Weeks of study finally culminated into the long-awaited electives week at the INSEAD campus in Fontainebleau. This is a module where 400 executives from the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) programme, all three sections of the Global Executive MBA programme (GEMBA) and the INSEAD Executive Masters in Finance (EMFin) as well as alumni from all over the world gather together for two weeks of networking, learning, and merry-making. In fact, it is at INSEAD Fontainebleau that one truly understands the other meaning of INSEAD ... ... I Never Stopped Eating And Drinking!
As the name suggests, the electives week is a 2-week module where participants get to choose four 2.5-day bloc electives from a list of nearly 30 courses. The topics range from negotiations, private equity, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, customer insights and many more. With 400 participants each competing to choose their favourite 4 out of 30 electives, bidding for the electives is in itself, a battle of wits and a real-life simulation in strategy and game theory.
“Positions are just starting points. To be a good negotiator, one must uncover the interests lying beneath.”
I managed to get the electives I had wanted; all were good but some were simply outstanding! Negotiation was one such elective, taught by Professor Roderick Schwab - nominated best teaching award for the INSEAD electives. This elective consists of a series of negotiation exercises in a wide variety of settings: from simple 1-1 distributive cases to multi-parties and multi-issues integrative examples such as the Disneyland negotiation involving government officials, corporates and mayors of various villages coming in with their own agendas. We learnt about BATNAs and MESOs and examined how culture affects whether people negotiate individualistically or collectively, and how it determines the way negotiators exchange information. What I took away was more than just becoming a better negotiator. The skills learnt in this course will also make me a better leader, entrepreneur, colleague, husband and father!
“Good negotiation skill is about being generous and finding win-win solutions, it is not about selfishness.”
Another key part of Fonty (a term of endearment we so fondly refer to the France campus) is the big culture party where all the participants come together at the Fontainebleau Palace dressed in their national/ethnic costume to celebrate the very values – inclusiveness and diversity - the school was established for. Unknown to many, INSEAD’s founding ambition was to promote reconciliation and renaissance in post-war Europe.
In between the big party and the studying, there were many other events such as lunchtime talks where we had speakers such as the ex-CEO of Saudi Aramco, Chief Strategy Officer of Schneider Electric, class-initiated company visits to Corning Inc, as well as many other group dinners, sports events, parties and even the World Cup 2018 Finals!
What made the Fonty electives module really unforgettable was the fact that we learnt not only from the professors but also from participants all over the world, from other INSEAD executive programmes. We built deep relationships with old friends and classmates, networked and created new ones with others. We celebrated and basked in the diversity of the backgrounds. Finally, we studied hard and played just as hard!
Kok How Lee (TIEMBA Class of 2019) is an entrepreneur, consultant, strategist and economist. He founded KEYHOLE INSIGHTS - an economic & strategy consulting firm focusing on Asia, in particular, China and Southeast Asia, delivering customised advice to help organisations make better decisions, implement those decisions and deliver success.