Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Happy New Year to all of you. I have been collecting thoughts and stories around my Southern France trip which I will be posting soon.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I have finally made it to the South of France - relaxing mild temperatures. The entire country was supposed to go skiing this weekend but the highways were surprisingly empty.

The country has put in place a very sophisticated speed radar system. Logs your speed and mails you a fine within 48 hrs. Highly accurate and completely automatic. Beware.

I still have a ton of things to do before I head off to Singapore - and I need to worry about Xmas organization now.

Happy Sunday everybody!

Friday, December 19, 2003

Anyone who despairs about the variety at the cafeteria must try the Christmas lunch. Delicious!
Drove a friend to the airport yesterday. A taste of vacation. A couple more things to do and I am off.

Finally...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Heard in Marketing Class and Faithfully Reported

"Men like to talk about the size of their tools, so let's make them bigger!" - student explaining the attributes of Black&Decker "power tools"
you have two cows. the government take both, hire you to take care of them and
sell you the milk.


Although whenever I update my To Do list, I seem to increase its size. I am slowly getting ready to leave Fontainebleau. Glancing over the low sun beams pouring a timid touch of light across the trees of the forest, the thought of the end of P2 is slowly sinking. I feel sad and ecstatic at the same time. Sad to leave so many good friends, so wonderful and extraordinary people. Sad at not been able to phone them up for a quick drink at the creperie in Rue Grande, for a long walk in the forest. Ecstatic at the idea to discover a whole new world, to open the door to more possibilities, more faces and more stories.

My travel agent called. My flight to Singapore got cancelled. The airline is trying to find me another flight, leaving after the 1st of January. My ticket is obviously unchanged. I already have a train booked at some ungodly hour in the morning to return to Paris on New Year's Day but I will just hang out with friends in the capital. A lot of people from INSEAD will celebrate the New Year on the Champs Elysees. Hopefully, in the process, I will get a direct flight instead of some clumsy Paris-Amsterdam-Hong Kong-Singapore hula hoop.

Nice goodbye party - even professors were attending it, playing around like the rest of us, happy bunch.
Nice Christmas decorations.
A time to recoil in peace, take a deep breathe before plunging again into the magic of the program.
I have a couple more meals to go with my mates before I can officially say that P2 is over.

I am also quite shameful frankly at not having yet taken the time to visit the Chateau in Fontainebleau, a marvellous piece of architecture. Something that I must remedy before I leave. Tomorrow will be as good a day for a bath in culture as any other day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Some of the Januaries are already here for math courses so it feels like I should drop a note about ythe first week. You will be completely swamped with administrative things to do, although the school is extremely helpful and will direct you into all sorts of directions. You will be surprised at the weight of your course pack, the weight of knowledge.
Most importantly, you will start to get a feel for what INSEAD is about. You will be amazed at the international diversity around. Make sure that you do not miss out on this fantastic aspect of the school. THIS is what you cannot replicate anywhere else in the world. This is UNIQUE. What INSEAD gives you is much more than a mark on a piece of paper with the Dean's signature at the bottom. It is much more than a set of tools. INSEAD is an open door to the world. It gives you the wildest ride around the globe.

Do step into this community. Be mad. Be bold. Use the network.

As for me, I am stepping out for a little while. After our FANTASTIC section champagne party yesterday, a very short night, numerous drinks, lunches and dinners that I have gone through in the last 24 hrs or so, it is time for a break.
I have had an unexpected conversation with someone whom I respect greatly. Someone notorious in his field. Someone who has opened a new field of opportunities for me to get lost in. Has anyone ever felt in possession of something precious, something easy, something that you hold in your hands but that the wind wants to blow away. A permanent gift that you must make available to everyone.

A writer is like a painter who paints figures for ever. Every minute of his life, a writer goes to the simplest word, to a field to cut some grass. A house is not four walls nor a fence but the book of a day, of an hour. Where something, where anything can disappear - where anything can come back. When your eyes leave the book, they should go out and meet somebody else's eyes, feel surprised in a garden, bite into some fruits.

Words have a voice that you can hear from far away.

I have lit a few candles. I am all concentrated in the smoke of these little fires.

What would I do in a world where questions wage war in cold hotel rooms, where faces are damped by the neon lights? What would I do in a world where nobody ever ponders at the moon, where no inner agitation comes forward? I can't dwell in a silent ravine, home of hectic whispers. Ugliness must end like the crackled song of a word with no history. Voices can confidently kill its echo away.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Good luck to every INSEAD student sitting the Marketing exam right now.
Finance down.

It felt like I was writing a dissertation rather than pumping up numbers through my calculators. I could do the maths and I am supposed to be good at blah blahbing but I am not sure that I can tell which way share prices are supposed to go if you mess up with some arbitrary data. This exams was a lot about intuition. If you lack intuition, you had better be a good politician.

Finance exam was OB Re-loaded:
Structural Lens: please price this two-year European Call Option using some blah blah nuymbers, and tell me whether you can fight back OPEC using forward contracts to hedge against oil price variations
Cultural Lens: if you were an investment banker, how would you value this? What would you suggest in terms of capital structure? If you were an investor, by how much do you think you would be exploited if the firm raises equity for this new investment? If they go for a debt more senior to the one that you are currently holding? When should you start jumping out of the boat and run for your life?
Political Lens: how many words can you use to talk your way through a subject you have no clue about while managing to sound interesting, concise and clear - and oh so intelligent that even your expert audience cannot get to your point.

Apart from that, I vote it the most creative exam of this series in terms of name invention: Mr Entrylevel does not qualify for Executive Stock Options (poor guy, he has to go through the trouble of calculating the replicating portfolio using company stock and riskfree borrowing), the company Vidivendi (in a lot of trouble right now) was in desperate need of your help as it tried to alter its payout policy and introduce some dividend payments, before the CEO heads off to jail, you need a statistics tutor to deal with the up and down factors of call options on the shares of Heteroskedasticity Inc and Nofrills airlines was facing tough competition from Fixedwing.
The most unimaginative name was Start Up Inc, an "entrepreneurial company" contemplating the most common problems to all startups: raising funds. How about "launch pad", "Fresh Start", "Naive Illusion", "Short Lived Hope", "Apply for an MBA"...ok. Maybe not.

So, keeping all options open, if the cum-dividend price of the share of you debt remains at $43,000 / 5 periods, how many drinks can you buy at the local bar to drown your disappointment at receiving an INSEAD warrant calling you again, in the futures, to buyback your pride and put up a fight against equity again. Alternatively, you are proposed to issue a tender cash offer to smooth the edges and hedge your bet.

This cash offer will be fairly priced as a forward contract with a finance professor to agree on a strike mark beforehand, at the beginning of the period. Or used to buy a call option on grades and exercise it only if it falls above 2.5. After all, the assumptions for BlackScholes states that the expected returns of stocks are normally distributed, our z-curve will nicely do the job.

Maybe I just straddled, making grand plans about being a finance wizard and not doing enough about it...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Heard in Class and faithfully reported
- "So, where would you find the share price" - Finance Professor asking a student about a convertible security problem
- " I just look up in the paper"
Sunday afternoon. Studying finance at the library with a bunch of other monkeys. Not much to write about. One last little effort. Exams are coming to a close. Break is looming up on the horizon. I have decided to spend Christmas in Southern France before heading off to Asia. I heard that they eat 13 different desserts on Christmas Eve to symbolize Christ and his 12 apostles.
Section Champagne party planned on evening of last exam - everyone that is caught with a cell phone ringing in class must donate a champagne bottle to the section, including professors. We all get together at the end of every period to drink them all! Was invited to dinner last night but found myself so crunched with revision work that I could not attend. Pity because it was organized by one of the students that I most admire in the school for his breadth of experience, his audacity, his width of knowledge, kindness and pure brain power. He won't be going to Singapore and isn't in my section so he'll be heading off to another section champagne party. That dinner would have been a great way to say goodbye.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The way things are going, I am just going to pitch a tent on a Singapore beach and hope for no rain. Better get my act together in terms of housing!
Speaking of creperie, we met with a friend at Te-Koz, a tiny creperie downtown Fontainebleau. It is run by a couple of elderly people, out of their living-room. I really like this kind of restaurant. Profits clearly are not the main motivation for these people, as I doubt that they are making much money with the few scattered tables around the lot. However, the atmosphere was so warm that it transported me into rural Brittany at the beginning of the century. Yet, the charm was broken by the loud conversation roaming in English over the vapors of Cidre Brut and of crepes flambees. Back to INSEAD - joyful faces, wild smiles, brilliant minds. Gossips.

How hard will it be to get back to a real life?
Where I stand now can be summarized in one word: WEEKEND.

During the MAC Exam, there must have been some really tricky word because a whole continuous string of French people walked down to check something in the dictionary made available by the proctor. They probably also all got to that question at the same time. At times, the MAC Exam felt like MacDonald's as I was surrounded by munching and crunching noises. Some people just cannot get away without food for three hours.
What else can I say about this exam? I finished it - although I am totally unsure about the validity of any numerical result that I have written down. Like the Price and Market exam, I must have swum in ignorance dressed up in realistic thinking. The general feeling is that it was quite bad for most people, so I am not too hopeful. One peek at the newspaper reminds me that it is only an exam. Nothing to really worry about.
On the surface, it was a very fair exam, all questions addressed points that we had covered in class; some transfer pricing decisions to achieve goal congruence, some product portfolio decision and an illustration that product profitability cannot be completely assessed by just any costing system. Some activity-based, practical capacity, proportonality and death spiral inter-twined with a touch of subtility in how the numbers were presented to get to actual capacity, Overhead rates, etc...

OB Exam: I will not spend any time mulling over it, as my condition of facilitator, random help and conclusion writer did not allow for all perspectives. One of my groupmate has perfectly summarized this exam in the e-mail header that she fired to all of us:
I quote: "final copy - nice one team. never enjoyed an exam so much"
It brought back vivid industry memories though...

PoM Exam: from everybody's account, it was an easy exam - which is no good news for anyone worrying about the z-curve. There again, only what we covered in class in its plainest form. Quality Control, Supply Chain and Inventory Management and Process Improvement, Little's Law, Wait Times, etc...etc...

As my housemate would put it, the most important characteristic of this week's exams is that they are all past.
Finance and Strategy left over for me. I got invited to an accreditation dinner on Monday night, whatever that is...The section is meeting for drinks tonight. I might extract my brain from heavy option payoff diagrams and pay a visit to this creperie.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Two exams down, three more to go. Somehow, the significance of such exams have been extremely reduced by the pressing need to spend time with these people I care about, these people that I admire, these people that I respect. And these people that I might not see again after the three campus policy at INSEAD tears apart the promotion.

I have met with several of my friends, all turning down an offer for a drink - which is likely to be the tip of an unhappy iceberg. Courage friends. Keep your head up and continue to confidently march forward.
It is very difficult to know what to do in such situations. Call or not call.

Because these friends' responses are leaving me with bitter feelings, I will shorten this session to the bare minimum. I will write more about these exams tomorrow. I will finish off my revision with the last past exam paper before tomorrow's exam.

Maybe, I will call.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

An extremely helpful reader has sent me the reference to an RSS feed for this blog. Quite a few people had requested that already so this person is very much echoing a popular demand.

I have somehow tried to include this link in the blog template but I am not quite sure whether this is helpful in any way. Here is the tip from this inspired and able reader.


You can also go to
Then enter the URL of this blog in the RSS Ecosystem tab, ticking the Discover RSS Feed for this blog box.

Many thanks.

If you have any comment about things that you'd like to read about, style suggestions, action suggestions (chats?), drop me a line. As our MAC professor would grandly put it: "I am here for you."
Many e-mails were exchanged between my section mates as we are nearing the time of goodbies. I have selected one that I have received for your enjoyment. Possible exam question. Would the sender consider starting a blog?

"It was a dark and stormy night as O. sat down at his desk and went over his notes again. There was nothing to it... he'd have to retake POM, MACC and OB again. As he contemplated the half empty bottle in front of him, he sighed listlessly:

"Well", he thought, "it looks pretty dire from where I'm standing. I mean all these classes starting at 8:30... just couldn't do it. Then there were all these games, you know... How am I ever going to pass? how will I survive another exciting period?"

In desperation, he opened his designed desk drawer. Listen to the sound of quality... this was a 6-sigma piece of furniture, not this Ikea crap. He started to feel for the gun, a very special weapon indeed; it had been purchased from a multiple division arms dealer, a lean operation applying transfer pricing policy and operating at 80% of excess capacity. The positioning had been perfect: "The gun that won't let you down". The targetting... well... no need to comment. There was no way he was going to miss the shot... Still, he figured, just one more try...

O. calls you and asks for advice. What should he do?

Please provide your answer in font 12, double spaced. Make sure to consider what O's goal is and provide an analysis of his real options at this specific point in time. Examine the situation from all thirty seven perspectives covered in class.

Good Luck ; )"

Every student has received an e-mail explaining the exam procedures. Exams start tomorrow (Leading Organizations, Managerial Accounting), Friday (Process and Operations Management), Monday (Finance, Marketing) and Tuesday (Strategy).

< beginning of quote>

Your P2 exam number is 1935601837465

Make sure you check which amphi it corresponds to using the table below:

Amphi P N° 1 to 43
Amphi B N° 84 to 153
Amphi C N° 154 to 193
Amphi D N° 194 to 233
Amphi BCG N° 234 to 275
Amphi H N° 276 to 289
Amphi F N° 290 to 303
Amphi O N° 329 to 370
Amphi E N° 371 to 391

Am I to infer that anyone with an exam number greater than 391 will receive a subsequent email pointing to an exam location
- on the Singaporean campus
- on the Wharton campus
- on the moon

The school quickly corrected it. Some people say that this should never have happened. I am not so severe. It is nice to have an opportunity to laugh in such hectic exam times.

Wish me luck.
Zipping along the road to the beach...
Got my flight...and a big dent in my budget
Applied online for student VISA in Singapore - very efficient, quick and easy. A marvel of technology, this SOLAR system.
Got about 456 quotes from shipment companies but haven't had time to go through any of them yet
Still looking into housing.

On the housing front - I am proud to announce The Return Of The Plumber!
but we must persuade our cleaning lady to stay with us, as we left her in front of a closed door on Sunday, too absorbed by our revision, stuck in the library and totally oblivious of our obligations.

I was at the bar the other day and this video link with the Singapore campus bar is still active at odd hours (middle of the night in Singapore, I take most students were either -working ; - at the beach; - at a bar in town; - by the pool) and blasts away images of empty seats at some outrageous communication rate. Surely, this is not the best use of tuition fees. Why not keep such precious funds to encourage cross-fertilization between clubs and other cross-campus initiatives?

And kudos to the Sherlock Holmes Septembers who could identify the primate imposter.

Back to PoM revisions. Pretty Ostentatious Mess.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I have handed in all my assignments. I am currently working on the exams that we have at the end of this week.

OB - after looooooooooaaaaaaaaaads of pizzas, my Italian co-writer and myself organized the essay according to the following structure: 1) present the role of a firm in society, mainly from an economics perspective, define the other actors in society (government, human capital) and stress the interactions between the various parties, all animated by a desire to grow and better themselves. loads of examples. 3) mention the fact that all this would be fine and dandy were it not for the fact that we operate in a close environment and that, humanity, like gas, start to be compressed in this limited volume. This already created the need for various "referees", putting themselves outside of the game and worrying on longer term perspectives. Examples. 4) given the reality of exponential and uncontrolled growth, incompatible with such limited resource, we touch upon another dimension of all the actors' responsibilities, around social and environmental aspects. Examples. 5) conclusion and proposal for the future.
Not much one can say in less than 6 pages but hey! Pizzas were good.

Latam - I benefited from reviews from someone working for the Bolivian government who has been extremely helpful. I met the person while travelling in Latin America for a few months. Our paper (written with a Bulgarian January student) has 4 parts: Background of Bolivia, history/geography/socio-politics (me); privatization of pension scheme: rational, initial results, problems and potential solutions (me); political problems caused by proposed gas exports through lifelong rival Chile to the US and Mexico, stirring a lot of emotions and causing the ousting of a president, problems and potential solutions (partner); problems linked with the Coca Eradication problems, led by the US - which leaves numerous peasants without a living and creates a lot of resentment toward Washington. Some 35 odd pages, quite complete and well documented. It was extremely interesting to take a macro-economics view but it came at the worst possible moment in the year as most of the research was done in the midst of exam revisions.
I also miss to see why this class is called "Strategy in Latam". From the contents, I would have simply said: "Latam".

Strategy - this was a group assignment. It was my turn to do the write up. subject was the new easyGroup venture: easyCinema. Industry analysis was not too difficult and we have become very efficient in working together as a group.

Finance - for efficiency reasons, some "experts" in our group have very largely contributed to this assignment...

I have done most of the past papers in MAC - that is, I have attempted to do most of the past papers in Managerial Accounting - apart from one which I am keeping for the day before the exam. I have prepared my A4 sheet which I might modify to add more examples.
I am working on Process Operations Management today.
We are meeting with the group to discuss how we will proceed for the OB exam, which is a 4-hour long exam, at the start of the series.

I will concentrate on Finance/Strategy after the first wave. Like our Finance professor puts it "I am assuming that you won't get till Finance until late, so I am offering to be on campus on Sunday afternoon to answer any of your questions".

Cold Clear Beautiful Winter Days.
European Union Organisation Chart

in heaven :

policemen are english
cooks are french
bankers are belgian
dancers are spanish
lovers are italian
and it is all organized by germans

in hell :

policemen are french
cooks are english
bankers are spanish
dancers are belgian
lovers are german
and it is all organized by italians...

Monday, December 08, 2003

In response to a comment about grades: see post dated Saturday, November 08, 2003 and Wednesday, October 15, 2003 (archive link) for an explanation. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail. I cannot speak for the administration, you would have to ask them directly and they are very clear and open about their position, this is a personal stance.

Grades are relative and normalized. 50% of the students will be below the INSEAD average, which is no reflection on their actual skills. The importance of grades is a very personal thing - and most people are clear about their position in this respect. I have found people very open and non fussy about their grades, and despite the competitive character that such a grading system confers to the school, everyone is being helpful to everyone else. In fact, given the level of excellence at the school, I was surprised at meeting such unassuming and easy-going people.

INSEAD does not disclose grades to the public, unless a student requests it in writing because a job offer is conditional on accessing his or her transcript. Traditionally, it seems that investment bankers have put more emphasis on grades than other sectors. I'd expect a good interviewer to be able to assess a candidate's potential without looking at grades which are a very artificial and poor representation of a complex human reality.

Grades are a useful means for Ithe school to control and monitor "learning" - although to be honest, there can be little correlation between the amount of stuff you learn and how well you do at an exam - which tests how well conditioned you are in responding to MBA-like questions. The Dean's List does provide an opportunity for people who excel at academics - and I stress academics - to put something extra nice on their CVs.

I doubt that people select electives only based on grades - some do choose certain electives based on the workload to balance it out in any given period and to free up some time for some of the "other" stuff, which is also an important part of school life. Especially since the year goes by so fast.

Take a long term adult perspective. Choose the electives that will bring you the mix of learning/fun/work-life balance/interest you are looking for. Decide early what you want to get out of the school - be clear about what you can replicate elsewhere and what is so unique about INSEAD. And most importantly, consume without moderation and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Alone with my thoughts. Insecurity, soft likeness to flower. Not enough time. Too much time. Anarchy of the seconds. So many wasted. Soft, beautiful, painless silence. So free. Quick it comes, fast it goes.

Clouds hanging over. Interesting. Talkative. Clouds in my eyes. Haze in my looks. Cotton worlds. I like the way they look now.

I am a grain of dust vanishing in winter. The wind mutters inside me, flows over my feet, holds them down, pierces my clothes. The wind is drawing curly figures on the surface of the water. Like a signature. Like an invitation for agile spirits. Infinitely vast. Splendid and blue.
My classes next period in Singapore.
- Macroeconomics
- IT Systems
- Power and Politics
- Career Dynamics and Self-Assessment
- Strategies in Asia-Pacific
- New Ventures and Business Models
- Strategic Alliances, Mergers and acquisitions

Well. If I had the time to take them all.

The choice of electives, and the subsequent bidding, can be complicated. Several situations arise:
- You know what you want to do after school and you are picking the technical or "softer" classes that you need in order to complete your toolset
- You have no clue about what you want to do and you are positioning yourself at a high level, acquiring general perspectives which will allow you to adapt to any problem and develop your own set of tools when the time comes.
- You are thinking about the uniqueness of the course and you are taking the electives that cannot be replicated anywhere else. For instance, it is possible to replicate a good Finance professor anywhere else, and the international character of the class is not best illustrated in a finance class. It is difficult to replicate such a high quality international environment and an organizational behavior related class, which heavily draws on individual's experience, would be quite unique at INSEAD
- You want the highest possible grade and you will pick subjects that you are confident about. As a result you might also have a lot of time to dedicate to extra curriculum activities
- You want the maximum level of learning and you will pick subjects that you have no clue about

Most reasons are a mix of all the above.
The meeting with Lucky was one of these unique INSEAD moments. I think that the French say "qui se ressemble s'assemble". I found Lucky much more careful in his analysis, much more rigorous in his approach - although our choice of subjects is very similar, our approaches vary greatly. When Lucky graduates, this variety will be missing. Regardless of how unsettling it might be to send off thoughts into the anonymous immensity of the world wide web, voices capturing the essence of the INSEAD experience are essential – as insider’s knowledge is bitterly missing from school documentation. What best conveys the impact of a moment, the extraordinary character of the program, the richness of the diversity of experiences but a number of independent voices, all dipping into the same sources.
Whether you are at INSEAD now, or whether you will be starting soon, either in Fontainebleau or in Singapore, note that writing is easy, a source of endless fun and does not take as much time as people might think. It is also comforting to take a moment to gather thoughts and impression, to let the day fill you up with its magic, to distance yourself for a second from the seemingly uncontrollable stream of events happening around you.
Do not hesitate to drop me (or Lucky) a line if you’d like to discuss this. Otherwise, take a deep breath and plunge into Cyberspace!
Remember that, when you get here, you might be victim of what I have called the INSEAD syndrome: Individual Neurons Suppressed by Excessive Application of Diversity. Writing helps you maintain your strong identity, not feel overwhelmed by a transition to this whirlpool of talents – while at the same time sipping quietly the most enjoyable cocktail of nationalities.
One other item floating around the table was about the relationship between the writings and the readers. In this respect, Lucky is very customer-focused, very conscious of the need that needs filling and systematically addresses the informational gap that persists out there. I would be more torn between the desire to faithfully reports anecdotes or share various thoughts that have sprung out of this environment and the necessity to remain a free thinker and an independent writer. The former aspect is reflected in the choices of subjects covered; the latter in the spontaneous character of the reporting. I am also arguing that as soon as this string of letters is released to the public, it does not belong to the author anymore. It becomes part of the readers’ heritage. Reading is the internalization and personalization of someone else’s story. The more content is suggested in any illustration of reality, the more subjective the recipient’s response in order to complement the account. This can be partially what explains the discrepancy between the idea that we are forming around a reality presented in writing – and the visual experience that it depicts.
The story will be multiplying as people rush back into their lives, with a copy under the arm. All different, all united in the adhesion to the same letters.
It was a privilege to meet Lucky. Thank you for a high quality blog that delivers information to applicants and newcomers, excellent fun for current students and a nostalgic feel for graduates.
Got it all wrong again. Our Managerial Accounting professor was born in Russia...Please correct your geographical map of P2 professor origins…

Bureaucratic Socialism:
you have two cows. the government take them and put them in a barn with everyone else's cows. they are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. the government give you as much milk as and as many eggs as the regulations say that you should need.
I organized an outdoor trip with INSEAD students. Went shopping with an Indian person. We splitted the list of items to buy. On his list was
-For 8 people and 4 days
- Cucumbers
- Butter
- Biscuits
We ended up with 15 zucchinis, 3 squared butter packs of 1kg each and over 25 biscuit packs.

Long pondering over such a discrepancy between my own purchased quantity and waste conscious shopping habits and this apparent abandon, I found the solution in a suggestion through a discussion with other Indian mates: in India, if guests manage to finish off their food, it is horrible news. It means that there was not enough food. In Western cultures, if guests do not manage to finish off their food, it is a very bad sign. It means that they did not like what they ate.
Some dinghy sailing was organized on the Seine nearby. This mainly consisted in avoiding big cargo ships moving large volume of cement up and down the river. Gone are the days of a pleasant picnic on the left bank as pictured in many an impressionist painting in the Orsay museum.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Heard in class:
"there is a cost of touching the customer" - Managerial Accounting Professor
"I like touching the product" - Strategy Class Student

"this ad was clearly about dating. I mean, it says that you can take a girl for an evening out in this car and it will be ok. Was I the only one to get this message or what?" - Marketing Class: student expressing reaction to Skoda commercial.
Heard after class: 5 male students have shared with me their decision to buy a Skoda.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The other day, I had lunch with someone whose writing I admire a lot: the other INSEAD blogger (see link on left-hand side of the page, I haven't yet figure out how to insert a HTML link in this window)

It is strange how words can portray a vivid picture of someone’s beliefs and doubts, while concealing any other real life aspect of this person. On the one hand, one feels familiar with a writer who puts down on paper his heart and soul. On the other hand, one feels remote as all these writings shields out the spontaneity of the moment, and all these little details that make our world so complex and enjoyable.

One of the questions flying around the table was about the choice of my name for this blog – one that I cannot blame on my parents, this time.
I had to find a name that could
- mask my identity
- be stupid enough so that people would remember it
- be somehow related to what I am learning here
I looked at our most creative and insightful professor, our German Finance professor for inspiration. I had the choice between a rocket, a finance monkey, ring ring, matter and anti-matter and poof. Finance Monkey seemed to be the best choice. If I had waited until P2, I could have been Death Spiral.

Must dash off as I have class. I will write more about my lucky meeting.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

And the winners are...

1. Latin American Week
2. Iberian Week
3. Italian Week
4. Chinese Week
5. Africa Week
6. Australia / New Zealand Week
7. British & Irish Week
8. Eastern Europe Reloaded Week
9. Greek - Turkish Week

Well done everyone! The presentations were a lot of fun!!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

This week is CANADIAN WEEK – pancakes with maple syrup, a hockey match on the Fontainebleau ice rink in town, and of course a big Winter Carnival party at the end. On Friday night, it is also Winter Cabaret – in which students put up some acts. Probably a lot of fun! I have not decided which events I will be going to yet. I am torn between the need to study hard for the exam and the desire to spend as much time as I can with my fellow students before I disappear off to Asia.
A 2002 Wall Street Journal article offered the following interesting views from University of Colombia professors (ex Stanford and ex Harvard)

Point of view #1: Capitalism, American-style had some real problems: it could be a force to enrich people everywhere but in practice it has hurt many of the world’s poorest countries and emerging markets, it has pushed austerity on those countries that needed stimulus, led to huge volatility in financial markets and sometimes is only a proxy for cheap access to the world market for the US. For instance, Africa was made worse by trade liberalization, because trade was opened for services exported by rich countries but remained protected in the areas where Africa could compete, such as agricultural goods, textiles or construction.

Point of view #2: Trade and financial liberalization should be beneficial to everybody as world markets will progressively reach an equilibrium point.

Which side of the fence do you sit on?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Saturday night was the Winterball at the Chateau des Conde (http://www.chateaudesconde.com/), a beautiful and imposing castle near INSEAD. This was a black-tie event which only reinforced the magical character of the venue. Apart from the very minor detail of a cloakroom located a few hundred meters from the actual ballroom causing many a lady to catch a cold, everything was extremely well organized. From a relaxing drinks in a lavish Moroccan room with a small number of INSEAD student performing low-key quality ambiance music, to the exuberance of the main ballroom with provocative dancers, percussions, saxo man and Funk’n’Bleau INSEAD.
Champagne served all night – with your weight in chocolate handed over to you in large balls by white-gloved waiters walking around the crowd. The food was not fantastic and the vegetarian choice was basically “the same plate but I will remove the meat part” but all in all very acceptable given the difficulty to cater for so many people. It could not tarnish the quality of the company and the setting.
I am leaving for Singapore and I do not know whether I will come back – I am looking at all these people that I will be already missing – and I have not yet been able to meet the great majority of them! Despite the rush for the P2 exams, the workload with the final cases and papers, it is so important for me to spend time with all these friends that I will be missing bitterly at the other end of the world. All of them so incredible – yet so simple in their approach to life.