Over the weekend IMD hosted its Annual International Alumni Event, which focused on Disruptive Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The two day event drew an energetic crowd of over 350 executives who have participated in IMD’s programs over the years as well as a number of the school’s professors and members of the wider IMD community.

Alumni as ambassadors

“You are our best ambassadors and contribute to our successes,” said Jean-François Manzoni opening the event during his “Update from the President”.

Jean-François discussed IMD’s recent achievements and current priorities. He told the crowd how IMD creates maximum impact for organizations and individuals through its thought leadership, engagement with the executives it works with, and its innovative pedagogical processes and intervention tools. He also gave an update on IMD’s digital business transformation initiative as well as its partnership with EPFL to deliver TransformTECH, a new program which helps companies discover how to capitalize on emerging technologies, like robotics, internet of things, or artificial intelligence to create value.

Strengthening ties with alumni through clubs around the world, but also through communities set up around programs like HPL, or areas of interest such as entrepreneurship, are top priorities for IMD, he said.

Jean-François closed his address by stressing that alumni are an integral extension of IMD who help co-create value for both IMD and the alumni community. “Your participation remains the biggest differentiator for IMD and alumni,” he said wrapping up.

The world in reset mode

Competitiveness expert Stéphane Garelli gave the keynote address on the event’s opening evening analysing the competitiveness landscape for 2018 and beyond. A huge amount of money is currently circulating among companies and central banks but inflation is flat, while there is a staggering amount of technological innovation but productivity is stagnant, Professor Garelli pointed out. These paradoxes have led to another; the economy has grown impressively but incomes have barely budged.

Garelli also discussed uncertainties for the international economy, automation and the future of work, and how global events are shaping the fates of companies more than ever.

Innovation at IMD

Albrecht Enders, IMD Professor and Dean of Innovation, discussed how IMD is innovating with its suite of online-based courses and numerous new digitally-focused programs. He also talked about how IMD has been leading companies like Stora Enso on transformational journeys.

Disruption is not a strategy

Adjunct Professor and expert in entrepreneurship Jim Pulcrano talked about how the end goal for companies should not be to “disrupt” an industry, but to solve a problem, delight a customer and/or improve a technology.

“Rather than stating that disruption is your strategy, it is better to fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve and the customer you’re solving it for, and not the disruption you think you have,” he said.

Lessons from the retail sector

Omar Toulan, Professor specializing in strategy and international management who has just joined IMD, gave an overview of how companies can survive digital disruption.He explained that the decline of the retail sector is due to: the overpopulation of the retail space; the shift from purchasing objects to experiences; and the shift to online shopping.

Toulan listed how companies can combat this and grow again by embracing the new reality, by segmenting customers, enhancing the physical experience in their stores, and to overall rethink what it means to be a retailer.

Bringing entrepreneurship inside your organization

Peter Vogel, who recently joined IMD as the Debiopharm Chair of Family Philanthropy, discussed how large organizations are becoming more entrepreneurial than ever. He illustrated how rapidly digital transformation is shaking up industries. Looking at the landscape of emerging trends and technologies, he provided the audience with a framework for choosing which to follow and which to ignore.

“If companies don’t want to be left behind, they must react quickly and bring entrepreneurship inside to develop novel products, service and disruptive business model,” said Vogel.

The solution, according to Vogel is to adopt an intrapreneurship model, which brings the traits of a startup into a corporate environment. This should be incorporated into everything from a company’s culture, to talent acquisition to individual mindsets and should include an ecosystem built for intrapreneurship, he said.

Entrepreneurship at IMD

IMD’s Director of Alumni, Johan Govea, closed the sessions with a presentation about the IMD Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship. Since last year, the Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), has been making waves at IMD and in the wider Lausanne area. Other regions in Switzerland and beyond will also soon see the creation of similar groups.

The ACE group was initially created by a group of alumni from IMD’s Executive MBA program specifically to help other alumni of the school who wanted to explore entrepreneurship further and to be part of a group that brings together the mix of entrepreneurs and investors together needed to make successful deals happen.

“The Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship is the embodiment of IMD’s Real Learning, Real Impact spirit. It’s really making a difference in the local entrepreneurial community and it will continue to spread. It’s part of our mission to build powerful business networks,” said Johan.

Find out more about IMD’s Alumni community and events.

See Flickr for more pictures from the weekend.

Read IMD’s recent newsletter on entrepreneurship and startups.