Academic Learning: Fresh Perspectives and New Insights

Cecily Liu

The INSEAD classroom is a safe space for lively discussions, insight sharing and asking out-of-the-box questions, whilst quickly coming up to speed with a diverse range of business fundamentals.

As an English Literature major student and former journalist, I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to learn alongside finance savvy banking or consulting classmates.

But as soon as the P1 core classes started, I felt pleasantly surprised – I felt challenged when learning new concepts, fulfilled when I could share insights, and classroom discussions often gave me a fresh perspective even in areas I considered my field of expertise.

I particularly like the case method of learning, where we learn about strategies through the lens of CEOs making tough decisions in their roles. Seeing familiar brands - such as Disney, which brought magic to my childhood, being analysed through business school concepts like increasing willingness to pay, capturing synergy, and product diversification, was truly fascinating. The way we analysed Disney’s revenue and profitability through several time periods further helped me to understand how effectively a particular strategy played out, or where future opportunities are.

Classroom activities are always fun and engaging.

I remember one particularly tough negotiation session, when I was playing the role of a producer, having to negotiate with a classmate who was the director. We each had different preferences for the actors, the film sets, the salary for the director and percentage commission he received. It was a particularly tough negotiation where both of us refused to back down from our preferences, and we were able to reach agreement just before the allocated 20 minutes were up. The experience taught me so much about listening, understanding another’s perspective, and driving forward collaboration through common grounds.

In anther classroom discussion, I was a director giving feedback to a direct report for his performance appraisal. The objective of the session was to determine if the junior employee should receive a promotion. The two of us entered this simulated discussion session with different interpretations of the same information – my background notes attributed more significance to the company’s overall strategy and my classmate’s had more details about his day-to-day achievements. The session taught me about the importance of sharing unique information and structuring discussions within solid context. After the simulation ended, we compared notes, and discussed the difference with keen interest!

I can now completely understand why in my previous performance appraisals, I used to wonder why my hard work wasn’t appreciated by my manager, and he felt I failed to take a more holistic view!

Such fascinating conversations are just as lively in classes that I used to feel would have more standard answers, such as financial accounting. To my surprise, after covering basic concepts in an effective way, we delved right into discussions how companies could use different strategies relating to the likes of revenue recognition, depreciation schedule and inventory recording policy to support highly subjective goals.

Suddenly, the science of accounting turned into an art, but also it taught me what to look for in financial statements to better compare industry peers or make managerial decisions.

Every class is a new surprise and source of new enlightenment. I feel energised, engaged, and having lots of fun!