It’s been about three weeks since our cohort’s first integration week, as such I’m beginning to feel emotionally prepared to put the experience onto paper. What is integration week? As the name implies, it integrates your knowledge.
The purpose of an MBA is gaining new skills and knowledge and being able to apply them in the real world. Knowledge on the programme is taught in concentrated blocks of three subjects, delivered over a month. Integration week plays a huge role in putting practical application to the theoretical learned during these blocks in the form of an intense week-long challenge.
I won’t go too much into the nature of the assignment (that would be cheating), but you’ll receive a task and you’ll have a week in which to achieve it. However, what I can disclose are a few of the challenges you’ll likely face and some of my learnings from the process:
- Focus – You have a week, this is a sprint, not a marathon. Perhaps not surprisingly, the task is business related, so you’ll be given a sector, country or business with a problem. There will likely be a lot of data: financial reports, annual statements, shareholder communications, etc., so it’s easy to get distracted, or find yourself down a wormhole. The problem you’ll be tasked with solving should be relatively easy to discover. Once you find it, focus on it.
- Answer the question – something I used to hear a lot when I was younger and I’m surprised that I’m still learning this lesson. Simply answer the question. Once you’ve focused on the problem, make sure your presentation is designed to answer the questions you’ve been given in relation to the problem that you have discovered.
- Simplicity is Key – As the design principle says: “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Remember you’re not an expert, as much as you’d like to be. The work needs to demonstrate your knowledge, and that you’ve learned to apply this knowledge, and used effective research to reinforce it.
As mentioned, this is a sprint. So you’ll be short on time – this is of course by design – time is not unlimited out there in the real world after all. At some point during the week, you will find yourselves over-debating a topic, or running over on time or word count. Concentrate on focusing, answering the question and maintaining simplicity by asking yourself the following questions:
- Could you explain it to an alien? Is the logic undeniable? Do you have the data to back up your assumptions?
- What is the question? Does this sentence, slide, graph or topic answer the question or simplify the explanation? If not, you’d better move on.
In summary – focus, answer the question, and keep it simple.
Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)