INSEAD Participant Interview

Innovation in the Age of Disruption & the INSEAD Online experience



Clara Guedes

Clara Guedes needed a learning partner to help her enact an organisational and strategic pivot in 2019. What the CEO of Saltiproud-Monte do Pasto took away, however, was a complete shift in her mindset with Innovation in the Age of Disruption programme.

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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.

“I took away a different mindset after completing the IAD programme. It taught me to really look at things from a customer centric perspective and to apply cutting-edge techniques like design thinking to my processes as a leader. Coming away with this kind of shift in thinking has helped me enormously in terms of driving innovation and paving the way for success with our new business model. It was nothing short of enlightening for me."

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