Time To Think – The DCU Business School Next Generation Management Immersion Course: Day Two

In Business Education, DCU Business School, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management on November 8, 2009 at 10:00 am

“Nearly all the battles which are regarded as the masterpieces of the military art have been battles of manouevre in which often the enemy has found himself defeated by some novel device, some unexpected thrust or strategy. In such battles, the losses of the victor have been small and the enemy is left puzzled as well as beaten” – Winston Churchill

The second day of the DCU Business School Next Generation Management Immersion Course focused on introducing analytic reasoning and the case study method.

Building on their assignment from Day One, the morning session discussed the difference between System I and System II thinking (see Stanovich and West, 2000). The session was based on some theory, some team-based logical reasoning exercises and some analytical tools. Nearly all teams tried to shortcut the answer by half-guessing rather than go through and sort each piece of data. Often one finds students with very little real management experience rely on their intuition rather than a more evidence-based approach; this really was the case with the logic exercise we did. This is not inherently wrong however good intuitive decisions rely on substantial experience and knowledge otherwise it is random chance. Unfortunately, more experience students, whether mature full-time students or executive education students, often focus exclusively on evidence only; this can result in a homogenous thinking.  Neither approaches alone can ‘predict’ breakthrough ideas or ‘deal with’ non-routine events (see The  Black SwanTaleb, 2005) but when used together they certainly increase the likelihood of better decisions faced with both complexity and uncertainty. Most business school modules require structured analytic thinking and DCU is no different however increasingly we are recognising the need to formalise this more and also ensure creative and abstract thinking is given the weight needed. If the Irish economy is transform itself to some future competitive knowledge-intensive economy then the latter and not the former is where the difference will lie.

DCU Business School students from the recent past wax lyrical to NGM Immersion Course Students

DCU Business School students from the recent past wax lyrical to NGM Immersion Course Students

The day was broken up with what we had designed to be our version of the ‘living library’ but due to the class size ended up being a panel discussion with 12 students (from different programmes and backgrounds) from previous years. The ‘living library’ concept is something which resonates strongly with me. Basically, students can take a person on loan for 30 minutes and learn from them in the same way they can learn from a borrowed book. They can then return them and take out another person. I think this session was one of the best we could have organised. Former students represent a credible reality that faculty may never achieve in the eyes of incoming students. Their top tips:

  • Postgraduate education is very different to undergraduate – attendance at lectures and time management is crucial; the Reading Weeks are substantial opportunities to catch up – don’t waste them
  • If you have never done Finance, Accounting or Java – attend every lecture
  • Ask each lecture what success looks like for them – what are the characteristics of a good assignment or exam answer; it varies
  • International students provide valuable input, if you seek it and include them in your activities; equally International students need to make an effort to integrate with Irish students
  • Do as many applied projects as possible – they give you experience and something to put on your resume
  • Unless you plan to pursue an academic career, the practicum option probably provides greater employability options and is easier to deliver
  • For dissertations, you research advisor is crucial. Make sure you both understand what success is and keep a careful note of all meetings and correspondence to make sure you are on track
  • If you have group problems, sort them out as early as possible, while taking time to understand the causes of the problems and not just the symptoms
  • Digital competencies are essential in the job marketplace

One of the students also gave an insight in to her semester transfer in Illinois and highly recommended the experience.

We finished the day with a review of the case study method and different approaches to this methodology and analysis generally including MECE, Decision Trees etc. The McKinsey online case studies are a very good (and free) online resource that can be used for a team-based in-class teaching (although they were not originally designed for this purpose). I used these cases to start challenging students to think about business but also to use the data in front of them. I find a time-limit increases pressure and adds to the exercise. It also focuses them on note-taking which helps prepare them for their own client meetings. The McKinsey case studies provide sample answers so students can see how they compare. I try to ask as many teams for input in to at least one answer and was happy that we did hit many of the answers. The one area of continual concern I have (in all business school course) is the discomfort with numeric data and in particular any aspect of mental arithmetic – I have no silver bullet but know that this is an issue that Business Schools and indeed Universities have to deal with with increasing urgency.

As usual, there were assignments. Today, the students were given a full case study on Google to complete by Day Four, with three questions to be answered on no more than a page and submitted to Moodle and Turnitin. They were also given two smaller assignments on (a) developing their decision-making skills and (b) understanding the imaginative abilities of the mind and developing their reflective thinking skills. Obviously the case study is to prepare them for the coming year – case studies are a staple teaching resource for graduate business schools. I’m not sure whether at this stage they have internalised that the decision making and imaginative/reflective thinking skills are the skills which will provide them with robust and individualised responses here and in the real world (if you don’t beleive me just look at Google, one of the companies most graduates want to work for: see Sunday Times – 9 November 2009 or the Google Labs Aptitude Test).

And some wit on the Irish discussion boards thought the Immersion Course would be an easy 5 credits!

  1. Man…I really need to get a phone with a better camera!

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