Dean’s Editorial: Preparing for an unpredictable future

Dear alumni,

Greetings from Singapore! I’ve just returned from New York where we concluded the 6th Annual INSEAD Alumni Forum Americas, our signature regional event for alumni based in North America and South America. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding weekend, as I’ve had the chance to connect with alumni, hear lectures from faculty, participate in panel discussions and exchange ideas about “The Future of Business” — the theme of this year’s event.

Naturally, spending a weekend focused on the future of business has made me think more deeply about the ways in which we, at INSEAD, are preparing for an unpredictable future. Indeed, there’s little certainty about what the future may hold, as customers and markets are constantly evolving, technology is advancing at a furious pace and organisations are growing increasingly complex.

Agility at work

Agility at work

As dean, I feel confident saying that INSEAD is uniquely equipped for what lies ahead, no matter what that may be. INSEAD was built on — and continues to cultivate — the qualities that are necessary to succeed in an uncertain and ever-evolving environment. We are innovative. We are agile. We are forward-looking. The spirit of entrepreneurship that brought INSEAD to the fore is still alive and well, as evidenced by the abundance of innovation taking place across academic departments, within classrooms and throughout our administrative teams. It also extends beyond the parameters of the school, as INSEAD alumni continue to drive innovation within their respective organisations and industries.

In this column, I’d like to highlight a few examples of how members of INSEAD’s community are preparing for the future, whether by fostering entrepreneurship, engaging others in meaningful discourse, strengthening our outreach or empowering the network to serve as a force for good.

Launch of the Creative Garage
On the Singapore campus, we recently launched the Creative Garage, a dedicated space for students, alumni and friends to generate and exchange creative ideas that integrate design thinking with business thinking. On the educational front, the Garage will be used to teach methods and organisational principles of creative thinking, and develop new Executive Education programmes that demand experiential learning in innovation management. On the research side, the Garage will be used to advance knowledge on innovation-related topics, such as examining how physical spaces impact creative behaviour. Look for more details about the Garage in the next issue of Salamander.

Design overhaul of INSEAD website
I’m pleased to announce that our team has completed a redesign of the INSEAD website, and the end result is extraordinary. Featuring video backgrounds, interactive graphics, crisp copy and a modern look-and-feel, the new website serves as a powerful marketing tool for INSEAD as we look to attract the best and brightest to the school. It also features a responsive design that’s suited for mobile phones and tablets, which many of our 20,000-plus daily visitors use to view the site. My thanks to everyone who was involved in the redesign of the website.

Alumni spurring innovation
In this issue of Salamander, you’ll find several stories about alumni who are driving innovation and growth in their respective roles and organisations:

  • In “The Upside of a Down Market,” Andrea Orcel MBA’90J, president of the UBS Investment Bank, shares his unique strategy for positioning the bank for growth and success in spite of the market’s volatile and unpredictable behaviour.
  • In “The Revenge of the Shopkeepers,” Kevin Tayebaly MBA’15J and Jerome Dewavrin MBA’15J explain how their start-up, Village Map, is supporting small shopkeepers in Paris — and why INSEAD was the ideal place to incubate their business idea.
  • Nakul Sharma MBA’11J talks about how his company, Hostmaker, is capitalising on the popularity of Airbnb by providing hosting services for vacation rentals. Earlier this year, Forbes named the company one of the five fastest-growing British businesses to watch in 2016.
  • Sadia Khan MBA ‘95D, president of the INSEAD Alumni Association, explains how INSEAD maintains a unique model of alumni relations that’s driven by a “spirit of volunteerism.” This year, the IAA is celebrating the 55th year since its founding.
  • Graduates from the Singapore Alumni Association describe the variety of events and activities offered by their active group, which is the sixth largest alumni group at INSEAD and maintains approximately 2,300 members.

Studying collaborative engagements
On the research front, many of our faculty members have recently completed studies that have uncovered interesting trends in business. For example, a survey by Professor Serguei Netessine and Arnaud Bonzam revealed that corporations and start-ups are finding new and surprising ways to collaborate, many of which are low-cost and low-commitment but offer high returns. The researchers share some of those findings in the article, “Corporates and Start-ups: Engage or Else!” and explain the mutual business benefits that arise when different types of organisations collaborate.

Uniting the community
INSEAD’s alumni network, of course, plays an instrumental role in the school’s future. To help strengthen that network, we have several upcoming events planned to reconnect alumni, celebrate shared experiences and usher in the next generation of INSEAD alumni.

  • Our Alumni Reunion, held 27-29 May 2016, will feature a plenary session on the INSEAD MBA programme and alumni network, faculty forums on important themes of the day, social and networking events, and discussions about INSEAD’s plans for an ambitious future. Our students have also worked hard to organise a series of events around the reunion. Find out more about the 14th INSEAD Private Equity Conference, INSEAD Entrepreneurship Forum and TEDxINSEAD.
  • On 3-4 June 2016, we invite alumni to attend the INSEAD Alumni Forum Europe in London. Themed “Business as Force for Good?” the forum will explore and debate the role of business in driving economic growth and ensuring sustainable progress. The event also features a variety of social and networking activities, including a cocktail reception, an evening reception and a spectacular gala at the Roof Gardens in Kensington.
  • Finally, on 7 July 2016, the MBA Class of 16J will become the first in more than 50 years to graduate at the Château de Fontainebleau. It is befitting that these students will graduate from the very place that INSEAD was established in the 1950s, given that they are the first to graduate following our no. 1 ranking in the Financial Times.

If it’s true that innovation and success are inextricably linked, then INSEAD’s future is looking very bright indeed. As I’ve observed, at INSEAD and with our alumni community, we don’t just embrace change; we lead it. We don’t shirk from disruption; we harness it. We don’t just survive dislocation; we thrive amidst it.

I look forward to a future filled with ambition and fuelled by innovation.

Yours sincerely,

Ilian Mihov

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