“At INSEAD everybody is a minority” – Ilian Mihov, INSEAD’s Dean in his speech to the 16D class at Singapore’s Welcome Ceremony.
Everyone knows that INSEAD is the Business School for the World. It is written everywhere, and we proudly say it out loud. This year we have students from 75 different nationalities who have chosen to study at INSEAD and are both a cause and a consequence of such a motto. I suspect diversity is the reason we chose INSEAD over the other top business schools. This is what sets us apart and what we have in common with each other, this passion for the world, for other cultures and for difference. But the fact that we’re all minorities, here, as in the world, is quite an interesting angle to analyse the diversity issue from. The non-cultural dominance is actually a quite exquisite and deeper way of looking into the effects of diversity and analysing the benefits of it. We all feel more humble, more alert and more open to others when we are a minority. It’s like a survival skill, and we need to behave in such a way because being a minority puts us out of our comfort zone.
And what if we as people have always lived like that? And what if we never go back to where our comfort majority is? What if majorities don’t exist anymore anywhere, as we live more and more in an integrated world? It might seem a bit farfetched to claim this but I do agree that it is one of the strongest world peace tools. Looking back, if there were never cultural majorities and cultural impositions, many of our conflicts may have never even had a purpose to start with.
This brings us to one of INSEAD’s founding principles that probably not everyone knows about, which was as simple – or rather as bold and aspiring – as promoting peace between European countries. To show that, by taking people out of majorities or comfort zones, they had much to learn and to grow from embracing diversity and open their minds to other ways of thinking, behaving and living. And here we are now, we are a bigger world-lovers’ crowd than before but we have an ever bigger challenge, as we are taking this to a world level. World peace is a bold proposition but we wouldn’t want anything smaller than that, right?
I am certain that being a minority here will be one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I think we will all learn what embracing diversity can do for our lives in a few months, as we learn big lessons in humility, tolerance and acceptance.