Tuesday, April 27, 2004

NEWS FOR ALL OF YOU!!!!

'Dear all,

We are very pleased to announce that GS, YM and AM of the INSEAD Singapore team, won the L'Oreal eStrat Challenge 2004 edition in Paris. Starting from Rank 5, they caught up with all the teams with their final presentation and came ex-aequo with the Kellogg team. G, Y and A are all from the Class of July 2004. Please join us in congratulating them on a job well done! Congratulations team YAG!

Their interviews with CNN, France2 and Business Week, as well as pictures of the final will be available soon on the following web-sites:
www.loreal.com
www.e-strat.loreal.com'
I am in Brunei today. I was planning to stay until tomorrow but I have decided to shorten my experience as I have run out of things to do.

The town comprises of the Sultan and 60,000 of his closest friends. Everybody is very nice but after 8 hours of wandering, I probably have seen all the Mosques in town, the water village, tried the nicest restaurants (that I can afford, this place ain't cheap), I have lost my way a few times back to the hotel as all streets looked alike. The palace is open to the public only at the end of the month of Ramadan which is not now, the biggest Mosque is a while away and it would cost a fortune to get there. I walk like a frog that was given human legs after my Kinabalu adventuresso any long distance exploration is painful. The free amusement park is closed on Tuesday nights - just my luck!

The country is rich - and they have a monument for the billionth barrel of oil discovered on their land. People are extraordinarily kind. It is amongst the tiniest countries in the world, it has an elaborate welfare system, tax-free wages and a subsidized economy thanks to the goodwill of its devout benevolent monarch - who is a very active man by all means. People here enjoy free healtcare, free education (and they have Education Day as a holiday to underline the importance of getting one), free sporting centers, low interest cars and housing loans. Independent since 1984 (nothing to do with Big Brother), the country is now trying to find a second source of income. They are trying tourism but given the price of hotels and transportation here, and how little there is to in town, they have quite a while to go before they can convince people to spend more than one day in the capital. The rest of the counrty is great: beaches, rainforest and loads of parks. Unfortunately, without a package tour it turns out to be quite expensive as one would need to rent a car.

I also found the city so ordered, so perfect - the people so kind. For my taste, it lacked the spontaneity of a child, the natural enthusiasm of someone that is discovering life, the passion of a Spaniards, the loud chant emanating from an Italian. Somehow I found that the purest joys of life seemed absent. I heard no laughter, I saw no open arms and embraces. Everybody is quietly serving everybody else and their generosity takes a very discreet form.

I have a question on my mind, what will happen when the current Sultan passes his power onto the next generation?

Anyway, back to another small wonder of island in Sabah - some natural park gem with turquoise waters and wonderful swimming - for yet another lazy day on the beach.
Vacations feel very empty after such a busy time in the MBA program. Maybe it is only a warning for what is to come after graduation. Some sort of cheese souffle that collapses, when all the excitment leaves space for an established working life.

No! I will not let this happen! Whatever job I choose, it will have to be challenging enough to keep my spirits up!

Strange how last term was balanced between course work, job search and an increasing amount of time chasing around friends and classmates. P1 was a lot more about class work, finding my marks in this new universe (and Fontainebleau - quite a challenge!). What will P5 be?

Inceasingly I realize that Px, Amphi R, CMS, etc...all INSEAD-only terms. They do not exist out there in the real world. We really have transposed ourselves into an artificial universe, we are floating in-between two waves. The wave of reality which is coming back at us with sharp biting teeth and the wave of excitement and learning which is turning into a waving goodbye kind of things.

All this is a little premature anyhow. Next term has not even begin ! Let us concentrate on these moments of fun, surprise, intellectual and cultural challenge! Let us appreciate the depths of the INSEAD experience.

I know that this is a bit late, but I am starting to wonder what the acronym INSEAD actually stands for. Hopefully D isn't Dummies.

I am jobless, homeless - and broke. And happy. Would this be the beginning of insanity?

Monday, April 26, 2004

A member of INSEAD staff and one of my professors have Id'd me. Congratulations. If I hear that Dr Watson is retiring, I will certainly make sure to put forth your application as Mr Holmes' personal assistant, clue finder and bad mood bearer.

Does anyone think that this is reducing my chances to honorably graduate from this institution - and of getting the elective that I want?

I mean, one could imagine a professor thinking: "No way, I am getting this Monkey business into my elective. I don't want to have my genius moments damaged up by some empty-brained ape in the public domain"
So yes, I am not completely away from e-mail. I am in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia and I have located an Internet cafe. So much for the pervasion of technology in Earthy paradise.

After my last days in Singapore seeing off people or saying my goodbies to my Singapore friends, which entails a lot of presence time in the Next or New Page bars, in the Liquid Room or Velvet, I waved sadly at the tropical economic miracle, buckled up on this taxi driven by the rudest person on the planet before I found myself in Johor airport for my second Air Asia flight.

This trip did not start well. The Singapore driver who left us at the border stole S$30 from us. Great. I hate when these things happen. I feel sorry for the guy - and just hope that he will feel some sort of remorse and better conscience.
Anyway, it is about 6 in the morning and we catch this flight ok. We first enjoy the beautiful views over the islands of Borneo (three countries fit in there: Brunei, one of the richest countries in teh world, Malaysia, a promising bestseller and Indonesia, one that might be competing for the lowest growth ever) before catching a minivan to teh mountains and relax in some Hot Springs resorts (very disappointing setting after the joys of Tabacon Hot Spring Resort in Costa Rica).

Then things got worse. There was a problem with accommodation at the Mount Kinabalu National Park and they lost our reservation. No confirmation number would solve the problem, so we ended up having to stay and start our hike from Masilau Nature Resort. The hike up the 4000m high mountain would be 2 extra kms for us, INSEAD folks.

The first 6 kms were delightful, in the middle of teh rainforest, over little dangling bridges - some sort of cheap and riskless Indiana Jones endeavor.
The next 2 kms up the mountain hut were awful. I thought that I had seen more steps that I could ever bear in my entire existence of poor mortal while trekking up the Inca trail in Peru but Kinabalu presents itself as a very serious contender. It is also a real highway with loads of people running up and down (ok, so crawling up or slipping down) at all times.
We also seriously understimated the distance, hoping to see the mountain hut only 4 hours after we began our perilous journey. It ended up being 6 hours after, since we took this longer but nicer route. Now breakfast for me was very light. I am a vegetarian and I was served sausages, eggs and other various meat products, all local and all perfectly fine I am sure. I had to content myself with two pieces of toasts and a little bit of greasy butter. My system was petitioning for more food at noon time, as well-trained as it could be and complicated my ascent by all sorts of growling noises, located in the middle part of my tummy. Finally, as I was drawing close to exhaustion on the slopes of this unforgiving peak, counting the trees out of boredom and hoping for a better life when I graduate, the refreshing and welcoming pre-fabricated mountain hut showed its friendly face and open arms.

And these arms had to be open to swallow at once 35 Ringits for a night and some 20 ringits per meal. The hut is operated by a semi-permanent staff and dozens of people every day who climb some 3000m with food, bottles of water, etc...and climb down with used mattresses, rubbish...I am stunned with admiration at these poor souls who are probably getting half a ringit per hour and who submit themselves to such harsh conditions. Exactly like I felt on the Macchu Picchu trail when the porters who always left the camp AFTER us, reached the next stop BEFORE us and carried some 25 kgs on their back.

After so many hours of self-humiliation, we could enjoy a well-deserved rest and the most expensive meal in Malaysia before heading off for a nap. Breakfast will be served at 2am.

In our dorm, the fight with the Heater From Hell started. A special contingent of British, Chinese, French, German, Greek and Americans all fell for this evil person who had decided to turn our resting time into a horror story by blasting uncontrollable hot air into a small stuffy room. Opening the windows to let the freezing cold air in, opening the door to welcome the smell from the kitchen and the noisy rumors of restless climbers did not suffice. We had to resort to manual regulation of the heat flow.

After such an event-free half night, we get up all fresh and enthusiastic about the climb. We are all ready to set world records, dodge the yeti and engage in a mountain domination venture.

The climb is remarkably easy. There is no need for a flashlight since 2000 people are climbing the mountain at the same time. Just pick up a group and follow their light. Star light did wonders too on clean white volcanic stone. I even saw a shooting star!
We reached the top way too early - our guide already made up stop in the warmth of the checkpoint.

We froze to death before witnessing a masked sunrise - as a majestic river of clouds withdrew the Father of the Inca from our fragile sight. The scenery alone justified our heavy adventure. There we were standing above a sea of clouds and non-engaging peaks, atop the highest peak in the area - feeling satisfied with ourselves - even though I clearly need to become a lot fitter, 4 months of laziness hasn't done any good to my overall shape - and filling up our lungs with the clean fresh altitude air.

A time of renewal.

That was before we climbed down the 2000-odd steps on this highway, all the way to this entrance gate, which we conveniently missed the first time round. My friend suffered an injured knee and had to climb the trail backwards. It took her 3 extra hours, during which I was waiting randomly by a bus stop, hoping that this thick mist that had formed as I was going down was not going to transform itself into heavy tropical rain and wet everything that I held precious in a nano-second.

I guess that I must mentioned that I did most of the trek with Murphy on my side. My hiking shoes, 10-year old companion of the most crazy adventures on foot- gave way and dissolves 3 hours away from the final destination. My feet were wet because internal soles are not waterproof, sore and bloody because each rock was carving its little nest in my flesh. Yet, it broke my heart to part with this travel buddy, this pair of old-timer walking boots.

Anybody witnessing our descent from the glorious height of this moment of brief climbing glory would have wondered why INSEADers walked funky on mountain trails.

I stopped to rest along the way and within seconds was surrounded by rats - little ferocious rodents on a quest for more food. They had long relinquished their belonging to the wild environment of the tropical forest and were getting ready for a feast that counted the numerous disillunioned climbers in its value chain.

Note that I escaped death on many occasions on this trip.

Firstly, I nearly died of hunger on the way up
Secondly, I faced a horrible death, as steamed monkey in the dorm room of the mountain hut
Thirdly, I contemplated the end of my existence as an iceberg at 4100m high
Finally, I fought vigourously for survival as this squirrel rats attacked my open plastic bags

This is omitting the risk of being crippled by hours of climbing down nearly barefoot a cruel cruel mountain - trying to fly as much as I could to avoid getting my feet wetter than they already were thus multiplying the risk of breaking my legs as I would cascade down 10 steps in one long haul slide.

Let us think for a minute. There has got to be a good reason to sue somebody and never have to work again in this lot.

Anyway - I am just back to the bottom of the fence looking up to a harsh reality: I have no job. So I was just being creative and finding ways around it.

Today's lying on the beach at some of the most beautiful beaches of Borneo was certainly a delight, after an invigorating walk up and down hotel stairs. I cannot feel my legs but this did not prevent the most interesting looking fish to come and nibble at them as I was snorkeling past the coral reefs.

Tips:
- When Kinabalu park officials tell you: the mountain hut if full, it means that it is too late to climb. The hut was not full, we asked people who spent the night there.
- "where are you coming from" and "where are you going" is one and only question in Kota Kinabalu. It means "do you want a taxi?"

Being on holiday, albeit in some of the most pleasant places in the world, surrounded by smiling and helpful Asian people, feels so weird. I just wander purposeless in the streets, trying to remember what assignment I might be late for, what my role in this world could be, and whether I would need 1 or 2 eggs for each 250g of flour if I prepare crepe dough. All these material considerations that every MBA participant should carefully reflect upon on a continuous basis.

Anyway, this same stomach which failed me so miserably on this hideous mountain is claiming its due once more. I can hear it ask eloquently for a sacrifice. I must therefore leave you to these deep and voluptuous thoughts, and go hunt for my meagre dinner.





The Internet is a fantastic machine. Here I was, in Malaysia, enjoying an ice coffee in the tiny airport of Johor Bahru and ready to take off to my first exotic holiday destination when I realized that I had forgotten to book a train ticket after I land in Charles De Gaulle airport. I will end my vacation with a lovely 3-day weekend in Southern France, swapping rice for tomates provencales and a little bit of this rose wine.

So I booked a train ticket for the French Railways, from a Malaysian airport with a US credit card.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Everyone is wondering where I will be spending the next few days, away from phone, away from e-mail, away from everything!

In Borneo and Brunei, the B&B of South-East Asia

First I will teletransport myself to the remote province of Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo, attempt the 4000m high Mount Kinabalu at night with a friend, then relax in a monkey-filled rain forest before heading to the golden cage of the world's richest man: the Sultan of Brunei where beaches will no doubt tempt me into a day of farniente. 7 days of paraside before my last couple of days in Singapore to wrap things up before heading back to France for May Day weekend.
We received the following note from our exchange students at Wharton. They received an e-mail from the Dean of the school.

"Hello everyone,

I'm writing to share with you a concern expressed by many of our faculty who were dismayed last Spring to see their last class turn into rambunctious and inappropriate celebrations of the end of the school year.

Faculty approach their last class, as they do every other class, with clear goals for your learning and expect your full engagement with the class. I ask you to respect these goals and to maintain the academic decorum of the classroom.

The end of the school year is indeed an occasion to celebrate, which we will do together with faculty and administrators during Spring Salute on Thursday, April 22, at the end of classes.

Best regards"

What a difference with the informal character of INSEAD MBA classes, faculty and administration - note that I did not say unprofessional !

Here I am winding down everything - I packed, shipped some stuff back to France, I met some people for the last time in a long time - still have a dinner to go. I closed my bank account with the feeling that I was accomplishing something irrevocable. After the end of P1 and P2, there were big parties, everybody got together, desirous to spend one last moment with the class before venturing off to greener meadows. Now it seems that people meet in smaller groups, set up their vacation plans independently, return to their families more often.

It rained earlier today - and that is a perfect mirror of my state of mind at this time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

We had a fun discussion at lunchtime. One of us is going to Shanghai and wanted to find out about the best places to meet young dynamic executive women. We will not question his motives here. Since he took this negotiation class with the 7 elements (communication, relationship, interest, options, criteria, commitment and alternatives), he decided to develop a negotiation pick up line. The conversation would probably sound something like this:

Hi my name is Nego Master and I thought that we could spend some time working on our relationship. Since you are not responding, it sounds like nothing is getting in the way of our communication so I will move straight to interests. This is the simplest part of the conversation - I have a very simple one and I will be very open about it, which I hope you can reciprocate: I need to fall in love for four days while I am in town. I am of course considering several options from Internet dating through to matchmaking agencies but I thought that I would run the risk to get lost in stupid positional bargaining that would only threaten the relationship aspect and my ego - come to think of it, my nego too. I thought I would really need to be on top of things and a direct approach with a face to face discussion seemed more appropriate and should contribute to deeper levels of understanding. So I will use a simple criterium: money, in the form of income, investments, real estate, father's income... It is straightforward, easy to measure and neutral. Now, I don't mean to force you into any kind of commitment but I must forewarn you that I have identified an alter native girl who won't be able to wait much longer. So what say you?

I take bets on his chances of success.
It looks like this school really needs to sort out its IT system. The Intranet - including the Recruitment part of it and the Alumni Directory and Site - was down for well over 48hrs. Today, it is impossible to access e-mail from any of the public terminal through the Internet. It is not the first time that this is happening. Often the network is extremely slow, showing signs of size limitations - e-mail accounts are deleted and created whenever there is a switch in campus, thus risking loss of precious data. It is very nice to provide classes about Information Technology and Management for global companies. It would be even nicer to apply these same principles to its own organization.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Breaking News today on Singapore News Channel: a highway collapsed.

From what I got, it was next to a work area for a new MRT station. There was a problem with some gas pipe, an explosion and 200 to 300m of the Nicoll Highway on the East Coast collapsed. 1 person is hurt, 4 people are declared missing (perhaps under the road) and my taxi driver tonight told me that 1 person was dead.
The images were shocking. The explosion made a 40m wide crater, the road is basically cut in half. it looks like an earthquake happened to drop by.

Quite terrible - it makes it difficult for me to appreciate the virtues of excellent vegetarian food offered by the Original Sin, at Holland Village.
Tonight - apart from spending the entire night writing my last paper for this term - I will have a lovely lovely lovely dinner with my ACF group for some Absolutely Crazy Food. Time for me to say goodbye. My housemates are throwing a goodbye party for me! Isn't this nice? Whoever tells me that German have no sense of humor and no sense of service needs to meet my housemates.

Oh my God...Only a few days left.

I went to confirm my flight at the Singapore Airlines office on Orchard Road. Business Lounge with 24hr news while you are waiting. Raffles Class and Cattle Class self-select themselves at the entrance to make the whole process more efficient. Each person waiting can read about culture tip in Singapore. Here is what I have read:

Business Meetings:
A long term relationship is expected with Asian so do work on building a personal relationship with your contacts. Consider in your dealings that Chinese culture has a great influence on Singapore's business style.

- When making introductions for the first time and in formal meetings, always use the person's title and family or personal name.
- Business cards should be exchanged upon meeting and treated carefully, Ideally they should be given and received with both hands. Upon receiving a card, do not write on it, do not just drop it in your briefcase, or stash it in a folder. These actions could be misconstrued as disrespect

- despite the tropical climate, long-sleeved shirts and ties are the usual calls

- With Malay associates, mainly Muslim, avoid conducting business on Fridays and during Ramadan. Never serve alcohol or pork. Indians do not eat beef and most of them are vegetarians. The inviting party usually pick up the bill. The other party can reciprocate the other time round. There is emphasis on equality of sexes. Spouses of both sexes do not usually attend business functions, unless specially invited

- Gift giving is a common way of expressing thanks. Small business-related gifts such as a pen with the company logo would be sufficient and not considered corruption. Gifts are wrapped, presented and received with two hands. They are opened after the presenter leaves. Gifts with conotations of severance such as knife symbolize conflict and should not be accepted. Letter openers are an exception. The number 4 carries a strong association with death so it is important not to give anything in a set of four. Clocks are also inappropriate for Chinese as the Chinese word for clock has connotations of death. For your Malay associates, avoid products made from pigskin and alcohol as these goods contravene the laws of Islam.

Singaporeans might arrive late at social parties but being late for a business appointment is paramount to an insult

Business breakfasts are rare in Singapore. Lunch is preferred and can take quite some time. Do not schedule anything between noon and 2pm

If you make a faux-pas, apologize! Singaporeans are cosmopolitan and will not take offence if they understand that you come from a different culture. Ask for their advice, they will gladly help!
Still no company in sight for our Entrepreneurship class. We were supposed to dedicate two full months to the analysis and we have not closed our search process yet.

Where is this ideal deal in which the buyer really wants to sell thinking:

“Who would want my flee seeking and my live-larvae based native food restaurant business today? The market’s dead. My office is outmoded. It would require $2bn to repair and modernize my silex factory. The light system look like old-fashioned stroboscopes and the place is badly located for shipping as it sits in the middle of the jungle, some three days by boat and 2-day walking under a heavy canopy from the nearest regional airport. Even the land is not worth much as the whole area is being threatened by deforestation. Maybe Starbucks who could make a business of selling ice coffee to passers-by who do drop by every other month or so? Oh no! There is no parking space in front of the dining room and I guess that the average income of the Capuchin Monkey, despite being on the rise since the WWF became interested in the area, remains too low to support the kitchen renovation costs. Maybe my only hope is to transform it into a gigantic warehouse? If the government could build me a highway in the neighborhood, it would help."

Monday, April 19, 2004

Walking back home - saw this horrendously big hideous cockroach about 2 feet away from me, running as fast as it could on its miserably short legs for such a disproportionally big body TOWARD me. Fool!

I didn't get a chance to time myself but I think I beat the 100m world's record.
I am getting a lot of questions about Insead Vs other school these days. I cannot compare as I cannot speak for other schools. So once more, in a nutshell, here is my very very very personal opinion. Go challenge it.

Plus
- two campuses
- international community (faculty, alumni, participants)
- faculty
- focus on entrepreneurship, practical stuff
- good return on investment
- good general management program
- friendly, well positioned, truly global and ultra responsive alumni: regardless of where you are, you will find some Insead alumn in the world ready to help you
- collaborative attitude
- innovative
- small
- Dean argues that it is good that it does not belong to another university as it is granted independence, I'd argue that for students if has drawbacks (see below)
- Pascale
- very strong name all over Asia
- National Weeks
- Rugby Team
- Accommodation in Singapore
- consulting
- quality of log offs
- one year
- P6 around entrepreneurship for motivated entrepreneurs
- wine at the canteen
- Singapore Airlines

Minus
- small
- one year
- CMS and OCR (it is changing this Clearly Messy Service under the leadership of an ultra professional new director)
- IT (especially for a global school)
- aggressiveness and brand management "out there" - best marketeers are the alumni though
- difficult to drive change (quick turnout)
- difficult to build sense of community vs other programs (more intense but only one-year and loads of movement between continents)
- Fontainebleau in wintertime
- Singapore in summertime
- only B-school (since it does not belong to a university)
- more difficult to build critical mass in any one place because your alumni network is stretched across the world
- banking recruitment for July class members who want to switch sector and move into banking (as apparently summer internship and heart of recruitment period in the fall helps, but I am no banker so please take this with salt - and I saw a lot of banks offer application deadlines very recently so dunno how much of this is true)
- public transportation in Fontainebleau
- rice every day
- France Telecom monopoly

I don't know where to place the almost exclusive network that you are likely to build while at Insead. Because Fontainebleau is so remote, because the local community express itself freely in French and painfully in English and unless you take upon you to learn Boar Dialect (would that be boring Boarish?), you will hang out with Insead people, day in and day out...
In Singapore, it is easier to go out and actually get to know the other 4 million people who have chosen to get wet feet on one the most organized island in the world. They do speak English, they have not seen a boar before and they don't know where Fontainebleau is. Still, most of (free) weekends will be spent on some heavenly beach, face down in the sand and there is a clear tendency for Inseaders to travel with only 20 or 25 of their closest classmates.

And boy, I was just reading some of these latest posts. I got the wrong tradeoff between typing speed and accuracy - my grammar is going haywire. Need to sit back on some of these PoM classes.
I find, dear Reader, that you have grown accustomed to my hectic pace of MBA life. Those of you who are office workers and find yourselves reading this incisive and decisive journal during a coffee break might take note of the fact that I am preparing a holiday to some of the world’s most exotic destinations.

Meanwhile, I have taken to arriving at school later than usual to prepare for a change in rest time, in anticipation of my prospective holiday and new life as a reborn active contributor to some country's GDP. As an immediate notable consequence, I am far more refreshed when I do arrive – and I avoid the line at the bar for breakfast. It also allows me to schedule important business meeting at breakfast. Today, this bar was graced by the presence of our New Director Of the MBA Program. She arrived not at all business-like and has already adopted the Fontainebleau time policy, heavily based on the fashionable French habit of arriving about 5 min late to all meetings to avoid the embarassment of being the first person on the dance floor. I find her quite dedicated to the cause of the school and have benefitted on many occasions from her spontaneous non-bureaucratic counsel. She has also demonstrated a superior ability to improve the harsh conditions of her paying customers who desire to reach the higher spheres of superior knowledge as she made the conscious decision to face possible humiliation on a golf course with the December class. Clearly, not everyone would sacrifice an afternoon in a freezing cold air conditioned office fighting with incoming e-mails for a lovely afternoon outdoors in a tropical area ust to find out about their customers' needs.
She is also going around participants to find out what the hot issues are with the intention to make them part of her personal change agenda. If you are a participant or an applicant and find that some improvements would significantly improve your experience, do not hesitate to let her (or me) know.

I am still in the process of adapting myself to the idea that I will soon return to the working world and it is important that I find good role models to emulate.
Insead’s IT system was down for over 36hrs last weekend - a breakdown in any system can be accepted by all. Such a long response time is questionable. I also experience a very slow network and e-mail connection on the Singapore campus which leads me to believe that there is a serious bandwidth limitations across the network.

Most participants missed a job application deadline as access to the On-Campus Recruitment IT system is centralized via the school's Intranet. Let us hear what the school will propose in terms of a solution.

This prompted me to replace all records of class contents with brittle and yellowing paper, which most certainly constitute a fire hazard.
One of my professors has not returned our papers from last period. Last time I asked, there was a problem because he had to change secretary. I am not sure that I understand how this is affecting his giving us feedback but I will accept his explanation in good faith. Let me offer an alternative view on the situation – remember that this is a Power and Politics professor.

“Some students have argued that I was a partisan of Power and that I was coercing students into writing a paper at the end of the class. This is patently untrue. I support the concept of non-authoritarian consensus building, allowing these common mongoleums to develop their own relativist view around their personal political landscape. The boldness of my teaching concept is so deep that it has prompted a group of fundamentalist MBA participants to form a committee to demand that I graded and returned their accumulated essays. The French Unions’ way of protesting inspired the aberration of their methods; they organized a small demonstration outside my office. It was rather pitifully done. For being such simple pawns in the grand scheme of world political manipulations, they managed it quite well and in theory it would have been a magnificent move. Sadly they blatantly forgot the fact that I represent a figure of authority in this class and that such a clear aggressive strategic move would push me into retreat and lead me to refuse to give into their illegitimate request. As a result of such a na├»ve approach, I decided to hang onto all these papers. Let this be my fierce and firm response to their act of defiance against the abyss of ignorance evidently displayed by old-fashioned academia. I take that my powerful decision and uncontested act proves the superiority of my modern teaching methods.”
A few weeks back I was asked to give my opinion about the school at an MBA Open Day. I could jot this all down for everyone else to benefit.

INSEAD is really one school and two campuses. One is close to the beach and one is close to Paris. Both offer good food. One is not about Mainly Busy Academically and the other not only about Mostly Beach Activities. It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint Fontainebleau on a map – and Singapore counts among the smallest countries in the world, yet if you are finding yourself in a place where it is difficult to pronounce or spell the names of the majority of your classmates, you must be at Insead.

In fact, Insead is like this airport that has only a business lounge full of international frequent travelers. You can nearly imagine the call for class: “Your attention please. This is the final boarding call for the Strategy Class. All participants please proceed to amphi R and have your badge ready for inspection”

Participants – all Insead participants are active, serious – and do not wear suits to school every day. The school if fully of people making fun of their own stereotype like this Irish guy who once admitted to class that Irish do not just drink Guiness. They also drink whiskey, wine, vodka, etc… It is unlikely that you can assume anything about the history of any Insead participant. When you dig a little bit into their past, you’ll find out that the guy with this perfect Brooklyn accent has a Turkish mother, a Belgian father, lived in Malaysia for the past 3 years but would love to work in South Africa upon graduation. Then he might add that he has already sailed around the world and was an Olympic swimmer in his younger years. Whatever story you bring with you to Insead, be prepared to share it and discover many more stories that are just so extraordinary.

For instance – before Insead, I was living in a country where people pride themselves on being monolingual. With three languages, I thought that I was in a cool situation. No one to talk to but still, cool. After a couple of weeks, I discovered that I was belittled by my neighbor in the amphi who could speak seven languages, including all three that I was already fluent in.

What professors do not tell you because they could not justify their high salary – and Insead would have a hard time legitimizing their tuition fee increase on a matchmaking business model - is that you learn probably more from the participants than from the faculty. You will receive as much or more than what you give to others. My advice to you is to give with no limit.

The faculty is equally brilliant – and I believe that I have already said that at some point in this journal. At Insead, you will probably tackle problems that are critical to the world’s survival. For instance in our statistics classes, in P1, we found ourselves verifying the claim that there was 10% of green M&Ms in each little bag. I thought that the idea was brilliant and since we were in France, I tried to argue in favor of testing the hypothesis that most famous Bordeaux claimed 12.4% alcohol in their cru. Unfortunately, the curriculum sucks and my negotiation class was not to begin until P4 so I got fried on the spot and never got my proposal through.

Even though I know that some respectable members of the Insead grading community reads this journal on a continuous basis, I will talk about social activities, thus asking them to come to terms with the fact that MBAs do not concern themselves only with earthly academic matters but elevate their souls in the vapors of parties and build up a strong physical resistance through sports.
Work hard – play hard is the motto. Just don’t drink-drive.

Each school is different. There are loads of very good programs out there. Try to be clear about what you want while you are at school and afterwards. Bring to Insead what you have and expect to see your seed multiplied by all the others who will accompany you on your journey.

Board now.
On Saturday night, we celebrated somebody's birthday at Indochine on Club Street - a lovely high end restaurant offering Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian food. Excellent atmosphere, they brought us a guitar for the Californian Hippie among us to sing, they had this sweet little candle on the chocolate cake - and extremely refined dishes. Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Surrealism: you have two giraffes. The government requires you to take accordion lessons and send you to INSEAD
I can count the number of P4 classes on the fingers of one hand. It is nearly the end.

This Entrepreneurship Project goes all the way into P5 - and we have not got one single company worth the trouble of taking a look at their finances on our radar screen. I call this being late. The more latin in our group find it absolutely normal.
I went to Malaysia last weekend with three other friends from INSEAD, to visit a friend on the island of Penang. She spends some three weeks at a time in Malaysia every 6 weeks or so. She is based in Silicon Valley. In her company, they have long-term visitors and true expatriates. Some of the expat have left their family behind for a few years, to experience the golden cage of their condition – or the freedom of action and free spirit of a pioneer.

Penang offers the strangest mix between some heavy manufacturing operations, labor intensive that companies send off to a cheap country with more forgiving environmental laws and tourist activities (restaurants, bars, beaches and an incalculable number of temples, like the rest of the country). Whenever you talk to a taxi driver, Penang has the tallest Chinese Pagoda in the region, the biggest this and the most famous that but none of these monuments or sights feature in your Lonely Planet book. On the other hand, what they don’t mention is very present in the guide…

We had a very active schedule and often worked in two groups: the leisurely group and the touristy group. On our list
- Tour around the old colonial center of town on foot (about 3 hours): fort, city hall, Mosques, Chinese temples and family houses, etc…
- Chinese Pagoda
- Snake temple with a lot of vipers more or less dormant in the vapors of holy fragrance
- Botanic gardens (full of animals of all species)
- More Asian food courts
- Swimming pool and beach
- An interesting restaurant where you can just point a finger at a fish ‘your victim” and then have it prepared the way you want it (pure vegetarian are also catered for and the experience is a lot less oppressive for them)
- More and more temples (my TPA, Temple Point Average is still very high, I think that I have reached Dean’s List standards)

A small group – including your sporty author – walked up a little hill where we were greeted by dozens of monkeys, extremely curious. They all wanted to get close to the hikers and offered expressions that were so close to a human face that I can understand why Darwin’s theory is so popular. The hike could be offered by Singapore Sports Academy. It is organized in three steps, presents stunning views of the islands and of the rain forest and has full catering services – and hygienic support services – at each step of the way. Any dangerous portion is equipped with little steps to reinforce the natural path and some fitness equipment can second your training – if walking up hill does not do it for you.

We got seriously rained on as we walked down – dripping wet…but that's the kind of dangerous existence we, pioneers of MBA travels, lead in these remote countries, at the mercy of pirates and head hunters.
Job Search is progressing. In general On-Campus Recruitment for the industry is fairly disappointing as most companies have jobs that pop here and there but it would be extremely difficult for them to know when to come to campus to interview for those. The MBA-Exchange platforms also has its limitations. Many times you get not feedback whatsoever, not even for negative answer, and there is nothing more frustrating than this feeling of having sent your personal profile and a strong motivation letter into an empty hole.

What works really well is identifiying a geography and target companies (sector, culture fit, match in product knowledge, etc...). Then finding out among students, alumni and faculty members who might have contacts in these companies, and in this geography. This is of course, in addition to relying on your own network.

Everyone is scrambling for jobs but everyone is very helpful. I get responses, all straightforward and honest. Some of them contain another name that I could contact, some of them contain recommendations about the process, sometimes it proposes a phone call for more information. I regret none of my e-mails sent with this approach. Everyone has been so helpful.

This works also if you are getting an interview via FUTURE and you would like to do some research on the company to deepen your understanding of their culture, offering, practice. Alumni already occupying senior positions there very gladly spend up to 30 minutes of their time with you to answer your questions. Be prepared, have a list of questions so that they don't feel that you are wasting their time but sometimes, they will just pre-empt all of them and talk freely about their experience. You are not the first person to call. They are trying to help you, they are telling you how to prepare for the interview, they are honest about what they like/dislike at this company.

In any case, good luck to all - and congratulations for those who have gotten second rounds, or third rounds and even offers!!!!
Tonight, I have a Korean dinner with some friends that I might never see again...I am sad and happy at the same time.
Sad to leave behind all these faces, sad to leave behind Singapore and its impeccable organization. Happy to see again my Fontainebleau friends, happy to look at the future and take a quiet breath in the forest in blossom.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Since this term is nearly over - my schedule is becoming more and more hectic...

Tonight: dinner with German (starting his own company!) and Korean classmates
Tomorrow night: birthday celebration in town and salsa night
Sunday night: random dinner with Australian, Korean, French, etc...at a Korean restaurant
Monday night: good bye dinner with Dutch friends who reside in Singapore. nothing to do with Insead.
Tuesday night: goodbye dinner with my Finance group: Danish and Italian
Wednesday night: some sort of party
Thursday morning: off to mysterious holiday travel destination.

In the meantime, I must

- finish REP homework and get serious work done on project
- write up Transnational paper
- do last negotiation and prepare for negotiation exam
- pack up and ship some stuff
- organize my holiday
- job search

Easy right?
Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!! A French friend has brought some chewing gum. I have now a little collection of sugar free gum.

I have not had this in months.

Delicious.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

I had a chat with a professor on the diploma committee. He talked about this declining trend in women attending the programme. He said that it was very new (started to appear only in the last 2-3 years) and that its cause was as of yet unknown. Now, it could just be a self-fulfilling prophecy: as applicants look up statistics, they might imagine a hostile environment for women.

I can certainly vouch for the fact that Insead does not put up a hostile face nor offer a hostile environment for female participants in the programme. Academically, women do just as well as men according to this professor. I have found in general a lot of support, no discriminatory behavior - apart from an outside interviewer who bore no relation with the school - and a lot of activities that women participate in, in fact no activity that they cannot participate in. Seriously, there is even a women's touch rugby team! How much further does one need to go in terms of integration?

There is a lot of female faculty members, management and staff members - and insead seems to listen to everyone's interest and help whenever possible. Insead took the initiative to talk to women participants to try to find out from them what their impression of the school was, what they could do better.

Your ideas are as always most welcome.
Had a very interesting speaker today in our Entrepreneurship class - ex 3i for Asia-Pac. He talked about Management Buy-Outs, dos and don'ts, why it is so attractive and gave loads of great examples.

He had this whole jargon of Bimbos (Buy Ins Management Buy Out or Hybrid), Colombo (Colossally Overpriced Management Buy Out), etc...

When it came to Chimbo (some Chairman-related slang), the Japanese in our class burst into laughter. Turns out that Chimbo means penis in Japanese. And the guy presented this idea once in front of a room full of top executives in Japan!
What an embarrassment!

(actually, I hope that I am remembering this correctly)
Don't assume that humor travels well. A new member of an Insead department had already gone round study cubes on a couple of occasions carrying a lot of cookies, biscuits or various types of food. Today, I see her walking around empty-handed so I jokingly said: "no food today? Times must be hard."

2 minutes later, she turns up again with a piece of cake for me which she leaves on my desk. I tried to run after her, indicating that this was a joke and that really didn't mean it - that it was extremely kind of her to bring food to people and that was definitely much appreciated and best kept as her initiative. I apologize for sounding so rude and make my case a lot worse! There was this saying about hole digging right? She fled and sounded quite offended at my refusing the gift after making such a fuss for it.

So I accepted the present, decided to never ever joke about food with her in the future - and I will buy her a nice coffee as soon as I can. Not sure I am doing too well on the multi-cultural part of things today...In fact, I have also inadvertently forwarded an e-mail with the wrong content to the wrong person. Someone else did something similar with one of my emails...so much about these OB classes...
Singapore campus is so fun...Just received an e-mail from the director of operations (who was also trying to negotiate the rights to broadcast India/Pakistan cricket game in the bar at some point):

"Further to popular request and feedback, and to make the bar a friendlier place, please be informed that a selection of board games are now available at the bar.

Games available include Chess, Draughts, Monopoly, Scrabble, Othello and playing cards. Simply ask the bar staff for the games and leave your ID card as ‘deposit’.

We hope that this will be a welcome addition to the bar and it will provide you with other games than just the darts and baby-foot."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Yesterday evening, we went to the Night Safari, an attraction organized by the Singapore Zoo. A unique experience. There are three components to it
- Creatures of the Night show
- Tram Ride
- Walking Trails

I do not like zoos but this represents a fairly unique experience. So unique that it makes me want to share it with all of you.

Singapore makes business out of the impossible. A night safari is targeted at children, is offered in the dark, requires some walking, can be scary at times (if you do the Bats Walk), is all about putting people in close contact with dangerous wild animals, position customers in a prime spot for mosquito attack (my thigh has seen its volume double since last night) and must offer some sort of guarantee for catching good sights, when there are no cages for the zoo residents.

This would not work anywhere else in the world as it requires a lot of discipline both on part of the animals, and on part of the customers. In Europe, children would jump off the walking trail, reach out and touch the various animals, make a mess of the train, scream, take flash photography, etc...

The Show
This is no filmed show. It is a live stage show that features: wild civets running around and putting up a choreography with no one else on stage, some sort of half-monkey/half-bear egg eater that walk up and down a rope over the heads of a bedazzled audience, an owl that flies over the same scared heads a la Harry Potter, super cute otters that do a wonderful recycling job, the same civet that will nicely eat some candy out of a child's hand, a humongous python taht will wrap itself around the muscular body of a male representative of the scared assembly, hidious hyena starring on a podium and casting a lazy look around the seating members of the public, a fishing cat playing with a bird leurre and jumping as high as a good 6 times its height, some racoons fooling around with rubbish, etc...etc...all this with a nice running commentary by a fairly good acting staff, good light and sound support and a strong message: protect your environment. This is something taht YOU can do.

Tram Ride: the ride takes you around the zoo. Each spot is well lit. Animals are at liberty. You can see lions, tigers, stripped hyenas, giraffes, tropical deers, tapirs, ant eaters, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos, wolves, wild dogs, elephants, mouflons, otters etc....It is absolutely incredible to see how these animals show no sign of fright as the train moves up and down the food chain. the running commentary is geared at 11-yr olds and has a strong powerful recurring message around the 4 Rs:
- Reuse
- Recycle
- Reduce
- Replant
I like this very much: the rain forest is disappearing, 100 species a day disappear from the face of the Earth and this is a problem that YOU can solve. It is not happening a few light years away from you. Stop buying poached animals, recycle paper, plastic, etc...
Every spot is sponsored by somebody. I don't remember the name of every animal but I know taht Nokia is sponsoring the otters, Singapore Technology is sponsoring quite a few species up the food chain, Mobile One is sponsoring gazelle-like animals, etc...

Walking Trail
There are three trails, all with different animals: leopards and leopard cats, bats, micro or nano-monkey, dancing otter (I swear, one of them was just like Marilyn, SO cute!), sheep, bearded pigs, crocodiles, vulturs, scavenger storks, etc...etc...
They ask you to put a sticker on your chest. Probably to let the animals know taht you are no meat for them (I wish)
It really is a lot of fun and very very very well done. Everyone is polite, food and drinks are available at selected places, the tram can pick you up at several stations, teh staff is helpful and knowledgeable. We stayed from 9pm until closing time (midnight). They time this perfectly for you.

Remembers, this is an open zoo and it gives you a fake impression to be in the wild.

Before joining INSEAD, I travelled in Central and South America. I spent days in a row jumping around and camping in the hot sweaty and muddy jungle of cloud, dry and rain forests in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Ecuador (Amazon region) in the hope of catching good sights and of meeting a jaguar. I saw in 3 hours 20,000 times more than what I could see in the wild - although I must say taht there is something special about seeing somethng in the wild - with a lot less mosquito bites, and a lot more comfort. Although one experience cannot replace the other, this is a fantastic start.

and they have student prices if you bring an ISIC card.

Congrats








One of the best log offs of the year - thank you Tinbus for forwarding this!

"I am taking ACF and I have to admit that lately I have been quite puzzled in class. All this leverage, buy out, equity, APV, etc. terms are very confusing .....plus lately there has been this talk about this guy called Sr. Debt....could someone please help? Is Sr. debt a mexican or a spanish guy? How much money does he have? Where could I meet him? Is he hiring?"

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

For everyone wanting to travel around Asia, try

www.zuji.com

or Air Asia, the local EasyJet/SouthWest.
This morning, I had an 8am meeting at the local food court with my group to discuss our paper for the Transnational class. So it all happened in the vapors of curry and porridge, with humongous quantities of ice coffee.

We are analyzing a catastrophe scenario in the event of an ousting of the Saud family which will in turn cause oil shortages, since Saudi Arabia currently holds 25% of the world's reserves.

I must admit that I quite hate the subject. I find it difficult to bear violence in any shape or form.

I really like the breadth of knowledge of the person that I am working with, and it is quite interesting to see what countries would do to contain the crisis and to what extent it could threaten today's equilibrium. We can even isolate businesses to invest in should such an event occur.
We had the Danish ambassador come and talk to us today in our Transnational class. He was extremely articulate, had prepared a full speech about the Asian and European situation and took on questions that did not correspond to his area of expertise, or responsibilities.

Among other things, he positioned his speech stating differences between internationalism and globalization or internationalization. The latter being mostly economic and the former political. He gave the example of a teacher in Denmark who allegedly asked a pupil what internationalism meant, and whether it was good. The pupil replied: Lady Di.
How?
- she was a British Princess, with an Egyptian boyfriend, in a French city and a German car with a Dutch engine. her driver was on Scottish liquor. she was followed by Italian paparazzi and treated by an American doctor. Then she died.

Talk about international misfit ;-)

The ambassador warned us against the dangers of nationalism. In his view, it caused the death of 250 million Europeans and brought nothing good in return. He therefore hopes that Asia will not make this mistake and even though he cannot see the same level of integration in Asia as in Europe - he hopes that wherever possible, countries will institutionalize their relations to prevent them from falling into the trap of nationalism. He was quite pessimistic about the regions: countries that grew as large exporters of cheap stuff saw their growth curbed, Japan is not growing, China is growing and taking humongous proportions but lacks infrastructure and will have three big bills on its lap very soon with no money to pay for them:
- environmental issues
- energy - including oil
- water distribution

In contrast, Indian prospects were good. The country was growing steadily and building a strong base of knowledge from which it could derive value-add industries. For a long time, he believed that India was like a plane driving up and down the runway without ever taking off but he now thought that the plane had grown wings and could start going places.

On the European size, he does not believe that the integration of Eastern and Central Europe countries will pose a big problem because their contribution to the overall output of the Union is tiny. He stated that a key difference in Europe is based on people's preferences: in europe, people trade growth for social equity and welfare. They prefer to limit immigration, accept high taxes, lower pensions, etc...and maintain a high level of social protection. This limited the growth of the continent and contributed to a lower comparative advantage, which could have potential damaging consequences.
however, he did not believe that the continent would ever break up and he hoped that demographics trends could be reverse with an import of talent (which contradicts the trend against immigration argued by 10% of the population in countries such as Germany, Austria, France, Denmark). He proposed a Europe "a deux vitesses" (I quote) with France and Germany in the leading pack and everybody behind. He said that this would not affect political unity.
When asked to talk about the question of the acceptance of Turkey in the Union he said: the real question was whether to invite Greece in the Union or not. As soon as you invite Greece, you import the whole Greece/Turkey problem. Europe will probably start negotiating with Turkey. So long as it remains a secular state, a democracy and fulfills the basic requirements to enter the Union, it will be difficult to push this out further. Entering negotations which are likely to last for years (they lasted for some 7 years for Spain and Portugal) will allow the Union to test the robustness of reforms in Turkey. He thought that goodwill on part of Turkish people was not to be tested anymore, the profound changes that the country had undergone vouched for that already.

Finally, he did take a question on European position with respect to Israel. I must admit that the question was posed in a very narrow manner and with a jest of intolerance.

-"what would you say about the lack of support Europe lends to Israel? Would you call this an expression of anti-semitism?"

The Ambassador replied very diplomatically

After the war, Europe was feeling very guilty toward Jews. German treatment of Jews could not easily be forgotten. Therefore everyone but the Palestinian was for an Israeli state. Now Europe is for an Israeli state but feel that some of the more recent developments in the region on part of the Israeli goes beyond what was a legitimate position. Europe does not support terrorrism in any way either and therefore, support to a legitimate Palestinian state does not mean support to violent means to achieve this end. Europe, in his opinion, will never withdraw completely its support of Israel. By and large, Israel is what resembles most a European state in the Middle East and this is deeply felt by all European citizens.

I can now complete my ranking of ambassadors who have come to Insead based on their address.

Legitimate criteria are as follows
- clarity of speech (in English)
- content and analysis
- sense of humor
- ability to address questions outside the realms of their duties
- entertainment value

1- Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2- Danish Ambassador
3- Us Ambassador
4- French Ambassador

Maybe smaller countries with no evident military power grow better ambassadors because the need to resolve problems through negotaitions is more acutely felt.
Heard in an event with the women's professional forum and faithfully reported

"- investment bankers have an ego the size of New York City, so of course they like talking about themselves."

Monday, April 12, 2004

A student initiative - tomorrow...

Join us for a talk by an MBA, a fighter pilot who developed and ran the Israeli Air Force equivalent of TOP GUN (training school for the best fighter pilots) during the last few years.

He has kindly agreed to give a talk on the various air to air combat maneouvres that exist, what they are used for and how they are executed and any other questions you might have about flying fighter jets or being a fighter pilot etc. He will also be showing some real cockpit view footage.

This talk will probably last about 15-20 minutes, depending on the amount of questions.

Following the talk there will be a showing of TOP GUN, one of the classic films of the 80s involving some great flying sorties and amazingly corny lines.
I am lazily sitting in a comfortable armchair, two feet up on the low wooden bar table, caressing a hot cup of coffee and gathering my thoughts in the tumult of after lunch MBA discussions. I have escaped the unforgiving harshness of the tropical sun when my eyes catch a typical Singapore campus scene.

The main actor is the foosball table. It occupies a central position in a central location: the bar.

Whenever people can free up half a second of their time, there is this big rush toward the table. They is a championship, a website with tips, hints, best scoring team - It is really a big big deal.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

In countries with a strong Chinese heritage, you might run into dozens of people following a master during a Tai Shi session, in the morning. Slow and seemingly sleepy moves, resembling a growing tree through various stages of life, capture our Western eye - so unused to witnessing such a mass manifestation of public relaxation.
I wish a happy Easter to all !!!
I had a friend visiting from the US this weekend - nice way to celebrate Easter. We took a walk by the river in a blinding sunshine, and explored the intricate avenues of the Singapore History Museum. Since the country does not have that much in terms of recordable history - that is beyond jungle stage - the entire Museum fits in half a floor, above Brewerks.
Food is always good in Singapore and across the whole weekend varied between Chinese, Thai, Tropical and Indian.
Easter Mass did not feel like Easter to me - probably in the same way as Christmas would not have felt like Christmas if I were to spend it in a tropical climate. The Church was completely packed with people - there was a line to get in, even though four masses were offered on that day, and there had been an Easter Vigil Mass the day before. Children were given bags of Easter eggs at the end of mass - so sweet! The only trouble that I can foresee is chocolate turning rapidly into a big brown melted mess in dad's latest car.

On Good Friday, I made a point to go and see The Passion Of The Christ. All venues were nearly fully booked, so we had to go all the way to the airport to find a theater that still had seats. I went with French and Japanese INSEADers. We spent dinner talking about the Passion and why there were four Gospels, all different but all recording the same thing.
I had heard extremely negative accounts of the movie. At the end of the day, it is a piece of art and like every piece of art, some people will like it and some will not. So any taste-related or style-related comments are probably not workable.
I also heard other comments which I would like to address - I do not intend to fuel a controversial discussion.
1) it does not respect historical trend
Actually, I have found the movie following quite closely the Gospels, at times mixing and matching them, that is true. There is also one sentence that Christ pronounces which is not recorded at that time in the Gospel but which is present in the New Testament. I do not believe that the ambition of this film was to stick to any historical evidence but to be faithful to the scriptures. Evidently, this movie does not claim to offer the same sacred character and is tainted by an obvious human and artistic bias. Does this matter? Is the main message lost?

2) it is too bloody and show purposeless violence
There I'd like to make two comments. The scriptures say that Christ was crucified. This was not a pleasant experience by all accounts and for anybody. It was not pleasant for Christ either. Lower ranks of Roman society was used to Gladiator combats and bloody battles. Torture at that time must have been quite horrific and unsustainable. I do not know to what extent it is bloodier than what the real scene was - but I am quite sure that it was bloody. Showing such suffering could also be to recognize the magniture of the sacrifice. For those among you who are not Christians, this sacrifice was accepted by Christ - He fulfilled this mission out of love for human race. And no matter how harshly He was treated and how brutally He was put to death for a crime which He was innocent of, He forgave and loved those who condemned him, those who tortured and crucified him. And He is teaching us to do the same. If there is an emphasis in this movie on violence, inspired by the Horror genre, could it be to emphasize the grandeur of this sacrifice? Is this violence then purposeless?


3) it is completely unbelievable, no man can be tortured so much yet survive
Possibly, in fact, very probably. However, if the underlying assumption of the director - and Jesus' followers at the time - is that He is no man, but the Son of Man, the Son of God, God made man, then no conclusions that would be applicable to a man can apply to him. He also heals the servant's ear when He is taken - clearly that is not human! Is it more believable? He can also speak Latin which was probably not common among his disciples. Is this more believable?
All these can be interpreted as little artefacts to underline the divine character of the Jesus - throughout the movie, while respecting the facts described in the scriptures.

4) they wouldn't speak latin or arameic between us, probably Greek
I do not have sufficient knowledge of how wide-spread Greek was. I just assume that it required a fairly high level of education which perhaps some of the characters did not have. There might have been also the need to rally the crowds and the local languages might have been better suited for that as they would have been emotionally closer to their hearts.

5) there is no point to this movie
This movie is simply telling a story for anyone who sees no meaning in the Gospel. I am assuming that it feels like anyone reading the Bible out of curiosity to understand the principles behind christianity. For anyone who receives the Gospel as an act of faith, they now see it through someone else's eyes. It could be one way of preaching, an artistic way. Sharing the word of the Lord is a mission that all christian receive. Anyone might fulfill it in different ways.
For people who desires to listen to the message of love ever-present in the Gospel, they might feel the need to go back to the Gospel and get to know better this person who walked freely toward such a horrible death, for motives that would be incomprehensible to the average human being. There would be a point to the movie.
For people who have listened to the message and who have started to walk alongside the person who accepted to give his life for the people He loved - it is a conversation with another believer.
For people who do not wish to listen to the message and who are just watching the story, it describes events in an artistic manner - as faithfully as possible. The only point would be whether the story is well told? Could these people be moved by the inadequacy of a justice system that condemns an innocent to a criminal sentence? Could these people wonder about the influence of political events over the righteousness of a judge - and how much power the governor had to surrender in order to maintain a status quo? Has this happened anywhere else in the world? Who really had power? Would there really be no question and no point to this violence? And if there was no point - would it by itself raise the basic question of why it was even allowed? Where does this violence come from?
Yes, the director could have chosen to mask this violence, to suggest it. He chose not to. Some people say that nude sculptures are pornographic art, some people say that drinking one glass of wine is alcoholism. By magnifying the violence, the Director could magnify the bearer of the violent acts and his own feelings with respect to this sacrifice, which represents the foundation of Christian faith.

6) he just wanted to make a controversial film to make loads of money
Maybe! If that was his objective, was he successful? Has anyone felt obliged to go and watch the movie? If this is your view, and you reprove of this, a simple solution is simply not to fuel the controversy and not pay to see the movie. Is there something wrong with making money - especially if it is not the sole purpose of any enterprise and not at all cost?

7) it is anti-Jew and anti-Roman
Lower ranks of the Roman army were not nice people. Most of them were mercenaries. Now, the lower ranks of Hannibal's army presented similar taste. I am quite sure that the Vikings were not very subtle in their ways, the medieval ages produced ferocious battles - and throughout the ages countries and races can count their fair share of horrible practices. More recently the Khmer Rouges, the Nazis, the French catholics ordering the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew. Most people have some sort of horror story somewhere in their history. Yet, we must reconcile this with our lives, and understand our own boundaries. Italy is also the country of fashion, beauty, elegance and the source of numerous works of art - all world famous. It is ok to be ambiguous!
This film happens to depict an event which features the Roman. Go and see the Ten Commandments and talk about the Egyptian, Saving Private Ryan and talk about the Germans, La Reine Margot and talk about the French, Joan of Arc and talk about the English? etc...Some of the Roman characters do show natural human empathy, such as Claudia, Pilate's wife. If the movie is to respect the scripture, I cannot quite imagine how the director could have turned the Roman into Gengis Khan's buddies.

Anti-Jew? If we put everything back into the political contest of the time, Jesus was probably threatening the authority of the High Priests - does this mean that everyone was like them? These people had a lot of authority and were very respected. They happened to be Jewish since Jesus preached in that region - and because this is the land where the children of God were led to. There again, I am not quite sure how the movie could have been faithful to the scriptures and change the priests into the lineage of Pharao - then it would have run the risk of attracting the wrath of another community ;-)

Like for the Romans, can you generalize to the entire jewish world population that lives today and accuse them of willingly sending innocent people to death? Like for the Romans, many people in the movie actually show courageous expressions of care (the woman trying to give water to Christ, Simon of Cyrene who helps Christ to carry His cross, Joseph - a Jewish priest! - who asks Pilate for the body of Christ and who gives his own tomb.
And if you are Christian, you have forgiven already!

Maybe we could go back to the core message of the movie - actually the message of the Gospel. It is a message of unconditional love and forgiveness. The only true bad character in the movie is the Devil that tempts into doing evil anyone who allows for another message to compete with the Lord's. In fact, on several occasions in the movie, the Director portrays the demon (tempting Jesus in the Garden who chooses to crush the snake therefore accepting His mission, tempting the High Priests, tempting the soldiers during the scourging scene).

I went to see the movie with an agnostic, a buddhist and a catholic. They all found it powerful and thought provoking. The movie is based on the Gospel - but it is also a form of art and the expression of someone's idea. No one is forced to agree with what they see, nor like the movie and levels of understanding will vary with everyone's beliefs, everyone's personal spiritual inclinations - and will be dependent on how long you had to cover your eyes for during the show!
This term is nearly complete. As a recap for everyone, I took four electives.

- Realizing Entrepreneurship Potential. This focuses on people buying a company and adding value to it, from researching the field for an appropriate target, to deal structuring, valuation, financing to how do I make more money out of this business. It pretty much wraps everything that we saw in all the other classes, touches upon marketing, accounting, finance, managerial accounting, Operations Management, negotiation, etc...the prof was an ex-entrepreneur who could be elected the most entertaining professor in Singapore. He is also very much aware of the traps waiting for us out there and of the questions we might have before we formulate them. He is British, he speaks fluent French, very decent Spanish and knows everyone in town.
I recommend, even if you don't want to be an entrepreneur. This would work for any group you'd take over.

- Transnational Governance, Business and Society. Basically a class that talks about how politics is linked to business. Global Warming and Water Shortages, environmental issues, transnational organization such as IMF, World Bank, Devleopment Banks, World Economic and Social Forums, etc...NGOs, corruption, regional issues, etc...It is a very interesting class but not so applied to business as I would have hoped it to be. Prof is New Zealander but he has spent most of his life working and living outside of his country.

- Applied Corporate Finance - we did our final presentation a few days ago. We tried to make it funny (the CEO coming to the rescue of the company was portrayed as Zorro, the M&M proposition from Finance 1 was introduced by two women M&M from the famous candy family, etc, etc...) but we made a blatantly obvious mistake at the end when it came to valuating a call option. Anyway, this happens! The prof is French and is astonishingly good. He works without a net (no note), picks up on every little details, zooms out to gives us a high level intuition view before zooming back down again on the particular problem that we are facing. I have never understood so clearly the issues - and how to go around them - in modern applied finance. Congrats. A lot of work, but all interesting (it is not just about numbers) and fantastically rewarding. I recommend too! Even if you don't want to work in Finance. It is good not to be too fooled by bankers.

- Negotiation Analysis. Very hands on class (I will write about my non-negotiable), loads of external speakers, loads of class exercises. I think that this class gives you several things

a) it makes you aware of your strenghts and weaknesses as a negotiator
b) it makes you a better negotiator
c) it changes your view on negotiation - not a bargaining game, or at least, it does not have to be
d) it allows you to challenge a very narrow view of the world to change the name of the game whenever you enter a negotiation. I could experience it during our "difficult conversation" exercise. Because I did not react defensively or traditionally, we turned this conversation into a different process. We first negotiated this process, then made the meeting a lot more productive.
The professor is Brazilian and is SO good. Also with a lot of professional experience (and like the REP professor, he is an INSEAD grad) and this adds a lot to the class. He can talk about real-life situations and he knows the kind of challenges we will be facing.

I will have completed this term's assignment for our REP project by tomorrow. We will still be left with the group project until the end of P5.
I have handed in my journal in Nego, three negotiations to go, and a final nego exam
We have handed all our ACF projects, we have no more classes
I have yet to hand in my Transnational project, some time in the coming days.

And I have to find myself a cool job.
And I must plan my P4-P5 break.

And I must file my taxes...
Ethiopian Society: you have no cow.

Friday, April 09, 2004

I had lunch today with a couple of prospective entrepreneurs and we were discussing some business opportunities. I don't know how but the discussion hopped from NGOs to armament to porn business. Not really something that I was targeting yet, we have this conversation going and I must report this quote. Flew out spontaneously from the mouth of one of the two guys:

'- you know in the porn industry, the most interesting part is not Marketing. It is operations"
"- and there is no need for R&D, everything's covered in the User's Manual: the Kamasutra"

No comment.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Well, well, well...writing this blog, I like to think that I have honed my writing skills. Interviewing does to methodical oral expression what this blog does to your ink and feather handling skills. If you are offered the possibility of a late night interview via video link - don't take it.

a) you piss off half the multimedia support staff who needs to stay up with you until midnight and camp by the door for three hours just in case the equipment breaks down
b) Murphy isn't your friend but he's as sticky as a doughnut and the equipment will break down in the middle of the interview. Depending on how nasty he has decided to be, this will happen at a very inspiring moment, or at a tremendously difficult time for you
c) you get brain grilled for two hours struggling for your way in the midst of your reasoning dedalus and it is difficult to think in any rational way as the need for sleep advances
d) you will not have the 50 cents for the coffee, necessary support mechanism to help you keep your eyes open. Especially if you had to work on your Finance presentation until 3am the previous day.

In general, try to schedule them early to late afternoon (or morning, depending on which continent you will be dialoging with).

When asked about specific questions about strategy for a company - do not answer with a solution. Indicate your reasoning: what you are taking into consideration for your decision, how can you assess all of that? Who do you need to involve in the decision making process? What is the rationale for this decision, rather than jump to any kind of conclusions, based on your incomplete past knowledge of half the company.
When the person continues to ask questions and challenges everything that you say, do not panic, often times, he or she will be trying to help you; Build on what the person is saying, add more reflection elements, indicate pros and cons, highlight your experience if you can and try to ultimately conclude. If you really think that you are going in circle and are just thinking outloud with no noticeable framework (a bit like me today...), take a deep breathe, stop for a second and reframe your thoughts. Better to pause that to keep digging. Actually, in hindsight, I think that it is better to say: sorry, can I reframe this and offer you a diferent answer if you realize that you have a clearer way of conveying your answer than to continue down a long and winding road full of half explorations of quarter options with no concluding power.
Even if you think that you have done very badly, use the last minutes of the interview to work on the relationship. This impression is what will stick in the mind of the person. Show your understanding of their business, their situation and articulate your questions. Of course, it is easier to sound genuinely interested, when you are - and yes it is hard to keep a happy face when you think that you messed up most of the interview.

But let's take a cold look at the situation

Whatever you have messed up (and you don't know how bad you have done) is messed up. What more can you lose by being cool at the end? Now the person is going to also test you on how you deal with a difficult conversation and situation.
In your job, if you make a mistake, will you spend the whole day locked up in a room to cry over your destiny? If you mess up a meeting with anyone, will you keep your head up or bury yourself in a seat cushion and disappear under the door? Act in the interview, as you do in a job. People make mistakes. Responsible people assume theirs.
Show a positive behavior no matter what, remember you do NOT know how well or bad you have done. Be a fighter, not a person that looks back in the middle of action, engage until the last minute, try to recuperate any lost contact. You might not have done so well. It was late, you were a little stressed, upset by technical problems. You did not expect a certain type of questions? You can't answer? That's ok. Do not anticipate a result until you get it. Work until the last second of the interview. A race is over only when the results are announced. Then take a deep breathe and look at what you can do better. Move on.
After each interview - write down what you can improve: never make twice the same mistake.

I mean - an interview is like a negotiation. Two parties go in with interest and objectives and come out with a non-formulated decision or at least opinion/recommendation. Why did I not prepare this as a negotiation and work on my 7-elements?

What about a debrief that would look like
1- communication? well. clear, joyful, passionate. My usual self. Poorly at times because I did not organize my thoughts in a very clear framework. It was not really a case interview so I did not have the reflect...Mmmm. Process worked well: when the other party was not convinced, it would be clearly fed back to me, to give me a second chance to make an impact. What our dear CMS team told us is true: interviewers are no enemy. They have an interest in being persuaded that you are a good candidate for them - they want information from you. If they are not getting it, they can dig for it.
2- relationship? well - loads of common interest, common personalities and aspirations.
3- interests? well, open and complete sharing of interests
4- criteria? well-tested. Fried brain as I walk out. Mixed response...Not so satisfied. So not so well.
5- Options: mmm, not really. early.
6 - commitment: not at this stage but working toward a positive recommendation to take you to the next step should be a goal.
7- alternative? create as many other options if you can - It does not change your preference for a company and a given job. It makes you feel a little better...

Think framework framework framework. Take time to think think think. Announce the color of your card before you draw it. Ask for time to prepare for a couple of seconds if you are presented a reflection case, a situation...Make sure you understand the question. breathe in and breathe out. out out out, more than in in in. Prepare prepare prepare prepare. Answer every single question about yourself with one example that makes you super good for the job. Oh well...

Practice practice practice.
From now on, I am just going to step into a shop telling people about my weakness and how I overcome it, ride in a taxi and explain what I believe my best achievement is. why I did so well on that particular occasion and why this makes me super suitable for a given job - start a long litany about how I'd assess a divestiture opportunity in front of the cafeteria staff, stop the cleaners in the elevator to share with them my 2-minute pitch, walk up to any random professor and engage them on the subject of my mid-term professional goals. I have already been dumbed an international misfit, no reason why I can't become a social one too.

Regardless of how the interview went, it is nice to send a Thank You note. After all, someone has taken time off their busy work schedule to come and talk to you.

Hey, I wish I had read my blog earlier. Never mind. I guess it is kind of hard to step down from your bike to observe how well you can ride.
Never accept anything coming from an unknown source on the Internet - even if you pre-scan it for viruses. They are likely to install in your system some hideous hotbars, intrusive pop-ups and disgusting homepage links.
Often, in a first round interview, people want to test your motivation to work for them. They might ask a difficult question such as: "who else are you talking to?" or more simply: "which sector are you looking at?"

I first thought that I could describe the sector of the company and indicate why I like it
Then I thought that it would be better to describe the sector and indicate why I would be such a good fit
Now, I am thinking that it could be even more powerful to talk about the company itself as an example/proxy for the sector (example) and explain why I like it (show research of the company), why more specifically I would select this company in the sector in question and why I would fit so well in the sector (and by a small extrapolation the company).

Every day provides its fair share of learning. Especially in school come to think of it.
For information about life in Singapore, take a look at:

http://www.expatsingapore.com
Jamaican Counter-Culture: wow, dude, there's like...these two cows, man. you gotta try some of this milk...
Saw a massive big greenish/brownish iguana, crawling up a tree the other day in front of campus. It stopped to look at me, probably puzzled at how ugly a creature I was.

Erk.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

We had two external speakers come in recently - and a mix of experiences.

World Social Forum representative - and anti-globalization activist. He spent a lot of time describing what the forum does, why it can be strong, how successful it was in Cancun, etc... He did not spend so much time elaborating on his views about globalization, what is good and what could be done better. A common criticism of the forum is that it is quick at condeming capitalism, MNCs and other world actors but slow at offering alternative solutions. It is also questionable that hosting the forum in Mumbai - in a coutnry that strongly benefits from globalization, lodging everyone in 4-star hotel helps the cause. After all airplanes are supporting the globalization cause by making it easier for people to travel.
He argued that some sectors in India indeed benefitted from globalization (e.g. software industry in Bangalore). On the other hand, other sectors might lose out because imported products are taking away their livinghood. This is also true with each evolution on the technology frontier - without or with globalization - and was observable in developed countries many times. In general, problems arise in the absence of a sound social and labor policy to support these people in times of transition. The drama in India is that the people affected come second after the millions dying of hunger that need to be lifted out of poverty. However, overall, anything that can better people's lives in the long-term is welcome.
Do not get me wrong, I am not for globalization at all cost and increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. Subsidies in the agricultural sector in Europe and in the US are questionable. Practices of OGM firms, thus making countries dependent on artificial crops, beside making nature nearly irrelevant and destroying a biological cycle - certainly increases the dependence of farmers on a few firms' pricing strategies. However, trying to go against the flows of the globalization tide (it does ebb and flow) is like trying to stop the free fall of an elevator with your bare hands.
Trying to build an environment, incentives, tax, labor and trade structure to prevent certain behavior and encourage others - try to maintain traditions and richness of culture, nurture identities - while enabling people to enjoy diversity would be a different goals. Making sure that this can happen in a renewable natural biosphere would also be ideal.
It takes a little bit of everybody's efforts: profits for MNCs, growth for local firms, responsibilities for government, cause for NGOs and an objective for transnational institutions.

Anyway, like for everything in this little cyberjournal, these are extremely simplified views and a spontaneous reaction to the presentation.

The second speaker was Keith Fitzgerald - the guy who negotiates with terrorrists, rebels, hostage takers, peace process, criminals...He came to give us his views on this particular job. They took the form of 12 guidelines:
1- always negotiate with terrorrists
Negotiation isn't about making concessions or deal, it is about communicating and influencing. Consider how refusing to talk improve the situation? If this is not bi-polar positional bargaining (there aren't just two camps: join us or join them) the, the door is open for potential discussion on anything that could be considered legitimate. Often terrorrists have some legitimate concerns and are using illegitimate means to get attention. Giving them attention does not mean giving in. Not making concessions is important as it would otherwise teach them bad behavior: violence gets me somewhere. Engaging in a slow communication process just indicates taht you recognize that the alternative will lead only to the escalation of violence and no solution (or as he put it: fighting for deckchairs on the Titanic).

2- never negotiate with terrorrists
We need to negotiate with human beings that for some reason have decided to become terrorrists. We must take them out of that box and try to see the world their way - by making them men again, (as most of them are far from crazy, in fact as per our IPA class, they tend to be highly educated, litterate, articulate and full of ideals and frustrations) by realizing that they can be influenced like eevryone can, opens up possibilities of solutions.


3 - negotiate your good outcome
Never reacting and working toward a good outcome which should be clear to everyone seemed to be key to success.
It is also critical to understand what the good outcome is to them.


4- find appropriate intermediaries
Someone who can speak to both sides, without speaking for either side. The US are not a good person to have negotiate with al Qaeda. This person will be making recommendations that will seem reasonable to both parties.


5- never depend on trust
Build trust but never depend on it. Make discussions contigent to small goals and actions and define the next step as a function of the previous one. Judge on actions only - never the people. Separate the people from their actions.
some small goals and decisions could be: how to get water to hostages

6- present clear, makeable choices
Creating small decisions reduces the stakes and help make progress in the negotiation. don't bother with threats or demands, work on concerns, perceptions, needs and diagnose constantly to find solutions for them. Opposition will not work, it is their game and they are super good at it. Keith said: "Talking does not mean that you are weak. It means that you are smart." Talk regardless of your perceived power position.

7- use criteria to persuade them
assume that they are normal beings who have a different perspective of the world, work up and down the ladder of inference with them. Talking to them does not mean that you agree. Listening will allow you to understand what influences them: their values, their laws, their religions. It will clearly not be the same as waht persuades you. Another mistake taht President Bush might ahve made was to show surprise at the fact taht people did not all believe taht all Americans were good and talking of crusade (good against evil, exactly the message taht the terrorrists had sent out). It shows that there is no open door to another "good" model, it categorizes people and it shows unwillingness to listen.

8- be unconditionally constructive
avoid forcing people to choose sides (so do not do what President Bush did after the Sept 11 attacks). You are entering their games. Remember taht you are competing for the same audience. Engage them and show that you are discussing so that people can never find a reason for you to be "just as bad as them". Validate anything that you can find legitimate
Keith gave examples: "a free Palestine". Is this legitimate? Yes, how could this not be? That's something that everyone in the free world can relate to. It is realistic today? Probably not. Is there a solution? Yes, it is in theory very simple and everyone knows it but other interests, never shared, take over.


9- invest in a good process
negotiate the rules of your negotiation: communication, understanding, options, no or low threats or demands, mutually determined outcome...

10- coordinate your assets
Keith talked about two sets or types of assets; tactical and negotiation. Tactical guys are trained to just go for it and lose effectiveness as they lost patience. Negotiation guys wins as they gain time (on extra minute of an alive hostage is a good thing). Their incentives and training are different. Keith has been pushing for these teams to work together and for people to be trained in coordinating them well. Apparently, in crisis situations, this is one of the biggest cause for disaster and loss of lives.

11- negotiate the frame
For instance, labelling the war on terror a Crusade is using the same frame as Al Qaeda. Reframing it as a willingness to support an emerging moderate islamic society, or something like that, show a desire to reach a different outcome and does not offer side to choose. It removes the enemy or the fortress to attack and deflates part of the propaganda. Keith argues that we have more to lose by playing their game - and we can do this reframing without losing face. It means calming down emotions and grief and it is a very hard thing to do. What the goal is must be over-present. It is viscerally difficult to even imagine a discussion with people who are capable of blowing themselves up, who are sending planes into towers, etc...

12- negotiate with them before they become terrorrists
A lot of people are not born terrorrists. They accumulate frustrations, or any distorted views of the world - and often it is easy to find evidence around you of what you hold true and interpret reality through your own filter. This means that once they are under a certain impression, unless you spend the time to talk and explore where this comes from, it will be a self-reinforcing message, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keith indicates that we must update our definition of security and not consider it as protecting our fence with defenses. Security lies, according to him, in better management of relationship, through continuous dialogue.

Anyway, don't just go out and find the nearest terrorrist to negotiate with for your non-negotiable, but this is definitely food for thought.

Ultimately, violence is present in our world although it does not have to be - but it is only a means to an end. It does not have to be here. Truly mad and irrational people are few in numbers. Responding to violence by pure violence, without ever trying to work on its cause only hides the underlying problem with the problem of violence. It is a bit like saying taht by increasing the fine you will get rid of drink-driving. Reducing the incentives, working on peer pressure, on social image, on other rational buttons (such as desire to protect family, to make loved ones happy) will be a better longer term solution. Why are people drinking and driving? There was a successful anti-drinking campaign in Ireland which associated drink-driving with a shameful behavior. People continued drinking but did it responsibly. Communication was key there. Why then do countries cut off diplomatic relationship at the first sign that things turn sour?
I am not saying that negotiation is always the solution to everything and taht communication is king (we already know taht this is a position reserved for cash). However, what is the harm? The risk-reward equation seems to strongly weigh in favor of communication. Think about it, regardless of your level of frustration.
Eurosceptics, take a look at

http://www.infonegocio.com/xeron/bruno/italy.html

Turn the sound full blast.

Enjoy!
INSEAD and Wharton renew their alliance for a further three years

Gabriel Hawawini, Dean of INSEAD, and Patrick Harker, Dean of the Wharton School, today announced the renewal of the partnership between the two schools for a further three years. The initial success of this alliance, one that is broader and deeper than any other business education partnership, prompted its renewal.

The mission of the alliance is to offer a number of capabilities unmatched by any business school or combination of business schools in the world. Firstly, the alliance will offer broadened and enhanced course offerings (in both content and geography) for MBA and PhD program participants. Secondly, the alliance will expand the delivery of global open enrolment and company specific executive education programs for multinational clients. Thirdly, global research opportunities for faculty from both schools will be expanded.

In a joint statement today the two deans reaffirmed that “the extension of the alliance is the result of a genuine understanding and shared vision of the opportunities for clients, faculty, students and alumni through a global learning network”. The deans agreed that the next three years will be an exciting, innovative period, starting with the publication of "The Alliance on Globalizing", the first in a series of books written by the faculties of the two schools, in June 2004 and followed-up by a high profile Alliance-associated Economist Conference on Globalization scheduled to take place in London on September 30, 2004.