The Fierce Urgency of Now

The journey of the MBA class of December 2020 is probably not what we were expecting, when we started it. And yet, this year might turn out to be one of the most consequential times in our life.

As the class of December 2020 gathered in January, in steamy Singapore, I was first struck by the diversity, open and well-meaning of the class.

So many of my fellow MBA candidates have so many fascinating professional, cultural backgrounds! We all aspire to be good citizens, but not so sure yet how to mobilise our shared values.

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This diversity was put to good use in the fast-paced and highly engaging academic curriculum of P1. Professors put a significant effort to make the class experience extremely engaging, inspiring and relevant for the challenges we face today.

The motto of the school, business as a force for good, is intertwined in everything we learn.

For instance, the title of my post comes from a process and operational management class. The professor spent the class talking about how better processes can create value, and he ended his session by highlighting that better operational management can also help to tackle the social and environmental challenges the world is facing.

The COVID-19 virus really only disrupted the Singapore campus at the start of P2, when the wave of the pandemic that submerged the world prevented us from accessing the campus.

And yet, thanks to the strong operational resilience of INSEAD, most of the learning experience has been preserved. We continue to have access to high quality teaching. The professors are using all the features the technology can offer to keep the class as engaging as possible.

We continue to have access to leading companies and many job opportunities. While the economic crisis in the making does hurt the job market, INSEAD career service does a good job at helping us to go through it.

And yet, the real challenge lies somewhere else. INSEAD, from its founding after the Second World War, has always had at its heart the mission to be a force for good, directing the inventiveness and efficiency of the business world to achieve the greater good. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the INSEAD community is, once again, living up to the challenges of our times.

First, the INSEAD community has been mobilising a relief effort to provide, through the Project Green for Impact, emergency medical material for the areas most affected by the virus.

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Second, there are the long-term shocks to society and business the current crisis is inflicting. Most of us believe, as students at one of the best business programmes in the world, that we have a unique role to assume in helping to solve the current crisis and its aftermaths.

We have access to world-leading experts in the field of supply, digital organisation, healthcare. We have the resources, the passion, the entrepreneurial spirit and the diverse set of skills to come up with innovate solutions, new business models and new ventures that can support businesses and societies around the world to emerge stronger from the existential crisis they are facing.

It is a call for action so many in our class are ready to answer. We must embrace the challenges ahead and live up to our values. I read an article by Martin Wolf, in the Financial Times recently, that ended up in a way that resonated with me:

“If not us, who? And if not now, when?”