Monday, December 24, 2007

P2 Ended - Go P3

P2 is over. 4 month have passed so fast, in a blink of an eye. Now I have some time to tell you about some of the important things you need to know from a p2 perspective,

We studied 6 core courses in p2, still in the same sections and study groups as in p1. This was a very busy period, and academics took most of our lives.

Corporate Finance Policy (aka Finance 2)
We had a brilliant professor, who taught us (almost) all about options and corporate finance. This was the class to see many paniced faces who had no idea what's going on in class. The professor was so good, that there were no compaints - everybody understood that it's their own damn fault that they don't understand what in god's name is the difference between a short put and a long forward, and between tender offers and right issues. Lucky for us in almost all study groups there was one finance guru who solved the problem sets (or at least we could take the answers from the finance guru of other study group, and reverse engineer the answers). The exam was super difficult - the professor had a vision of 50 average with 25 points standard diviation (so all you need to pass the exam was show up).

Managerial Accounting (Harvard Style)
This course deals with analyzing costs of things, and how to better plan the budgets of corporation. The professor was very much influenced by the case method of HBS, and in every class he intimidated another poor student into spilling the content of the latest case of another failed company somewhere in Argentina or Sweden. The course was quite good, and we even touched some of the more juicy stories of businesses from previous years like the Enron energy fiasco, and Ford's failure to deal with excess capacity.

Processes and Operations Management (POM POM POM)
6-sigma? Queues? Inverntory Management? All of these were taught in an entertaining way, using fun cases like Zara, Shloldice Hospital (for hernias), Ralph Laurence, Xenon and others. The course is built around the smart book "The Goal" (a nice read). We even shot ping pong balls using an XPult catapult (to test its quality).

Strategy (Camel Comedy Club)
Strategy is a pretty abstract term. In order to teach it you must be a very skillful professor. We had one: a very funny and original guy, who gave us the framework to think in a strategic way. 90 minutes of laughter. He used the Cirque de Soleil as an example to Blue Ocean Strategy (an INSEAD invention), the italian mafia (from godfather) as a family business who wants to expand to pharma (should it go to a JV with the other mafia and share resources?), Formula 1 (to explain how to be a center of a business), and the music industry (as an example for industry evolution). In addition we used cases for easyGroup, Apple, Dell, and many more. A fun fun course and I truely learnt a lot. Unfortunately, the Teva case was cancelled (which was the only Israeli company in the menu of p1 and p2).

Foundation of Marketing (or how to market a small grocery store in London, Canada)
This course was not as successful as the others, although we did cover a lot of topics, such as advertisement (using Virgin histerical commercial, and Intel Inside evolution of commercial), branding (using Black&Decker and Wal Mart), and others. For an assignment we had to do a marketing strategy to Jill's Table, a high end grocery store in the middle of London, Ontario (mmm, very large international scale as appropriate to INSEAD). The exam was about the Chinese Li Ning sportsware company, who had to build a brand competing against Adidas and Nike.

Leading Organization (aka LO)
Better than LPG from p1, this course gave us the foundations to think about organizations in 3 percpectives: Strategic Design, Culture, and Political. We did several simulations, last one was a computer simulation in which we had to convince an entire organization to implement a significant change. The most controvercial moment in class was the debate about Milgram's experiment, in which a person had to ask questions another person, and to punish the latter for a failed answer (to teach us about misuse of power). We had a most dreadful group exam, in which for 4 hours we had to write a 22 pages (!!!) paper about a company with problems.

It was busy, but we learnt a lot about business, less quantitative more qualitative, and many many Harvard cases.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Trip to Reims in Champagne

I took time-off from studying hard in p2, and went with my wife Inna, and a couple of friends, Carolina and Patricio, to Champagne.

We went on a Saturday by car. Using toll roads it is about 2 hours drive to Reims, and the toll is about 10 euros one way. We drove back the same evening.

Since it was Saturday we could only find one Champagne Cave (a winery) openned, Pommery, and we reserved a place on Friday. There are English tours at 12:00 and at 14:45. On
weekdays there are plenty of Champagne caves around.

Pommery is the oldest winery in Champagne, since the 19th century, and it the second largest in terms of market share. Madam Pommery inheritted the estate from her husband, and immedietly started to expand. She bought the area, and apperantely there were Roman pyramid-shaped caves. She dug tunnels between those pyramid to form an 18 km cellers underground. This place is amazing! In the caves there are huge carvings done by artists.

At the end of the tour we got a glass of champagne each. There are several options: 10 Euros for the simple traditional champagne. 12 Euros for the more sophisticated one. 15 Euros for 2 glasses of your choice. 17 Euros for the best quality champagne. All prices include the tour.

This is December, and in Reims there is a beautiful Christmas market, near the impressive gothic church that reminded us of Notre-Dam in Paris. From christmas decoration, to all sorts of food, this rich market was a nice way to spend our Saturday evening. I even found Krembo (an Israeli invention of creme and choclate, apperantly improved by the French) - the best Krembo I ate in my life. We ate Chorus and marrons - it was awesome.

In the area you can also go to Epernay (someone told me that except for some more caves nothing much to see), and Chalons which is the capital. We passed.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Campus Exchange

As you probably know INSEAD has campuses in France and in Singapore. When you get into a campus you have to stay there for P1 and P2. But in P3/4/5 you are free to fransfer between campuses. Also in P4 there is the option to go to Wharton in Philadelphia.

Singapore Exchange

80% of the July promotion (at least those who start at Fonty) want to go for P3 to Singapore, for several reasons: the French winter (vs. The Asian sun), in P4 the recruiting process start so they want to be at Fonty, many wanted in the first place to spend several periods in Asia, and maybe more.

The other direction is non-significant. Students from Singapore want to come to Fonty probably in P4. This result in a massive movement to Singapore. Fonty will probably be empty in P3.

Now, there are limited spaces in each campus (around 260), and the demand is high. So INSEAD asks each student to tell where they want to be in each period, and then select people randomly. Those who registered but did not get in are on the waitlist. In the next month or so people waiver their opportunity to go to Singapore, so almost all the waitlist can also go to Singapore.

Those who go to Singapore will have to find a solution for their appartments in Fonty. Some will simply replace appartments with students who come from Singapore to Fonty. But most has to either continue pay the rent or leave their appartments.

Then there is the accomodation in Singapore. The landlords over there knows exactly how to take advantage of the situation and charge very high prices (for example 1200 Euro/Month for a room). Since there are so many people coming to Singapore in P3 there is a big demand and the price goes through the roof. There are two apartments buildings (Heritage and something else) which are more expensive. However, all the other appartments are far away, and you will need public transportaion.


There are 20 places on the list of MBAs who want to Wharton. For this previlege students must bid points from their elective banks. The lucky ones gets to spend p4 in philadelphia. The number of points deducted from their elective choice in p5 is the points bid by the last person to get in the list.

While in Wharton, students from INSEAD who exchange with Wharton are regular students for the period of 2 month, and they have access to all the facilities and networks as Wharton students. The courses, however, are not as good as p4 at INSEAD, because most of the courses at Wharton are for regular semester, so finding courses only for half a semester is limited.

With regard to emloyment, for the July promotion p4 in USA is off season. So there is not much recruitment going on in the campus.

Still, several students each year bid for the place in Wharton.

The past month there was an intensive hunt for appartments in Singapore, many people from the waitlist tried to convince people who are not certain to remove themselves from the list, and planning the 2 month vacation is Asia. They probably forgot how intense INSEAD can be.

I will remain your loyal reporter of the life here at Fontainebleau.

INSEAD Auction and the Electives

In the past month we had to bid for both the campus exchange and the p3 electives. Since this is unique I figured it is worth some explanations.

The system works like this: Each student gets 200 points. Each period the students bid points for the electives that they want to take next period. Since some of the electives are too popular, not all students can take them. So out of all the points that remained from previous periods, each student divide them between the courses they want to take (giving most points to the electives they want the most - strategy, strategy).

If a course is not full, no points are deducted. However, if the course is full each student that bid high get in. The number of points deducted for all the students is according to the last student to get in. For example: If there are 100 places, and the 100th student bid 20 points, all the 100 students are deducted 20 points (even if they bid higher). Sometimes though, INSEAD opens a new section if there is a high demand (not guaranteed).

The auction is done per campus. Most classes are given in both campuses. They provide us with all the information about the syllabuses, requirements, and faculty (including rankings of the professors in previous periods - a grade above 4 is considered good).

The 200 points are cummulative throughout the program. If a student is deducted 50 points in the P3 bidding, he will only have 150 points in P4.

In the first week of P3 the students are allowed to drop and add electives as they choose (if there are available places). If the class is full, dropping from a course will result in someone from the waitlist getting in (dropping the course gives you the bidding points back). There is also the possibility to audit a course (meaning to sit in class but not get credit) - if the professor allows it.

Why did INSEAD impose such a complicated system is beyond me, but these are the rules, and we must play accordingly, right?

The P3 Electives
There are 6 groups of electives in the program: Finance, Accounting, Strategy, Marketing, Technology & Operations, and Entrepreneurship. There are also electives in Organizational Behaviour (OB) and Economics.

Most electives are 1 credit, but there are also mini ones for half a credit (and only 8 sessions). In the program you can take 10.5-12.5 elective credits (and you must attend minimum of 2 credits in P5 - meaning that you have to be at INSEAD in that period). More then 12.5 you must pay extra.

There are tons of electives - mostly in P5 - and choosing is hard. In P3 it is recommended to take 3.5 credits. There are also 2 core courses.

Here is a list of some of the electives offered (not all of them):

Finance - If you want a finance career, it is recommended that you take all the finance courses. However, for the numbers-handicaped of us, it is recommended to take two basic courses: Applied Corporate Finance (the cases course, given both in P3 and P4), and Investements (mini, only in P3). International Financial Management is the third course offered.

Entrepreneurship - In P3 INSEAD offers Corporate Entrepreneurship in Fonty, and Business Models in Singapore (no symmetry). Also you can take a project in the industry (Entrepreneurshial Field Study).

Marketing - In P3 or P4 you should take Marketing Driving Strategies, which involves simulations and is supposed to be great.

Strategy - A popular course is given in P3, M&As, Alliances and Corporate Strategy (taught in Fonty by an Israeli professor).

Technology and Operations: The second course (after the core course) is Strategies for Product and Service Development. There are two mini course called Leveraging IT Opportunities and Trends - Part I/II which are given in P3 and P4 respectively (different courses not related).

One last course that I want to describe here is the Negotiations course which is supposed to be great in Singapore (and hopefully in Fontainebleau too).

P2 Academic Overview

P2 was definitely busier than P1. You might have wondered where I disappeared in the past couple of weeks. But no worries - I am still here (tired but breathing), writing to you about all the stuff that you need to know about INSEAD, the greatest business school in the Fontainebleau area (and the world).

So what did we have in this period: More courses, less time, more team assignments, less time, more CV preparation, less time, more stress, well you get the picture...

We study 6 courses this period, but 5 of them are only 12 sessions (Foundation of Marketing is the only one with 16). All of the courses together give a much clearer view of the business world.

We do a lot of cases (some from Harvard, some from IMD, and some - yes - from INSEAD). So I got to intimately know various companies so far. Let me name the most well known: Coca Cola, Pepsico, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Black&Decker, IKEA, IBM, Dell, Apple, Cirque de Soleil, Nintendo, easyJet, American Airlines, Zara, Marks&Spencer, Ralph-Lauren, and the list goes on and on.

We learnt how to analyze business problems with relation to cost measurements, allocation and control; marketing and branding; option pricing; process and bottleneck problems, to name a few.

INSEAD had a very big impact on strategy with the invention of "Blue Ocean Strategy", and you might want to read the book about it (with the same name). For this achievement the Strategy department here at INSEAD is very strong, and the course of Strategy is taught seperately from the Marketing course.

In the Processes and Operations course we had read the book "The Goal" by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt (an Israeli!), which is written as an easy-reading and demonstrates the constraints theory very effectively. I recommend the book (you will probably have to read it anyhow if you study an MBA), and I enjoyed it very much (it didn't take long to read).

I must say that in most of the courses the level of teaching and the material is at a very high level, and the classes are taught in a interesting and inspiring ways. The professors make tremendous efforts to deliver the material in a fun and effective way (Some of the classes we laugh so hard that you might think it is a stand-up comedy show).

However, we have a large amounts of readings, and some of the professors use the cold-calling method. Especially in the Managerial Accounting course, in which we have a professor from HBS, who use the case method devoutly. The case method means in practice that for each class you must read a story about a company, and analyse several exhibits in order to answer several questions regarding an issue. Then the class is more of a discussion fascilitated by the professor. The method has proven itself in my eyes as effective, though very strict.

Once the period is over I will give a more thorough review of the different courses, so you will know in advance what to look for.