MBA candidates are future business leaders; but are they really equipped to think, act and lead strategically? That was one of the questions we wanted to test out as we invited the first ever pilot MBA program to a round of Transform!
Written by Adriano Petrino, Prasanna Chandrasekaran (both CBS, MBA, Class of 2019) and Christian Rangen, CEO, Strategy Tools
The MBA program has become a default method of educating future, global business leaders. But in most places of the world, the MBA is still very much a class room based learning model. Heavily criticized by Henry Mintzberg in his sweeping book “Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development” (2005), the MBA has been challenged by both faculty, students and industry to become more relevant and develop better learning methods.
One school that has taken this challenge to heart is CBS, or Copenhagen Business School’s MBA program. Based around a one-year, small class size format, the Danish program has multiple experiential learning methods built into the program.
Given this focus on experiential learning, it was only natural to invite a group of CBS MBA Candidates to pilot Transform! the strategy & entrepreneurship simulator for the first ever MBA pilot group (well, that, and the founder of Strategy Tools being CBA MBA alumni, fond of Denmark, and recruiting for a VP Business Development also helped, but still, we wanted to pilot with one of the most forward thinking MBA programs in Europe.
So, given this backdrop, and with little time preparations or even expectations, what can what can global MBA candidates learn from transform!? (So we asked them).
“Studying in an MBA program give us the theoretical frame and the knowledge of models to understand strategy. Unfortunately, putting into practice our learnings in a class environment can be challenging.
Thanks to Strategy Tools we were able to simulate real strategy situations, discovering how to deal with uncertainty, team dynamics, emotional versus rational decisions as well as game theory frameworks.
The smart gameplay and interactive method designed by the Strategy Tools team simulates very well the complexity of the real world. Well done”
A big focus in the CBS MBA Session was the connection between strategy alignment and team dynamics, or rather what happens when teams are put under time pressure and they are NOT aligned on the strategy and execution. As a facilitator, I could see several groups cracking due to a lack of team alignment. This also came up strongly in the debrief session, “how do I align my team around strategy in a fast-moving world?’
Another key topic in the simulation is the connection between strategy, capital and market capitalization. Not usually taught as an integrated topic, students often fail to see the connections between strategic choices, capital requirements and their (potential) impact on the long-term company value. Hence, Transform integrates these elements in a way that far more reflects the real-world than many business schools commonly teach it.
‘’We have always learnt that a good capital structure is very important in our finance courses in the MBA. However, in this strategy simulation, we realized how much we did not want to be in debt and keep paying interests despite interest payments being insignificant compared to the actual market capitalization that can be achieved through operations financed by debt. This was one of the many valuable lessons that I learned. The others were how things get chaotic and go out of control and there needs to be mutual trust amongst different departments within the company. We also learnt about how to cooperate and compete at the same time with other companies, negotiate deals and interests with banks, and stretch the limits of the system in place whilst still abiding by the rules.”
On a closing note, having taught strategy in business school for close to 18 years, I have never seen this level of engagements, energy and enthusiasm in a group of students in a classroom. “I love this!” was a closing quote from one of the participants, as they fought to outcompete each other on the way to 50BN market cap and strategic dominance in the hands-on simulation, Transform!