2008-12-16

Real World, Real Learning

I authored today's IMD MBA Diary and, although the content may be familiar to my readers, I'm reposting here for you:

Today marked the end of my first week of work back in the real world. That’s right, exactly one week after spending the day learning about the importance of taking our time to say goodbye and transition at our own pace, I dove head first into my next career. Many of my classmates are taking weeks or months off to settle their affairs, rest, and reflect on the year that has just passed, which I think would be marvelous. My employer is a startup, however, and startups can’t afford the same timing luxuries as big businesses. I am the Product Manager and our product officially launched last week, therefore I am needed NOW!

The company is called Poken – www.doyoupoken.com – and was founded by Stephane Doutriaux, a 2007 IMD MBA Alumni. We produce a keychain that connects you with people online as you meet them in the real world. Our first generation offering is funky and cool, targeting the young and the young minded. Future offerings will include a professional version to replace the business card, a platform for third parties to include our technology in other objects, and many other features that we hope will bridge the gap between the physical and online worlds.

I admit that at some points during my IMD MBA I questioned how “real world” was our “real learning.” However, having spent only one week back in the real world now, I can’t believe how applicable so much of our learning is. I am no stranger to start-ups; in fact, my entire career has been in technology entrepreneurship. Accordingly, much of this Poken experience is not new to me: the frenetic pace, the unstructured role assignments, the need to roll up my sleeves and get things done, etc. However, I really feel like I am seeing everything in a different light—in many different lights, in fact.

My IMD MBA has armed me with many “lenses” through which to analyze and act. With manufacturing in China, HQ in Switzerland, and customers around the world, concepts from Production and Operations Management are very helpful. As we seriously plan our international rollout in response to demand in Spain, Holland, the UK, the US, and South America, my take-aways from Marketing are key. The challenge of capturing ideas from within and outside of the company, prioritizing them, and managing their implementation is addressed by Innovation and Product Design.

I could go on and on, but it is clear that the most impactful IMD course on my new position is the Leadership Stream. Managing a team of Swiss, French, Americans, and Bulgarians, some of whom are on-site, some of whom work remotely, each of whom has different background, skills, and interests, is a challenge to be sure. But I feel more prepared to address that challenge than I ever have before. I am more aware of my own feelings and the effects my actions have on others. I am more cognizant of the subtle intra- and inter-group dynamics all around me. And I am more open to feedback about my performance, ideas, and—well—everything.

I came to IMD to develop myself as a global leader and now I have a chance to put that development to the test. While it is ultimately up to me to succeed or fail, I must credit the IMD faculty, staff, and—most of all—students for helping me prepare for it. Although I don’t have months to sit back and reflect on the IMD experience; I find it popping into my head in the middle of work situations. “Ah, this reminds of that time in the integrative exercise,” “Oh, this might be a good opportunity to leverage that concept from Entrepreneurship,” “Hmm, I wonder what that professor/classmate/guest speaker would think of this...” and so on. We really did pack a LOT into a very short time. If my first week back to work is any indication, though, it really was real world, real learning.

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