The first period of the MBA program at INSEAD raced by, as I imagine will all subsequent periods. With such a variety and volume of happenings, each day felt like a distinct three (in one): pre-lunch, followed by post-lunch and ending with evening-night. While I and my fellow class-mates have already survived and thrived in a hectic professional environment, the INSEAD experience is of a rather different quality. More relaxed and absorbing than work-life, yet more productive – each day is chock-full of new learning, compelling extra-curricular events and an addictive, joyous social buzz. The only requirement is that you show up, and the rest takes care of itself.

With our first period behind us, finals done and (almost) dusted, and before soaking in the fresh P2 concepts, a reflective look-back is in order. What exactly do INSEAD MBA students learn during P1, in real terms?

Introduction to Financial Accounting:

Bessie doesn’t care!

The cow (firm) doesn’t care if you finance its feed (operations) through debt or equity – just as long as you account for it correctly. Faking it is unsustainable.

The balance sheet must balance. Retained earnings is your friend.

Accounting has a crystal ball; it’s called NOPAT.

Prices and Markets:

The market always clears.

Marginal Revenue = Marginal Cost = Price. Unless you are a monopoly. Then you win.

Don’t collude. Don’t do illegal stuff. Don’t go to jail.

Remember that there are people a lot smarter than you, who work a lot harder, but don’t have the opportunities you do. Be grateful.

Uncertainty, Data and Judgements:

If you are in pain, you are learning. Keep learning.

Our intuition is consistently wrong, yet we remain overconfident that we are right – which actually makes sense, given the former.

A point estimate means nothing – a range is where it’s at. I am between 21 and 31 years old.

Don’t outsource your modelling. Know your data, and know how the model works!

Organizational Behavior 1:

The most important factor for career progression is network, and the second is grit. Motivation is more important than personality fit for professional success. Ambitious, determined socializers, you are set.

Use feedback to know yourself, and then graduate to managing yourself.

To combat your shortcomings (that you are now aware of), build diverse teams and, while keeping an eye on different working and communication styles, enjoy the greater cumulative intelligence and creativity. In person. Far better than email.

Behaving, Organized.

Hypothesis testing, to the right!

Financial Markets and Valuations:

Value is… the Net Present Value of Future Cash Flows. Monies from different periods of time are like different currencies, you can’t add them. Enter, interest rates.

If you don’t know what you are doing, hold the market. If you lever up, do it wisely.

Maintain healthy perspective: if you make a mistake, someone might lose money. If a brain surgeon makes a mistake, someone might lose their life.