Friday, October 31, 2003

We have received the topics to choose from for our essay in Leading Organizations. These are

"Resistance to change is good for the organization" Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous treatise "The Prince" advises that we ignore morality in pursuit of our interests. This is why his prescriptions work so well. Discuss in the context of the organizations.

Many organizations are adopting information technologies such as intranets to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among their employees. Discuss the effects of these technologies on the informal structure of an organization.

The business world has been recently affected by the scandals surrounding companies such as Enron and Worldcom. This has resurrected a difficult but fundamental question: what is the role of the firm in society?

I find that the last question is the most interesting one. It poses a philosophical problem that is actually at the center of my personal quest. Food for thoughts.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

P1 marks will be communicated to us in a few days. Pascale the Oracle has commented that our promotion was "stressed".
Wouldn't hire French as accountants. They'd cook anything.
Finance's great. Our Finance 1 Teacher said that Finance is good because it's cash and only cash matters. The rest is fluffy and intangible. Managers must focus on REAL BOTTOM LINE - the real thing, true stuff, actual money, something you can get your hands on, blah blah blah.

I just learnt that through Financial instruments you can buy shares without buying them, sell shares or options without owning them, buy stuff in the futures or forward market without outflow of cash and get an infinite return, (meaning zero initial investment), or guaranteed return with no risk.

Go figure.
This period is a lot more oriented toward group work and case studies. Professors have a strange habit of cold calling everyone - more that the influence on your grade, your response directly affect how much of a fool you sound and certainly focuses your attention on the class at hand.
Just had the first marketing class. The teacher's excellent.
He even made a comment about Pascale!
"If you want to get the pulse of every promotion, you only need to talk to Pascale". I rest my case.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

My God, I have just realized that all this time has gone by and I have not yet once mentioned Pascale.
I bet that if you talk to anyone many years out of INSEAD, who spent at least one period on the Fontainebleau, and ask them about the one person that was central to their day-to-day life, they will talk about Pascale.
There is a central place for MBAs on campus. It is called the Camembert, thanks to the low flying imagination of the administration (the place is round) and the desk in the middle is Pascale's throne.

Speculating about what people like about Pascale, I would list the following ingredients:
- honest and ever-present smile
- capacity and willingness to help every single student with local problems
- simplicity
- understanding and listening skills

Unsurprinsingly, Pascale gets invited to student parties, to general drinks sessions and many a-graduate will take time to greet her on any subsequent visit to quaint Fontainebleau.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

"Wars are massacres of people who do not know each other but who fight for the benefit of people who know each other but who do not fight"
Voltaire. French philosopher.
Tuesday night. I am back from the Indian Punjabi dancing performance. Got a ticket to the Indian party and a nice new Indian costume. As this is the first week after the break, nearly everyone has gone home. People talk about their holiday, exchange stories.

I feel a little melancholic and I wander into a PC cluster.
I am happy to be back, happy to see again all of these familiar faces.

The first period has been extraordinary and unique. I did not have expectations before coming here but the main driver for attending the course was to fulfill my international aspirations.
One can say that the administrative burden at INSEAD is large, that the organization is in many ways inefficient, that the P2 electives for exempted students are not very varied, that the accounting teacher was not so effective, that the weather is cold and that Fontainebleau is in the middle of nowhere.
INSEAD does everything else right. Everything else that truly matters.

I have learned a lot - the curriculum was varied although not deep (what else can you expect in 6 weeks). Everyone I have met, from faculty members to all my fellow students embodies this international community that INSEAD is promoting so hard.

I have come a long way and there is much more to go. I also now realize how much I needed this, how clueless I was about the complexities of business, and how many mistakes I would have made.

I will now head off and finish the readings for tomorrow. This week, I am hitting the Career Management Service web site. Revamping of CV, registering for their consulting services, etc...

A good friend of mine is coming from the States this weekend. We will probably get lost in the labyrinth of the old quarters of Paris.
The Latin America class today was very humbling. The teacher's is truly excellent. Her breadth of knowledge and her network of connections in the region are incredible.
The students are all extremely acute and all of the comments that were made, both from Septembers and from Januaries made me consider the region from a different angle. Very pertinent comments from the Brazilians, the Argentinian and Peruvians today.

The professor interrupted our comments about whether state owned companies were a good thing or not: "you are thinking about these countries from the perspective of a rich country. Think about it with the perspective of a poor country. In poor countries, the tax system is inefficient. Rich people who could pay taxes manage their way around paying through corruption and bribes. Poor people cannot afford to pay taxes and would revolt if more were to be levied. So state-owned companies are the only way that governments can get revenues."
October - Fontainebleau - France. Days of cold crisp mornings, leaf-clogged streets and broken clouds. Days of burning forest and crying birds. Days of singing fires. Of short walks.
Autumn has come.
Fontainebleau WC Team has just transformed a previously male-only toilet into a Unisex one. Here is a copy of the email following the announcement:

The Unisex Bathroom Song

A social scientist of some years gone
Was ruminating as he graced the john
He thought, "What if we turn this lavatory
Into a scientific laboratory?
We’ll make a great big human experiment
With lots of funding from the government
And study all the various effects
Of using bathrooms that are unisex."
So just walk right in, take a look at the scene
If you’re a man or a woman or in between
There’s no sign on the door, so please pay your respects
To the other gender at the Unisex

Some people really have time on their hands
More classes today:

Organizational Behavior: focuses on organizations and offers three different perspectives:
- Strategic: Organizations are machines, action comes through planning and we are an architect
- Political: Organizations are contest or war, action comes through power and we are politicians
- Cultural: Organizations are a set of values, action comes from habit and we are an anthropologist
Teacher's Romanian. It is hard to form an opinion after one class so I will hold my tongue.

Managerial Accounting: Financial accounting focuses on reporting to satisfy outside users (investors, regulating bodies, etc...) and managerial accounting proposes to give tools to report meaningful data in order to make informed managerial decisions and and generate value. It sets out to answer the following questions:
- What information do we need for competitive success?
- How can we evaluate or design information systems?
- How do we make decisions to enhance value?
- How do we delegate decisions and provide incentives to managers?

The teacher's name is Igor so he is obviously...
...American. A bit of a showman with comments such as:
- the best way to get a good mark at class participation is to toss me some really easy questions to make me look really competent.

We were served a delicious Indian breakfast during the break so quite a few people came late into class. This is very disrepectful to professors but one of the students had a brilliant comment:
" the food was quite spicy which is the reason why I am late"
Before I head into the turmoil of P2, I thought that I could spend a little bit of time looking back at what INSEAD has brought to me, what I will be packing up when I move on the path of life...

- All our teachers were very good and displayed a deep knowledge of the course taught. Most of them were very enthusiastic about teaching, and most of them had a great sense of humor. I have been extremely impressed by the diversity and quality of their teaching. Most of the improvements lie in how such extensive knowledge is passed onto the students. All teachers were very open to comments and active dialogue with the students. In general, although MBA participants do pay outrageous amounts of money to attend B-school, they do not necessarily take advantage of the faculty as much as they could.

- Some of the courses presented models that pictured a very ideal world, as imperfections would complicate equations and concepts. They were necessary hurdles to overcome in order to gain enough understanding to tackle real life problems but limited the interest I took in the courses. Most of the reading material, the extra cases and projects captured the majority of my excitement - apart from OB and game theory which are two classes which delivered loads of pure clean fun.
P2 start off with follow up courses much more applied to real life, with a greater variety of useful models and tips.

- Parties: INSEADers are definitely party animals. I cannot recall one week without a party. Most venues are either a wealthy country house, or a gigantic chateau. All party have themes and people go to tremendous efforts to decorate the venue, to come up with stylish invitations and to offer a good selection of music, drinks and general atmosphere. Let me throw out some random party theme: Pirates At Tavers (costumed), Dangerous Liaisons, Halloween at Villecerf (costumed), Light My Fire

- Social events, gatherings, clubs: INSEAD offers a lot more than you could ever do, even if you disposed of a full 24hr day. All styles are catered for unless you are interested in setting up a club for pot smokers or car theft techniques.

- One of the most important technique that I learned coming here is time management. There is so much going on that it is quite impossible to do everything. Make sure that you are clear about what you want to get out of the programme, establish your priorities and act accordingly. You are investing a lot, only you can best decide how you are going to maximize the value of your time spent here - and the cost associated with some of your decisions.

- MBA Participants: this is what really blew me out. The school has a reputation for diversity and internationalism - is this a word? - and it is well deserved. Most of my now good friends are Indian, Romanian, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Australian, Korean, Canadian, Egyptian, Lebanese,...The INSEAD Campus does not feel like France at all. It does not feel like an airport. It does not feel like the world either as the creme de la creme is probably gathered here. The campus feels like a somptuous Indian meal. All the colorful and delicious dishes are gathered on the table, some clashes, some blend well. All provide the most incredible palate experience. The quality of the people here is amazing: from people who founded their own companies to mountain guides, through Tennis Star coaches. From star traders to World Bank managers, from engineers to directors.

It would be easy to casualize such diversity as the year goes on and forgets about how precious it is. Every day if I look around the amphi, my eyes stop on Israelis, Germans, Greeks, Scandinavians, Dutch, Japanese, etc...I surprise conversations over lunch in hindi, russian or chinese. I speak three languages every day. Everyone seems to operate in this environment, as though it were the norm nowadays, with abandon. But it is a special environment. It is a special place in which everyone holds theirs. Only in this world can I hear an Israeli tell me that he has come to like the Arabs. Only in this world do we have an Indian-Pakistan week. Only in this world do we have everyone gathered around a screen to watch the Rugby worldcup, cheerfully waving pints of beer.

I will walk out of this place into the real world with a long list of friends, with a head full of new concepts, with the desire to make a big impact wherever I go, with the courage of a lion and the finesse of a cat. I will also walk out of this place with an endless list of stories. Good and bad, funny and sad. All unique.

It is hard to walk on a journey to the different, to the unusual. It is especially hard in an environment where most people are put under so much pressure and competitive evaluation system.

It is hard but it is worth it.
Some of the best quotes from past period or why context is important:

"I will do anything you want me to" - Finance professor to student

"OK - we know this is immoral, but is it illegal?" - Student in Ethics Class

"It is because of people like you that sex becomes insignificant" - Stats Tutorial Teacher

"The problem is not auto but hetero" - Stats professor (about auto and hetero skedasticity...)

"Would you call up your boss at 2am? - Leading People and Group professor
response of female student: "this depends on what kind of relation I have with my boss"

"Don't lag sex, it gives very strange results" - Stats teacher

"I sold the car for a shitty price and I'm supposed to be Turkish...I'm on the lower side of the Turkish population" - a Turkish student acting as a car seller in a negotiation exercise

"why did you choose to attend the community event and not the homeless people event?" - OB professor about networking choices a manager must make in a case study
- "the community event is with important people. I don't give a shit about homeless people".

- "why did you open the envelope that says - PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL" - OB Professor about an in-basket case study
- "well, that was bound to be interesting reading" - student responding

Monday, October 27, 2003

Went to pick up my P2 course pack the other day. Also picked up the Strategies for Latin America elective course pack. That was a very depressing moment. The course pack for that one elective is nearly as thick as the course pack for all of the core courses - and this class is scheduled 4 times a week from 5.30 to 7pm...Alas...
News on the home front: we cannot use the upstairs bathroom because we are flooding the house and we can use only scarcily the washing machine because we are flooding the house. The plumber came one month ago for a quote but has not found time yet to come and fix things.
First cleaning lady needed 3 hours for a 20 minute job. Second cleaning lady resigned on us on no notice because she found a job closer to her home and our third potential cleaning lady did not want to drive 9 kms to get to our place.

We desperately need a cleaning lady.
P1 Classes:

P1 has the main drawback to offer introductory classes which serve to bring everyone to a similar level. INSEAD offers exemption exams (I just exempted from a course, which means that I am able to take an elective instead in P2) for the poor Bond Trader who does not wish to sit again in a Introduction to Finance class, or a Microeconomics Major who can find better uses of his or her time than sitting in a Price and Market class.

- General Management: this is a short two-class course centered around a case study. It highlighted the fact, that despite the fact that most business schools teach every subject separately, everything is imbricated in the life of a general manager. It also showed that general managers really have to deal with all the crap that keep falling on their desk, and do not enjoy the same intellectual challenges as academia workers - is this an expression of professional frustration? ;-). The Arthur Keller case has become a legend at INSEAD, and is even quoted in the press!
I remember a key quote from our British teacher "you came to INSEAD so that you can learn about how general managers screw everything up in real life and feel comfortable about doing it yourself".

- Ethics, Values and Cultures: this was taught by a star teacher who splits up his time between counselling Asian governments and CEOs, teaching at Stanford Business School and at INSEAD. Unfortunately for students of the years to come, he is retiring. Luckily I heard that one of his replacements, a successful teachers at the univeristy of Barcelona and Rock Climbing World Champion is fantastic.
The current and soon to retire French teacher was basically the instigator of the creation of the Singaporean campus for INSEAD and is on a crusade to create awareness about ethics issues in a world sadly dominated by corruption stories. The course was only over a week, based on a case study and through the Ethics Day, which brought together CEOs of various companies and countries (Germany, Israel, France, etc..) and students in small workshops to discuss ethics issues. I attended the Enron Case workshop. The teacher's favorite quote was "companies outsource ethics to the government". Bottom line: ethics are not a relative thing: murder is murder and is bad. Ethics are everyone's responsibility and falling into the trap of doing the local thing is only feeding a sick system.

- Uncertainty, Data and Judgement: a class which focuses on dealing with reality and coming to terms with the fact that we cannot use a crystal ball to peek into the future. Most of it is maths but the class is taught very intuitively by a brilliant Romanian mind (who was elected our best dressed professor). Unfortunately, I found that the teacher, probably because of lack of experience, was not as convincing and open as the other teachers. Forced humor and artificial jokes fell flat most of the time.
Some of the questions that you are able to answer after the course: how can you model reality in order to forecast future trivial values, such as your sales level...How can you design a process, for instance to deal with overbooking at airlines, not to lose money, how can you decide how many physicians should be on duty in hospital based on the expected number of patients in an ER ward on any given day, how do you test various hypothesis on expected returns, based on samples of data, how confident are you about the acceptance of your product, about your expected profits, etc...
In fact, the teaching style was so bumpy that I cannot remember any key quote.

- Finance 1: the teacher was German. This says a lot about the course...which introduces the main financial tools in a very ideal world (the only imperfection that we talk about is corporate taxes, which actually has an influence on your capital structure choices, since interest payments are deducted from your taxable income). Time Value of Money (useful in pension liability valuation), Valuation of project (differences between IRR, Net Present Value, PayBack Method), company valuation (Discounted Cash Flow Method, Dividend Method, Multiple Method), the Pricing of Risk in Financial Market (based on the CAPM model, which is all about pizzas), Efficiency of financial markets, Capital Structure decision and portfolio theory. The Key Quote would be: "When you buy two stocks, their risks cancel out, exactly like matter and anti-matter: it goes Pooof".

- Prices and Markets: I have already talked about this. Although we dealt about the usual Supply and Demand, Cost optimization, Profit Optimization, Competitive Markets, Monopolies, the basics of Game Theories (which I enjoyed thorougly), our Greek teacher was truly excellent. Very cynical in his approach and very original in his presentation, he certainly quenched by thirst for entertainment and learning. Our OPEC Class Exercises (graded) was fantastic: every one cheated although everyone had the opportunity to increase his or her group's mark through colluding, since our mark was directly proportional to the profit generated. However, if we cheated and no one else did, our profit would have been humongous. Trouble is everyone reasoned identically and this left us all with a very small price and a tiny profit...

- Organizational Behavior: and why people matter ;-) I have already talked a lot about this course and about our teacher: Michael Brimm. Next time I need to lead a group, I'll certainly do a little Brimmstorming before I head into the first meeting.

- Financial Accounting: the teacher was Canadian and a visiting professor from an Austin university and I did find that the cases chosen during the class were way too US and Canada focused. The INSEAD course evaluation form dedicates an entire section about the international coverage of the class: well, I had to mark this course very low in that respect. I found the teacher, although very competent, a stereotype of the North American university teacher: a showman. Everything was dramatic: Worldcom, Enron, etc...Yes people mess up with the numbers and cook the book, but we can recognize this fact without overdoing it. Yes the value destruction on a global scale and the personal drama that followed these scandals was huge but putting an act to demonstrate that some people have strong incentive to position themselves on the edge of the law is qutie unecessary. Part of the course is very mechanical (you know, this debit/credit thing) although I actually found the content pretty relevant to business life: competitive studies, benchmarking start with a good understanding of what's behind the numbers.
One other comment that I have is that, we had to hand in a (graded) case at every class. The case was dealing with the next class' topic which meant that it would take us hours to figure out how to do things. There was no tutorial, no time left for review of the past class' concept and I found myself lost very quickly half way through. In fact, when I talked with other people in my section, this was the general feeling. Focusing too much on the cases
meant taking time away from other courses. Focusing too much on other courses meant getting lost even more in accounting.
All in all, I think that I have learned a lot but I certainly do not feel as comfortable with the subject as with the other topics taught in P1.
Today, I had the first two lectures of the P2 core courses and my first elective.

- Corporate Finance: teacher's got an English accent and talked about some forward and future contracts. Short introduction of the course which will focus on some additional financial tools and on how finance directors can add value to a company, what we should focus on as future managers, especially when deciding about capital structure. To be honest, I do not like Finance. I recognize the importance of Financial markets (worth trillions of $$$$$), the thrill that some people can get at the sheer idea of trading in such sizeable environment and I am very conscious of the importance and relevance of capital choices within an organization. However, I am much more of an operational person myself and the most relevant item of this course are related to capital structure, the price of risk, stock options and incentives and valuations of projects, of companies. The rest would force me to navigate in stormy waters.

- Process and Operation Management or PoM for the people in-the-know. Teacher's American, from Detroit and with a background in the Auto Industry (funny that). The case today was about a hospital in Canada, in the suburb of Toronto. They specialize in hernia operation and got bloody good at it. Turnaround times is 72 hours, as opposed to 1 week for general hospital, people have yearly "reunions" after their operations, setting is that of a country club. They can achieve this because they accept only the easy cases, they have developed a very low cost solution, their infrastructure is focused on this type of operation and their overhead is limited. I found the comparision between this "lean" organization and the "fat" general hospital comparision a little simplistic. General Hospitals do need to accept the hard cases, the complications, cannot specialize in one type of operations and definitely cannot afford to run reunion and dinner with every free check up. Obviously, there might be some improvements possible within a General Hospital to cut cost, for example within each unit and instead of organizing itself around radiology, surgery, etc...focus around cases such as Fractures, Cancer, Maternity...which is - according to the professor - what most business choose today.
The terminology, although useful to compare processes and to analyse each case, is offending. I cannot bring myself to think of patients as "inventory" or as input or output to a process...

This reminded me of an experience in the Seychelles. I got bitten by some sort of fish. It was so insignificant that I did not even realize it but it got somewhat infected so I went to see a doctor on the main island. Well, well, well...There was a pre-diagnostic room where a nurse would come by, ask you some detail, take a look at what's going on and dispatch you through the right process. Then the diagnostic room, which then passes you onto the treatment room, which then passes on onto the pharmacy to pick up your medicine. Final stop was the check out counter. Total time for a visit, about 10 min...

- The highlight of the day was the Strategies for Latin America electives. The class is very small so very interactive. Population of the class is 50% of people from Latin American countries and 50% of people from outside. One person worked for the World Bank and is a data encyclopedia. The teacher is Spanish.
This course presents the region globally, some key characteristics and figures, offers some elements of comparision between Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, picks a few countries and offers a short introduction of their economies, political environment, sectors, currency problems, etc...Finally, it focuses our minds on possible strategies to succeeed in this market, estimated to be about $2 tr. Most of what we read about the region has a very negative conotation and getting to know a lot better this continent in such a varied environment, for me, is part of the INSEAD value proposition.

I travelled around Latin America for a few months and was truly dazzled by the continent. Despite its reputation of being laid back, most people over there are hard workers. With a strong interest in politics, social, cultural and economic developments in international blocks, as well as a desire to learn more about the "other part of the world" which was very distorted from my Western view, I really welcome this course. How much can I learn about this fun loving continent, plagued by inflation, corruption, political unrest, inequalities, lack of infrastructure, education and trust in 6 weeks with 4 classes per week is another question.
What I liked about the elective is that the small class size makes it a lot more interactive. Each assignment is pretty much something that we choose: we can decide which case we want to lead, we can pick our final project to better fit our areas of interest. Everyone's participation makes it a lot more "real life" than most of the large class case studies, or lecture.
This week is the India-Pakistan National Week which is set up as a series of activities leading to the wedding of Kama and Sutra.

INSEAD students choose their list of National Week through a voting system. Latin American, Arab Countries, etc... are grouped under the same heading. India is coupled with Pakistan. These weeks are sponsored by major companies originating from these regions and offer an opening to a new culture, an endless source of entertainment, and a revigorating and relaxing atmosphere in the midst of the pressure of studies.

Here is a run down of the activities of the week:

- Like every National Week at INSEAD, the week start with some Amphi Storming on Monday. Basically, dressed up people come up with some creative ideas to present the country or the region. Today, we had a discussion between the parents of the bride to be and a wedding counsellor. I learned from an Indian friend that the dot that Indian ladies wear on their forehead signifies marriage. It is similar in spirit to the wedding ring in Christian cultures. For men, it has the shape of an eye, and it does represent a third eye. It is drawn only when the bearer is engaged in a religious activity.

It is a lot of fun to see people wander around wearing turbans, sarees and white blouses, accompanied by the most elegant set of jewelry and scarves.

- Tonight, we have a BollyWood Move Night, with a fine selection of Indian Movies. With over 800 movies produced per year, India is the biggest cinema country in the world. Showings include Moonsoon Wedding and Kamasutra.

- Tomorrow: South Indian Breakfast! I can't wait...In the evening, there is a Bhangra performance, a traditional North Indian dance from the state of Punjab.

- Wednesday: delicious Indian and Pakistanese dishes will make up lunch, delighting many a palate. Imagine spices, curry, colors: chicken tikka from the North, fried fish from the East, biryani from Pakistan, pakoras from the South, raita from the west.

- Wednesday night: Turban Wearing and Saree Dressing Contest, traditional dances and music...

- Thursday: Indian Dinner. The programme describes it as a "gastronomic journey through the foothills of the Himalayas" with live music. I shall add no further comment.

- Friday: traditional national party dumbed the Bollywood Talent Search! In effect the culminating point of the week with hundreds of students gathering for an Indian themed evening, usually involving a lot of dancing and drinking.
When people forget to log off from their email accounts, the next person to use the university computers posts a "log off" email on their behalf. I have extracted a couple to give you a flavor of this type of entertainment. These are not necessarily the best ones. Just the two that I fell through my inbox today.

1- The Asterix Log Off

Dear all,
as I was driving through the forest yesterday, I accidentally killed a huge boar that was running across the street. My car is ruined, but I thought I might as well make something useful of the tragic accident. As I wasn't sure what exactly to do with the dead boar, I decided to take it home in my car and talk to my landlord (who knows the forest and its animals in and out) what to do with it. He suggested inviting my friends from INSEAD to a real original French boar BBQ. This would be the first time I have eaten boar, as I imagine it would be for many of you as well. Please let me know if you're interested. The first 20 people will be invitied.

2 - Kama and Sutra Wedding Preparation
In preparation for India-Pak week I was practicing some Kama Sutra positions for the class I am giving and have unfortuantely tied myself up into a knot.I am now typing this with my big toe. Can anyone please pass by UG4 and help me out?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Just went for a coffee and ended up facing our stats tutorial teacher. Guess which dreaded question she had for me?

- SOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooo, how did it go?

Some days, it is better to be a ground hog.
I would like to award the Oscar of creativity to our P1 teachers. Coming up with names like Trance Telecom and Baga-tel for Telecom company valuation, or with Junkyard Inc and Southern Trash for complimentary companies to be merged; having Calvin's rule of thumb theory for Multiple Choice Questionaire - and actually posting an excerpt of Calvin and Hobbes on the exam paper, following the story, year after year, of Akbhar and Jeff the consultants basing their entire life on regression results denotes a fundamental quality in these professors: they geniunely seem to enjoy teaching.

btw: for anyone who is interested in Akbhar and Jeff saga, Akbhar has sold his house in Nebraska to join Jeff in Bermuda. Revamping his bathroom was not worthwhile as it only marginally increased the value of his house.
I heard the crowd cheers over at the bar. I am off.
All my exams are gone gone gone gone gone gone gone...
I am getting ready for a break break break break break break
I need a break. I am also getting ready for a massive pint of beer with my friends at the bar so I cannot post something long. Later this afternoon, a comfortable travel device will take my thoughts to a dream destination where I will spend my 4-day vacation. No computer, no class, no work, no nothing.

Very briefly, the stats exam was actually quite easy - despite the fact that i realize that I did something wrong wih the poor investor Theo. The Fund Manager Monkey re-appeared, with a toss of a coin theory of picking stocks; the OB professors were gathering some psychological and background data about their students and linking extroverts and competitive people to their expected starting salaries in the regression question and a poor woman was desperately trying to increase her chances of getting a CD by finding a golden M&M (They are BACK!). She had enlisted the help of 9 friends to do that. Imagine splitting up a CD into 10...

The Accounting Exam was about Krispy Kreme Doughtnuts (and a small comparision with Starbucks). Quite interesting and apparently one of the questiona had been dealt with in one of the super long review sessions that the teacher was offering (over 3 hours!!!!) which I half missed. I am not bothered. I think that I understand accounting but I have a lot of trouble with the mechanics of it because of lack of practice. This course did not have a tutorial or short exercises to give us confidence. Every case was about the next topic to cover, completely new to us, and gave us no time to review past concepts. We shall see!
There were some nice pictures on the report, in case you got bored.

Finally the Finance exam, which I actually found dififcult. I think that, knowing that this is one of the most difficult courses of this period, I prepared myself with every single exercise, tutorial and past exam that I could get my hands on. So I felt pretty confident that the mechanics were ok. Overall, with a cold beer, I mean a cold head, I can probably also explain the global picture to a family of goldfish and pretend to be an expert.
But with the streneous P1, the exam prep and the sleep depravation which is quite typical of MBAs, this whole exam took place in some sort of cozy cotton world. This world would see Bond Coupon Rate dine with the Systematic Risk of Argentina, Betas of a stock lose their tempers over the Alphas of this same stock, the market portfolio would phone the IRR of a company project to enquire about the validity of the assumption of the CAPM model. Basically, I probably did not do well, I can probably do much better and the only question that remains unanswered is whether anyone else bought a ticket to that same world or not.

There is one concept which appeared in accounting, Price and Markets AND Finance. It is the concept of a sunk cost.
Well all these exams are a sunk cost to me. They are not recoverable now and their future benefits to me are questionable. So I have pushed them aside gently but firmly.

I am now going to slide down on the dangerous slope of leisure...and meet you again on Monday after my break.

Upcoming topics include
- Short description of the P1 Classes
- Dutch Week
- Arab Week
- The Elective Dilemna for P2
and responding to general demand: a typical day in the life of an INSEAD student.

Any comment about how this site can be improved, about the kind of topics that you'd like to see covered, about typos that you have noticed, email me!

Finally, a small disclaimer
- I do not belong to a zoo
- I was not cast in Planet of the Apes
- These are spontaneous, unpolished and follish thoughts, delivered in the most rudimentary manner for the sole purpose of informing you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I am changing my theory about the Prices and Markets exam. I have heard other people find it hard which can mean either of the following
- I have moved from the Pampers in Economics to the Elderly family in no time (unlikely)
- I misunderstood up to the complexity of each question and therefore I am still ignorant of the fact that I really did not do so well at all! (likely)
- I did average so some people will find it a lot easier and some people will find it a lot harder
Whatever theory turns out to be true, I am now not bothered! What's happened happened ;-)

Monday, October 20, 2003

Well, well, well...First two exams done. Three more to go. Heard in the lower gallery just now...

Let's have a quick recap before I head over to the bar. Friendships, unlike wine bottles, are sealed at the bar.

OB Exam: went VERY well. Our group was fantastic, spectacular, awesome, creative, funny, time conscious, phenomenal...well...I will analyse this in some other posting but overall, I had a tremendous time. It did not even feel like an exam!!! Case was the story of some INSEAD MBA graduate who thinks that he's doing well, who is not aware of the political web that he's entangled himself into, who has serious communication and secrecy problems in his team and who chose a very detached style of leadership. Add a bit of whistle blowing about cover ups in the sales department and some sensitive power struggle at the top and you have the whole picture. I think that we covered most of the issues, we have a clear line of actions, all of our strengths as a very diverse group came out. No jargon, no bullshiting around. Clear, direct, concise and complete. I loved it.

Prices and Market: I found the exam easy - which is actually a very bad sign. Our grading system is all relative, and our mark will be normalized. Which means that if everybody found this exam easy, then the mean will be high and my chances to be below the mean are higher...Also, a small cockup: I was supposed to answer only one question per sheet. I got so distracted by the line of fire that I had created around my brain while I proceeded to answer the multiple choice questions (on a separate sheet), that I completely forgot that point. I have more than one answer per sheet...I emailed the MBA Office about that. It is not actually a breach of the exam rules, so I hope that they will be lenient about that. It would be stupid not to. Anyway, I am not really bothered. The answers are clear and at least, correspond to the questions asked! I have learned something and that is what really matters!

However, respecting presentation rules is important and certainly part of the game, so I expect some reaction to that.

I really liked game strategy - in our exam - some "firm" make commercial aircrafts - Dah, why not call them Boeing and Airbus...- and they must decide to make a new one or not. Some Nash Equilibrium, obviously...usually stuff. Funny because in Finance, we look at the valuation of the Boeing 777 project...
Also a look at how the DVD player market in France (with the imposition of quotas or not) influences the DVD market in that same country. That was quite interesting, especially the "fluffy" part - e.g. the non mathematical part. Standard Supply and Demand and effect of government actions on a free market. Standard stuff.

For the rest, imagine some GMAT for Economics style multiple choice questions and a lot of little tricks which forced us a read the question: A change in price does not shift a supply nor a demand curve, we move along the curve. Stuff like that...SOooooo American.

Anyway, I can feel the calling of some exquisite red drink increasingly getting hold of my senses, so good bye for now!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Mental recap of things to do:
Accounting: go over exam with friends tonight. Finish A4 sheet and do one more past paper.
Prices and Markets: do last past exam
Stats: do last past exam
OB: set
Finance: do last past exam
I keep the final past exams for the day before the actual exam, as a recap of the course.
Getting there, getting there...
One of these mornings, I cycled to school, through the forest, like I do on most days...
Except that this one morning, I found myself without light. Then, on that one morning, I saw this mother deer and this baby deer running alongside, on a forest path. Just me and them. We headed in the same direction for a good 5 minutes, after which they changed course.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Everybody looks really stressed out. There are two types of stressed out people as one of my colleagues was pointing out.

Type I Stress: little experience in the subjects that we were taught in P1, and often with no or little math background. Given the amount of information that we had to process in this period, it is very human to feel a little lost at times...
To these people, I'd like to say that I am quite confident that most of them are understimating their capabilities.
Type II Stress: people with a lot of experience in the subjects that we were taught in P2, extremely strong backgrounds in numerical applications, most of them extremely strong GMAT scores and for whom grades are important (apparently investment banks and consulting firms asked for grades in the past). The Dean's List is a symbol of high academic achievement at INSEAD and only top students will see their names there. To these people, I hope that you'll make it.

Both types are caused by the fact that we have no idea of where we stand relatively to everyone else in the promotion.

On the planet that I live on (Planet of the Apes), grades do not matter so much. I have already emphasized the fact that I attach more important to learning what I came here to learn, to meeting so many great people and to have a fantastic time. I study a lot (I don't stay up until 2am just to watch the moon pass by), and I am preparing hard for these exams, just like I prepared hard to come to INSEAD and just like I always prepare hard for anything I do, want to do or need to do. When I know what I want and I know what it takes, I just do it.

As I have neither too little nor too much experience in the subjects taught, I feel neither over-competent, nor totally lost. Bottom line: I feel that I do not belong to either category which might explain why I feel so detached from all this stress.

Now, it could also be ignorance bliss of course...

Thursday, October 16, 2003

As our Finance Teacher would put it: CAPM Diem guys, CAPM Diem
Well...Timewise, I realize that before coming to INSEAD, I was also having short all in all, this has not changed in the least. I think that before I went travelling, I was not in bed before 3am. Now it is not before 2am. Mmmm...

Today: Set 5 of exercises to go through in Stats, Past Exam in Stats and I am meeting someone to go over a past exam in Finance tonight. Still some reading to do but pretty much on track in all subjects but accounting, which I feel that must carefully go over (yet) again...
Our profesor emailed us some advice to guide us "on the journey to Financial Reporting Nirvana".
I must finish up my microeconomics revisions - almost done but I need to spend A LOT of time on my financial accouting this weekend. I have handed in my OB paper, our group has met to get organized for the OB group exam on Monday. We are set.
GoodBye to Professors
Today we had the last class of Leading People and Groups and the last class of Microeconomics. In my opinion, these classes were led by the two best P1 core course professors that I had. I will write more about each class, what I learned, what I liked, what people commented on, etc... later (after the exam), but I feel that I must record today how I feel about leaving these classes. I am now realizing that 1/5 of my INSEAD year has just gone by...

Our teacher in OB is spectacularly good. He is able to generate an extremely rich class debate over what INSEAD called the "soft" stuff - that is people -, deal with apparently random suggestions, organize everyone's thoughts and lead us to open-ended conclusions. He is able to articulate his own opinion as suggestions for us to think through, as well as enabling us to make a point to the class. He has a very clear agenda but extremely creative ways to get us to realize our learning potential. This class is probably the most profoundly transforming class I have taken in my entire life. I have heard a lot of people say that they did not like the course because they felt manipulated (this guy knows a thing or two about human minds and makes full use of this knownledge)- I loved it.
I felt that a lot of my beliefs were ripped apart in a very soft way and I was forced to reconsider everything around me - and everything about me.

The course started in a seemingly disorganized manner, with ideas fusing from all over the place. After three hours of class, which I had enjoyed very much, I still was not very clear about what the purpose of the course was. Yet I felt that I was moved by the class. Something had changed in me, something that I could not pinpoint.
Although the class is very organized, and has clear directives and expectations, it is also a class that everyone can walk into with an open mind and decide just how much and what they want to get out of it - and how much they want to give to others. I cannot say much more today as spending only a few sentences on this course will not do it justice. I felt very sad when the professor walked out of the class. I got the impression that he was very moved as well. Perhaps he truly cares about us.
I will wind up this bizarre note with a heartfelt thank you to Michael for the oustanding impact that you have had in my life.

Nikos is my Microeconomics profesor. INSEAD has just rebranded this Prices and Markets. He is excellent too. In fact, one of my classmates who studied economics and went through quite an extensive list of economics teachers, stated enthusiastically today: HE IS THE BEST I'VE HAD. As my first introduction to microeconomics, I was lucky enough to have a professor who was extremely clear and able to bring to my modest level these important concepts, in an extremely funny way. I will never forget this "ex-megastar of basketball who analyzed an imaginary basketball duel with Michael Jordan in order to demonstrate that this particular case offered no Nash Equilibrium". Whenever I walked out of this class, everything was clearly impregnated in my mind and reading the Financial Times became a real pleasure.
Nikos is a visiting profesor but I wish that he could contribute longer to the enjoyment of future generations of INSEAD MBA participants.
He left the class with some advice for us which I want to share with you.
We must not take ourselves too seriously. Loads of other smart people around us who can do certain things much better than we do. Loads of other people who need to get up at 5am to painfully earn a living. -I'd add loads of people who are struggling to get enough food to survive-. Put things into perspective. It will make you a better person and a better business person.

Note to Self - and others
I have not yet written about the core of the classes, the heart of the school and the phenomenal quality and diversity of the people around me. It is just before the end of my first period and I have SO much to share and comment on. We started in August and the end of October is approaching. It feels like I have been through two years in two months. There is no time now, in the rush for the final exams to take a breath and make a mental note of what has just happened. I will do so over the break when I contemplate what is to come. All that I can say is that everything so far has been quite extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Time Management
Our first round of exams is next week and the library has become my second home.
At the risk of sounding crazy, I thoroughly enjoy the pace of these studies. I love learning. In fact, I love it so much that I can learn new stuff for the mere pleasure of doing something new.
Paradoxically exams get in the way of my learning. I have to focus on mechanical exercises that are far from being intellectually rewarding in order to comply with the school requirement. Yet, I recognize the usefulness of this grading system for INSEAD who conveniently use it as a reward and a control system. It is probably too idealistic to think of the library tenants as desirous to enrich their personal culture – with the objective to make a future gain on this investment, and to recognize all by themselves the need for learning…Looking around to the silent room, I sympathize with these dozens of fellow students, lost among the scattered debris of the last paper due before exam day.
Heard in Class:
Stats Tutorial: results from personal class data regression tests show that the variable sex does not play a large role in predicting the weight of people. So the tutorial teacher said that "sex was insignificant". This troubled a lady student who reacted strongly: "how can you say that sex is not significant!".
Come on, it's just numbers...

Stats Class: we looked at the causality between intercourse and pregnancy from some imaginary survey that sprang out of the professor's head (and yes some 5 people in the sample test have responded that they became pregnant with no intercourse)
Microeconomics class: I quote the professor who explained that in game theory, as well as cartel decisions, longer time implications influence greatly short term decisions: "think about other short-term temptations carrying long term consequences".

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Bottom Line:
The truth about the bottom line. It is called so because Net Income is reported on the bottom line of the Income Statement. Accounting has some great moments of insights.
Whoever tells you that he or she stayed at the library until 2am must not be speaking the truth. The library shuts down at 11.30 and lights are off at 11.20. People get thrown out of the library on a regular basis.
Campus remains open though and people find themselves harshly lit cubicles with email and Internet access to finish their work until 2am.
I cycle through the forest to get to school which is a great way to see some deer, rabbits, foxes and wild boars. Great way to relax and let go of some of the INSEAD stress. Also a great way to get lost.
In fact, I did get lost and had to ask for direction. The only other people in the forest at that time were local female “street workers” who have been most helpful – in showing me the way.
Another time I was directed by some lady who was pointing to the right when indicating left and vice versa. Made me reach the opposite side of town.
Heard in Class
One of my classmates was caught sleeping in our last accounting class. This tells you that no matter how Shakespearean the professor tries to present accounting, some brain just cannot connect...
This guy has to buy a bottle of champagne for the class. Not for having fallen asleep in class but for having been caught falling asleep in class.

Students calculating how much money they were losing if we started the class 2 minutes late. Notice no one wants the professor to make up for this time at the end of the class though.

A professor told us that the real learning would be through our peers, and that teachers are really there to justify the high tuition fees.

France Telecom
The telephone is another story in this cheese eater country. Whenever you turn up at this France Telecom shop for The_Best_Mobile_Deal_In_The_World, special INSEAD and all that, you stand in line for 2 hours. Get a landline, some guy turns up some three weeks after you subscribe, finds out that his records do not match reality, can’t find the head of the line, needs to go back to the company to take things offline with his management. Sales person is supposed to get back to us but has not done so, so far…Bottom line, we don’t have a landline…so I am taking this online.
Some other problems with old houses…
Most of the major appliances in the house do not work. Dishwasher not emptying and starting to look like what Jean Valjean must have experienced in the Paris sewer and washing machines that take 48 hrs for a cycle.
Must try some of this newly acquired influencing skills in my OB (Organizational Behavior) class to get things fixed around here.
Bad Examples
When I list the examples that we have covered in class, I realize just how negative they are
- Probability of Outbreak of War in the next couple of years (statistics)
- Impact of sudden Deaths of CEO (in plane crashes) on stock price (finance)
- Enron, Worldcom, and other horror stories… (accounting)
- OPEC and the art of cheating (Prices and Markets)
I need some of this French wine to forget...
News about the Subjects
Some inconsistencies have appeared. The Accounting teacher positioning accounting at the center of everything while the Finance teacher compares the financial statement to a detailed history book and that as such, they could never get a Nobel Prize, like a lot of Finance Academics do, because they do not focus on the future.

The Prices and Market teacher might insist on the fact that Finance offers an over-simplified model of things and overlooked personal utility and satisfaction which fortunately is accounted for in Microeconomics. Moreover financial markets are characterized by a null net present value and as such remain – although very fair – uninteresting. Now the ethics professor might jump in the middle of that indicating that profit is not the sole purpose in live and that although, it does not always pay, leaders should not subcontract ethics to governments and outsource their soul.
About some other student houses
Seen some amazing houses around here that get rented to students. Let’s take a look at what some ad could look like.

The service station house:.its unique location at the fork of a Route Nationale and a Departementale makes it the perfect place for hosting parties. With no neighbors, no one to bother if the music is still on at 4am. The promiscuity of a few car dealers proves to be extremely convenient for upcoming oil changes. The fact that the letterbox is an old style milk pot probably caused the loss of a few letters since the postman might have wondered where the mailbox was and then walked away in despair.

The English Garden House:
This house offers a key features that makes it oh so attractive: it has a pond with ducks and geese – no worries, the tenants do not have to feed them. It is unclear whether the landlord actually did count them, or if it is possible to sneak a couple to make some Foie Gras and Peking Duck. Amazing really how close these forest foxes get..

The Finnish House:
This house features a sauna, which enjoys a high demand among fellow students. Any motivated student with half a brain could develop a smart pricing system to offset his or her negative balance in the Wine Account.

The Color of Money House:
Located on the banks of the Seine, this house features a full size American Billiard Table and enable you to open your first night club and casino, test your newly acquired game theory skills and entertain lightly dressed ladies.

The Watermill:
This house was probably used as a d├ęcor for the French feature “Les Visiteurs”. Situated in lovely Moret Sur Loing, in the middle of the river, it comes furnished with an immense wooden table, stone walls, Middle Age fireplace and hanging shields over the front door. A few kayaks are kindly made available to future tenants wishing to fulfill their desire to set foot on the continent.
Back from months of travels, having to pour a bucket down the toilet in lieu of a flushing system, not having to risk death by electrocution to shower, not having to avoid tap water as a protection measure against cholera seemed like extreme luxury to me. Well, well, well. I had not yet taken possession of my living quarters for the months to come. The electrical system is extremely interesting. Lamps are connected via apparent wires that need to be plugged into a wall socket. One of them just exploded in my hands the other day and wasted a fuse.

I did spend a few days in Fontainebleau to look for houses but by the time I was back home, all my prime choices were gone. Since I was going to travel, I did not want to wait for renewed choice options and thought that for a few months, it would be ok to rent through the Internet. My flatmates agreed. After all, they had selected me from the Internet already!

A note in passing: INSEAD offers NetVestibule, a restricted website for accepted students to exchange information, where strange posts such as the following one make their appearance:

"Housemate Search Warrant
Indian Fakir and French Baguette looking for exciting housemates to complete menage-a-four or menage-a-cinq INSEAD plans. Equal opportunity affirmative action requires us to look for a he and a she, preferably neither Sari nor Saucisson."

My 2-cent advice to prospective students: if you get an old house, make sure that it is properly maintained.
Another week in School…

Oh my God, another week has gone by and my exams are coming up. Like everyone else, I feel like I am lagging behind in pretty much all the subjects. However, I find myself in a stress-free state, largely enjoying the environment in which I have been transposed.
A few words about where I live
Part of the INSEAD experience is spending a year in (wealthy) French countryside. I live in a little village North of Fontainebleau. The local church is a 12-13th century church that, allegedly Voltaire attended on his first communion day. Last Sunday was quite interesting. Very elegantly saddled horses were lined up in front of the Church. I thought “Oaow, some people still actually ride horses to go places in this country”. Inside the church was a line of people with costumes stolen from a James Ivory movie setting. Black leather horse boots, impeccable white trousers (very surprised that these people managed to keep their pants clean for more than 30 seconds in the vicinity of horses), navy blue jackets with silver buttons, white shirts and for men, a beige silk tie, whereas women wore a beige silk scarf.
Reward System
In our Organizational Behavior class (leading people…) we are taught that reward system are very important and must support the objectives of the business.
I really love the reward system at school. In Finance, the professor has made an effort to bring to class samples from the companies that we study (cases). Last time, our case concerned Heineken and the best study got a pack of 6-bottles of beer. I am curious to find out what we will get when we hand in the case entitled: “Boeing 777”. A multi billion dollar aircraft?

Am thinking of trying to convince the Stats teacher that we must now verify the claim of alcohol percentage in wine bottles.
Useful Lessons Learned in the program

1- Never bet real money with a statistics professor. Odds are against you.
2- E.I (Emotional Intelligence) is more important than I.Q (Intellectual Quotient).
3- Every teacher is trying to convince you that his or her class is at the center of decision making in business, in economies in general, and in fact, in the world at large.
4- We studied correlation between various sets of data in our statistics class and the teacher ran a survey of INSEAD students. She gathered data about age, height, weight, GMAT scores, GPA (grade point average), sex, nationality (French, English, North American, etc…), shoe size, etc, etc…She then ran some simulation to show us the correlation, or absence thereof, between factors. For instance, GPAs are not very linked to GMAT scores but weight and height move in the same direction. Our group tried to run the same simulation to check out the correlation between the variable ‘English” and the variable “sex” but we came up with a negative result.
Since then some people commented that this had to be incorrect as they believed that these two variables were independent

Salaries after school seem to show negative correlation with grades while at school. This is very good news for me. On top of that, INSEAD has a relative grading system so I have just learned that my grades are going to be some random variable on a Normal Distribution curve. With all this randomness in the air, I think that I can concentrate on what I came here to do: study…

5- Stats is actually a fun class. We had to decide whether M&Ms’ claim that in any bag of M&Ms, 10% of the chocolate chips will be of green color, was true. In order to do this, the teacher distributed a pack of chocolate chip per person. Here we are, 80 MBA students counting out 47 chocolate chips in each bag, and then the number of green ones…
When I was studying science and stats at university, it was a class full of monstrously big formulas that I had programmed in my scientific calculator and just pulled up on an as-needed basis. In this class, scientific calculators are forbidden! We must calculate probabilities based on probability tables of various distributions. The purpose of the class is to help people deal with uncertainty, apply statistics to predict outcomes and make informed decisions, while quantifying the risk. So for the first time in my life, I think that I am actually enticed to understand statistics.

6- If there is a Normal Distribution curve, where are the abnormal ones?

7- One of the group exercises in which we had to do another truly important project, such as building some elaborate vehicle to crash an egg from the first floor to ground level with no breakage, featured instructions in unusual languages. The instructions for each group were written in Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Russian, and Arabic. I think that one group had it in Norwegian.
8- Typical Answer in an executive finance class from a typical student (banker): “I do not care about shareholders. First off, they are disgustingly rich already, Secondly, they are stupid”
9- In an ethics class, we were asked to reflect upon the following problem:
In Asia – where corruption is part of day-to-day business life – a quality inspector from the government asks for two things in return for a favorable report
a. a plane ticket to see his ailing mother
b. a talking blanket for his evening (or cash equivalent)

Reactions were very interesting. Let me pick a couple

One student proposed that the talking blanket be sent to the ailing mother to keep her warm using the plane ticket
One student asked about the going prices of talking blankets in this region to see whether the request looked reasonable or not

10- No Mutual Fund Manager is better than chance and most strategies at picking funds are as good as tossing a coin. Even if you put 20 monkeys and ask them to throw darts at a board to pick the right stock, you can find a Buffett Monkey.
11- Stats class confirmed the efficiency and fairness of the financial market. A blind-folded monkey throwing darts at a Wall Street Journal stock listing has the same probability to pick a good stock as any odd investor in the world.
12- If a Sales Person tells you that sales in this market follow a uniform distribution it means that he or she has no clue. According to prof, a uniform distribution of variables is a mathematical expression of ignorance. Very deep.
This period, I have the following classes
- a quick introduction to General Management
- a quick introduction to Ethics, Cultures and Value (and an Ethics day)
- Corporate Finance
- Prices and Markets
- Uncertainty, Data and Judgment
- Financial Accounting and Analysis
- Leading People and Groups

To look at the bright side of things, I did sit my language exam – oh yes, INSEAD has a strict language requirement. Every student must speak three languages in order to graduate – in fact, one of the students from last promotion “forgot” to sit his language exam and has not yet been delivered his diploma. Actually, I just spent a few months traveling to brush up my third language skills.
Having peeked through some of the possible questions at these exams, I was starting to panic as I could not even answer the questions for the exam in my mother tongue. However, I found the actual exam truly easy, I got some obnoxiously high mark which probably does not correspond to my actual skills. According to my language marks, I am now fluent in three languages.
INSEAD might be torn between the desire to maintain a high standard of international flavor while being able to attract great people and for a certain country which will remain nameless, a language requirement might be a deterrent. All in all, an overwhelming majority of people in my section is perfectly bilingual and a lot of languages are spoken in the corridors.
In fact, I think that one guy traded his brain for a microcomputer. He speaks 7 languages quasi fluently.
I have met with most of my teachers by now. They are French, English, Greek, Romanian, American, Canadian, Spanish, and German... if I include the poor PhD students who need to dedicate a couple of hours of their time every week away from their precious thesis for tutorials.
The teachers start really slowly – only for the first class – which made me furious: am I investing all this time and money to spend 90 minutes calculating the Present value of some future value with a fixed discount rate? Or to calculate the probability of X being greater than some_value using a Binomial distribution, as I was being taught in High School…Surely not.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this was to last only for the first class…
Welcome Week
The first week is a series of presentations with a few classes scattered around. The Dean says hello, the Career Management Services say hello, the alumni association says hello. I say hello. We get to pick up our 25 kg course pack at the library and we religiously shop for the various student materials. At the end of the week, they send us off into the forest where we have to walk around rocks blind-folded to pick some tennis balls and carabinos, we must get 12 people through a closely-knit net and various other exercises…

It felt so weird to go shopping for folders and notebooks at the same time as a flock of French kids getting ready for the school term. The school is taking care of my jetlag, between the various presentation and the first case studies, work takes me into early morning hours…Burning the midnight oil has ceased to be an ethereal expression.

Walking around school and talking to a few people, I get the impression that everyone else is much better at everything than I am. Doc, is this normal?
I am a freshly arrived INSEAD MBA Participant – the Dean insists on calling us participants instead of students – and I thought that I had nothing better to do with my time than gather some thoughts on the Internet. More seriously though, the purpose of this log is to share impressions, feelings, facts, ideas... For those who are thinking about doing an MBA, this modest series of anecdotes might provide some insights into the life at school. For those who are doing an MBA right now, this might be the source of endless fun…
INSEAD ( is an international top tier business school. There are well over 50 nationalities represented in the student body and most of the faculty is also international. The school has two campuses, one in Fontainebleau and the other one in Singapore and offers students, sorry, participants, the possibility to switch between campuses. It has a partnership and exchange program with Wharton.
In other words, this program is some kind of round the world ticket. Some people might argue that, given the price of round-the-world ticket fares these days, they can do the same for much cheaper or many times over, or choose to stay in a 5 * hotel every night, which is a discussion that I will not fuel.