The EMC is transforming the way I live my life and how I communicate with other people.
Kenji, please tell us a bit about your background and some of your career highlights.
I've been in charge of Finance and Administration at a Japanese chemical distributor for the past 24 years. I spent half of my career outside of Japan, in Singapore, Malaysia and Germany. And right now, I've been working in Germany for five years.
Throughout my career, driving change has been my core interest. I managed the post-merger integration of a Singaporean company in a new business segment, and l have accomplished SAP implementation in Asia, the USA and Europe. In Malaysia and Germany, where the subsidiary is located, I have established a sustainable and functional Finance & Administration team operated by multicultural local staff.
What made you decide to pursue the Executive Master in Change (EMC) at INSEAD?
When I started working in Europe, I was fascinated to meet people with such a different culture and way of thinking and communicating. This helped to ignite a new change in me, and I was looking for ways to accelerate it, and understand what could make my life more meaningful at the same time.
As a first step, I pursued the INSEAD Executive MBA in 2018. This programme totally widened my perspective thanks to participants from different professional sectors from all across the world. It was a very exciting time and a fantastic experience and I could feel a transformation as global leader.
It also made me wonder what I really wanted to accomplish for the rest of my life, and when I was contemplating this question I started hearing about the EMC. It sounded like such an interesting programme, and I decided to apply.
You’ve now completed the first four modules of the EMC. What has the experience been like so far?
Among the eight modules, the first half focuses on raising self-awareness. Through various exercises and group work, I feel like I have unleashed what had been suppressed inside for me for a long time, and it's transforming the way I live my life and how I communicate with other people. And then of course, the programme is about change management which is very relevant for any professional who is in charge of leading change in such a dynamic world.
My approach on driving change is transforming dramatically.
But what I want to emphasise is that if you want to initiate a change, it's important to find change inside yourself first – only then can you successfully drive change around you or within the organisation. This insight has been a great discovery for me.
How would you describe the difference between an Executive MBA and the EMC?
When I was embarking on the Executive MBA, I was early in my 40s with around 20 years of work experience. I was looking to gain a new perspective and new skill sets, and the EMBA was really helpful in that regard. It is a really intense programme and opens your eyes to so many different areas of business that you may not have had the opportunity to discover before. And even if you are an experienced manager, courses like Organisational Behaviour, Strategy and the Leadership Development Programme are immensely insightful.
You get so energised from all this input and you can apply a lot of new ideas for your own organisation right after each module – it really felt like working out all your muscles and bringing your whole performance to a new level.
On the other hand, the EMC takes you deep inside yourself. Sometimes this can even be painful, as you may need to confront some things you didn't want to see, or perhaps you unconsciously locked deep inside of your memory. This process starts as early as working on your application for the programme, as you need to write a number of reflective essays.
This exercise in itself is already the beginning of the journey because as you look back on your past and explore some areas that may be uncomfortable with, you embark on a discovery which comes with many positive benefits.
By realising what's hidden inside of you, you will be able to reorganise and revisit your life and your relationships with others which is an incredibly rich experience.
For example during one of the modules, I discovered that my childhood relationship with my father had a tremendous impact on me, which limited my self-confidence level. Sadly, my father passed away many years ago, but somehow I could communicate with him in my head, and his apology released a burden in me.
Therefore, the EMBA and the EMC are quite different but also complimentary programmes.
I'm fortunate enough to be experiencing both, but I know that this may be the exception. If someone was to ask me which programme they should choose, my response would be that it really depends on what is important to you personally.
The EMBA focuses on gaining more business tools and knowledge and enables you to change your perspective from the outside to the inside. Whereas the change brought about by the EMC comes from the inside, so the learning on how transformation occurs is very different.
What advice would you give to prospective candidates when they speak to their employers about supporting the programme?
I realise that it may not be easy to explain the immediate business benefits of a programme like the EMC, but ultimately it will result in an improvement of your leadership skills.
If you want to become a better leader and gain deeper insights on what motivates people, how to improve team performance and drive change, then this is the programme for you.
What’s also great about the programme is that you can immediately begin to apply your learnings. In fact, it is important that you have the chance to put your new insights into practice and make it a part of yourself. Your colleagues and your family will start noticing changes very quickly.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Stay curious about yourself and the people around you! If you do decide to embark on the EMC, trust that the necessary change will come to you. If you allow yourself to be impacted by the programme and the experience, you will be getting closer to where you want to be, what you want to do, and who you want to be with in your life.