Not that long ago or far away, dozens of teens from across the planet came together to learn about the power of business as a force for good.
Good news for all Star Wars fans. The spirit of the Jedi lives on at INSEAD.
“Be a J.E.D.I.,” Professor Subramanian (Subi) Rangan told 45 outstanding high school students from around the world who were gathered this summer on the Fontainebleau campus. “Be a Justice, Efficiency and Diversity Integrator.
“These are the values that organisations and individuals must embrace for the global human system to be sustainable and for individuals to have a proper, prosperous and peaceful life,” explained Professor Rangan, Professor of Strategy and Management and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court Endowed Chair in Societal Progress.
The students, 20 sons and daughters of INSEAD MBA alumni from 10 countries and 25 public high school students from Abu Dhabi, were attending the first-ever Summer@INSEAD programme held 2-20 August in Fontainebleau.
“Subi opened our eyes to the role each and every one of us must play to change the world and advance humanity not only in terms of economic advancement but also in terms of order and ethicality,” states a student-maintained blog about Summer@INSEAD.
In addition to Professor Subi Rangan, faculty members in the programme included Michelle Rogan, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise, Miguel Sousa Lobo, Associate Professor of Decision Sciences, Marwan Sinaceur, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, and Peter Zemsky, Deputy Dean of INSEAD.
The aim of the three-week programme was to teach the students the basic skills required for a career in business and to appreciate the role business plays in society and the ways in which it can be a force for good.
Getting accepted into the programme was not easy. Like regular INSEAD applicants, the youngsters had to pass a rigorous application process that required outstanding school grades, the ability to speak English, a personal statement explaining why they wanted to attend the programme, and a personal interview.
Coming from the UK, the United States, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Canada, the Philippines and Abu Dhabi, the students also needed to be open to other ways of life. So while the first day was spent settling in, Day 2 was devoted to team building which included rappelling down huge boulders and tight-rope walking. The goal was to teach trust, perseverance and communication.
“As a 15 year old student Summer@INSEAD has been such an honour and a great experience,” says Alya Al Falasi from Abu Dhabi. “I have learned how to accept people coming from such different cultures compared to mine.”
What makes an entrepreneur?
Courses were held five mornings a week and included company visits, workshops, guest speakers and group discussions.
Day 3 was a crash course on Entrepreneurship led by Professor Rogan where the students discovered what makes and drives entrepreneurs and how they identify opportunities and turn them into profitable and sustainable new businesses.
To illustrate, Professor Rogan used two case studies of businesses launched by INSEAD alumni: Michel et Augustin, a French start-up co-founded by Michel de Rovira MBA’04D, and the Google Cultural Institute, an online platform created by alumnus Amit Sood MBA’07J.
The programme also included courses in development and progress, strategy, decision making, and organisational behaviour. All the courses included theory and practical applications. An optional French class was also offered.
“Summer@INSEAD has been by far, the best experience of my life,” says Klara Tavecchio, 16, an Italian student.
“Summer@INSEAD contributes to equipping our students with some of the necessary business skills, knowledge and culture to further build our nation,” says ADEC Director General H.E. Dr. Amal Abdullah Juma Al Qubaisi.
For its part, INSEAD hopes the programme will help strengthen its presence in Abu Dhabi and across the Middle East.
“INSEAD is committed to a developing business education across this dynamic and fast-growing region, offering insights into business ideas and worldwide business practices, and helping develop the global linkages that will underpin its sustained growth,” says Professor Lobo, Director of INSEAD’s Abu Dhabi campus.
Besides the business curriculum, the students also got to explore French culture and history with visits to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Palace at Versailles, the Louvre Museum, the Seine and the medieval village of Provins.
They also visited French businesses including famous brands such as Louis Vuitton and Galeries Lafayette, where Philippe Houzé MBA’74, an INSEAD alumnus, is Chairman of the Galeries Lafayette Group Executive Board.
For a more diplomatic perspective, they met with H.E. Maadhad Hareb Mughair Al Khaili, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to France and his team at the UAE Embassy in Paris. One of the last courses was a workshop on Arab role models led by Hamza Chraibi, the founder of Arab Excellence.
“These 18 days have been some of the most unique and unforgettable moments of my life,” says Olivia Serhan, 15, from Quebec, Canada.
Khalifa Omar, 15, from Abu Dhabi, adds: “Summer@INSEAD has been empowering on many levels. It was an enlightening experience. I learned to follow my own judgment and to be open to new ideas.”
It is still too soon to say whether the programme will be held again next year, but this year was a big success.
“The very positive feedback we have received from the ADEC students and the international participants, as well as from faculty, is very encouraging and lays the groundwork for further cooperation and innovation,” concludes Peter Zemsky, Deputy Dean of INSEAD.
Maybe next summer dozens of young Jedis from around the world will once again fill the lecture halls and dining tables of the Fontainebleau campus.
Until then, may the force (of business as a power for good) be with you.
*To learn more, visit the Summer@INSEAD blog at http://blogs.insead.edu/summeratinsead/