I’ve long been a fan of Blue Ocean and the way that this approach challenges you to open up new possibilities and to push the boundaries on what’s possible without getting into price fights with competitors; it’s just a personal challenge to you as a decision-maker to challenge your own beliefs, which is something I have always done both professionally and personally. That and the fact that the programme and INSEAD came highly recommended by our CEO, meant it was a no-brainer for me to sign up!”
When you are looking for the right executive education programme, it’s probably a good idea to take the advice of your CEO.
So says Christos Tselebidis, Key Account Manager Global Sales with Germany’s Dörken Coatings, an environmentally-conscious chemical coating and membranes multinational.
Tselebidis will be stepping up into a role with greater responsibility this year; and it’s a challenge. It will fall to him to strategically rethink global sales and to spearhead efforts to grow revenue – looking at how to broaden their market by differentiating their solutions while simultaneously maintaining competitive prices.
To prepare for this challenge, INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy programme was, he says, a perfect fit.
“I’ve long been a fan of Blue Ocean and the way that this approach challenges you to open up new possibilities and to push the boundaries on what’s possible without getting into price fights with competitors; it’s just a personal challenge to you as a decision-maker to challenge your own beliefs, which is something I have always done both professionally and personally,” he says. “That and the fact that the programme and INSEAD came highly recommended by our CEO, meant it was a no-brainer for me to sign up!”
Going into the programme during the pandemic, of course, meant experiencing the learning in an online format – something that Tselebidis welcomed, albeit with reservations.
“In front of me I had the perfect fit in terms of programme and school – the learning solution I needed in terms of accelerating my own strategic thinking and planning. But I knew from my MBA experience, much of which was online, that there are certain dynamics you lose when you learn online – there’s a social dimension to networking that is not the same.”
In the event, however, the INSEAD online experience actually delivered unexpected benefits, he says. Because of the “flipped” approach – where preparation for class happens offline and class-time is reserved for discussion and active learning – there were certain “efficiencies” that gave the programme enhanced impact.
“The logistics were just great. Using technology to deliver this programme meant that you could access and prepare many of the theoretical resources offline, at your own pace. Then in the synchronous, online Zoom sessions, you could really get to the core of the topics fast. Your interactive time was just so much more dynamic than it would have been otherwise.”
The synchronous sessions, says Tselebidis, were led by “two great teachers” – faculty with huge expertise in translating theory into practice and fleshing out complex ideas and frameworks with fully-engaging, real-world examples.
“Our faculty were fantastic at bringing the learning to life in the context of real business and showing us how great examples of how to apply new ideas.”
Then there were the peers; a cohort, he says, that inspired him beyond his expectations.
“My fellow participants came from all over the world – Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria, the US. Being part of such an incredibly diverse group was in itself part of the challenge to see things from different perspectives. It was also a real privilege to get a good look inside so many different industries.”
One of the principal highlights of the programme, says Tselebidis, were the Virtual Reality (VR) experiences.
“Virtual” visits to sites as diverse as a food market in Singapore, production halls within a manufacturing plant, the INSEAD Singapore campus to meet faculty, and even a trip to Mars.
“VR gives you a completely different dimension – a completely experiential side to learning. You deploy all of your senses as you look at different scenarios and explore the different business challenges, systems and processes that are unfolding in each. You engage your imagination as you learn and that’s actually quite unique. In my firm, we are hugely interested in the potential of VR as a next-generation training tool to roll out with our own teams.”
Coming out of the INSEAD experience, Tselebidis feels more empowered to make the next step up in his career. As he prepares for the next stage in his leadership journey, he says he is already thinking about how and where to apply what he has learned.
“I’ve started working with colleagues from a more technical background, looking at our customer journeys and reviewing their pain points. I’m beginning to use some of the learnings from the programme to determine ways to reduce or even eliminate these hurdles, and add new value.”
Above all, he says, the programme has “confirmed his beliefs.”
“I was self-employed for 20 years, so I have deep first-hand experience of what it means to constantly challenge your own beliefs. INSEAD was the most incredible affirmation and validation of this approach and its benefits.”
To anyone thinking of joining the programme to challenge themselves and their own strategic thinking he has this advice: “Just do it. Even if you think your industry or organisation doesn’t fit the profile for Blue Ocean Strategy, this programme has something for anyone who is interested in driving innovation by uncovering new ways of seeing and thinking.”