IMD, based in Lausanne on Lake Geneva, likes to call its MBA a “one year leadership development program” which aims to transform students’ careers. The data suggest that they achieve that; of its last cohort, 97% changed function, industry or geography, 82% changed two of those dimensions, and 48% changed all three.
As a school that specializes in executive education, IMD feels that its sweet spot is slightly older MBAs than some other schools, which is why 75% of students fall in the 28-32 age range, and the average work experience is for students is seven years. On average, students speak four languages.
This is a very intense and personal MBA, with a 2:1 staff-to-student ratio and 20 mandatory sessions with an analyst to help students understand their own motivations and reactions to situations — and better plot their future paths. A team coach also works with the study groups, analyzing behavior and dynamics.
Students are also assigned personal career coaches who help them understand their leadership style and find a suitable job after they graduate. Mentorship is a strong element, and to help them plot their future career, students are assigned both a recent IMD MBA alumnus who has recently undergone a major career change and another in their late 50s.
An IMD MBA focuses on three things. One, understanding how to use entrepreneurial skills in large and complex organizations, and it recently increased the amount of time spent on entrepreneurship by 20%. Two, developing global leaders, who can work across the world. Part of that comes from exposure to the cohort, which is hugely diverse; the most recent class 90 students had 40 nationalities.
The third strand is developing digital savvy. Students take short, intensive courses looking at how areas like marketing have been revolutionized by technology. They also take a one-week program in which they design, build and launch an app. For two weeks they travel to the “future hubs” of Silicon Valley, Singapore and Bangalore. The school also works closely with local high-tech organizations, including CERN, and local research institutes.
Seán Meehan, dean of the MBA program
“You can look at the MBA as a tool-box, and a vocabulary, but what we focus on is how to use those things. We teach you the tools, but we also want to develop leaders and look at how strategy develops in the real world. IMD is about challenging yourself, examining who you are and thinking about your leadership development potential and putting together a plan to achieve it. When you talk to students who were here yeas ago they see IMD as a place for new learning, networks, contacts, ideas and confidence.”
Lauren Versagli, MBA student, class of 2019
“I wanted to come to IMD because of the staff. They have amazing profiles and I wanted to learn from the best. Also, the small class size of 90 students appealed to me because I went to a university of 15,000 and I wanted something different. The diversity is amazing — my study group colleagues are Russian, Thai, Spanish, Brazilian and Indian. It is challenging, it pushes us to think about how we interact, and we are learning skills we will use for the rest of our lives.”