Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"What kind of People shine at INSEAD?"

Here's an email I've just received. Thanks again for your interest in this blog, and in the school. I take the liberty to disclose the email, as possibly it would matter for many prospective students.

"Hi DomoDomo,
Happened to read your blog. And I am more than ever inspired to know more about INSEAD, from someone inside. I am a Researcher xxxx. When you find time, could you please tell me the strengths and Philosophy of INSEAD? What kind of people would shine at INSEAD? Techies? Bankers? Are there many techies among your class and which round do they admit techies?"

Well for one thing I believe that diversity thrives at INSEAD -sorry for this cheesy statement- and that no particular profiles are sought after.
People who would shine -ie. enjoy most the experience- to me, are:
- those who have a clear understanding of what that particular MBA could bring to them and how they can contribute
- those who knows their own strengths and improvements areas, and are willing to proactively lever their strengths and work on their weaknesses (after all 1 year is so short that if you don't think beforehand about your path, you'll just be following the herd)
- those who believe that they can grow throughout the experience -I've seen some people with so big an ego that they don't take anything out of the MBA, not even the network.

Viewing it from a business perspective, I sense that participants who would maximise their investment could be:
- those who need the MBA to evolve in higher managerial areas (typically consultants), although from my limited sample I don't think that they get as much as they can
- those who were stuck in a corner and want to expand their horizons (typically techies, engineers)
- those who want a second chance to get a shot at top-tier schools only recruiting firms.
- those who lack some technical skills in their already defined projects (typically entrepreneurship or family business interested students)
- generally, those who want/need a boost in their career, and sometimes, those who need some time to step back, reflect, and jump back in life's fast train.

To my mind, these "hard" motives are more than valid, and justify in themselves the decision to undertake an MBA. However, once inside, if you don't maximise the INSEAD experience, developing yourself, I think it's a waste and a shame. Indeed, probably all MBA programmes ranked 1 to 50 can give you a good grasp of most "hard" skills, and all Top 10 MBAs would fulfill my list's needs.
INSEAD gives you an extra touch. Don't get me wrong, Harvard or Wharton or LBS et al. would provide their own edge.

What INSEAD does particularly well, tough, is, in a single year:
- provide a very, very cohesive programme in a short period
- provide a tested model of learning -you can't believe you'll learn this much, understand how everything fits together, within a course or between courses and terms -but the Faculty does. I'll be very bold: I'm pretty sure they know what you'll learn and when during the year. (But then people say I think too much, too.)
- give you the feeling that everything is possible. You can reach for your wildest dreams. Sorry again for being cheesy, but when you meet panels of alumni sharing what they have done, it is this inspiring!
- bring to you the World, and some of the best aspects of it, to share ideas and knowledge, build projects, grow network and friends. This is really the world available to you. We tend to forget it, as participants, because most of us have had tremendous international exposure before, but the less "exposed" have shared their amazement
- facilitate ideas, even non-PC, as long as you're open for discussion and critiques.
The motto INSEAD: the Business School for the World, sums up quite well the school's philosophy, and its values. If some of the top Faculty chose INSEAD over some US tier 1 Bschools, it is because they feel more aligned with these values. No PC, a rapid pace, with its cons too, but in our fast world, a lot of pros.
To answer precisely Mr. Researcher, my class has got techies, architects, family business heirs, engineers, bankers, consultants, manufacturing people, and scientists etc. I can't say which is more prevalent, because the mix is really well done. My only guess is that in terms of education background, engineers prevail, and in terms of industry, consulting would prevail as well.
Here's a quarter of an intake, pic taken while strolling around. Don't they look good and happy?
I'm being cheesy again... Am I?
Only slightly though. Think about it. You've got one year just for yourself: your personal growth, your projects, your network, your future. On top of it, you add fun. Who wouldn't be smiling happy?
Ok joy killers might argue about costs. It doesn't come cheap, and you'll be overshooting your budget, for sure. But then, you will not have a second chance to spend any euro you're spending now... That's my philosophy -I don't want to sound like a rich kid, which I am not-just to make the most of this extraordinary year.
Hum, maybe I should ask INSEAD a rebate for my promotional skills? ;-)
And don't get me wrong, the school is not perfect, just as good as can be in one year. I still keep my criticism for later in the year, as the learning "mystery" is not yet fully revealed to me.
BTW, I was asked about INSEAD rankings. Here's Dean Brown reaction.
"We believe rankings are important and devote considerable time and effort to them. However, we know that this has been a great year for our MBA programme – and that our performance isn't reflected in the current rankings. Applications are increasing, recruitment of graduates is up again and participant satisfaction is at an all-time high. Ironically, some of the data that we're most proud of (such as diversity of job locations post-graduation and years of experience pre-INSEAD) can indirectly have a negative effect on our position (lower average salaries and lower salary increases, in these particular cases). We will of course continue to work directly with the media, making suggestions as to how they can improve their methodology and transparency."
It's only fair to leave the guy some time to back up his words with results... His points are most valid.

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