A transformational experience

INSEAD’s new MBA curriculum provides innovative learning and personal discovery

It’s been nearly a year since INSEAD rolled out its enhanced MBA curriculum, which means that the first students to experience it have just graduated. The school is using this opportunity to review feedback from students and faculty, while evaluating the most successful aspects of the curriculum.

The result of a two-year project involving faculty members, students, alumni, staff, recruiters and other stakeholders, the new curriculum aims to increase resources available to students for their personal leadership development and create more learning opportunities around the concept of “Business and Society.” Ultimately, the objective is to develop responsible future leaders and entrepreneurs with both analytical and leadership excellence.

Business as a force for good
One of the main features of the curriculum is a new core course called Business and Society, which covers ethics, public policy and political environments and aligns with Dean Ilian Mihov’s vision of using business as a force for good.

“The notion of ‘business as a force for good’ doesn’t just apply to non-profits; it is relevant to every leader in every industry,” says Mihov. “By introducing this course into our MBA curriculum, we hope to equip and inspire our students to live these values and carry them forward—no matter what professional path they choose.”

The new course “is an important part of the learning journey for the MBAs, and it’s been evaluated very highly in general, particularly the ethics portion,” says Urs Peyer, INSEAD Dean of Degree Programmes and Associate Professor of Finance.

The course helps students develop insight into the wider consequences of the business decisions they make, says Derek Deasy, Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour. “Many poor decisions are made by those in power—not due to strategic agendas designed to hurt or take advantage of others, but rather out of lack of foresight about the larger systemic or societal impact,” he explains.

Developing perceptive leaders
Even business leaders who are aware of the impact their organisations have on the world may lack the ability to turn that awareness into action, says Deasy. To help students develop this capacity and prepare for greater leadership responsibilities, INSEAD created the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP).

Focusing on personal and interpersonal awareness, communication awareness and professional and peer feedback, the PLDP approaches leadership development as an “inside-out process” that gives voice to a student’s inner value system, says Deasy, who serves as PLDP Director. It starts before students arrive on campus and runs parallel to coaching from the Career Development Centre, which helps students better articulate their career goals and reflect on their development.

So far, the PLDP has received valuable feedback from the 18Js and has been adapted and expanded accordingly, says Peyer.

“The professional coaching embedded in the leadership journey throughout the MBA programme is something that we strongly feel is adding value, because it helps to increase self-awareness and improve interpersonal skills and communication effectiveness. These are all points that respond to what employers have asked for from candidates.”

Niel Wyma MBA’18D says the PLDP made him more aware of who he is as an individual and how that impacts his behaviour as a business leader, husband and friend. “I consider myself much better equipped to not only manage my own career and life decisions, but also to assist and consider those of the people around me, both personal and professional,” Wyma shares.

“I cannot overstate the value this programme has provided me over the past couple of months, and I’m happy to say that the work continues.”

Violeta Argyropoulou MBA’18D says she particularly benefitted from working with a coach in the PLDP. “He helped us challenge our working norms in the team, express our feelings and think about how we can make our study group a safe environment in which to learn,” she says. “I found his steering very helpful; he made me consider why I act and think in a certain way.”

Starting and ending strong
Before students arrive on campus, they receive an online “digital start” that includes career coaching, webinars and a case study. This helps them to be “better prepared to take advantage of the 10 months they’re on campus,” explains Peyer. “It’s a nice way to motivate and connect them to INSEAD before they arrive.”

At the end of the programme, students complete a new capstone course to get ready for their post-MBA careers. “The new capstone course builds on the successful Your First Hundred Days elective, where students get to apply key tools from the different management disciplines and integrate these lessons once again before they go into their new jobs,” he says. “Thanks to the role-playing aspects, the course really is a transition back to reality.”

Looking ahead, the curriculum will continue to evolve and bring INSEAD students the latest in management research, Peyer says. “For example, within the past two years, we have added 12 new electives around the topic of ‘digital and technology’ in all areas—from Fintech [via Technology Strategy and Data Science] to Digital Entrepreneurship—to make our graduates top-notch hiring candidates.”

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