INSEAD Participant Interview

Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption & the INSEAD Online experience



Roald Larsen

Roald Larsen reveals how the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme helped him bring together strategy formulation and execution, and gave him the tools to communicate his ideas more effectively when presenting to a C-level audience.

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Tell us more about yourself and your current position.

I am an “entrepreneur in residence”. What I typically do is help organizations start up new businesses, expand and move into new markets using digital technology. My background is in computer science and I hold an MSc in engineering combined with an MBA. I have worked with companies of all sizes, including many tech start-ups. Now, I am helping Telenet - a leading cable broadband provider in Belgium, and a subsidiary of Liberty Global – develop their Internet of Things business strategy.

What attracted you to the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme?

I love learning and to continuously improve my professional skills. My 3 main learning objectives this year are to increase my understanding of digital business strategy, explore the impact of exponential technologies on society and strengthen my knowledge on design thinking. To deepen my strategy skills, I looked at several options and then decided to follow Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption. I’ve always held INSEAD in high regard, so this course seemed ideal.

What were your expectations? What did you want to learn?

When I graduated from university in 2002, the digital business landscape was still in its infancy. Digital was for webmasters– it did not interest a lot of businesspeople. Over the years however, I saw that digital was becoming a topic for business leaders. With the rise of mobile, social technologies and start-up landscape the digital industry boomed, everyone has begun talking about digital transformation and so-called “disruption”. In 2017, Digital has become really strategic, even for established industries. It’s a top concern for business leaders, such as C-level management, VP’s, directors etc…. So you need to be able to understand what matters to them and talk to them in their own language. This is where INSEAD excels. It succeeds in demystifying what digital disruption means for business leaders and explain in a meaningful manner how to act upon the challenges and opportunities that arise.

Were your expectations met?

I was very impressed with it all. The programme gives you tools for clearly and quickly conveying your strategy – in just a few slides. I took away tools I can use a lot in my day-to-day work and in my frequent meetings with business leaders and senior management. So while the programme was strategic in nature, it was also providing tangible tools to help you execute a strategic plan. Another plus was that the timing meant I could fit the programme into my schedule over six to eight weeks. The Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption programme perfectly brings together strategy formulation and execution – something that is missing from most other curriculums of strategy courses.

How did it compare with other online courses you have taken?

Other online courses I have taken were very “one way”. I like courses where you learn something and then do exercises – one cannot go without the other. INSEAD offered an excellent combination, with a practical exercise to go with each lecture. The learning pace was good and I liked the fact that the course was very hands-on. You had deadlines for projects, but it was possible to work at your own pace, sometimes studying in the morning and sometimes in the evening. As an entrepreneur and father of two kids I needed to have that freedom and flexibility. Also, I was very impressed with the added value of the learning coach.

So what did you think of having a learning coach on the programme?

Prior to the course I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a learning coach. Eventually, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts of the whole learning experience. We had around three calls during the programme. I thought it was like other programmes; we would discuss a bit and that’s it. But he added tremendous value by taking on my project from an external point of view and helping to push my progress even further, by looking at it from various strategic angles and discussing the options. I was truly impressed.

Was the Action-Learning Project (ALP) useful?

My ALP was a real strategy exercise for one of my clients. I work with the strategy and new business department and we wanted to move into a new business area, so I based my project on that. The SDD at INSEAD helps you to bridge the world of business with the area of digital disruption and provide you with concrete tools and processes to be able to communicate our strategy effectively to senior management. So, my project enabled me to develop a digital strategy framework and explain the business value, risks, opportunities and tangible plan – in just 15 slides.

What were the highlights of the programme for you?

The help I got with positioning. I felt I was listened to and challenged on what the strategic scenarios were, and we also covered new areas and business lines as well as how to position yourself in the value chain; and the pros and cons. The whole exercise really pushed my thinking forward. It’s during such moments that you achieve a breakthrough. On another note, I also enjoyed the energy of Peter Zemsky on the course and his interaction and engagement with the participants especially on social media.

Would you consider doing another INSEAD online programme?

Definitely. And I now also find the idea of doing an executive course at INSEAD itself very attractive. I think this is part of the value that the online programmes deliver – they open the door to people also doing programmes on campus.

What would you tell someone interested in doing Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption?

“It’s a no-brainer, just do it!” Seriously, it will help you to quickly develop a story that you can sell internally in your company, in a language that people will understand. If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to be able to communicate in a very structured and comprehensive manner. The programme will help you to do just that – that’s the beauty of it. There’s no complicated technical digital stuff and it’s very efficient. Learning the skills to convey something complicated in a simple and structured manner – which the programme helps you do – that’s a great asset for your career.


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