Saturday, October 16, 2010

Five Years On

A clear, bright day along Lake Geneva in early September is worth beholding. Alpine shadows, lakeside calm, blue contrast with patterned green hillsides - the scenery is famous and attractive. This mountain-water backdrop once served as theater for a group of future leaders of the future back in 2005 - and served once more as the special location for the IMD MBA 5-Year reunion.

Returning to an alma mater draws complex emotions, none more complex than for an IMD MBA. "Real World, Real Learning" has perverse meaning at times, and the experience is transformative and exhausting; re-entering the famous dungeon rooms and auditoriums of our business youth is like re-visiting old battlegrounds for wizened warriors. Of course, these are great memories, made greater by the presence of those with whom the time was served. For this, we were lucky to have the largest turn-out yet for a class reunion, almost 60 by the time the event finished on a gorgeous Sunday morning.

Thanks to our fantastic event organizers Bruce Meadows (Australian - g'day all the way!) and Florian Wunsch (Swiss German - gets the sh** done!), the agenda was packed and tightly orchestrated. Auditorium time with Martha and Sean and all that is happening around IMD and the MBA program these days. Lunch and dinner in the famous restaurant and school addition, respectively. MGM along the lake, tours of the old town, a breezy lunchtime boat ride on the lake, followed by "tea time" at the Beau Rivage, a tour of the Olympic Museum, and a sumptuous feast afterwards while looking over Lake Geneva. More MGM, farewell breakfast at the Mövenpick, and a meander and supper in Geneva for those flying out the next day. All with that gorgeous weather that reminded us all of the pleasures we briefly enjoyed while living in Lausanne (and that caused several of us to stick around after IMD to enjoy indefinitely).

Of course, it would not be an IMD event without certain tense moments related to group dynamics. As appropriate as it was to use the site of the Olympic Museum as our selection grounds for the next reunion city (complete with the IOC-style politicking and vote-pandering), it was just as appropriate to use the event as a time-worn lesson in how to possibly assemble the future the leaders of the future together to decide anything collectively. In the end, Copenhagen prevailed for 2011, and the remaining wine soothed any lingering tensions.

So a glorious weekend passed, and the group left with brilliant memories to carry back to burgeoning careers; but we were also left wondering what IMD has really taught us, five years on? I was reminded of the question a few weeks later when a prospective applicant asked the same of me when I manned the IMD table at a MBA Fair in Washington DC. I thought of the many things that made my IMD experience unique and all the people that traveled that journey with me, and the answer became simple: I truly learned about myself and how to deal with the people around me - and it has made all the difference in the world.