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Insead MBA Essay Tips 2015-16

Essay 3: Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way (approximately 300 words).

For Tips on Insead MBA Essays 1, 2 and 4, Download F1GMAT's INSEAD MBA Essay Guide


The latest INSEAD MBA represents 90 Nationalities with 30% each from Asia/Pacific and Northern/Western Europe, and 16% from the United States and Canada. Central/Western Europe (11%), Africa (3%), Latin America (5%), and the Middle East (5%) represent the rest of the puzzle. Unlike US-based Business Schools where 30-35% are International, 90% of INSEAD MBA class are international. This is due to two reasons. One, the demand for MBA in local markets is comparatively low and two, International students find 1-year and 16-month programs more attractive.

From a competition point of view, INSEAD competes directly with London Business School, and top programs in the US – Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, and Columbia. The Admission team understands that you have also applied to other top programs, and probably have an invite to join them. INSEAD does not want to waste their resources pursuing candidates who are not motivated by the diversity of the class.

A 90- nationality class is more or less like a UN summit meeting – an experience even top MBA programs in the US cannot offer. The school knows it and wants to check whether you realize it as well. Students with Business Administration and Engineering background mostly represent the undergraduate course experience of the latest MBA class, while the professional experience of the class is distributed among Corporate Sector, Consulting, and Finance. There isn’t much diversity when it comes to professional experience and undergraduate degree. So the school is betting on the experiences that come with diverse nationalities.


Why Diversity Matters for Businesses


Businesses look towards schools for training professionals. One thing Business don’t want are experts who have just worked in one domain in a country for 3-4 years. Knowledge about a market is easily acquired but finding professionals who have worked in more than one country and experienced a multi-dimensional perspective about challenges in a market is rare. Schools can instill cultural sensitivity, but real experiences depend on the candidate’s pre-MBA work experience. That is why profiles that have mentioned traveling as a hobby stand out from the pool of nerdy applicants.

The second reason is creativity. If you follow the American way of problem solving, which has become the norm in UK, Canada, Germany and India – time is of the utmost importance, but if you work with other cultures, problem solving is defined through the perspective of contexts and finding the hidden meaning behind what the consumers wants.

Do note that a multi-national class doesn’t mean that the Buddhist philosophy of looking at obstacles will originate from a Japanese candidate. The stark difference in how Businesses interact with customers and partners might be visible to the American candidate, who has worked in Japan for 3-5 years, more than the native Japanese candidate with limited travel experience. Schools realize the value of attracting candidates who have such multilayered perspective.

The third reason is the talent pool. Google and Microsoft didn’t promote CEOs of Indian origin by accident. The Two American tech giants realized it much earlier that if they were to recruit from the narrow talent pool based on nationality, they would miss real talents for the job. That does not mean that European schools follow a similar philosophy. There are language barriers in France, Spain and Italy, but when you analyze the recruiter list for INSEAD, the majority of them are American companies, who follow the “Best Man for the Job” philosophy, especially for the Tech and Finance industry.



Consulting in Europe is still influenced by local recruitment patterns primarily because candidates have to interact with local clients on a regular basis. No matter how good you are at picking up a foreign language in say 2-3 years, missing the nuances of local language means missing requirements during project planning or losing out during negotiation. Businesses are not ready to take that risk. For boutique consulting companies, language is still a barrier but for the 3 big Cs, opportunities are equal.

The fourth major reason schools want diversity is because of the program’s wide reach. A school that can acquire candidates from 90 nationalities is unheard even in Google and Microsoft. The MBA program does the vetoing process, and recruiters are given a guarantee that the candidate has a minimum viable qualification to master new skills. Your GMAT and GPA does the first round of filtering, but Management functions – Consulting, Marketing, Finance, and Operations are different from the traditional functional expertise.

Schools need candidates who can adapt to a new culture, pick a new language, solve local customer problems, and communicate effectively with all stakeholders. MBA programs can enhance your skills but starting with a clean slate is a risk that schools won’t take. That is the reason the majority of candidates recruited by INSEAD have 5-7 years of experience.

INSEAD is hoping that by the time you join the program, you would have worked in 2-3 countries on at least three projects under a couple of different company cultures. Business Schools are the matchmakers in a modern economy, meticulously filling the specialist roles shared by the Employers with MBA candidate having the right skill set.

Now that you know why Schools and Employers value diversity, highlight your experience in such a way that you portray sensitivity towards diverse cultures. Share how cultural diversity has helped your team meet the challenges in communication, problem solving, and negotiations in new markets.

Start with the Context


Describe the team composition – the nationalities, the language barriers, and the diverse skill set of the team members. Remember, the word limit is only 300 words, which means that you will have to finish offering context with just three sentences. The majority of the length should be spent on explaining the problem and how diversity in the team, allowed you to solve the problem creatively.

Explain how cognitive diversity influenced framing of the problem and pushed the team forward. If your company has a culture of recruiting diverse personality types, explain how the policy aggregated professionals who were analytical, creative and social – three skills required to look at complex customer problems with multiple viewpoints.

Impact on you


The Admission team wants to know how you absorb diverse ideas and cultures. Writing favorably about the experience with generic statements will make your essay look like thousands of other essays.

Recent research about diversity in the team has some interesting findings. Mention them only if you had a similar experience.

Case for Diversity


1) New Team Member different from the Group, improves productivity


Even though a new team member, who is socially similar to the group, will result in greater camaraderie among team members, the addition will negatively influence the team’s productivity, especially while working on problem solving.


2) Same Team Member in multiple projects diminishes performance


Although familiarity is good when it comes to communication, the same team for multiple projects will result in an agreeable state of mind, which hinders, expressing diverse viewpoints essential for problem solving.


3) Standardization nullifies the Influence of Diversity

Project leaders cannot haphazardly enforce processes. There should be phases in the project where team members from diverse nationality and ethnicity can use free form while coming up with solutions. Standardization in solutions will discourage professionals from thinking freely – primary reason top companies fail to come up with the next world-changing idea, once they have crossed from a start-up to a publicly listed company. If you are going to give a balanced perspective about Diversity, here is one finding worth considering.

Case against Diversity


Little Diversity is worse

INSEAD includes 90 nationalities for a reason. If a team of five is comprised of diverse nationalities with two members from the same country, and the rest of the three from three different countries, the performance will be worse than a team with five different nationalities.

Diversity in ideas and perspective in itself is no guarantee that the team will create great solutions. If you were managing a diverse team, explain how diversity fuels conflict both because of the idea and from miscommunication. How you created a standard for resolving conflict should be a point worth mentioning in the essay. In fact, for a free and passionate exchange of ideas, an environment where conflict does not turn personal is always a pre-requisite.



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