8 Most Valuable Lessons From My INSEAD Year

Qingyun Song

1. Sunk cost is sunk. Get over it.

We have come a long way and there will always be some unwanted and costly baggage we drag along with us. It’s painful to admit that they are actually unwanted. It’s even more painful to let go of it. But at the end of the day, everything we have learnt in the economics class shouldn’t go to waste. If something is already sunk, be firm and get over it.

2. Look far and think long-term.

It’s easy to get so attracted to the shining spotlight in front of your eyes and forget to watch out what’s hidden in the dark. We are living in an age of constant change. Successes seem easier to be achieved but so are failures. Don’t just simply chase after the cash cow; remember to look far and have a long-term goal and strategy in place.

3. Take risks, prepare for mistakes and have a Plan B.

It’s not the first time we hear of high-risk high return, but after so many case studies, sometimes what kills a giant is simply the conservative mindset - “We are doing okay. Let’s not take the risk.”

Sure, taking risks leads to uncertainties that nobody likes, but sometimes that’s also where the golden opportunity lies.

No one guarantees success but if we can fail fast, learn from our mistakes and have a Plan B, at least we won’t get outdated that soon either.

4. Decision-making is both a science and an art.

Decision-making sounds both straightforward and complicated, but no matter what, it should be guided by a clear goal and data. Let the goal be your direction, and let the data help you navigate your way out. With perceptions and memories playing around with our brain, intuition can be very strong but very deceiving at the same time.

5. Change doesn’t come naturally.

It seems like a no-brainer that if a change in the plan makes sense and benefits the organisation, then everybody should be supportive and immediately jump on it. However, in reality, it’s usually not the case. Psychological and political issues come into play in a subtle but powerful way, so don’t just stop at sending out the proposal and expecting everyone to naturally follow through. Leading a change plan sometimes requires much more determination, dedication and tactics.

6. Leadership comes in different forms.

We tend to get carried away by the alpha type in the group, and believe people who are more extroverted and aggressive tend to become leaders.

However, in fact, leadership comes in all different forms and styles. At the end of the day, leaders make sure the team come together to complete a task effectively and efficiently. It can be achieved by so many different approaches, so finding your own style is more critical than try to imitate others.

7. Don’t underestimate networking.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like networking in the beginning. But after one year of stepping out of my comfort zone, I do find networking can provide you insights and information that Google can’t help you with that much.

What is more impressive is the INSEAD alumni network. All the alumni I spoke to were all very friendly and responsive even when they have “chief” or “director” in their job titles. Because of all the positive experiences I had, I became much more open-minded when other people approach me for advice or ask for help. Never take things for granted. Reciprocity matters.

8. At the end of the day, only you know what truly matters to you.

You will meet a lot of amazing people who have amazing experiences and ambitions in life. In such a dynamic and diverse environment, it’s easy to get carried away and think that is something you want as well. But, at the end of the day, only you know what truly makes you happy or fulfilled, which can be drastically different from your schoolmates. Prioritise what truly matters to you and stay firm and confident with your own choices.