Exactly one year ago I started the MBA at Warwick Business School – and I think it is safe to say that the past year has been a learning experience of a lifetime.
Never having done a business degree before, I jumped at this 360-degree educational journey, with modules ranging from strategy, to leadership, to innovation, to marketing, to global management… all the way to my much dreaded accounting and finance (which in the end turned out to be not so scary after all, thanks to Professors Lisa and Angela for their wonderful insights into the topic).
Along with providing me with the core fundamentals, equipping me with essential toolkits, and challenging me to critically analyse every single complex learning element, I also gathered new ways of approaching problems, thinking outside the box, and checking my pre-existing biases. I juggled assets and liabilities, indulged in the innovation value chain, analysed human behaviour and scrutinised change models. Although, all the excellent modules at WBS are essential for a rounded business management acumen, there were a few modules that stood out for me personally.
If I were to sum it up into three topic areas, my favourites would be Strategy, Marketing and Behaviour. These modules had me intrigued, excited and engaged. When I left the classes every day, my mind was buzzing with a thousand thoughts and ideas, my face had a big smile and I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
I feel happy to explore these three areas again in this blog, reflect on my learnings, share excerpts from my assignments and offer some tips to make the most of these modules. In this article, I will go through a brief overview of all my favourite MBA modules (with links to each of the topic specific articles… some are linked, some coming up soon!).
The core module, Strategic Thinking: Strategic Evaluation and Analysis, built the foundations of all the forthcoming learning throughout the MBA. The tools and frameworks introduced in this module, such as the PESTEL analysis, Porter’s 5 Forces, Resource Based View, continued to prove invaluable over the course of my MBA. These tools are essential for analysing a company’s positioning in the market, available resources and unique capabilities, in order to determine a sustainable competitive advantage. As I progressed through the module, the need to perform these analyses explicitly and step-by-step decreased. Instead, the analysis and assessment process became more organic and flowed comprehensively with the narrative of the essay. This difference can be seen when comparing my individual assignments for Strategic Thinking (Term 1), and Strategic Marketing (Term 3) (PS: coming soon!).
Module Leader, Dr. Hossam Zeitoun is an absolutely fabulous lecturer, who made the module fun and interesting with his weekly ‘recap’ quizzes, captivating lectures and engaging positively with students in and out of class. The module also provided an important introduction on effectively breaking-down and analysing case studies. Finally, following the ‘analysis’ stages, we explored various types of strategic models that could be applied in order to improve a company’s strategic positioning, such as diversification, blue ocean, judo, co-opetition… shall I go on? Of course, there’s always Professor John Colley’s recommended option —
SELL SELL SELL! 🙂
Strategy and Practice
For one of my four (online) elective modules, I choose Strategy and Practice, led by Professor Sotirios Paroutis, and I was so glad that I did. What a fantastic experience this module was – it was hard to believe that it was online! The first of the 4 days started off exploring leadership in crisis, through an online sporting simulation, to understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and strategic alignment in a constantly changing environment. Change is one of the most difficult factors to control and understand, and yet it is inevitable, which is why we need to learn how to manage and adapt to it. The day ended with a very fun movie watch-along of the Founder, a biographical film about the beginning of McDonald’s fast-food chain (PS: I highly recommend it!). This inspired me to start watching more ‘business-related’ movies and I remember binging all the Steve Jobs movies – which was absolutely apt, considering we were about to go deep into an Apple case study the next day. If that wasn’t enough excitement, on the second day, Professor Loizos Heracleous re-lived his NASA visit, as we discussed strategic agility and ambidexterity. Over the next two days, we covered lots of interesting topics under the umbrella of ‘Open Strategy’ and ‘Creating an Agile Mindset’, with the closing lecture coming in from Silicon Valley’s Intel. An absolutely intriguing 4 days of information overload (that’s just what an elective is, by the way).
Under the umbrella of ‘behaviour’, I want to talk about two-and-a-half modules. The first two are two electives that I absolutely loved – Behavioural Sciences for the Manager and Management of Change. And, also a little bit about Organisational Behaviour, which I originally did not think I enjoyed as much, but I surprised myself by how much I kept going back to various elements of this module throughout my electives and even my Leadership+ module learning journey.
Topics such as identity, culture, structure, and teams kept re-surfacing (in hindsight, how did I think it wouldn’t?), and I was surprised by how much I remembered and had absorbed from this module, thanks to the teachings of three brilliant lecturers, Dr Jose Bento de Silva, Dr Sandra Pereira and Dr Maja Korica. More so, I absolutely loved writing my individual assignment essay on Groups and Teams, exploring the role of individual dynamics, identity, competition and diversity in building high performance teams. I found it particularly fun going back and forth, presenting theories, contradicting them with others, then further contradicting those… you get the point. 🙂
Behavioural Sciences for the Manager
Behavioural Sciences for the Manager, led by Professor Daniel Read, was my very first elective and online class, and I remember enjoying the online experience from the comfort of my kitchen and hot cup of tea(s) throughout the day. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to meet and collaborate with our Distance Learning MBA and Executive MBA colleagues, and we had plenty of opportunity to do so, thanks to the way this module is designed. I particularly loved watching the short-films and videos, that correlated with the lecture that was delivered, and then discussing with the group to draw out key points for our group submission piece. It was really interesting to apply behavioural concepts to business management, managerial thinking and decision-making. The first day kicked off with exploring the two systems of the brain, system 1 and system 2. Below, the Backwards Brain Bicycle provides a fascinating demonstration of the different sections in our brains and how they work.
What I liked a lot from Day 2 was the Prospect Theory, and it even made it’s way into my Project and Dissertation’s literature review. This theory explores human sense making of risks and rewards, and the way in which we tend to be more loss averse, rather than gain oriented – really fascinating stuff! There are so many interesting videos I could share from this module, but I will save the fun for the module itself! Other topics covered include behavioural economics, intertemporal choice, planning fallacy (again, such an intriguing concept), nudging, and behavioural ethics. My individual assignment had me explore the ethics of nudging, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Management of Change
And finally, Management of Change led by Dr. Maja Korica, was my last online elective module – and what a way to finish! Again, concepts and theories that strike you, always create a lasting impact, and many of the discussions in this elective left an impression. For example, one of the big themes throughout this module was to pause and reflect – an extremely important habit to develop as a leader – in order to ensure that we take the time to process all the information, conversations and learnings… and then some more. In Dr Korica’s professional experience, according to her, those who adopt this practice go on to be the best leaders… or was it, that the best leaders tend to adopt this practice? Either way, you get the point. And therefore, I find myself here on this blog doing just that – reflecting! Now, I really could go on and on about this module, so I will keep it short and say this. If there’s one elective you should take – it’s this one. In fact, in my opinion, this should be part of one of the core modules. Change is inevitable. It is constant, it is happening and it is all around us. Knowing how to embrace it, manage it and thrive through it is an essential skill to have as a leader. Not just that, but Dr Korica touches on various complex concepts around sense-making, stability, clarity, planning, communication, politics, power, biases, and resistance. I absolutely LOVED the lecture on resistance, and it really got me thinking about how I had perceived resistance in my previous working life, and how that was all about to change going forwards. And of course, there still remains the big, unanswered question…
The core Marketing module really sets the tone for this topic area, led by Professor Emma Macdonald. Similar to the Strategic Thinking core module, this module also equipped me with an extensive set of marketing tools, and essentially how to write an end-to-end marketing plan. It was through this module that I absolutely fell in love with the world of Marketing, and was overly thrilled to take the Strategic Marketing elective during Term 3 to further supplement my marketing learning. The module is very well designed, in that, it has a very logical, step-by-step approach to creating a marketing plan, which covers market analysis, planning and implementation systems, offering useful toolkits along the way. Again, many of these tools and frameworks found their way into my dissertation and really helped make sense of my work. The module can be divided into three main areas. We started off with market audit and analysis, using tools such as PESTLE analysis, product life cycle (PLC), innovation curve, market map and segmentation, in order to assess the market and identify potential customers. I really enjoyed the segmentation exercises, particularly this idea of performing multiple layers of segmentation in order to identify niches in the market. The second part comprises of establishing marketing objectives, i.e. what are the products and markets, and who are our customers? Professor Macdonald’s Value-in-Use tool is a great foundation to start on and build upon further using the ANSOFF matrix and the DPM portfolio analysis. Finally, the last section focuses on strategy, targeting and positioning (using STP), and implementation (using the marketing mix). Putting this into practice in our individual assignments, I wrote a comprehensive marketing plan for Waitrose’s Mobile App (PS: coming soon)!
And last, but certainly not least, I had the great experience of building on my core marketing knowledge in the Strategic Marketing elective (online), led by Dr Scott Dacko. And, what a fun module that was! We were able to apply our theoretical learnings every day through a virtual simulation, that had us launching new products, managing markets and making quick decisions! I was proud to be part of Team Jarvis (Yes, you heard me right. And yes, that is exactly what it sounds like…), with three other MBA colleagues from different programmes (DL, Exec, FT).
In this elective, we looked to understand different markets, their growth and decline, and the various changes they go through. The elective kicked off exploring market entry timing strategy – which I personally found to be a very interesting concept, and more so when I did my individual assignment on the launch of Disney+, Disney’s on-demand video streaming service. It was particularly interesting for me to see concepts and learnings from the Strategy modules and the core Marketing module being brought together here in a practical and applicable way. The virtual stimulation gave us the opportunity to put these applications to practice every single day, twice a day! Furthermore, through the lenses of multiple case studies, we further explored topics such as strategic positioning, growth, diversification, marketing mix, strategic planning, social networking, and more. Taking this module really prepared me for writing my dissertation, which required a great deal of marketing knowledge. So, all in all, I was very grateful for making this choice!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via Linked In. You can find the little Linked In icon at the very bottom of the Home page!