How Duke University Uses the Transform! Simulation to Help Its Master Students Translate Learning into Doing
Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. The university also administers two concurrent schools in Asia, Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and Duke Kunshan University in China. Duke University is ranked among the top universities in the United States. Undergraduate admissions are among the most selective in the country.
The Duke Master of Engineering Management is a tech-savvy alternative to the MBA. Comprising a core management curriculum and variety of electives, it is interdisciplinary and flexible, with a focus on application and the student experience.
Professor Tony O’ Driscoll is an adjunct professor at Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business. He teaches courses and conducts research in areas of strategy, marketing, professional services and people management.
In the Master of Engineering Management program, he teaches Marketing and the Fuqua Client Consulting program.
Tony is constantly on a lookout for ways he can help his students absorb their learning more effectively.
“Students who are part of the Master of Engineering Management typically have a strong technical background with a few years of work experience in the industry. They join the program to learn the business side of the equation and eventually most of them will go on to take up a project or product management role,” he explained.
“They’re not afraid of numbers, they’ll go after it. But they’re also looking very much to understand how to be better managers, how to be better leaders, how to understand the finances of a business, how it is that strategic decisions are made, how negotiations happen. And that’s what we try to bring to our students.”
Having been teaching and practicing strategy for over 20 years, Professor Tony was one of the founding members of IBM Strategy and Change Practice and has worked around the globe with upper management on strategy.
“Strategy is what brings it all together. Strategy sets the context for everything else, from my perspective as a strategy professor. In strategy, you have to understand both the external and internal environment, you have to recognize what makes you special and different, and you then have to understand how to allocate resources and capabilities to sustain your position of advantage. And that position is transient, so you have to keep moving.” said Tony.
“When students have learned all the different pieces through the various courses in the program, this course is where they see how it all comes together because now they’re looking at things through a strategic lens.'”
“The students loved it. They said, ‘wow, this is great. I’ve learned so much in such a short time.’ We’ve gotten positive feedback from the students and it’s been a great learning experience.”
Professor Tony O’Driscoll
Adjunct Professor, Research Fellow and Academic Director at Duke University
Bringing Transform! Into the Equation
Although strategy is where it all comes together and start making sense – the question remains – Can you teach strategy? Or do you learn it by doing?
“You might talk about the different components like external and internal analysis, financial value creation, organization, culture and more, you might have a little case study that talks about each piece, but that’s still not a synthetic,” quipped Tony.
Having experienced the Transform! Simulation in a digital session run by Christian Rangen, Tony saw it as a great way to synthesize all the learning of his students. Through multiple discussions and planning, this eventually led to a seven-hour Transform! workshop co-facilitated by Christian Rangen, Hege Langaas and Enrico Maset.
Completely digital ,the workshop saw 20 students from the Master of Engineering Management program take the reins as leaders of a successful company facing disruption and strategize to reach a market cap of 50BN.
Giving Students A Capstone From Their Year of Learning
Transform! worked as a way to help the students connect all the dots on all that they’ve learned throughout the Master’s program – the facilitation by Chris, Enrico and Hege, combined with the active input by their professor Tony made for a supercharged learning experience.
“Running Transform! with an active (internal) program co-facilitator delivered an improved experience. Professor O’Driscoll dug into the thinking process of the students and used the digital simulation as a platform to link multiple lessons and courses beautifully,” noted co-facilitator Enrico.
“The students loved it. I could hear the lightbulbs going off during the workshop. They’ve learned how accounting fits in with finance, with design, with marketing, and how those different pieces cohere, synthesize, integrate.” said Tony.
Giving Students a Taste of Real World Strategy
Chris, Hege and Enrico embedded “live cases” that were happening currently into the 7-hour Transform! Digital workshop, which the students really found value in.
“The students were extremely motivated to work on fresh materials and experience something really close to the reality of our corporate world.” said Enrico.
“I think what Transform! has done is create a learning environment that really mirrors work so you can integrate and synthesize the different topics you’ve learn around a decision that needs to be made with incomplete information in a short amount of time. That’s very much like what a leader who’s leading a transformation would face,” added Tony.
A Highly Engaging Teaching Method that Delivers Impact
Despite it being in a digital format, scheduled on a Saturday, and lasting seven hours, many of the students remained very engaged throughout and even after the Transform! Simulation Workshop.
“We worked for seven hours without a break – these students didn’t leave – they were there for seven hours straight, picking up as much as they could. Even when we were finished, a few of them stayed in the session to give feedback and discuss with us what happened and so on, so definitely there’s engagement.” noted Hege.