The INSEAD Executive Master in Change (EMC) programme is unlike any other.

With a convenient modular 18-month schedule that allows you to study while you work, it is a personal development pathway that takes you deep into the fundamental drivers of human behaviour and the hidden dynamics of organisations. 

The curriculum’s system-psychodynamic approach enables you to develop your capability and authority to lead people and organisations through transformation.

You will also better understand yourself as an instrument of transformation and learn how to empower others to champion change.

Find out more about this unique programme and the benefits for professionals in this interview with Michael Jarrett, INSEAD Professor of Management Practice in Organisational Behaviour and Programme Director of the Executive Master in Change (EMC), conducted by Pierrette Doz-Perdrix, Associate Director of Recruitment. 

INSEAD Michael Jarrett
Michael Jarrett, INSEAD Professor of Management Practice in Organisational Behaviour

Michael, what is distinctive about a system-psychodynamic approach?

That's an excellent question. We could shed some light on this by imagining an organisation as a multi-tier cake with many layers. 

First, let’s consider the approach of traditional strategy consulting. When an organisation asks a consulting firm to come in and recommend a course of action, consulting firms will typically start by taking the top slice of the cake to do the scanning, analysis and making decisions about how to allocate resources.

Then there's the next layer down, which is much more operational. At this level, consulting firms might talk about routines, behavioural ways of working, and how these could be improved. 

And then comes the final layer, which I would call the psychological slice. And here, the recommendation might be to hug trees and meditate (of course, I'm exaggerating to make this point!).

Each one of these interventions on their own is helpful. But organisations are made up of people who are complex and irrational human beings who act and operate in ways which are not predictable. 

If you are interested, the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman offers a fascinating insight into our cognitive biases and how as humans, we’re so vulnerable to making bad decisions. 

So, what's different about a psychodynamic perspective is that we acknowledge that we have these cognitive biases but are unaware of them. They lie in the unconscious.

The concept of systems psychodynamics integrates theories from psychology, sociology, and organisational theory to explore the complex dynamics at play within these entities, for example, phenomena such as power struggles or conflict. It also examines the role of individual and group identity in shaping behaviour and the impact of social and cultural factors. 

Finally, system psychodynamics considers how patterns of communication, leadership, and decision-making within a group or organisation can contribute to its overall functioning or dysfunction.

Could you give us some examples of how we might be experiencing the effects of the unconscious in our daily lives?

Sure! Imagine you're walking down the road one morning, and you overhear some music. Before you know it, you've got it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Has that ever happened to you? This music, you don't know why you keep replaying it in your mind, is the unconscious. 

Another example of the unconscious operating could be when you meet a stranger. They instantly remind you of somebody, and you have an inner glow, a warm feeling towards them. They might remind you of a good friend or your sibling. Conversely, you might have an adverse reaction towards this person. Again, you're not quite sure why, but perhaps they remind you of that bully in school. 

Whether we like it or not, the unconscious affects how we think, behave and feel. Just imagine all this control going on, and you have no clue about it! 

Returning to the EMC, our programme will expose and help you understand and notice all these processes happening outside your typical awareness. 

Once you know what’s going on, you will begin to see that you have choices. So rather than being a slave to the unconscious, doing things you're unaware of, which can have enormous consequences on your personal and professional life, you will now have many new options. 

INSEAD Executive Master in Change
Group discussion during the INSEAD Executive Master in Change

Let’s dig deeper into applying these concepts in a professional setting. What can professionals stand to gain from the EMC programme?

Firstly, you will learn a lot about yourself, which is extremely powerful. Many alumni say that the experience will “change your life”. I agree that it will change your thinking – in wonderful, amazing ways. 

After each module, you will learn something about yourself, but as the programme emerges, you'll also learn about other people. Throughout eight modules, you will be with a group of people you will get to know intimately. And they'll get to know you as well. 

After the first module, we often have participants say that they didn't expect they would be willing to share so much in front of a group of strangers – but in the safe space of the EMC classroom, they felt secure and ready to do so. We call this the clinical approach.

The term “clinical” simply implies that real-life situations that participants share in the classroom are examined instead of “theoretical” knowledge. 

Developing a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of others has a very immediate impact as it allows you to understand better and manage your relationships, for example, in a team, with direct reports or your manager and other stakeholders.  

The EMC will also teach you patience. We call this the Art of Negative Capability. It's a strange term, but it describes the capacity to do nothing, to manage our anxieties and worries when confronting complex or challenging situations.

Instead of being driven by your emotion, this capacity allows you to stop, think and increase your choices. In moments of high stress, if you can do this even for a moment, it can create immense value. 

How can participants use these new skills?

In addition to sharpening insights about your own and others’ behaviours from the “classroom clinic”, you will learn evidence-based frameworks and concepts applicable at the individual, group and organisational levels. For example, we draw a lot on the works of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Carl Rogers, among others. 

Ultimately, you can also take this new knowledge into society – this is what we hope to achieve through the thesis. 

Finally, another gift the programme gives you is new practices and working methods. For instance, a new way of working for you might be that instead of starting the conversation, you listen. Or to begin a conversation by asking questions. Perhaps, you see something in a group, and you say nothing. It's not always the smartest words that deliver the best outcomes!

A new way of working could also be to bring people together that you wouldn’t typically have connected. So many examples come to mind. Listing them all is impossible. 

In summary, I would say that professionals can gain three main things from the programme: enhanced interpersonal and relational skills, new knowledge and insights about individuals, organisations and society, and new ways of leading themselves and others.

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