The MBA class of 2018 is in wrap-up mode! Electives are over and job hunting still in full swing, and everyone is now looking forward to graduation – it’s a busy time for the class dominated by reluctant farewells and happy reunions with family and friends. For all of us in the MBA office it is an exciting time of the year – graduation, placement and the 2019 opening dominate daily business. For me, it's a time for important conversations which have led to insightful flashbacks.  I’d like to share some of the many, many, memories of people, sayings and incidents that come to mind when I reflect on this year.

Integrated (End of Module 1) Exercise

As any alumnus will agree one of the most iconic moments of the IMD MBA comes around in March – the first Integrative Exercise. It was introduced over 25 years ago to test the participants’ learning about strategy, marketing, costing and finance, and of course, their common sense. It's an amazing experience. It has been the source of very special moments and memories for the class and for the faculty. My favorite: being asked ‘was a power outage at 4am designed to throw us off balance?’ As if….!! But such random events are very much Real World and thus students are expected to cope. 2018 did not disappoint. Our participants receive a complex case at noon on day 1, present it to a jury during the morning of day 2, are provided with feedback so they can regroup and represent 24 hours later. They learn three lessons that they will use throughout the MBA and later in their careers; manage your time and go back over your work with fresh eyes, think holistically, and most importantly, work as a team. In this exercise you cannot paper over the cracks, you cannot bluff, you cannot be superficial, you will be exposed. It's a highly appreciated test. 

Discovery expedition

We made several adjustments to the program this year. Addressing digitalization was one important initiative. In addition to revising courses, we redesigned our overseas adventure to take the entire class to some of those places where our digital future is being created. In just two weeks, we visited tech labs, companies and government agencies in Silicon Valley, Singapore and Bangalore. We heard from leading economists, entrepreneurs and scientists. A whirlwind? Yes, but also an amazing exposure to companies and people so focused on the future. We met alumni on every stop and, of course, benefited from local insights of classmates. Despite some late nights, (for them!!) I was impressed with the group’s attentiveness, interest and engagement all the way through. And of course, there were laughs galore. All in all, the trip was a tremendous memory of 2018 – something unique. I am currently being asked whether the class of 2019 will follow the same itinerary. They won’t. But I’ll save that for another day.

International Consulting Projects

In September, 17 teams worked from locations such as Helsinki, Abu Dhabi, Brussels, Dubai, Johannesburg and Lausanne (yes, the study rooms of IMD – a.k.a. the dungeons) with many teams travelling extensively to locations in China, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Europe, and Africa. I’m always impressed with the ingenuity of classmates managing to make their schedules cross conveniently in cool locations. And, all of us were impressed and proud of our teams as they delivered impactful final presentations. I’m happy to say, we have many of the 2018 clients requesting projects in 2019.   

Tough moments

Nothing is ever perfect. We tried some new things that didn’t work exactly as planned. But, with the help of the class of 2018, we’re clear on improvements we can make for the year ahead. Some memories are also difficult ones – but through tough times come important lessons, both for the participants and myself.

Most of all 2018 has been a year that will stand out for me. It was a year of making new friends – wonderful people, all so different. It has been a real privilege to get to know each of them and share in their excitement as they clarify their ambitions, develop their plans and take their next important steps. They will enjoy great success and the world will be a better place for it.  

Our role is to help our MBAs become better at business, yes. But more importantly, they have developed their resilience, their will and their accessibility.  We strive to ensure they leave knowing themselves as people who can play an important role in our society through the responsible leadership of corporations and organizations. The class of 2018 will not disappoint. They understand the need and will accept the challenge. We all need them to. Let’s congratulate them and applaud their achievements.