As Splash Projects celebrates its 20th birthday, we are marking our anniversary online by featuring a handful of interviews with some visionary clients and charities from over the years.
This month we hear from Jean-Elie Aron. Jean-Elie is based in Montreal and is a Director at the Telecommunications giant Bell. Prior to joining Bell in 2017, he spent almost a decade with McKinsey & Company. Jean-Elie completed his MBA in 2011–2012 and while he was at INSEAD he launched an initiative to revitalise the MBA experience.
Where did you first hear about Splash Projects?
While starting MBA year in Singapore as a 12J [the year before Splash got involved], it felt like the launch week team activities – which included a day of team outdoors exercises – was nice but not an « only INSEAD can do » type of on-boarding. By contrast, my sister, who graduated from another business school, had a two-day immersion activity with the army. So with Martin Peters, a 12J friend, we launched INSEAD 2.0 as a student-led initiative to improve welcome week, among other MBA experience aspects. We brought the idea of doing something more distinctive and unique to the MBA committee. We explored various ideas (e.g., Fire Fighting, Army, Team Survival experiences) and got to hear about Splash, which was part of an INSEAD corporate training program. After observing a Splash project, I was convinced it was the type of unique and transformative team building experience INSEAD MBAs deserve to have.
What do you remember about that first Project?
It was an amazing experience, something I never saw before or since then as a team building exercise. It was in Malaysia and I attended a session organized for a company. My role was to observe how this team of execs would behave through the program as they built a playground for disadvantaged kids. What made the Splash experience distinctive was that the instructions are as simple as « here are your materials/tools and what you have to build, you’ve got 8 hours to complete it as a group ». Splash creates an environment that challenges individuals leadership, team work and innovation capabilities. On top of all this, each project has a social purpose, to serve a local community.
What was the most unexpected thing that happened during that Splash Project?
The long seconds of silence among a group of 40 execs when told « go figure it out »!
What was the feedback from students who experience the revised INSEAD Welcome Week?
Every time I asked INSEAD MBAs who attended a Splash Project during their welcome week, they all shared outstanding feedback about their experiences and how helpful it was to their OB [Organisational Behaviour] class discussions, because it brings actual group experience on concepts that are theoretically taught in class.