A squishy square blue cube recently got a lot of buzz at IMD. The soft throwable microphone served as an intriguing conversation piece that raised the fun factor for the more than 350 alumni attending the 2016 IMD Biennial International Alumni Event.IMD alumni event microphone

While fun was definitely a part of the program, the reasons for attending the event were many.  Alumni we spoke with credited their attendance with their desires to “broaden knowledge,” “keep up-to-date on new business developments,” “follow up on previous learning experiences,” “meet old friends,” and “reconnect with IMD’s DNA.” 

“This is in fact my 4th time attending the Biennial and I keep returning because I know the quality of the event is high,” said Rafael Cano-Castillo, an associate at Synergivity and a 2009 Strategic Marketing in Action (SMA) program participant. “Plus there are a lot of great networking opportunities.”

“It just feels great to be back at IMD because being here offers a ‘base’ to meet people and to gain new insights and tools. It’s one big family tuned into global issues,” said Jaqueline Collier, a Managing Director at Omega Insights who did SMA in 2013.

Looking deeper at the global issues facing businesses today, the theme of the event was Leadership and Management in Volatile Times and it aimed to explore new paradigms and tools to thrive in an increasingly turbulent, complex and uncertain future. With six lectures from IMD professors, topics covered included leading in a crisis, financial strategy, making strategic choices, and operating in high turbulence environments.     

“IMD is about making impact and that includes helping all of our alumni continue on prosperous career paths. The Biennial event is designed to stimulate intellectual learning and it comes full circle in leaving participants with a solid ground for where to go,” said Johan Govea, Director of IMD’s Alumni Network.

To help set that solid ground, IMD Professor Stefan Michel reminded alumni that crisis management isn’t a part of day to day business. It involves being prepared for the unexpected and having procedures in place for the unknown. It was a message the resonated for many alumni, especially those who can already see new waves on the horizon.

Alumni highlights

“The world is changing fast and we not only need to adapt, but also to win. Coming from London, the UK facing the reality of Brexit will change the rules of the economy and the fluency of the market place,” said Anna Valle, an executive in the cosmetics industry who did a custom program at IMD.      

For Dimitar Dimitrov, Business Development Director for SoftwareGroup and a 2009 EMBA program participant, scale and rhythm are the things to look out for. “I think globalization is the key component of today’s volatile business environment. Pace, change, speed, and acceleration are all around us,” he said.

But what is the cause of so much turbulence? From the perspective of IMD alumni, there’s not a single answer. It seems to be varied by industry. For example, Collier says mergers and acquisitions and regulatory changes are prevalent in pharma companies. Jeroen Scheelbeek, Global Head of Client Solutions at Rabobank in the Netherlands believes price pressure and the lowering costs of everything are the biggest challenges for business leaders. But across industries, Scheelbeek and many others say technology, especially the internet is playing a huge role in bringing change.

“New technology is a big contributor to the volatile business environment, and along with it we have new consumption behaviors and shifts in company ideology (digital native companies vs traditional companies),” said Dino Torrisi, CEO of Futureberry and a 2015 Driving Strategic Innovation (DSI) program participant. “Strategic disruption is in almost every industry.”

In addition to sharing thoughts on business, the Biennial event also gave alumni an opportunity to reflect on how their professional decisions impact their lives.

“There are choices and trade-offs in life,” said IMD Professor Albrecht Enders. “We may make a move for money or promotion at the expense of free time, family or doing what would otherwise make us happy.” In a presentation on structuring strategic choices, Enders analyzed a number of frameworks to develop a simple and effective method for strategizing better. “By thinking about life in a more structured ways, we get more clarity on what the best moves are both in our personal and professional lives, which are often intertwined.”

The alumni attending the 2016 IMD Biennial International Alumni Event came from all around the world representing 38 nationalities and more than 240 companies. With the IMD’s alumni networking being composed of IMD participants from all types of executive education programs – from leadership and innovation to finance and marketing – the mix of energy and expertise for idea exchange is extremely rewarding.

“IMD is a special place to be and in attending this event I feel like I belong to a winning and privileged team,” said Onike Nicol-Houra, Principal Business Development Officer for The African Development Bank Group.

Held every two years, this special event is part of IMD’s commitment to lifelong learning to promote the transformational journies of our alumni.

Learn more about the IMD alumni network

See more photos from the event on flickr