The Capstone Simulation: A Project with Non-simulated Leadership

Sophie Zhao

Our cohort is a special one, which makes for an unforgettable and meaningful MBA experience.

Although we are in lockdown, we are getting so much support from the school, professors, and students who are continuously committed to alleviating the negative impact on the learning experience at INSEAD.

I am writing this article to share my reflection after the INSEAD Capstone, a three-day simulation project where the task was to turn around and exit an IoT business in China. A few days before the Capstone, I was both excited and worried. I was excited about this immersion learning mode; however, concerns arose about the sacrificed experience being in lockdown and having to take the course through Zoom.

Inspired by Daniel’s article, The Silver Lining of the COVID Lockdown, I learned to wear these uncommon circumstances as a badge of honour. Also, empowered by a blog written by our beloved professors, Winnie and Jasjit, What Lies Ahead for the Class of 2020, I reflected on how to redefine a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

Facing the plans and expectations that did not come to pass, we are creating for ourselves a remade world.


During this Capstone project, I gained three critical learnings:

Be bold to take ownership

It’s essential to take ownership.

Corporate decisions are correlated, and not made in isolation, and I learned to think about the impact on other departments before making any decisions. Hence, seamless communication and collaboration strengthen our team. For example, when deciding about the insurance for workers, I, together with the CFO, considered the impact on the overall financial performance.

Be resilient, anytime, no matter how difficult the situation is

I learned how amazingly resilient my teammates are. Our CEO exemplified persistence even when we were subjected to a difficult conversation with the Union Leader. Also, our CFO and CMO worked until midnight to build the financial model and fine-tune the hypothesis for our exit plan. We fortified each other, driving results until the last minute.

Be humble among a diversified and robust team

Finally, I learned the importance of humility, especially when you are in a strong team. Everyone has strengths, and it’s vital to be open-minded. A powerful weapon is always to assume the best and think from other perspectives. After taking some time to understand the personalities of the four of us, we cultivated an engaged team dynamic.

I believed the Capstone will be one of the most memorable experiences at INSEAD, with my beloved teammates, professors, and everyone else involved!