INSEAD Participant Interview
Innovation in the Age of Disruption & the INSEAD Online experience
Tell us more about yourself and your current position.
I grew up in Argentina, where I studied accountancy before graduating with an MBA. I’ve lived in Brazil since 2010. Right now, I’m the Logistics and Supply Chain Manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions Brazil. We’re a leading agribusiness company with a presence in the US, Canada, Australia, South America and Europe.
How did you hear about INSEAD’s open online programmes? Have you completed any other programmes at the school?
I first heard about the online programmes from colleagues, who recommended I try them. However, I’ve had previous experience of INSEAD’s high standards when it comes to executive education. I participated in the Management Acceleration Programme in 2017 and Finance for Executives in 2018. In 2020, I’m hoping to achieve the Certificate in Global Management, so I guess you could call me a true “Inseader!”
You chose the Innovation in the Age of Disruption online programme. What drew you to this programme, and what were your expectations?
I wanted to understand more about why innovation is important for a company’s long-term success. I was also keen to understand what makes people truly innovative and what it means to be an effective leader in a disruptive, uncertain world. At the same time, I wanted to acquire the tools to help my organisation develop an innovative culture and so accelerate our competitive advantage.
Were your expectations met?
As this was the first online programme I’ve participated in, my expectations were extremely high. Happily, they were met 100 per cent. I found the programme’s content stimulating and inspiring. It forced me to think differently about why business leaders need to develop their “blue-sky thinking” capabilities, and the importance of trying out new approaches that we truly believe in. Failing is less important than trying.
The programme’s case studies were highly varied and all based on recent examples. I also gained a lot of insight from my discussions with fellow participants from other industries, sectors and roles. Armed with this knowledge, I’ve been able to see my business challenges from a different perspective, which has been very useful.
How did you find INSEAD’s online platform and the user experience?
The platform is very simple to use. As someone with a busy work schedule, I enjoyed being able to dip in and out at free moments throughout the day. The format is modular and well structured, combining videos, discussions and user forums. I also appreciated that we had the option to form study groups, although time differences meant I didn’t take this up.
How did you find the level of commitment required by the programme? Was it easy to balance studying with work demands?
To get the most out of the programme, I believe participants need to spend about 5 to 6 hours a week over the 5 weeks, completing assignments, watching videos and participating in discussion forums. I found that achievable, even though I also work a lot of hours each week.
What was the best feature of the platform for you?
The fact that it’s so simple to use and so flexible. Being able to learn at my own pace was a great advantage – I could watch videos or read a post from a fellow participant during my lunch break, for example, as well as during my free time.
Did you network with other participants during the programme? And if so, are you still in touch?
Yes, interacting with my fellow participants added a vital dimension to my experience. We were encouraged to discuss and exchange experiences, which was really stimulating because people came from such a wide range of countries, cultures and experiences. On the other hand, it’s a little harder to build a network virtually, in the absence of a face-to-face experience. It’s very different when you are sharing classes, meals and activities over 2 or 3 weeks at the Fontainebleau or Singapore campuses.
How did you find the peer review?
It’s great to have the opportunity to review and evaluate a fellow participant’s Action Learning Project (ALP), and receive comments on your own work as well. It helps that all the analysis is anonymous, as this makes it easier to give and receive genuine feedback. I found that the comments I received on my own project really enriched my learning journey.
How about the flow of the learning journey?
Very good. The weekly modules are designed in such a way that when you finish one, you want to move on to the next. Participants can make use of a learning coach during this programme. How was that? Did it help your learning?
It’s both an innovative and a necessary idea. I found it very useful to have a coach available to me when I was working on my ALP. More generally, the coach was helpful in encouraging me to keep going, stay focused and consider what areas of the overall content I most needed to pay attention to.
I appreciated our coach’s deep experience, professional knowledge and ability to give us fast answers when we needed them. That’s impressive when you bear in mind that INSEAD’s coaches typically work with about 100 participants on the programme.
Was taking part in an ALP useful?
Absolutely. The idea here was to put together an innovative project that had a provocative or disruptive edge. It was designed to test our ability to engage in blue-sky thinking and to get us comfortable with an “experiment, fail, repeat” mindset. That’s really important. All too often, companies think only in terms of meeting the next set of KPIs. However, if they want to be innovative, they need to adopt a broader perspective that goes beyond the financials.
I was very impressed with the ALPs I reviewed – they were well thought out, clearly explained and innovative. They helped me understand how differently people think, and consider my own capacity for thinking outside the box.
What was your ALP about?
I came up with a proposal to build a digital agribusiness platform. The current business model needs to evolve. To stay competitive, agribusiness companies must harness emerging technologies. The world’s population is growing very quickly. We need to give food producers better solutions to help them maximise their yield and profitability, so they can produce food in a sustainable way that respects the environment. I looked at how launching a digital platform and an ecommerce channel could help us achieve this in our markets.
Trying to change the way things are done commercially and operationally in the agribusiness sector is a big challenge. We have a generation of more senior farmers who make decisions based on the way things have always been done – they aren’t that receptive to change. However, new generations are coming up who want to know more about how they can use technology to help them make better business decisions. They’re much more open to optimising their approach through apps, digital platforms and so on.
What were the highlights of the programme for you?
Innovation in the Age of Disruption is very useful if you want to understand what makes a business process innovative, what you need to be an innovative leader and how technology is changing the world. To be an effective leader today, you must be able to think outside the box. I was also impressed by the overall quality of the information, materials, data and details that went into the programme content.
The fact that it took place online was another highlight. I believe this is the future of education – gaining access to learning at any time, from any mobile device, and without needing to spend long periods away from the office or home. For those of us who live far from INSEAD’s campuses, it’s a huge advantage to be able to access a cutting-edge executive education programme from one of the world’s leading business schools in this way.
What would you tell someone interested in doing this online programme?
I would say that if they had the opportunity to take part, they’d be benefitting from one of the most innovative, modern and stimulating executive education programmes on the market. Highly recommended.