INSEAD Participant Interview

Interview with a past participant of AVIRA: Bridging the 'knowing versus choosing versus doing' gap

Gbenga Oyebode

Former Chairman of Access Bank Plc, Nigeria

"AVIRA encourages self-reflection and time out to consider your decisions, but more importantly, it allows you to look down the road and say to yourself, ‘What do I need to be doing next? What should I be doing? What opportunities do I need to be looking at?’ You do all this from the perspective of a senior leader in an organisation." says Gbenga Oyebode, past participant of AVIRA: Awareness, Vision, Imagination, Role, Action.

Why did you choose AVIRA?

AVIRA captures a broad spectrum of issues that I tend to deal with in my role as a senior leader. It’s very much a multi-dimensional type of programme. I wanted something where I’d meet peers around the same level as I am in senior management; people who sit on boards and come from a wide variety of industries. Plus, at just five days the AVIRA programme was the right length of time for me to spend away from work.
 

One of the big parts of the programme is self-awareness and reflection. Why is that important to you?

Working under the time pressures that I’m used to, you don’t normally get time to step back and reflect on issues as they arise. AVIRA allows you to pay attention to some of the things you tend to push to the backburner. These can be issues that have shaped your life, but that you’ve got used to thinking have happened by circumstance. The programme allows you to become aware of your decision-making process, and of the decisions you make. This was one of the core reasons I wanted to attend AVIRA.
 

Would you say the ability to step back is an important skill for senior leaders to learn? 

Absolutely. AVIRA encourages self-reflection and time out to consider your decisions, but more importantly, it allows you to look down the road and say to yourself, ‘What do I need to be doing next? What should I be doing? What opportunities do I need to be looking at?’ You do all this from the perspective of a senior leader in an organisation. 
 

AVIRA also focuses on the concept of ‘knowing versus choosing versus doing’. Did that help you?

Yes, AVIRA highlights the knowing–doing gap that exists in most organisations. We tend to think we know what the problems in our organisations are and that we develop strategies to cope with them in response – and then we make decisions. However, there is often a huge gap between what we know and what we actually do. So execution tends to be the biggest problem. Coming from Nigeria, we tend to see what the problems are but we execute poorly. So for me, the AVIRA programme was one that I needed to attend because it focuses your attention on this gap.
 

What does the programme do to make this focus possible?

It offers the reading material to put context around these issues, but to AVIRA’s credit, it’s not a programme that focuses exclusively on the theory or on case studies. Rather, it allows you to get the views of your peer group in the room and brings in experts who discuss some of the pertinent issues. Because the focus is practical rather than theoretical, these issues become ‘front of mind’ very quickly.
 

What was the highlight of your AVIRA experience?

The reflection period was very important. You get the chance to learn and get soundings from the faculty and your colleagues, but you also get the opportunity to step back and say to yourself, ‘How important is what I’ve just learned? How do I apply this to my job?’ Most other programmes don’t allow you to do that. They advise allowing yourself time to process what you have learned when you get back to your job. With AVIRA, by contrast, you get time within the programme itself to reflect on what you have learned and how you will use that in your job. It means that if you have any issues you would like to share, you can raise them right then and there and get ideas from others.
 

Would you recommend AVIRA to your colleagues?

Absolutely. I’d also like to add that another thing that makes INSEAD stand out is that you are able to share ideas with people who have diverse perspectives – you are not dealing with just an American point of view or a European point of view. For me, that’s a great advantage.
 
If you are a senior business leader keen to refresh your outlook and to see the bigger picture for your business, click here to find out more about the programme content.

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