INSEAD Participant Interview

From products to platforms and from firms to partnerships and to ecosystems


Maria Salabuga

Maria Salabuga successfully completed the online programme Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems. We talked with Maria about her action learning project (ALP), the thinking shift, and online learning in general.

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Maria, please introduce yourself and tell us about your role at your organisation?

“I’m Maria Salabuga, Principal Consultant at Allianz Consulting. This is the in-house consultancy and global transformation partner of the Allianz Group. In my role, I am bridging strategy and execution through delivery on large-scale, high-complexity transformation projects with profound impact on operations. I enjoy driving change and making it happen.”

How did you come across the programme and why did you choose INSEAD?

“At Allianz Consulting, we stay abreast of the latest developments in the insurance industry, as well as in technology, and are continuously looking for learning opportunities. So do I.

I jumped at the chance of taking the Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems course for a simple reason: ecosystems shift value pools and realign global markets. McKinsey estimates that by 2025, 30 percent of global GDP will be represented by ecosystems. That’s 60 trillion of US dollars in revenues! Since it’s an emerging topic, I opted for a leading school to help me understand this evolving landscape and develop my skills in evaluating opportunities to forge partnerships for value. ”

Thank you for choosing us. Could you please tell us a bit more about your ALP?

“I was driven by curiosity. I was keen to explore if Allianz, an over-a-century-old insurer and global financial leader, could partner with a digital giant like Amazon. If so, where would the value creation opportunities lie? What are the constraints and risks? How could we make the potential partnership a success?”

And what’s the answer?

“It’s worth giving it considerable thought. Allianz has earned the trust of policyholders and holds insurance expertise like no one else. Amazon has a platform that reaches millions. There might be segments where we can combine the market-leading strengths of both, and create a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s really worth giving consideration to.”

Who was your learning coach and what was your experience?

"My learning coach was Clear Bauch. She is fantastic and I share the distinction I was awarded with her! Needless to say, the investment of my time and effort were central to having an enriching learning experience. However, Clear’s guidance and feedback made all the difference. She helped me to stay focused and develop the confidence that I was on the right track.

When I submitted the assignment for week 1, Clear guided me in narrowing down the scope of the ALP to enable a practical outcome within the given timeframe. And I still remember the little boost of encouragement she gave me during the review of the final draft, where she said, “Just go ahead like this!” Another person’s confidence in you can really help you over the finishing line.

I also found it very thoughtful of Clear to share general guidelines in her coachees group, one of them being: ‘Strategic thinking means thinking in options. Consider also alternatives for your strategic choices’. It was a value-add reminder provided at the right time, and apparently helped me come out with something good!" (laughs)

Did you gain new skills after the programme? And what skills?

"I did acquire some tools and I learnt to apply them. For example, the so-called configuration alignment tool or alliance portfolio jigsaw. However, for me this is not the key. The programme helps to make a shift in thinking from products to platforms, and from firms to partnerships to ecosystems. And this is of high value".

Let’s talk about online learning. After taking this online programme, what is your view on online learning in general?

“I am a learning evangelist. I believe in the power of learning and highly recommend to take advantage of the abundant online learning opportunities that are available. For anyone who is seeking to evolve and equip themselves with skills for the future, this goes without saying! Online learning programmes are flexible, convenient and allow me to juggle work, study and other commitments. To be fair, it does require self-discipline. But the good news is that, like other ways of doing things, it is something that anyone can master.”

Would you recommend INSEAD online programmes to your peers?

“I’ve only taken this one INSEAD programme on Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems, and found it very worthwhile. I would recommend that teams from the same company participate in courses together, so that they can maximize their learning, create impact and have fun.

Teams can pick for the ALP a relevant and important topic for the company, work on it and turn it into an actionable proposal, aligned with the latest thinking and enriched with an outside-in view through coaching and peer reviews. Basically, you could create something ready to be presented to the Executive Board. In my view, that’s a good to excellent return on investment! ”

Thank you, Maria, for this interesting conversation. We are looking forward to welcoming you to other INSEAD online programmes.


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