Oct 27 2011
This is the original version of my article sent to be published in MBA Edge Quarterly magazine April 2011 issue. The edited version published in magazine might be a little different. Your feedback is much welcome.
It was 7pm as Anita was making a presentation in her case writing and analysis class. She had written a business case based on a scenario faced by a real company. The company wanted to develop a new industrial product and market it throughout the world. But questions remained in the management. Would the new product be profitable or not? If so, what were the best business and marketing strategies to compete in the global market? How should they differentiate from their competitors?
Anita had earlier approached the company and gained access to the required data to be used in her case study. She interviewed the managers to find out about the product and issues involved. She reviewed the company’s history, its management and staffs, the current businesses, sales and financial performance. The company treated her like their free consultant. For one, they would like to hear recommendations on their problems from an MBA student. Also, it was a valuable opportunity for the company to be mentioned and studied in an MBA course!
In the class, Anita acted as a consultant of the company and presented the problems and solutions to the case. She applied strategic planning tools learned in her strategic management class to analyze the business environment and the new proposed business. These tools included SWOT analysis, SPACE matrix and BCG matrix. She presented her findings and recommended the client to proceed on the plan. She also drew upon knowledge learned in marketing management class and proposed a marketing plan for the client.
After presentation by Anita, her classmate Faeek came up on stage. He had been assigned as the critique of Anita’s case. Acting as a devil’s advocate, he criticized Anita’s case and pointed out problem areas that needed improvement. Then, the whole class started to comment and debate on case. The lecturer acted as a facilitator encouraging participation from everyone, besides providing his final comments on the case and also the quality of critique and class discussion.
This was yet another experiential learning built into its curriculum by one business school. In doing so, a student faced real life problems in the business world instead of just doing textbook exercises. Anita had learned to approach issues objectively, and developed her people skills interacting with people in the organization, creativity and problem solving skills as consultants, presentation skills in presenting her findings and analysis, and also persuasion in defending her solutions and fielding questions from others. Are these skills not what we expect from an MBA graduate?
In my previous article in this column, I mentioned the respect towards our MBA graduates is declining because they are unable to fulfill the needs of companies employing them. Now, in order to close this gap, MBA can be more experiential by exposing students to the real world situations, rather than just keep them sleepy in the class reading the books and listening to lecture. What use is it to feed students with all business theories and knowledge in the world, yet they are unable to tackle a situation in the real world?
The war game, the on-the-job training, and the case writing class mentioned above are just some examples of experiential learning. Universities, colleges and training institutions, you can be even more creative. Give what the market needs in an MBA graduate, and you will enjoy good reputation and profitable returns for churning out graduates companies in marketplace speak well of.
So b-schools, why do you let HSBC to hold business plan competition every year to dig out the business talents among our youths, when you can host the Malaysian version of Apprentice to draw out the potentials among your students? Or you think MBA should be academic only and it is the real world’s job to teach students about real world? Congratulations, for you will be dinosaurs in education field in no time.
About The Author
Ricky Soo is a biased advocate for using case method in management education in Malaysia as used widely in the US. If you feel strongly too in this matter, come and argue with him on http://www.rickysoo.com. Or if you want your organization to be mentioned in an MBA course, feel free to spam here.