, you applicants, girls are pretty! And nice and intelligent. To be honest, some lack experience. I know that has been an issue with some groups, although I have not met myself sub-standard girls. I found the pics on the shared drive, so don't ask me who's on them...

This section party was held at Villecerf. It's a great opportunity to tell you about INSEAD places.
Villecerf is top on the list. The grounds are magnificent, rooms are huge, furniture is old and of good taste. Villecerf has 2 tennis courts and entertain 20+ students. It's not cheap, but certainely worth every penny. So, applicants, if you're accepted, rush to apply for Villecerf. The only drawback is distance: 30 min drive to school.

Other places I have been to: Tavers (really beautiful with extremely good taste decoration, but very, very, very far), Samois (all cute houses), Bois-le-Roi Mint House (beautiful, but people don't mix up too much as they all are independent, with own kitchen), Villa Vivante (nice but noisy), Montigny-sur-Loing (nice village, l'Auberge is a nice place), Bourron-Marlotte (nice house as well). I'll keep an update as I continue to visit places.

I found this nice picture too. It encapsulates a typical INSEAD tradition: the Champagne fine. The Champagne fine applies to the following cases: 5 euro fines for late arrivals, mobile phone rings, computer noises, irrelevant questions, stupid comments.
When enough money is collected (and you'd be surprised at which rate it's accumulated, the Section throws a party with Champagne.



Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Join My Cult

This week is the last "reasonable" one before Cases and Exams rush time. Everybody has realised it, and so everybody is throwing a party.

On Monday, Le Vivier House people organised the Spice Girls Party. Which was brave, considering that Tuesday, ie. today, was Prices and Markets Quiz 2 day.
Tomorrow, on Wednesday is Section 4 party at Villecerf, followed by the Baby Party at Samois-sur-Seine. On Thursday, it's group dinner. On Friday, it's Chinese Mid-Autumn dinner. On Saturday, it's Villecerf House party. This one is going to be big, because Villecerf is a traditional INSEAD compound. And they did a great job advertising it (actually my section got to see the movie twice... probably to get a good return out of the filming investment).


Some people are pondering whether to go to Warsaw next week as well, to support the School's rugby team, which is among the best of the MBAs -but then, INSEAD is the most European B-school too.

On the studies front, classes have been intense. Attendance in tutorials is increasing, as students are starting to smell exams. And in most classes, teachers are touching the most difficult parts of their courses. A real intimacy is being created with students too, making courses really enjoyable for both teachers and us. Stealing the show are, to general consensus, Stats Professor Diecidue and Economics Professor Van Zandt. They are outrageously good, in particular in making a fun and interesting class out of tough materials. All professors are brilliant actually, and it's worth defining what makes a professor good.
I believe there are two dimensions regarding the end-result Professors should look for: how much and well have students learned, and how much they have enjoyed it. Pedagogy and preparation are key inputs to the first dimension. Enthusiasm, personality, and intimacy are key to inputs the second dimension. Luckily, my section's professors score high on all.

In P&M today, we discussed about Game Theory in a very concrete way. We played a number game in which students had to forecast the class' average number according to a certain function. Since most people got the trick -I suspect I am in the gamblers section- we very quickly converged to the Nash equilibrium of Game Theory.
Then, on auction -second highest bid valuation type- 2 weird tshirts "Join My Cult" logoed were on offer by Professor Van Zandt. We had to bid (real money!) to get them. People went crazy and the tshirts went to €24.99 and €21 bidders.
We also started an Economics game against Singapore campus and Wharton. First round of 4 games: one on Location (competition against other firms around you selling identical products), one on Quality (competition between Low end and High end firms), one on Quantity (oligopolistic competition), and one on Advertising (pure game theory). We can't figure out yet the takeaways, but it is sure fun in most groups.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano came to school to present his vision of industry trends. The conference was sold out (free tickets), and feedback is the presentation part was ok, and the questions-answers much better.

Groupwise, we had an excellent Leading People class on Feedback, which forced everybody to sit down and give feedback to the group. I guess this was another milestone in our group evolving to the Performing stage of group dynamics. (As you know, group dynamics has been theorized into 4 stages: Forming -knowing each other, testing; Storming -conflicting, arguing; Norming, establishing rules; and Performing.)
Concretely we were asked to determine what each person should DO MORE OF, DO LESS OF, and CONTINUE TO DO.
Thank God there were no surprises about how group members perceived others, incurring that we know each other quite well and have gone past the Storming phase. Now we must make sure that we all indidually work on the improvement points raised within the group.
I still see some groups in the earlier phases, and worse, groups so mad in the Storming phase that they've decided to lay back in the Forming phase; my poor house mate spent 4 hours yesterday to complete Game 1 of the Game Competition, as her group rambled on generalities but never resolved to tackle the heart of the problem. When she got home, they were still arguing about the other 3 games. I guess, in her case, her pulling pack is an example of making do with that and enjoying better the Forming phase. I did advise her though to go to her group meetings prepared with analytical solutions so that they would have a more solid starting point for discussion.

It all boils down to joining one's cult, when you come think about it.

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