Wednesday, June 23, 2004

For the first time this year - I am not satisfied with what my team has delivered in a couple of subjects. No matter what the reason is, and regardless of the grade, it is important to me to give out the maximum of my capabilities. Either do or not do - don't half do if it does not allow you to reach the "fit for purpose" mark.

Frustrating this...

Ooooo, I need a drink.
Yesterday seemed to be the last of a long string of Insead Dinner. I was invited to an Asian dinner, and I was probably the only one at the table who was not either speaking Mandarin, Cantonese or a South East Asian language. We went to a local Chinese restaurant and most of the interactions with the waitress took place in Mandarin.

So long friends, see you at graduation

I miss Singapore so much...
Ok - we are now heading down South for a week of sailing - actually I am so behind with everything, and I have created such a mess around me that I am not looking forward to this trip as much as I should. I am due to contact people, send out information, etc...So for the first time since I awoke to this world, I am not entirely looking forward to a sailing trip.

I feel like I am leaving a fire that hasn't been put off yet and when I come back my life will be a set of fuming ruins and ashes.

Obviously there are some good sides to spending a week on a yacht in a sunny place and go from island to creek in search of the perfect spot for a perfect tan.

I am skippering one of the boats but I haven't been as involved I should have so far...Everything was left to the last minute...

Anyway, tonight, we will be having a typical provencal dinner at a family beach house overlooking the Med.
why did I say that Napoleon was a bad strategy teacher?

Ok - he did some good things process-wise by introducing a civil code and various other details but he divested a strategically placed overseas subsidiary in North America at a huge discount and messed up his cross-border Merger and Acquisitions on the Eastern Market because he never engaged in due process: no Exchange, Explain stuff in his internationalization plan. How did he expect to build up a global empire?
Speaking of Chateau, another Chateau that is nearby and worth a visit is Vaux le Vicomte. It was ordered by Fouque, superintendent des Finances, some sort of grand Finance Dean for Louis XIII, then Louis XIV. The richest guy in France and probably the most intelligent at the time. He had great taste too. His Chateau was magnificent and offered the most sumptuous sight to newcomers. He was a very generous man and threw out parties after parties – in fact, there is a little bit of a Fouque in every MBA participant. We identify strongly with parties in 17th century chateaux. Fouque’s chateau benefited from the star designers of his time: Le Brun for the painting, Le Notre for the gardens, etc… A gem of architecture.

Louis XIV was raised by an Evil Cardinal in a rigorous discipline. He was forced to walk around in rags, he was vertically challenged (a problem for someone who wishes to be the greatest king of all times) – and wasn’t quite as bright as the Cardinal. He was once invited to Mr Fouque’s house, who wasn’t noble but who had gained immunity through the purchase of this Finance charge, which cost some 1 million local currency of the time. (Louis D’Or?)

Louis XIV arrived from his house (not Versailles yet), quite a way away from Vaux le Vicomte – full of dust, swearing at everybody, tired and with a hurting back. He was welcome by a perfumed and elegantly dressed Fouque, walked around fresh and delicate fountain offering sublime sculptures of water and was left to rest under the gentle shade of friendly square-cut trees. The King would never forget such an outrageous infringement of his superior position in the social hierarchy. A sudden jealously devoured his will.

Fouque became – so I heard – the victim of the most tragic coalition of all times and remained loyal to his King.

The King pretended he needed this 1 m local currency to buy something. Fouque sold his charge, thus losing his immunity to help the King. Shortly after, he was sent to prison. He had no rights: no family visit, no books, no paper, no pen, no music, no visit at all in fact, the most dreary food diet, no time outside. Remember that we are talking Nobel Prize type person. He spent 18 years in this cell.

Meanwhile, Louis XIV realized that Le Brun, Le Notre I tutti quanti were finding themselves unemployed and decided to give them work. He built Versailles with the objective to surpass Vaux Le Vicomte.

Several lobbying attempts failed. One succeeded in having him at least released and able to see his family. On the day of his planned release, he died. Accident? Coincidence? Or Murder?

Some say that Fouque knew all the King’s intimate secrets, such as the possibility of a twin brother (The Iron Mask, emprisoned in the Chateau d’If, the Alcatraz equivalent of Marseilles Bay) – Fouque defended himself during his trial and he mentioned none of that. He knew all the national secrets. He talked about none of that.

Faithful to his Kind - until the end.
On Sunday, a group of insead MBAs (Australian/Malaysia/Italy + me) got together for a noble activity: we decided to visit the legendary Chateau de Fontainebleau. The Chateau was built throughout the years – some parts date from the Middle Ages, some parts are more recent (2nd Empire, or Napoleon III). The Chateau opens at 9.30. We got there at 9.45am after a nice Pain aux Raisins but all the audio tour guides were already sold out. Mmmm…Is this good demand management?

So we latched onto an English-speaking tour with a live guide and edwe were not listening. We sometimes put ourselves a little ahead of the group, sometimes a little behind and we went to great lengths to look totally disinterested and blase. In order to achieve such outstanding acting, we pictured ourselves in our OB2 class in P2 where we faced the reverse challenge: trying to look interested. We then reverse engineered the thought process. At times, it feels good to be parasitic. We learned a lot from the guide:

"Insead made its first steps in the world in this very chateau. It has benefited from great faculty and participants. Francois 1er was an excellent OB teacher and architect of change. Henri IV was the crapest Power and Politics professor, he got stabbed in his early years and was persuaded to trade his protestant roots for a Catholic mass in Paris to become the King of France and Navarre.. Louis XIV was a superb accountant and would never allow for a dime to go wasted, out of his pocket. He had a bit of battle between his financial accountant Fouque and his managerial accountant Colbert (?). This led to disastrous consequences in Macroeconomics with an average grade of -2.45 as the country fell into increased levels of poverty. He kind of introduced a new process too: the use of Cardinals as chairmen and ruler by proxy of the whole country. Good delegation. He quite evidently excelled at OB2 and other various HR issues too as he picked two star performers with Richelieu and Mazarin.. He was the Jack Welsh of the France Inc.

He identified different types of citizens
- Type A: pay their taxes and adhere to values, they stay in
- Type B: don’t pay their taxes and adhere to values: they are sent to forced labor, so that a minimal contribution can be ensured
- Type C: pay taxes and don’t adhere to values: goods are confiscated and people are poisoned or sent to Bastille as they could be at the base of some dangerous potential coalition animated by a strong desire to overthrow the current CEO
- Type D: don’t pay taxes and don’t adhere to values: exploit, no one cares

In fact, he overpowered the Chateau and went on to build his own in Versailles. He changed his name as Sun King, a direct allegiance to the sun-based campuses of Stanford GSB concept which he pioneered on the banks of the river Seine. Louis XV was an ok IT professor as he managed to employ and organize musketeers over the years to fight for the just, the widow and the orphan and to multiply intrigues and gossips. The musketeers couldn’t intervene in time to save a King’s head either across the border. Louis XVI failed his IPA exam: he created a revolution which fueled wars on all of the country’s border. He did worse: the Revolution created Napoleon, the evil Strategy Professor, who ultimately force the country to file for Chapter 11. The local SEC sent him to a couple of island, and after 100 days of fraudulent attempt to regain control of the operations he was exiled once for all from the program. A fresh statistics professor Louis Philippe and various successors, followed by Napoleon III came out of the ranks and led a study to prove that past successes are not good predictors of future outcomes. It took a second revolution in 1848 to offer new chances. Then, everything became a complete mess. The institution had become so big that curriculums (also called constitution) had to be changed 5 times, Deans (locally called Presidents) became elected every 7 years, CMS (known as EDF, La Poste, France Telecom and SNCF) was created, the MBA Director (Prime Minister) took over the responsibility for all non academic problems and had their own staff (Government) and students (tax payers) complained that they got very little for their money."

Note: IPA: International Political Analysis; POM: Process and Operations Management, Ob: Organizational Behavior

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Log offs are funny, the recent proliferation of mass e-mails for people having forgotten their hair spray bottle in cube #574, or asking if anyone could look after their pigeon for the summer has sprung a group of us to write a response to everyone. Thank you very much my Colombian/British and French friends for such an hilarious moment of creative insight.


The relevance of the recent mass e-mails is such that I want to let you know that I am going to the toilet now - does anyone need a lift?

This is not a log-off, I have just come back from London and have over 250 e-mails in my inbox, of which only ten are relevant to me!!!

Isn't there a bulleting board we could set up on the intranet, where we could post such things as ride sharing? I am sure that I am not the only one who is killing the delete button on the laptop.

je vous aime quand meme ..."

Monday, June 21, 2004

....and the winners are....

1. India Pakistan (1117pts)
2. Arab (843 pts)
3. France (766 pts)
4. Canada (738 pts)
5. German-Austrian-Swiss (548 pts)
6. USA (531pts)

The email then goes on saying:
"The National Week Election results are provided above."

Do you think that there was any possible confusion with

- Soccer World Cup aggregate scoring?
- MTV Music Awards score?
- Number of movie produced per year?
- Gallons of coke drunk per day per inhabitant?
- results of the Eurovision Music Contest?
- Ranking of best cuisine in the world? - USA makes the top ten, come on!
- Cricket Results?
France Telecom has sent me a Customer Service Survey.
"your opinion matters"
Could someone pinch me please?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

If the INSEAD Dean were a strategy teacher, the value curve would be transformed

But more seriously, I would expect a clear strategy and clear steps, with everyone focused on the organization. Like our Global Strategy Management Professor indicated, companies in turn INNOVATE and INTERNATIONALIZE.

INSEAD has just INTERNATIONALIZED. Now the focus must be to INNOVATE on the program itself - and the institution itself. In fact, I'd change the name institution which, for me, conveys the image of an unmovable rock, into what it has the power to be: an entrepreneur-style not for profit BUSINESS school. Objective is to become top 2/3 best program in the world and to provide a global and varied recruitment platform to equally global and varied participants.
Everyone is focused on that in the organization.
CMS is the customer (company) marketing - they pitch the program, they explain the value to the companies
Faculty is totally committed to this strategy, they teach a course when it is required because that's what the companies need
MBA Office is also totally committed. If internships are required, they will be added to the curriculum. If companies say: please match my recruitment period of September and October, the curriculum will match that and offer the last period during these months.
The School is totally committed to tehs trategy and explore synergies to the maximum: for instance Global Leadership Series Clubs will be supported by the Executive Education Program. High Flying participants in these programs will be sometimes asked to speak in school. THey will be used for networking not only by the MBA but by CMS, who would have a full time well networked staff. Campus exchange would help create extra visibility. In order to assist with netowkring activity, more flexibility would be introduced so that students could free up some time for clubs. The school would actually get very active in supporting students activities wherever possible.
Admissions and Scholarships would work in pair. They will organize dinners in which recipients and donors meet to increase visibility and awareness. They would be aware of everything's that available. A high energy person would run around the world to pitch the program, and use the high level visibility that CMS had achieved at companies to increase the amount of funds available. In order to attract a bit more women (if equal opportunities policies aren't so prevalent outside of the US), special scholarships might work as incentives. Admissions would just have to crank the handle and would need 10 extra people as demands would quickly run into red overflow modes.
IT would be top professional staff that would provide a strong support for the GLOBAL vision of the school, together with multimedia, providing a seamless experiece.
Marketing could use the success of both CMS and MBA operations to market the program to both applicants and companies. It would work on the brand and clearly explain the value to everyone.
Mediocrity would not be accepted on campus as it would not look professional, and everyone would be customer oriented, show initiative and flexibility. In fact the Entrepreneurship and Strategy department would strike a partnership deal in bringing constant innovation to INSEAD.
Members of the board would stay in touch with the school, be aware of the changes and their BENEFITS, to the brand, to the value of the MBA, to the school.
Alumni would remain very involved and would constantly offer new ideas of innovation, product diversification or internationalization, depending on the focus.

- Grades: clearly everyone would be animated by the noblest desires to re-make the world and would discuss the most incredible problems on the amphi benches, none of this mathematical nonsense.
- Exams: everyone would have to spend incredibly long nights producing 100-page reports on 5 year strategic directions for the school at the end of each period and focus on how to increase its competitive advantage or on how it could expand internationally
- Any non strategic group would be divested and the core business of Insead would have to be redefined around its new core values (determined by the strategic professor). The OB department would be wiped out as it would be considered only a satellite of business. Food would be reinstated as a core business of a France and Singapore-based business-school with an international scope.

- Any operational class such as Process or Project Management, IT unless it relates to strategy, Finance unless it allows you to sweat the numbers of a strategic problem

- The long term thinking of the school. There would be working group and task force for any key issue and everybody’s participation would be strongly encourage by a negative payoff of “no graduation unless you produce decent results about school positioning on the chessboard of business school, marketing strategy, food strategy to retain best talent, why we can get rid of the Z-curve and replace it by other performance measure such as market share of brain power, number of cases written in a year, increase in tuition fees and revenues, decrease in IT costs, etc…

- An INSEAD Corporate Strategy looking at shaping the world in 10 years from now. Napoleon and Cesar would become the two role models for the school and their statues would greet visitors in the Camembert.
I got invited to a BBQ in Bois-Le-Roi by the River Seine on Thursday Evening. The surroundings were magnificent. Royal woods, large mansions and rich gardens overlooked the most peaceful river, embraced by tall trees, gently bending over its bed.

As the host was getting the BBQ ready, we all gathered in front of the TV screen to watch France-Croatia. The host made some unsuccessful attempts to break his loneliness by indicating that food and beer had been served on the terrace, no one moved an inch before the final whistle launched us all back into the world.
Last night, we had a fantastic Insead-crowded dinner at a friend's place in Paris. We all got lost on the way to his place - and his phone kept ringing as people asked for better directions but were compensated with marvellous tequila, tapas and gorgeous desserts - Mmmm this berries crumble....American, French, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Argentine, Romanian, Japanese and hybrid nationalities met up Boulevard Pereire. Long Married, Just Married or Soon To Be Married - or Single who remained Single - or Parent-to-be...A diverse and happy crowd.

The Italy-Sweden match robbed us of our Italian participant for an hour and a half but he came back to life as he drove a group of us to the Salsa Club where we decided to end the evening.

Heard in the car and faithfully reported
"In Italy, if we get a green light, we will stop and proceed very very carefully as we would expect the people who have the red light to go through like crazy"

Paris by night, the pulse of the French capital, broken lights around the majestic grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe and the mystery of the Eiffel Tower - and Salsa by night. Tropical atmosphere in a small cozy latin club behind Les Invalides. I ridiculed myself dancing with people who were quite clearly born in a Salsa class and continued to feel its beat ever since.

Or my way of celebrating my submitting the last project for my INSEAD MBA. Until I graduate, I am now free as a bird. Afer I graduate, I will be unemployed.
Singapore Rocks - conclusion.

Yesterday, we organized a video link with the rest of the promotion in Singapore. We offered them a video sample of the Singapore Cabaret Act, and they gave us an INSEAD Singapore Video: DASH (or how to get from Heritage View to Campus in less than three minutes).
The Director of the MBA program and the super efficient logistics expert, both based in Singapore, made a guest appearance in the live Show...I quote: "this is the time when things shift. I will now be the one coming to you for help and support." An accurate reflection of reality.

A taste of the end - as the faces of our friends disappeared in the black hole of an un-powered TV screen, a feeling of satisfied sadness slowly mounted in me. The free-spirited jokes were not forced but they left a bitter taste in our mouths. The joyful hand waving occurred naturally but acted as a powerful reminder of an era that was and never is to be again.

I will see some of these Singapore friends on graduation day. And to everyone else, as the French say, "ce n'est qu'un au-revoir".

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Outside temperature is 28 degrees, sun's blasting, every National Week Campaign Team has a beautifully laid out booth with loads of food and drinks, most people are asleep on the grass, or with a glass of beer or an ice cream in their hands...The Aussie/New Zealand Week Team is threatening to break Amphi B window panes with their Ultimate Frisbee Game.

...I am locked up in some cubicles putting on my most uninspired mood for the LAST of my projects this year. I have TWO classes to go before...before what? Freedom? No. Benefitfree unemployment.

It occurred to me that something was seriously wrong with this picture but I can't pinpoint what it is yet.
Yesterday was our last section party - it felt like home!

Interesting conversations as usual...

Heard at the party and faithfully reported

"- well, if you sign up with McK Mediterranean region, you could consider working for the Tel Aviv office. We'd be together, would be nice" - Israeli student
"- you're kidding!?!?!? you pay 60% taxes in Israel! This means that I'd be giving away 60% of my salary to pay for YOUR army!" - Egyptian student

"- I am afraid that the top 8 Chinese rulers might be willing to sacrifice the well-being of the country's population to maintain stability in the government. Hong Kong people just want to keep making tons of money, they are not thinking about overthrowing government. The Chinese government is facing a dilemna: educating people to ensure economic growth and to maintain stability throughout the country and maintaining people in ignorance so they keep the communist ideology and are not thinking about a revolution" -Hong Kong student

"- in Turkey, our school system is meant to be fair and open to all but really only the rich have access to superior resources, private tutoring and great support from their family. So on paper it looks perfect. In practice it is a natural filter for the money-loaded elite, not all the intellectuals" - Turkish student

"-this guy is too smart to be a CEO - in Portugal his GPA topped all of the GPAs of all the years at my top university. He is so smart that he'd be bored as a CEO, he wouldn't want to have to worry about talking to anyone about his great ideas, he wouldn't want to have to deal with all this crap that would land on his desk every day. He is meant to be a scientist, an economist...or a partner in a leading consulting firm" - Portuguese student

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Yesterday, I went for a quick bite in town with an Italian and an Australian friend. A common complaint about France is the absence of a customer-oriented mindset, sprung out of bad habits contracted by long-standing state-owned enterprises.

Well, yesterday is a day to be marked in my Insead calendar. We picked a pleasant looking venue with tables outside. We indicated that we were in a hurry. I think that by the time we ordered and by the time we got served, less than 5 minutes elapsed. We got what we wanted, when we wanted. Everything was brought to our table with a smile and by a good-humored waiter.

Be careful with stereotypes. France is a lovely country and Paris one of the most beautiful cities I have come across.
INSEAD seems to be such a forgetful community. Every day, we have loads of MASS emails with a lost phone charger, a lost phone, lost keys, lost binder, lost computer, lost brain parts, etc...

Typical log offs after such a series would be a private sale of all lost parts, in the Insead parking lot, after dark - no questions asked, no rebate.
I had another discussion about the two types of negotiation classes offered at Insead. One based on heavy academic models, decision trees, rich and deep psychological tools. It assumes that enough value will be created anyway and taht most of the action resides in how the pie is split. The other, illustration of the Harvard Negotiation Project led by Roger Fisher is based on the 7 elements of negotaition and borrows some of the theoretical aspects from the first one but insists on option creating and perhaps puts less emphasis on value capture: a very important part of the process, especially if you have worked so hard at creating value.

Whenever you talk to either camp (namely the professors opting for one solution or the other) they break ice on the back of the other camp. Aren't they already expressing their opinion through their choice of method as they are teaching it? Why do they have to destroy the other method? Unless there have been loads of studies and empirical evidence that clearly positions one method vs the other, let us just carry on with the problem at hand and stop this blame/negation game.

And no - not everything in life is a negotiation. We don't think about bargaining with our parents, with our spouse or with our friends. We might end up doing a negotiation but we don't want to capture value for them. There is such a concept as unconditional help, gift and pleasure in just being with others - there is such a context in which the outcome matters little. Negotiation is useful but it is not the only thing that counts.
I might make a controversial statement here. Here is the choice that is offered to participants for year end trips. Obviously some people decide to go their merry way, have job interviews planned or will just retire in peace with their family after the hectic end of P5.

Croatia - a total cost averaging 1000 euros and limited to 135 people (or be prepared to pay a lot more and have to organize everything yourself)

Cannes house - unknown total cost but I think that about 20 people will benefit from this

Sailing trip - total cost of about 400 euros (all inclusive), but limited to two boats (for lack of participating skippers, some of them being booked on the other activities)

Bali - one of the most expensive and trendy destination in South East Asia

All these trips are limited in space (although the Cannes idea could be expanded to more houses) or cost a lot of money. What is the idea behind a year end trip? To get together everyone that should get together? Do we need to go to the other end of the world? How can we make it attractive enough in terms of activities to avoid boring to death high achievers and cheap enough to welcome everyone. It is true that most MBA students are high net worth students compared to the average university headcount. Still, I find it a pity to propose trips that are either too limited in space, or too limiting in cost for such a great last gathering!
It sounds obvious to me that people will cast themselves into different activities, since not everyone likes doing the same thing - some might require flexibility. It is inevitable that there will be a split. If people are the deciders, I see no problem with that. If some decisions are being enforced by a set of unmanageable constraints, I find it a pity.

In any case, everyone will have a hell of a time and that is all that matters for now.
We witnessed final project presentation today in our Global Strategy Management (or the world put in a Quadrant Model). The prof had a "2 MINUTES" sign that he kept putting up to discipline every presenting team. Quite funny. On the other hand, being able to organize a key message in 10 minutes form part of a challenge of any presentation. It is good that people be reminded of this constraints, one that's very real in the professional world too.
Before I head off for my daily visit to the on-campus shower services, I thought I could mention that UEFA Cup matches can be seen every day on gigantic screens at Insead. All nationalities gather with beer and cram their carcasses invigorated by the summer sun in some of the smallest amphis on the planet (the big amphi is only for important people such as HBSC CEO, or the Dean) to celebrate the event. The much acclaimed results will reach the darkest corners of the school as the crowd disappear in the vapors of the night.

May the best team win, preferrably one that I support.

We have thousands of kilograms of New Zealand apples to eat before the end of the week. They didn't document the liters of beer and wine that they were able to bring to campus. Heard that there were some oysters at the Friday BBQ.

I am facing a dilemna for Friday actually.

I am invited to a fantastic dinner in Paris with loads of people followed by a Salsa evening
I am invited to a fantastic rustic dinner in a small village nearby where I will be able to see for the first time the baby of one of my dearest friends on campus, followed by Aussie/NZ party
I could go to the Aussie/NZ BBQ and party

I am very well aware that this would similar to having to choose between a Ferrari and a Porsche but it does pose a problem nevertheless.
OK - I have only one more project to go and my contribution to Insead's Academics Standards will be over. One project and one day...I am SO late...

In fact, most of my work these days qualify as the most minimalist piece of work ever delivered in my entire existence as a cellular aggreggate with basic thinking abilities. There is just so many more things going on that I am finding very hard to concentrate on my studies. I think that this is a problem with the structure of the program. It is not possible to run a full-time job search activity and a full-time academic program with some patches spared for job interviews. Some people have started an argument to add one full period to the program and indicated a high willingness to pay for that. I second this idea.

On the France Telecom front, I have a few numbers I could call up for legal counsel. On the hot water front, the heating specialists are due to come next Monday. IF they solve the problem, we would have visited the gym showers or taken cold showers for two weeks. I have a dinner or a BBQ or a party every night until the beginning of the sailing trip.

Everything on my To Do list has reached the BBB letter status (BIG BLACK BOLD) meaing that everything now ranges from "urgent with top priority" item to "this really should have been done a month ago". If I had a magic wand today, I'd suspend time for everyone else for a short period of time so that I can deal with all of that. Maybe I'll fly myself to Brad Pitt's newest film setting too actually. After all, a magic wand isn't like a genius, you don't get to choose only one wish.

If you are to take this Realizing Entrepreneurship Potential course, think twice OR persuade INSEAD's administration to give you TWO credits for it. I liked the course - professor had great insights because of his past experience - but the value of the course comes from the actual search and analysis. In P4, all the other projects that you are late with get a higher priority and you end up pushing this one aside and leave it on the back burner for a short while. You are also starting to think about jobs and it starts to occupy a fair amount of your time. In P5, it has a high priority but you also have a project for all the other courses, and clear deadlines throughout the period. The P4 assignemts of the REP course were not related to the actual search project and diluted further our time.
As a result I am now late with this project. I see a solution to this: include deliverables related to the project in P4 (including things as simple as group formation, publishing search criteria, sources for deal flow, etc...) and add one more credit (so you can drop a course in P5). The drawback of this is that it might reduce the audience for the course as there would be an additional opportunity cost of not taking another course. I have no answer for that. Searching for a company to buy takes a long time and it is probably not realistic to consider this over one period only. Kind of fun to have to go into the real world, a bit like for our negotiation class. Anyway, just one of these random thoughts that cross the minds of MBA students late with their projects and that have so much time on their hands that they spend it typing them up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Ok - most of my projects are done. This morning we presented our Financial Statement Analysis results. As our professors called our three-female strong group Charlie's Angels, we cast him as Charlie and we become officially Charlie's Angels, in our private equity detective agency.

We brought in guns, a loudspeaker and we tried to dress like a Femme Fatale would in the 80s. I spent some 7 years loading up the music theme of the TV Series and tons of pictures so that we could transform our presentation into an episode of the series. We even introduced real quotes from original scripts and an original episode title "Three for the Money". Loads of fun.

Only ONE assignment left for the whole year!!! Would you believe this?

Incredible, truly incredible.

Still jobless come to think of it.

Tomorrow evening: last section Barbecue
Thursday: P3 - P5 Singapore Barbecue
Friday: Australian Barbecue and Dinner in Paris
Saturday: Dinner with Italian friend from Insead
Sunday: probably some BBQ
Monday: probably some BBQ
then off for a week of sailing, which I end up being associated with.

Imaging lying lazingly on some sun-bathed deck, a cold beer in my hand, taking a turn or two around a winch from time to time and trying to tack to equalize both sides of my face tan. Parties in Saint Tropez in the evening, cool croissants in the morning and fresh fish every day. Life definitely has some enviable sides to it. The only good news about being a skipper is that at times you can tell everyone else to do the work and sit back and enjoy the ride...that makes up for all the time when you actually have to clean up the mess!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Ok - we have nearly finished our Financial Statement Analysis report. All of what is in the report is based on publicly available information, mostly contained in the company's financial report (the company we studied went public in 2002). We followed our class approach and basically, the report looks something like

Company Description
I - Industry Competitive Analysis
A - The Opportunities
B - Value Creation
1) For the consumers
2 ) For the studios and the distributors
C - SWOT analysis
1) Strengths
2) Weaknesses
3) Opportunities
4) Threats – Industry Dynamics That Might Impair Netflix’ Sustainability
Rivalry and substitutes
D - Key Profitability and Risk Factors
II - Accounting Quality
III- Financial Ratios Analysis
A - Gross Margin
B - Operating Margin
C - Return on Assets
D - Current Ratio
E - Total Liabilities to Assets
F - Return on Equity Ratio
G - Price to Earnings Ratio
IV Pro-Forma Income Statement
A - Revenues Forecasts
B - Costs Forecasts
C - Balance Sheet Forecasts
V Valuation Assumptions
VI Valuation Results
A – Free Cash Flows For All Debt and Equity Holders
B – Free Cash Flows For Common Equity Shareholders
C – Residual Income Valuation
D – Residual Income Valuation – Market-to-Book Approach
E – Dividend-Based Valuation
F – Market Opinion
VI Recommendation

+ some humongous spreadsheet. Our valuation for all models comes within $1 of industry analysts' and is on the right side (meaning that our recommendation would be the same as what you can find in reports, analysts' opinion on various financial websites).
This is to be my last work weekend for last minute rush:

- FSA: we have done the valuation I must finalize the report and the presentation
- GSM: I have contributed to the report which we must finalize. Someone in our group who has not contributed much so far will then do the presentation.
- ICA: I am auditing, I gave my input both verbally in a group meeting and in writing
- MEG: done and over with. Classes stopped two weeks ago
- REP: (from P4): very very late with the project and I am getting virtually no response from my Singapore counterpart making it all the more difficult to do work. I don't want to double up the work, I don't know what is happening. Tough call. And I must say that having projects running across two periods with no accompanying class does not work. Giving no additional credit for it (when it takes us a fair amount of time to do the project at the detriment of either other courses or job search) does not seem fair either)

FSA has a model for us to use: FSAP, we call it FCRAP. Excel programming is so untransparent, so easy to mess up with one small change that as soon as more than one person uses a template, another program should be used. We lost one night because we messed up the template. I now bet that the long working hours for investment bankers come from the fact that they must continuously get this tool to work. I am sure that there are other more specialized packages that Insead could purchase and work with to save us a nasty impression of wasting time on things that aren't so intellectually rewarding, nor of great learning value.
On the France Telecom front, not to name them, I did the following
- sent a letter back offering to meet so that I understand the charges and make sure there is no mistake. I indicated that I'd be willing to settle all my financial obligations once they appear clear to me and I would appreciate their help in solving the matter. I insisted that I wanted to do this as simply and as quickly as possible.

- sent a general email around school to ask for counsel. Someone replied he knew a senior person at France Telecom, which would help raise the visibility of the issue and not make me fall in the group of "I don't pay my bills", which probably contains another few hundred people. I assumed that the bailiff, who works with the lawyer is getting paid a commission based on how much money he brings back. He has no incentives in reading my letters and in making this a mistake. He has an interest in making this procedure sound as impossible as he can to discourage me to fight back and gets quick and easy money. However, I call paying for a service that I never received fraud. And if I must pay, I want to feel confident that it is indeed an obligation that I contracted. And the fact that a firm incurs a cost, unless it was made clear to you that you were to bear this financial risk, does not mean that you must cover it. I really do not know that I must pay - maybe I do, and all I am asking for is a legitimate explanation which I believe I deserve.

I also got three numbers for local lawyers. Perhaps a quick and hopefully cheap consultation will help me. Wish me luck...
In Singapore I picked the following project for my "non-negotiable" deliverable in the negotiation class: get one of the most expensive restaurant in town to do a home delivery of one meal for one person.

First I put on my best suit and walked into the restaurant and asked to talk to the outlet manager. I explained that we really wanted to show our appreciation of our top notch world famous Brazilian professor. We had decided him to treat him to a very nice meal. Unfortunately, he was very busy and the only evening he had available was an evening when he was organizing a Brazilian BBQ for us so we couldn't bring him to this hotel/restaurant.

I was told: "no home delivey, this is a hotel policy"
That was exactly what I needed - otherwise it would not have been a non-negotiable.

I first tried to understand why it could not be done and it turned out that brand image was the main concern of this guy: what if the food gets there cold, what if it is not eaten within an hour or so, what kind of liability is there, what can they put the food in so that it looks respectable enough...
Then I tried to understand who could really make the decision and had to talk to the director of restaurants. He was concerned about business aspects: normally they'd do full catering services for weddings, etc...and transpose the experience on their premises to an outside venue. He expected at the very very least a purchase worth $1000 to reach his radar screen. I explained it would be only for one person and that I was looking at list prices on the menu as a legitimate reference. He immediately went down to $500 minimal purchase but this wouldn't do as I was really concerned with the welfare of only one person. He then said that I'd have to talk to his boss as I kept asking questions about what concerned him: he summarized it - I am not going to pay a $20 delivery fee when you are going to buy $60 worth of food and to respect our image of superior service, we would not charge for delivery.
The first meeting was in person and lasted for about an hour, the second was over the phone (do not give out contact details until you have theirs) and lasted for over an hour. The last hour took place in person, over the phone and over email with the Director of Catering Services. Each time I met someone in person, I was offered a drink.

With the Director, I pulled out the trump card and talked about many other ways I could help them as I belonged to Insead. The Director wanted information and I provided him with any non confidential information I could find in a timely manner. After a few days of trust building - he also did work on my problem. By positioning the problem as a problem, that we both had to solve and by opening the discussion (and committed to bringing more value for them into the discussion), we managed to keep a conversation going. I tried to help with as many concerns they had as possible and tried to understand what they were really interested in. We solved the remaining problems he could think of

- he did not have a box to deliver things in: we went to a Dehli and used their aluminum box
- he wanted me to have a direct discussion with the chef as some menu items were not going to travel well - we settled on a lamp chop with vegetables
- he was worried about delivery: a taxi driver would run away with teh food, he had no staff available at that time to send to our place. He proposed in the end to deliver the food himself after his work day.
- delivery costs were too high for him to justify this to his boss. I offered to pay for the delivery which I found fair
- for the rest, the business made sense (I would pay menu list price), relationship building was important to both of us, and it would correspond to his sense of service.

He made it very clear that this was NOT their business model and that he would not do this with anyone else. It took me close to two weeks to negotiate this, after repeated meetings during which he also tested my commitment. I had to show tremendous respect for their brand image and be consistent with the message: brand is of value to me, I won't negotiate on price.

This story went around school. In Fontainebleau, the only restaurant that we know of that does home delivery is a pizzeria. As we were planning on working very late on our Financial Statement Analysis project (on Netflix), we decided we wanted another type of food. I decided to negotiate a home delivery with another restaurant. We picked an ethnic restaurant, and specifically Asian figuring that they'd be more open to a flexible commercial approach. We also targeted places which did Take-Away as logistically, they would be more able to respond to our request. After a few unsuccessful conversations, someone was willing to come (and did not make us pay for delivery) as she recognized the importance of having a good relationship with Insead. The owner (a lady who might have felt closer to us) drove herself to school and left her staff alone to deal with sit-in customers. We gave her a generous tip and enjoyed a fantastic Chinese meal!
I realize that I have been silent for a few days now, it is time to remedy this situation.

On Friday night, we had a great discussion with a couple of friends. Honest, deep and very human. These people are so extraordinary. We also talked about some aspects of business school that did not correspond to who we were.

All three of us were women and this aspect seems to be across business schools, not Insead specific. We talked to Wharton people and friends we have at HBS, Stanford and Columbia. Most of them have encountered similar behavior and trends.
In fact, it is even different between Singapore and Fontainebleau as far as Insead is concerned.

One big thing abotu business school is the social aspect. You meet people and you do a lot with them. You do group work, you do dinners, you meet for drinks, you do travels and you do parties.

Parties can take several forms: a nice BBQ with a generous supply of wine through to a Summerball with thousands of people invited, in the most expensive and beautiful chateau around. A lot of insead parties will accommodate hundreds of people.

I went to many of these parties. My preferred one was the Latin American Week party. Everyone danced until 5 or 6am - there was some drinking but most people really were on the dance floor with drummers and Brazilian dancers, and the bonding took place as everyone joined in crazy farandoles. Some other parties, I had to leave before the end. There seems to be a turning point after which people switch from the dance floor to the comfortable strategically placed sofas and swap music for drinks. This leads to questionable behaviors, especially between men and women. I am aware that all these people choose to do this - and most of these people never seem to regret it. It is their way of having fun - I have other ways. I am not judging this behavior as I see no harm done, I see no one coerced into behavior that would make them feel uncomfortable. If you meet most of these people in a non-school setting, they tend to be very different and adopt new styles, perhaps because the general academic context leads to more adolescent attitudes.
However, I must forewarn whoever does not like to party like this. There is tremendous peer pressure - and one must be strong around the "trendy" crowd to show that their own specificity has value. It is heard and respected, but must be made clear. I do not believe that it is the only way to make friends or create a network. People won't just address you and ask you about the latest Montmelian party and if you have no answer, stop considering you. People do consider the whole experience, and if you can take the initiative to put together other activities (there were trips to Normandy, trips to Barcelona, trips to Amsterdam there were ski, climbing and sailing trips, France), then of course, you will have plenty of other occasions to make friends. So do not choose to go or not go to B-School on that basis. Just be aware of it!
This is kind of a late realization on my side - and it does make you think long over whether you truly "fit" or not. These parties are at the same time integral and on the side of the Insead experience. You can make of them what you want.

In Singapore, things are different for teh following reasons: most people organize trips to South-East Asia locations and groups of about 20 people (rotating) always go. BBQs running until midnight or so (which means that you can do them more often than parties that do start at midnight) allows for a lot of conversation and cool pool dipping. People also organize sailing trips, meet in restaurants downtown more often (food is so cheap) and generally build up deeper and stronger ties with more people earlier. I spent only four months in Singapore but I realize that I know better the Singapore crowd than the Fontainebleau crowd. Obviously, it is also a much smaller crowd...

Insead is about diversity. Dare be different!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I have been totally inefficient in the past two weeks. The blazing sun and the 35 degrees Centigrade outside might have to do with this. Interesting speakers these days. CEO of HSBC tomorrow, US Ambassador to France (who has been preped on the basis that INSEAD MBAs are a "difficult" audience) tonight and now:

"Anthony M. Santomero, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (formerly at Wharton) will give a lecture “US Monetary Policy and the Current Expansion”, Monday June 14th, 6pm, Amphi B.

Anthony Santomero is particularly well placed to talk about US Monetary Policy, as the Presidents of the Federal Reserve Banks attend the meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the policy making group of the Federal Reserve chaired by A. Greenspan."

President Bush is in France these days. Last weekend I tried to get into Paris and I bumped into the Police every time I crossed a street. There were memorial ceremonies all over the country around D-Day.

Don't worry, none of the world agitation ever reach the quiet provincial town of Fontainebleau, blessed with the most wonderful spring.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


- Financial Statement Analysis project: on track, due to be finished in coming days
- Global Strategy Management project: on track, I have completed my input, will have to make the presentation, not the consolidation
- Managing Entrepreneurial Growth: all assignments have been handed in and class is over
- ICA: I am an auditor and I have to make one slide. Will do it tomorrow with fellow classmate
- Realizing Entrepreneurial Potential: this is from last period as the class runs over two. Collected info, need to analyze the whole thing with 4 other people...who are sitting in Singapore...Not the most practical way of doing things. That's a serious problem with the course, we have now so many other priorities. On the other hand, I don't know how we could cut down the search proces.
- Job Search: I have no job that I can decide about today. Is this a problem?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

We have no more hot water in the house for reasons that we cannot comprehend. The tank for fuel was refilled a few weeks ago so it is unlikely that we have already run out again. Cold showers only in the past two days. Hopefully, the problem will be solved soon.
I had a discussion with a couple of Jewish people during this aristocrat wedding in lovely France - you would not believe how great the weather is today and how annoyed I am at having to spend time working on projects at school because the last three days were very unproductive.

It turns out that they were offended by a movie that I did not expect to be offensive to them - as quite faithful to what it was based on. It is a very controversial movie and the point of this post is not to discuss it any further here (happy to do this offline though and I can post any enlightening point with your permission).

It allows me to make a point. I keep this journal for informative and entertainment purposes. I intend to offend no one but I may do so inadvertently, often by ignorance.

For instance, I never realized how essential the land of Israel was to them and why - nor in how they resented the fact that people associated their Holy Scriptures with the Old Testament, and paid little attention to the comments (Talmud if I remember correctly) - myself included.

I respect freedom of speech and the right for everyone to have a different opinion. these opinions can be formulated in such a way that they are not offending. It is also more likely that the other party will listen to your views more completely that way. Differing opinions on any subject never needs be associated with lack of respect for the other party. Voltaire once wrote "Even if I disagree with what you have to say, I will fight until my dying day so that you are able to say it". Offensive language is a lack of respect. If it is by ignorance it can be easily corrected if you take the time to educate the other person and explain the source of your grief.

Someone asked me why the international aspect was so important at Insead. He did not see how it could matter in business. I do not think that I can formulate a general answer, a lot has to do with your own personal objectives.
One thing that is true is that Insead is a good school of such respect-building communication. I admit flatly that I am ignorant of many of the ways of this world and i will continue to make mistakes. I am more sensitive though to how they can be interpreted and I am more aware of how I can avoid them in the future. It is rare to see a school where Arab Week embraces all of the Arab countries, even though in reality, they are far from presenting such a United front, where Indian and Pakistanese students work in the same cubicle and make joint plans to play cricket, where the French and the Brits organize their National Week back to back and with a gentle tap on the shoulder and where the English-Speaking mass is oecumenical.

This journal expresses my views at any point in time and they might change over the course of this program - feel free to challenge them (where on Earth has the comment box disappeared?!) and if I have offended any of you, dear Reader, accept my apologies, pop me an e-mail and educate me.
On Friday, I had an assessment day. Boy was that exhausting. I left with a stomping headache, a dry mouth and the desire to creep under a fountain of beer. Of course, we ran late, taxi dropped us off bang on time, all I could get was a Danish pastry before running off to the gate (with 5 other Insead participants) where I was served a Ham Sandwich. The leg was considered too short to justify any effort toward special menus.

What a day.
On Saturday, I was invited to a French wedding in a Chateau near Chartres. The Chateau was built in 1860 by some Empire Baron and was intended to host parties. It has a beautiful park and can certainly host parties.

Everyone was exploring the dark and dusty corners of the place, in search of hidden treasures of the past, but after so many Insead parties in 17th to 19th century chateaux, I have become quite blase of the genre. I walked around the place with an air of grandeur, inspected a few sculptures, sniffed up the food, embraced with a wide look the immensity of the park and the lake, and set foot in the main dining room with the assurance of the owner.

The wedding went on very well - apart from the fact that I forgot to say that I was vegetarian again - I got home about 4.30am (and left as everyone migrated very slowly from dining room to ballroom), the wedding couple was beautiful. I was sat next to an IT consultant on an INSEAD assignment applying for an MBA in the US whose first question to me was "what's your GMAT score?".
I have received a letter from Maitre S. on behalf of a well-known telephone company.
After the initial lovely communication from Maitre S indicated that his clienthad filed a complaint which will turn very nasty ("poursuites") if I did not settle my debt by May d (I received the letter on May d+1). I called the client who said that I should speak only to Maitre S. I called Maitre S who said that I should only write letters to him. I wrote a letter to Maitre S, in my most polite French and I specified the following facts:

- I had given my credit card details to pay for the installation fee. My account was supposed to be charged immediately after the line went live. The fact that this has not happened (I need to pay this too now) could indicate that the line was never turned on.
- I have no phone line - which I hoped was enough to justify my right not to pay much for the service.
- that I was told that the two technicians and combined total of 4 hours spent on site looking for a phone linewere bundled with the installation fee.
In the absence of phone services and successful line installation, I suggested that more time be spent clarifying the legitimacy of the charges. One of us called the telephone company at some point to try to do this and was told that our line was going to be cut off.

Maitre S. sent me today a copy of the invoice with the following caption: please pay and don't forget the late fees I added on page 1. This is a great leap forward. It is extremely satisfying to know that my letter was read in its integrity, that all my concerns are being duly addressed. I have total confidence that my claim is being examined with genuine interest and that we are moving fast toward a fair resolution of this immaterial dispute.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Heard in class and faithfully reported

In a particularly boring class about China (repeat take 25 for me) from a particularly boring guest professor (where did our EXCELLENT professor go???)

"- Your enthusiasm about the country and your dedication to the problems in China has certainly persuaded me of the importance of the matter, and I just wanted to add...(followed a very shallow sentence)"

A zealous student interested in class participation marks.
My choices for end of year trips are

- status quo in my little village, sitting with a glass of wine in my hand by the empty swimming pool watching the ducks swim by.
- see some friends and family I have not seen for a long time
- go to Cannes with some Insead people but the house is full (I did not realize that I could actually confirm a space when they talked about the trip so I let that one go) and I'd have to organize accommodation by myself, persuade other people that the city's worth something even though the festival's over
- skipper a sailing boat with other Insead people (whoever knows me realizes that any kind of sailing proposition, even if it is to the North Pole and I must eat frozen cod every day is VERY VERY VERY VERY attractive to me). By the way, I have now sat successfuly 2 of the 3 theoretical sailing exams. This makes me an officially certified skipper (I had already passed the practice test).

I did not sign up for Croatia, I found it a little expensive.

Anyway, that is also a problem for rich people...My God...I am so rich in choices (and broke, just in case you had forgotten that I stopped working way over a year ago and that I had to finance myself)

Ok - back to diary mode:

I must do a one-slide presentation for this ICA class that I am auditing. As a marketing person knowing the industry that the case talks about, I am setting aside 3.45 minutes for this job

I must contribute to the analysis of industry/company for my REP project and send my inputs to Singapore

I must do a write up on the challenges of Inpatriationfor my Global Strategy and Management class.

I must finish up the valuation of our Financial Analysis project on Netflix.

And I must find myself a job...

Gosh, life is so complicated. I need a coffee. And a secretary.
Jobs jobs jobs...

There are people who tell me that they accepted this attractive offer from this attractive consulting firm because they did not really have anything else after 5 days of job search and they prefer not to spend the time looking.
There are people that tell me that they really wanted to change sector but this would mean waiting for a job for a long time because it is more difficult and so in the end, they will return to their old employer because it is easier
There are people who tell me that they are starting their company
There are people going to Korea
There are people going to Siberia
There are people going to London, there are many many many people going to London in fact
There are people who are willing to take the time to try to change sectors
There are people who are making plans about a new geography without knowing if they got that job offer
There are people lost in thoughts about what they really want to do with their life
There are people who are embracing a new career, people who are switching wives, geographies and sectors, people who are sticking to the old ways, just better armed.

We are all at an important crossroads. Everyone of us can decide to turn right, left or continue straight. Few of us will want to reverse.

I have met a lot of very anxious people - people I care deeply about.

To these people, I want to say this: life is uncertain by definition and will remain so. The most important decisions of our existence will be taken with very little information. Intuition plays a big part. You can choose to worry about your future or be relaxed about it. It won't change your future but it might spoil your last days at Insead. Take the time - if you can afford it - to discuss with your friends, to discuss with your family, to look at yourself. Take a job that you fancy, in a geography that you will like. Take the time. You have dedicated one year of your life to this change. Negotiate the turn with care - and enthusiasm!
You are contemplating a choice that face rich and fortunate people. Do not forget this. Why being stressed about whether you should turn left for the champagne aisle or right toward the Foie Gras when you shop around?
Look at your search like you looked at your MBA: an investment. Finance it as you can and like your MBA throw yourself into it, enjoy it until the last bit. It is well worth it if you attach some importance to your career. Will you take the first offer that comes your way even though it does not correspond at all to what you want to do just because it is the first offer?
if you are running out of cash and must look after a family, take a job but don't like at it as if it was a fatality. Life changes. Trust that you will be led to the right path for you.

Above all, onward and forward.

Look up, life will smile at you. Days have a habit of being good for those who know where to look for goodness.

And just in case this helps at all, I am still a rootless homeless jobless insanely happy MBA participant.
The Iberia Week Organizers did things well. There was plenty of food and sangria today for everyone's enjoyment on the Insead's grass! If Fontainebleau knew!

The Porron and Wine Making (barefoot and gesticulating MBAs in search of poetic inspiration in wine vapors emanating from a small basin) contests were hilarious!

And the Sevillana/Flamenco (I couldn't tell the difference) demonstrations were very good. It is a very suave and aggressive type of dance. Interestingly, the man looks very feminine at times and the woman can take very masculine poses. Maybe this is a good representation of the Spaniards, of their passion for life, of the hydrant fire that seems to continuously run through their veins and give them this fierce look and energy for life!

During lunch, we had a medieval-looking band singing away serenades for everybody - with beer cans appearing suspiciously from under their costumes.

All in all, a fun week! And today, I am disappearing in a neighboring country again, this time with a bunch of friends. Six of us will experience the joys of Parisian traffic in the evening...

Classes are definitely in the background, I have a few projects going on, I will try to finish most of them between now and Tuesday next week so that I can free up my time.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Stephen Green, CEO of HSBC (The world's local bank) will come to Insead next week. He is heading the world's 2nd largest bank and 10th largest company, with 110 million customers, 223,000 employees in 79 countries, with $14.4bn in profit in 2003. A Global Leadership Series initiative.
(Proudly Found Elsewhere, thank you F.)
Three Insead students were invited to a job interview in England. There is an English test as the job requires fluency in English and the TOEFL results are valid only for university. There is some technical terms that applicants have to master.

The test was oral - here is the question
"make a sentence with the following three words: Green, Pink and Yellow"

The Belgian guy starts off with the following sentence:
"I wake up in the morning, I eat a yellow French Fries, drink beer in a green bottle and watch the Pink Panther on TV"

The German student continues:
"I wake up in the morning, I look up at the yellow sun, the green grass and I think to myself: I hope it will be a pink day."

Finally, the French applicant recites the one sentence he knows in English and had to learn by heart (he learned it with holes so that he could plug in the words as required)
"I wake up in ze mornink, I hear ze phone: pink up ze phone and I say "Yellow?"...

That same evening, after having been dinged by this company, the poor French Insead grad decides to drown his sorrow in beer. He goes to a local pub and meet this gorgeous English lady.

- I sink aille am foling in love ouiz you. Douillou zink it is envisageable crack crack widiou this ivening ?
- With you ? Never !
- Euh, OK, disons never, never et demi ?
This week is Iberia Semana!!!!!! Spain and Portugal forgot that they have an hour time difference between their two countries and are putting together a big show for us:

Chorizo, 1000 liters of sangria, wine and other delicatessen, Portuguese music, Spanish dances (show and classes for Sevillana and Flamenco), Bullfight training (with a real Matador!!!!), Ibiza Party on Friday, Spanish movies, Guest Speaker from the Santander group, loads of Chubby candies! Another good week in the works!!!
Yesterday night, after a late night and a few drinks at a late Fontainebleau bar, I met up with some friends in a late village for a late conversation. The year end trip is being organized to Croatia – it is quite expensive and a whole plane is being chartered. Alternatives are in the works for people who will not put up the cash (including your truly), or who needs some flexibility. Still Dubrovnik (a UNESCO World Heritage place) will be a fabulous place to go to and I am sure that the 132 people who sign up to fill the space on the plane will have a hell of a time.
On Sunday, I got up half-rested early afternoon and I set to prepare the desserts for the 30-odd people who were due to come to dinner in the evening, before freeing up the kitchen floor for my housemate to prepare his wonderful curry. I worked with my hands up in flour until my elbows and courageously baked two strawberry tarts (with fresh seasonal strawberries and a crème patissiere), a cherry clafoutis (with fresh seasonal black cherries), an apple cake (with fresh all-year round apples), a lemon cake (with fresh lemons), a yogurt cake (with artificial brasse yogurt). It took me four hours. Until the last minute, I feared that my “pate brisee” would indeed by broken, or that the clafoutis would burn as I would be busy lining up more dough for the rest of the event. I had forgotten how fun cooking can be! Especially if you have half a dozen of bottles of lovely French wine to keep you going throughout the afternoon…

Dinner was a success. With the leftovers, we could compete with our neighbors, Le Grand Veneur restaurant for many days to come.

Of course, the consequence of this laid-back weekend was a very late night on Monday as I had to catch up with group work. I must also catch up with job search – as come to think of it, I am still unemployed.
Saturday night was the Summerball at the Chateau de Courances ( It was a marvelous marvelous night. Everyone turned up in décolleté evening dresses and tuxedos. We were greeted by carriage horses and “laquais” in costumes and taken to the entrance gate. Walking up the stairs felt like walking up the Croisette in Cannes in a beautiful evening outfit. Apart from catering (there might have been food but I never was really exposed to it), everything else was quite good – I think that the organizers could have saved money on the Chateau (since most of the action took place in tents in the main parks), on one tent (since it was completely empty) and there could have been some learning from the previous 7 Summerballs around catering and the challenges of feeding 1500 people. If Insead had a centralized sponsoring activities, to which members of clubs, organization committee and national could participate, it would probably help raise more funds as the tickets for the event are very expensive – for my humble homeless jobless pockets.
In fairness, it is such a difficult event to organize and people at Insead have so little time, that it remains a big achievement. Fireworks, extremely good live bands, cool and relaxed atmosphere and Insead-based band performance in an adjacent tent, champagne and laughter made up for the lack of organization. I spent most of my time in the main tent as it was the only place where I could feel warm enough, I kept losing friends and finding them again in the midst of loads of Insead faculty and alumni, also attending. I danced all night long like the rest of us…One of the last big parties near Fontainebleau…I stayed up until about 6am (I even managed to miss breakfast), crawled home and slipped into bed without shower and further ado.