What the First Week of an INSEAD MBA Really Looks Like

David Amosun

The first week of the INSEAD MBA was definitely nothing like I had anticipated. 

One of the first things that hits you is the parties. 

I know. I know. Everyone talks about it, but no matter how many times you hear it, it’s not enough – brace yourself :). You can successfully party everyday if you want to. Every. Day. 

INSEAD MBA First week

If you are anything like me, expecting to dive straight into the academic part of the MBA, you would be shocked at the curveball you’d be hit with – at least, I was. We were hit with the “pause, think, reflect, share” curveball from faculty that, at first, seemed corny to me but, surprisingly, became one of the most effective ways to set the foundations for lifelong bonds. 

Picture this. 

Imagine being in a room with ten total strangers from different parts of the planet – all high flyers that you have never met before – and, speaking vulnerably on things that people close to you had probably never heard you say out loud. 

I know, it sounds like some movie scene of some Alcoholic Anonymous gathering, but I promise you it wasn’t. 

It was also nothing like the numerous executive communication or team bonding exercises and courses I and most of my colleagues had done. It was different, vulnerable, and some times ‘brutal’ - in a good sense of the word. 

INSEAD MBA First week

It sometimes felt like being faced with a mirror, and it was your decision on what to reveal. The keyword here is consent. 

INSEAD MBA First week

So, take these as my shower thoughts. And for ease of consumption, I would put my takeaways from this first week into bullet points, without any specific hierarchy: 

  • Vulnerability is a gift. 
  • If the gift of vulnerability is handled well, trust is earned. 
  • Learn the difference between your network and your community, and leverage both.
  • Being in a room with “anxious over-achievers” like yourself is a humbling way to view the world.
  • Psychological safety is key and whenever you are gifted a psychologically safe space, reciprocate with your vulnerability. 
  • Your voice counts. It may be faint or loud, but it counts because there are perspectives that only you can bring to the table.
  • As much as your voice counts, ‘listen twice to speak once’, because when surrounded by high flyers from 65+ countries, the conversation is enriched when various perspectives are heard. 
  • It goes by fast! So, pause, meditate, and soak it all in! 

After all was said and done, a thought kept ringing in my head: “Could this (vulnerability in teams) be the missing link to having super effective teams, or was this just the result of a controlled environment?” 

Well, the good news is that I have some ten months – that I’ve been told goes by fast – to figure this out!