Wednesday 28 February 2007

Wrapping up February

At 5.30pm, I stood up from my seat and picked up my name plate. Tomorrow the class changes seating plan, as it does at the start of every month.

To close off the month, this afternoon we had two talks from distinguished businessmen, 'executives-in-residence'. One of them is the former CEO of Tetra Pak, Nic Shreiber. He was an IMD MBA about 30 years ago and a former partner of McKinsey. A very unpresupposing man, he earned the class's genuine respect, not just that of a captain of industry.

I took 3 lessons from his talk. First, harmony in your career. It's ok to work flat out 24/7, so long as you understand that 24/7 doesn't leave a lot of hours for anything else. If you want to have a family or any personal pursuits, bear that in mind.

The second lesson for me, was that power is increased inversely to its use. Or, if you like, using power diminishes it. The CEO of a $10bn company should rely on more subtle leadership - and we've spent a lot of time learning about that subject over the past 8 weeks.

Finally, in paradoxes lie opportunities. For example - and this is not one he gave - how can you save energy and increase the temperature of your home? Easy, insulation. Ok, now apply it to everything else in life. The paradox, not the insulation.

February made the course increasingly 'real'. Already we've had a number of graded projects and papers. The first was the Leadership paper, exploring the dynamics of the study groups we've been working in. Next, the Industry and Competition Analysis project. Finally, an individual paper on predicting, explaining and influencing the behaviour of individuals within organisations. With tight deadlines, it's hard to concentrate on devoting a lot of energy to our start-up projects - real companies in need of business brains.

Amongst all this, there's been a tiny bit of skiing and walking in the mountains. The first of a series of Sunday night films - Blood Diamond - screened in the auditorium. The broad theme running through them all is Africa in advance of the Discovery Expedition in June to South Africa. This coming Sunday we'll be seeing My name is Tsotsi.

Then there's the MBA Olympics. Well, the event, held at HEC in Paris, is not until May but I agreed to join the organising committee headed up by Ole (Danish), along with Tom (German) and Paul (Canadian). I'm responsible for sports. In other words, of the 90 people in class, plus however many spouses, I need to pull together teams for all the various sports. Sounds easy. You haven't seen my spreadsheet. But I'm grateful for the effort of the team captains.

What else?

Well, it's been a year since I left my job in Maidenhead. I'm still not regretting it. We had a session on power naps and other ways of sustaining your personal performance. I was picked out of the hat, along with four others - Henry from China, Fumi from Japan, Greg from Australia and St├ęphane from Canada - to go to INSEAD in April for 3 days to compete in the European Business School Case Challenge. Careers planning is underway with draft number 783 due in soon; plus I had an online chat with a potential employer at the MBA Online Career Forum: he happened also to be an IMD MBA, from 1994. And... Perrine and I are still together.

Tomorrow is the start of the 48-hour graded integrative exercise, pulling together everything we've learned so far. Next week we have projects to hand in for Marketing and Economics. The week after we have a day-long Finance exercise. A few days later, the final version of our Leadership papers are due. There's also an Operations project; and an Economics 'quiz'. Then revision and exams. No doubt some surprises along the way, too.

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