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INSEAD Participant Interview

Business Strategy and Financial Performance & the INSEAD Online experience

Diana Yin

Diana Yin explains how attending INSEAD’s online Business Strategy and Financial Performance programme made her surer and in better possession of critical knowledge and insights when facing clients.

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Making Strategy “Fun”

Innovation advisor, Diana Yin, on how online learning at INSEAD is just as engaging and impactful as face-to-face programmes, while delivering flexibility and a degree of fun that really brings complex concepts to life. When you are building innovation capacity with high-growth start-ups and scale-ups across a diversity of sectors, you need to see the big picture. And you need to see it fast. You also need an effective strategy toolkit that can be applied to different business models, and the capacity to join the dots between strategic frameworks, financials and business performance in order to offer the best advice to your clients.

So says Diana Yin, Innovation Adviser with University College London’s Innovation and Enterprise body. And it was this need that brought her to INSEAD in 2019 and the online Business Strategy and Financial Performance Programme. The programme ticked every box, she says, both in terms of learning objectives and format. “I was looking for a learning experience that would refresh my knowledge of the classic strategy tools while helping me better understand the impact of management on financial performance, so I could help new companies build financially effective strategy execution plans.”

Diana was also looking for flexibility. “I wasn’t in a position where I could physically take time away from work to do a programme on campus, so I was looking for a good online option.” Previous experience with online learning had left Diana with mixed expectations about how engaging the programme would turn out to be. She was nonetheless confident that INSEAD had the pioneering expertise in the online space to deliver a dynamic learning experience. She was not disappointed. “Online learning can be very hit or miss. But from the start, it was clear that the INSEAD team had put huge effort into building a learning experience that was as dynamic as anything you would do on campus.”

The video format in particular, she says, was particularly effective. While one-to-one sessions with faculty and “hugely responsive” personal coaching, as well as points-based leadership boards, meant that she felt motivated from day one to actively pursue goals and continuously set the tempo for her learning throughout the full seven weeks of the programme. “The videos are great. They’re recorded with live audiences, so you actually feel like you’re in the classroom. It’s like you are attending a live session with Professor Zemsky, who really brings strategy to life.” And because the videos are pre-recorded, she says, you can stop and “go back and listen to the things that intrigue you again and again.”

Another highlight for Diana was the Action Learning Project – a weekly, hands-on project where participants apply new concepts and learning to real-life business cases. “I applied my Action Learning Project to a client I work with in the renewable energy sector. I deliberately chose this company because I am not an expert in renewable energy and I wanted to see how effectively each tranche of learning could by applied and yield results in what was an unfamiliar context to me.”

The experience, she says, far exceeded her expectations. “This was a chance to put what I was learning to the test, in a sense, and it really worked. There’s also a real logic in breaking the Action Learning Project into weekly activities. Strategy can be hugely complex, but when you break it down into manageable tranches like this, not only does it all become clearer, it’s also a lot of fun.”

The Business Strategy and Financial Performance Programme has had an enormous impact on Diana’s knowledge, she says. She has come away from the programme with a deeply enriched skill set and key insights into value creation and driving sustainable long-term competitive advantage. She has also noticed a sea-change in her sense of authority. “When I am with clients, I now speak with a tone and an attitude that conveys authority because I feel surer and in better possession of critical knowledge and insights. This in turn translates into feelings of assurance from the client, which means that we are better aligned and better positioned to work together effectively.”

Diana would recommend the programme to friends and colleagues “100 percent.” The academic and personal challenges are as real as any programme delivered on campus, she says. And so too is the rounded impact on skills, confidence and performance. “You often encounter this idea that because a programme is online, it’s somehow easier or not as serious as other programmes. With INSEAD, that’s just simply not the case. This programme is unlike any other online programme I’ve taken, in that it keeps you fully engaged, fully motivated and delivers enormous value throughout. As a learning experience, it’s also a huge amount of fun.”



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