INSEAD Participant Interview
Innovation in the Age of Disruption & the INSEAD Online experience
Navigating change calls for innovation. It calls for a mindset and a complement of leadership competencies that can mobilise people and resources around new approaches and frameworks – unlocking ideas and creativity in response to uncertainty.
For Clara Guedes, CEO of Portuguese agriculture, livestock and renewable energy group, Saltiproud-Monte do Pasto and Focus, accelerating this shift in mindset and the leadership skills associated with innovation meant something specific. In 2019, she decided to diversify the business model by adding a B2C area of business to an originally B2B– entering a completely new sector and market, creating a new business model to take their operations overseas reaching new clients and executing a new strategy going forward.
To rise to this challenge, says Guedes, meant something else. And that was partnering with INSEAD; and more specifically, securing a place on the School’s Innovation in the Age of Disruption (IAD) programme.
“In 2019, I was basically charged with leading and enacting a complete shift; expanding our company to complement and diversify existing production and business model based on sustainable agricultural and livestock activities and contribute significantly to the development of the entire Alentejo region and the Portuguese economy."
Guedes was looking for a school with the international dimensions and the faculty to deliver the kinds of global insights on leading change and innovation that she needed. Another major drawcard was the format of the IAD programme, she says.
“I’m hugely busy on a day-to-day basis, and there was simply no way I could take the time away from work to physically attend a campus-based programme. So an obvious solution was to look for an online delivery. With the IAD, I have to say I was just blown away however, by how interactive and engaging the learning experience felt – even though we were not physically together. The programme just drew us all in and facilitated the most incredible interactions from day one.”
Guedes was “extremely lucky,” she says, to form part of an exceptionally dynamic study group – a diverse cohort of business leaders from all over the globe, with whom she could share and challenge different ideas and perspectives around innovation.
“The group dynamic that we forged transcended cultural differences or barriers and we instantly started to share exchange and discuss really interesting concepts. It was just so helpful to situate the learning in this cross-cultural, diverse context. And it’s a practice that has endured long after the programme. We’re still in regular communication – we still share interesting resources with each other. You don’t expect this kind of involvement in an online programme.”
Perhaps the most significant takeaway from the programme, however, was what Guedes describes as a shift in her own mindset – a transformation in her thinking vis a vis change, innovation and the customer journey.