Tag: 2015

Pushing the envelope; a postcard from Palestine

It was with a little sadness when, last year, I decided that my formative career in photojournalism should come to an end. I was leaving behind a varied and often exciting industry for a course which bills itself as business administration. Now, Cass may just be letting me down gently, but in the last few months, I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised at how misleading this course title is.

Today, for example, I’m on a bus heading across one of world’s most controversial and disputed borders. We’re on our way out of Israel and heading to the West Bank, Palestine. Its hard to think of a starker contrast between this and the events a few weeks ago at the Cass London Symposium.

Fitting my current circumstances, was the core theme running through this year’s Symposium: explorers. Numerous speakers over the week peddled the same underlying message: the world is changing at an astonishing rate, and, if you’re not creating the change, you better be prepared to adapt to it.

The Symposium is the biggest and most varied event in the Cass MBA elective calendar. An impressive line up of speakers in the mornings followed with more bespoke group site visits to businesses in the afternoons.  Alongside many of the London cohort and alumni, the Symposium also welcomes attendants from all over the world, including LUISS Business School in Rome, Germany’s Mannheim Business School, GIBS from Pretoria in South Africa, and our own Cass MBA students from the Dubai campus.

Having opened with a former Lord Mayor of the City, Sir Alan YarrowKate Philp, we knew the speakers were going to be impressive, and Cass likes to set the bar high; I’ve met three ambassadors and dined with a president in the last few weeks. Yet, alongside the big company names you might expect from an event such as this, including Accenture, TFL and PwC, were inspirational individuals from beyond the corporate world. These included Antarctic explorer Kate Philp and the UK’s first astronaut Dr Helen Sharman whom, to the captivated audience, reflected on their incredible experiences with challenges and changes, and the lessons they had drawn from them.

But the Symposium also offered even the most native of Londoners amongst us a chance to access parts of the city few are privy to. Morning talks took place in unique venues across the city, including private access to the discovery hubs of the Science Museum and the Wellcome Trust and, perhaps most prestigiously, a true birthplace of innovation, the Royal Institute. It was here on the final day, we listened in captured awe to the incredible Dame Barbara Judge, whose anecdotes about her rise through the business world are both brilliantly funny and utterly fascinating.

Alex Wolpert East London

Alex Wolpert, East London Liquor Company

The afternoon site visits equally saw the discovery of both new and varied areas of our city. On the Tuesday afternoon for example, I found myself in the rather enviable position of quaffing studying gin in the cellar of the East London Liquor Company, to the backdrop of numerous casks housing their recent foray into whiskey. We heard how this small company is managing to shake up an age old industry by challenging the established behemoths. And they are not doing this, how we might assume, with boutique high priced products, but by going head to head on the middle ground with, given the current lack of scale and production in London, an improbable offering: ‘high quality gin at competitive prices’. Yet, under the stewardship of Alex Wolpert, they’re gaining traction in the gin market and have expansion in sight. We also heard from Jullian Sawyer of Starling Bank at the Science Museum’s IMAX theatre, who talked of their ambitions to reshape the banking industry by reimagining a simplified, whittled down mobile offering, more suited to the digital generation.

For me, it was ultimately these emerging players and individuals whose messages resonated the most. There was an infectious confidence in their desire to change and challenge the status quo. This mind-set seemed even more pertinent in the last few days in Tel Aviv, where almost universally, the ambition of start ups appeared to be selling to an industry giant. Whilst this is undoubtedly tempting, it reinforced the respect I felt for the entrepreneurs I’d heard and spoken to at the Symposium. Whilst they may very well go on to form billion dollar unicorns, there seemed a deep drive behind their innovation. They wanted to be an agent of change of a better way.

As we cross over into Palestine, the need for a better way seems never more apt. There is also an uneasiness about the stark contrast between the challenges faced

Steve Duttine,

Steve Duttine,
Full-time MBA 2015

here and the luxury of the Symposium finale at the Savoy, or the midweek evening bash atop Tower Bridge. The challenge, privilege, and importance of seeing both ends of the spectrum is something I hadn’t expected to be witnessing a year ago. Speaking with other MBA students, both at the Symposium and over here, it seems this unique approach to teaching is admired and envied. Right now, I feel very privileged to be part of a school practicing what it preaches by doing its own bit to explore a better way.

Cultural Proficiency

Alejandro Leano

Alejandro Leano,
Full-time MBA 2015

Cultures. Different cultures, a plethora of them actually. We know they exist; we think we know about ours. We know some better than others, and there are just some we do not know anything about. In today´s global world, it is increasingly important to know about world cultures so that we can better understand how to interact with them. Cass knows to what degree this is important and incorporates into its MBA programs modules that expose its students to the global way of doing business. The London Symposium, The International Consultancy Week in Iceland and the diverse International Electives are explicit examples. I mention the London Symposium because cultural interaction is a two-way avenue. It is therefore equally valuable for those coming from abroad to understand “Londoners” culture, as it is for Cockneys to grasp each and everyone of intercontinental customs.

In today´s digitally literate and proficient world, competition it tough. This hinders the possibilities of having open access to the wide range of opportunities out there. A professional assignment in Iceland, a foreign land synonymous to the arctic, is not only unique but priceless. We had access to a wide range of companies to choose for whom to work for during that week, addressing all of the cohort´s backgrounds. Yes, it could always be better, but what was offered to us was a great choice that required ample planning, research, outreach, and liaising.  Personally, having the chance to work with an entrepreneurial set of minds in Iceland, and above all, have them openly share their experiences was of immense value. And, yes, you do obtain as much as you invest in.

I am currently planning my entrepreneurial venture and as a risk averse person it is not so easy to take the leap. It is so refreshing to hear from legacy entrepreneurs “yes, you go bankrupt, so what? It’s some more work and then you move on. Which is the next opportunity?” There is so much pressure to get every step right and we forget that many of the processes are iterative with learning from mistakes. In my native Colombia we say perder por aprender es ganar, which means: losing for learning is winning. It is true. Looking at things in hindsight always seems straight forward and obvious. Nevertheless, it would not be so, had we not undergone those so-called mistakes. While in Reykjavik, not only did we have the chance to get our hands on a real life challenge that a start-up´s future depends on, but we also got to struggle with it, dissect it, get frustrated at it – viscerally adopting it as our own problem – and reach a point where our colleagues

image-2(yes, by colleagues I mean the entrepreneurs, our fellow MBA students and the faculty members) could remind us of our strengths, point out learned methodologies, and help us reinforce the resilience to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

That experience shows you how it can be done despite tough circumstances. For sure, we were in a cradled environment. The real world may perhaps be slightly more difficult, but we should not forget the same tools and resources are there. It is just a matter of finding them and negotiating how to put them to use in our direction.

One last thing I would like to end on is a story… about storytelling. Ever since I was a boy I much enjoyed listening to stories. This may well be what alienated me from enjoying to read. We used to be able to sit in a park or public transportation and simply exchange a few story lines with strangers. All that has now been substituted by social media. Rather than wailing for times that have gone just like the Sony Walkman or VHS’, I would like to encourage you, whichever means you use, to tell stories. Position yourself as you need to.  I was pleased to find this in Iceland. In every corner.

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Be it Icelandair´s advertisement, the rotten shark or Hákarl restaurant, the junction pub, or Efstdalur the organic – watch walking meat while you eat – cow farm, Icelanders always had a story to tell and a joke to crack. Is it about their culture? Never would I have thought that this far away icy nation would have such things in common with Latin American culture. This nests a million and one opportunities to network, find something in common and soon enough the sky is the limit and you could be on your way to being the next financial ‘Unicorn’. I am looking forward to the Elective about this subject. I will leave you with this proverb:

He who ignores he is unenlightened is asleep, wake him up. He who ignores he is shrewd is blind, open his eyes. He who knows he is unenlightened is lost, guide him. He who knows he is shrewd is wise, follow him.

I saw in these successful Iceland entrepreneurs those who, knowing they are shrewd, are a step ahead of where I am – where I would like to be. Find those individuals for your specific career aspirations and follow them always keeping current on cultural etiquette and an open eye.

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Until next time.

Alejandro Leano, Full-time MBA 2015

An Icelandic Saga about the President, a Volcano and my Missing Laptop…

Iceland – Day Zero

Good morning folks – blog time. Today I am writing to you from a height of 33,000 ft. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean while on board a British Airways flight to Iceland. BA800 to be exact actually, and rather annoyingly I’m penning this entry on a 4inch IPhone screen because I somehow managed to leave my laptop at the x-ray machines in Heathrow Terminal 5. Damn!

Luckily, I was raised by a family with a reasonably positive outlook and have therefore managed to identify at least 1 positive from this 1st world problem – the week ahead can only get better from here!

Not that this week needed the help however. Today, the talented and keen members of the Cass Full-time MBA travel to Reykjavik for a week long industry placement with selected Icelandic companies. We have been invited by these companies to work with them and help solve real business challenges. Translation: there will be no theory, no case studies – just practical application. Brilliant.

Or is it? Where are we going again? Iceland? That’s right.

Iceland and Challenges? Hah! The irony of such a posting at this present moment is I’m sure not lost on you too, even if you had spent the entirety of last week submersed in the Blue Lagoon.

Iceland’s sensational exposé in the Panama Papers last month, and just at a time when the country was preparing to open its doors following their post 2008 Financial Crisis exile from world markets, has forced itself into the international limelight once again – and for all the wrong reasons. This time, at least for now, it is their government in the cross-hairs.

No doubt that the pressure that forced the resignation this month of their previous Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, will inevitably implicate other government leaders and businesses within Iceland. (Post script: President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has just recently been implicated in the mess too) I’m sure that many local people, still feeling the after effects of Iceland’s role in the Financial Crisis, would be preparing for some serious turbulence ahead. Iceland’s metaphoric seatbelt warning sign is well and truly illuminated. What a time to be here!

Hold on to your hats!

Our cohort has been split into teams of 5 people. Each person was hand-picked by the participating organisation to work with them. As I mentioned above, this isn’t a token gesture by these companies, they are hoping to gain a real edge within their market by matching our talents and experiences with their specific business problems. We are very lucky and the breadth of companies is impressive. Digital start-ups, tourism operators, fashion retailers, supply chain specialists and many more are all looking for help. For example, some businesses are looking to grow and expand, others want to launch new product lines and are looking to improve their internal operational efficiencies. There are clearly some really interesting projects to be involved with.

Let’s just hope that when our plane touches down in a few hours I, along with the rest of the cohort, are ready to go and we hit the ground running! Actually, I’ve just thought of another positive – running is MUCH easier without a 13inch MacBook Pro on your back.

 


Iceland – Day Four

Today is our penultimate day with our Icelandic companies. Our team, consisting of George, Shiba, Ankur and Alejandro have spent the last 3 days with a digital start-up called Activity Stream. Its time for us to decide on an appropriate course of action for our company.

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Broaden your perspective… the view from our office.

The problem is simple enough – which industry should Activity Stream develop their product for next? They have a fantastic platform, which allows for a very sophisticated level of operational intelligence. The answer to their problem however isn’t so straight forward.

Our team are arguing. We tried to approach the task systematically. Drawing on our partially completed MBA and personal experiences to date. We tried to understand Activity Stream’s capabilities. What is it that Activity Stream do that their competitors can’t? We tried to look at the industries they could operate in. What type of business would actually need Activity Stream working for them? We approached it with the rigour and detail you would expect after 6 months of intense training in business theory.

We developed spreadsheets, we created models, we spoke from our own industry experience and we spoke to those in our networks for more. We were doing OK. But as a group, we were arguing. So, I left to get a coffee. We hadn’t had a break since breakfast.

I returned and the place was much calmer. Perhaps it was me all along. At this point it is worth clarifying that I still didn’t have a laptop to use and, like any tradesman without a tool, I found myself anxious and unable to contribute  constructively to the documentation, shouting largely unhelpful directions to our group members. The idle time did give me time to look at the problem from a  wider perspective however, and, also a time for some reflection.

I found myself looking at the 5 of us working diligently. (Well there were 4 actually working at this time – I was still finishing my flat white.)

Now I realise I did say that we were arguing before but it wasn’t all that bad. The coffee break had allowed me the time to see that despite the tension, we were constructive and it wasn’t at all malicious. We were arguing because we were passionate about delivering value for our client. We wanted to be sure we were giving them appropriate advice. It wasn’t lost on any of us that we were in Iceland, working with a 2-year-old start-up, a pioneer of their technology in many ways, making decisions that would likely have a significant impact on this company and its employees for many years to come. I caught myself in this bizarre moment a little stunned – I was immensely proud to be involved in such a great group of people and I couldn’t believe how far we had all come, as individuals and as group, during our MBA experience at Cass. As I savoured the gravity of this moment a little longer I took another sip of my coffee and begun to feel a little chill down my throat. It was as if my coffee had turned cold. Oh wait a minute, my coffee was actually cold! Right, where’s my pen and paper? Back to work.

 


Iceland – Day Five

Aside: When I was planning this week long blog, I had originally planned to use this last entry to write about hiking up Iceland’s infamous volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, that was planned for Day Six. However, given that readers could most likely read elsewhere on the internet about what it is like to hike up this beast I elected to cover our final dinner party instead. I had also assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that this evening’s events would simply be a standard affair and not worth documenting too much.  I was quite wrong.

Harpa Concert Hall in Reykavíc

Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik

 

Our industry projects culminated Friday evening in a glamorous event at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. And, as fate would have it, tonight I met the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. (See? Its probably better I write about this than the hike? Of course!)

I didn’t just meet him actually, I had dinner with Ólafur and we even shared a few conversations. I am pretty sure I missed the lecture on Icelandic diplomatic protocol at high school so with a reasonable degree of arrogance I talked to the President about the company we had been working with and what I thought of the Icelandic people and culture I had been exposed to while in Reykjavik. He then talked to our entire table at length on Iceland’s business reputation within Europe, the state of the European Union, on Brexit and his opinions on the green economy, of which Iceland has been somewhat of a pioneer within. I was impressed at his willingness to discuss detail and his understanding rooted in academic theory. Understanding tempered with practical experience, economics and social theories. To some this may sound like I am being a bit big-headed. The reason I say this is because it is refreshing. It is refreshing because in this new world of three word slogans  and rapid fire staccato diatribes, (ex Aussie PM Tony Abbott and Donald Trump you are clearly in my sights), to hear one of our leaders explain in detail, and with a willingness to discuss their reasoning, is fantastic! It hardly goes without saying that Ólafur made a great impression on me.

I didn’t agree with him on all points though, if you are interested. For instance, I’m not convinced that Iceland’s green initiatives and economy can be so easily replicated in other countries around the world. Iceland’s very fortunate to have had many natural resources, political stability and isolation from the rest of the world that has given it ideal conditions to experiment and grow. The Tyranny of Distance, so often referred to when describing Australia’s unique development, also can be applied to Iceland. It is important to acknowledge the unique opportunities a remote, resource rich, politically stable and economically wealthy country can take advantage of that others can not. The world can indeed learn a lot from Iceland’s approach to the green economy, however countries not as ‘lucky’ cannot be expected to be as successful or as willing. Its all relative.

Still, it was great to hear him talk and I appreciated the frankness of the conversation. What a great way to end the week.

Actually, tomorrow we climb the volcano so its not over yet.

Later.

Sam Cook, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

Executive MBA: Achieving your potential weekend

 

Edward Dixon Executive MBA 2015

Edward Dixon
Executive MBA 2015

This post is a reflection on the “EMBA Achieving Your Potential Weekend” held after exams at the end of the first semester.  The weekend is held in a conference venue outside London and is attended by the whole cohort, one week after the first round of exams. It is an intense 48 hours and proved to be a real turning point in the first year…

When they first told me we’d be going away for the weekend after exams I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After five months of slogging through the first six modules and a week of exams, the prospect of decamping to Buckinghamshire to reflect on my career wasn’t the most attractive. To make matters worse, the weekend fell on Valentine’s Day, which meant partners alone at home after what had been a pretty tough few months.

The launch on Friday night was well received, an icebreaker which worked well to get us all in the mood, but still left a few skeptical faces around the room wondering what it was all for. I think at this point we were still completely unaware as to where the weekend would take us. You can imagine how Friday night ended with 44 EMBAs away from all their responsibilities with their cards behind the bar; I won’t go into it.

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Saturday morning started early and we got straight into groups of around eight, meeting with our coaches for the weekend. The coaches are typically behavioural psychologists or professional coaches and are a mix of ages and backgrounds. The groups are structured in a clever way, with a blend of your old mentor group and new. This marks an important point in the MBA because you’ve been with the same six people for the first semester and grown pretty attached to them, so to set out into the new semester with new faces seems like a big deal. EMBAs are as much about the cohort as they are the subject matter and it’s this sort of interaction that really helps you to learn from each other.

The Saturday session is split into two parts; learning the basics of coaching which gives you the techniques you need to get through the rest of the weekend, and analysing your own report results, based on a ‘Happiness at Work’ questionnaire filled out the week before. The questionnaire doesn’t work for everyone but for me it really hit home, asking some tough questions. Do I honestly enjoy my job? Am I good at it, or might I be better at something totally different? Asking these questions and giving yourself an honest answer sets you up for Sunday, which is something entirely different.

IMG_0991The premise of the Sunday session is that if you find your energy at work, if you can recognise the moments when you have flow and build on those, ultimately you will be happier. For some people this is about extrinsic rewards but the nature of the EMBA is that most people have accelerated in their careers to a point where money doesn’t cut it any more – people are looking for something deeper. What you’re looking for is not a job or even just a career; it’s a calling, something which helps you to find your life purpose and work towards fulfilling it. I can’t honestly say that one person had their life purpose defined but we certainly left knowing more about what it might be.

The really tough part of the weekend is halfway through Sunday morning. Tired and under-prepared you present your predicament to your peers. Where are you? What do you want from your life, from work? This is fairly routine but the tough part is turning around and hearing the rest of the group discussing your case. For some reason having your back to the room makes the rest of the team talk freely and openly about where they think you should be going. Of course everyone is supportive but it really hammered home the whole reason most people are doing the EMBA in the first place – to learn more about what they are really capable of.

By the time the exercises finish on Sunday afternoon everyone is completely exhausted, physically and emotionally. For me the weekend served as a wakeup call, a reminder that if you want something more from life then you need to go out and make it happen. Great careers, happy relationships and a perfect home life don’t just materialise, it takes planning and it takes hard work. You have to know yourself and understand your strengths and weaknesses – you have to understand what you really want.

“The modules give you a dartboard to throw something at but these weekends are the flight on the dart which helps you to land where you want to be”

edPutting this weekend in the context of the MBA, it’s this sort of learning which helps you to make the decisions you need to make about what to do after graduation. The modules you study are useful but you’re not learning finance, you’re not learning accounting or strategy; you’re learning about yourself and finding out what you really like to do. The modules give you a dartboard to throw something at but these weekends are the flight on the dart which helps you to land where you want to be. Cass definitely knows how to get this right and I left the venue knowing a little more about myself, a lot more about the cohort and a whole lot more about where I want to be.

 


cassmbalondon.com

 

Cass’ first ever Innovathon

So what is a marketing innovathon I hear you asking? When I saw this advertised, my curiosity got the better of me too and I had to apply to find out.

Innovathon was the perfect word to describe this event – a mixture of marketing ideas, innovation, hands on industry experts and definitely a test of endurance.

Over fifty Cass students arrived at Unruly headquarters on Friday evening after a week of lectures. I’m sure few of us were debating the decision, as we arrived cold, tired and a little hungry. But within an hour I knew I had made the right choice. Over the next 24 hours I would meet senior managers from Colgate & Tesco, be one of the first people in the UK to see their new whitening pen product and finally get the opportunity to pitch an idea of how to market this new product on their e-commerce platform. You could win the ultimate prize of pitching your idea to the marketing & sales teams at Colgate-Palmolive and Tesco and even see your campaign rolled out in the UK. Split into teams we quickly got to know each other, as we had lots to do in the next 24 hours.

With briefings from both Tesco and Colgate, and huge amounts of research on the customer profile, statistics on their e-commerce platform and world class digital campaigns we were armed to tackle our first task – create our big idea!

Re-fuelled with Pizza and beers, and our energy feeding off each other we spent the next 3 hours coming up with innovative ideas. We left that night buzzing, and our energy levels a long way off our arrival that evening.

An early start the next morning we all filled back in with a nervous tension in the room. In less than two hours we had to pitch our idea to the judging panel in an X factor style audition. This would be the hard bit, focusing all our ideas on one and delivering our X factor pitch. With smiles from the judges during our pitch we knew they loved it. So we were back to work now to put this big idea into practice.

Innovathon

How would we measure success of this campaign? Where would we advertise? How would we take the customer on the right journey to ensure product sales? What social media would we use? These were just a few of the questions we had to answer in the next four hours, when we would present to whole judging panel and the winning campaign would be picked. This is where the marathon definitely kicked in, and we had to keep focused to ensure we stayed on the right track. Thankfully our industry mentor helped and intervened a few times to keep us on course. We got advice from Tesco’s, Colgate and marketing agency experts, which was invaluable to help create and develop our online strategy.

Focusing on the target customer, we created the campaign “Celebrate your smile”. We based our idea around times that make ordinary people smile, with social media campaigns and videos from the public showing their smile. This was to drive engagement in an innovative way to the public and launch this new product. The next key focus had to be converting this engagement into online sales, with the main KPI as conversion rates when visiting the Tesco e commerce platform.

Four hours later the teams were going head to head with presentations, hoping to win the overall prize and the chance to pitch to Tesco and Colgate senior team. Great ideas, and confident pitches made it difficult to choose the winner.

Who would have thought teams of students could create a complete digital campaign to launch a new product in just 24 hours. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. As a few great leaders have said to me, “when you want something done in life you give it to a busy person.” I think that’s definitely true in this case.

What a great opportunity the weekend was to meet and learn from new people, and put our ideas into practice in a real life industry. Good luck to the winning team who get to pitch their idea to Tesco & Colgate. How amazing would it be to see it launched in the UK.

The team

Cara Macklin, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

 

Why did the entrepreneur do an MBA?

So why did the entrepreneur do the MBA? Almost sounds like one of the ‘Why did the chicken cross the road’ series. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funny answer for this one…yet! But in the start-up circles back in India, we did have a smart-ass reply to it.

Because all his ideas failed!

In the world of start-ups and entrepreneur-sized egos (yeah they happen to be bigger than the ones you’ll ever hope to find at a C-Suite) the decision was really very simple. If you are an entrepreneur and want an MBA…you hire one.

After all those jokes I’ve cracked about MBA’s, especially during the 8 years of my start-up life, when I was breaking traditional business rules, hustling, bringing ideas to life, making money..here I am today, at Cass…doing an MBA. That’s pure poetic genius that only Karma can lay claim to.

And that brings me back to the question I started with.

Why me?

I wanted to do an MBA when my 3 year old start-up was working with some of the biggest global brands and earning revenues of close to $2Mn. It was my second start-up. The first one died an early death after a lot of promise due to co-founder conflict. I was talking to other start-ups about collaborating, coming up with completely new business ideas, business models. I was on a roll.

And that’s why I wanted to stop.

While the world was getting all excited about IOT (Internet of Things) and Embedded Health-Tech, my circle was still about Marketplaces and Online to Offline. I wanted more. I knew there was more. Every business that you build takes sweat and blood and passion. It also takes years. I wanted to be sure before I could commit. I wanted to take a call after having seen the very best that was out there in the world and not just the very best around me.

And that’s when I decided I wanted to do an MBA.

Why Cass?

I chose 5 schools with my head. Ranking. Average work experience of 7 years plus. London. 1 Year. Leaning towards finance and start-ups. Went through Gossip from Social Forums. Stalked alumni on Linkedin.  Two schools survived the filter and then I let my heart select the one that I wanted to go to.

Cass has not let down on any of its promises even from before the time my ID card got printed. I asked for diversity and it’s taken me 3 months to finally settle down from the cultural turbulence of a cohort of 75 from 35 countries. Start-up events every week and a course that throws you into the industry every time your bum gets comfortable on the classroom chair.

Three months and twenty days to the day I started, I’ve never once felt comfortable. There’s not a day that has passed that I haven’t felt like I haven’t been challenged. Not just in class, but outside in the hustle of London businesses that I had only dreamed about seeing up close and personal.

I’ve discovered that the name, Cass Business School, opens doors and I’ve used it unashamedly. 110 Days later I’m mentoring a start-up in Nigeria with the Cherie Blaire Foundation, consulting 2 start-ups in London and one in India and still finding the time to hit the pubs at all weird hours. It’s like I’ve been handed my own Laboratory. I’m literally getting to peep under the hood of every business model that I want to!

Just 4 months ago (on farewell party night) on the balcony of my 2500 Sq Ft apartment in Delhi one of my closest friends finally asked me “Are you sure you want to do this?” Finally today in an 800 Sq Ft apartment (I’m still getting used to it) in Islington, as I write this blog I’m can safely give him an answer. Yes! I’m now sure! So here it goes. 10 Reasons for an entrepreneur to do an MBA in 10 Bullet Points.

Why the MBA?

  • Aquire the habit of putting every idea under the Value Chain / Business Model lens before getting excited
  • Enjoy the occasions in class when you realise those eureka moments you’ve had while being an entrepreneur, have actual names and theories.
  • Realise what makes you thrive as an entrepreneur are not creative ideas you generate but your understanding of a business model and its execution
  • Therefore it makes you realise also, that you don’t need to be a sector specific entrepreneur. Your mind gets the flexibility and comfort to start sensing problems and solutions across sectors.
  • Enjoy the multiple points of view on every subject of discussion. Enjoy it. This is the only time in your life when you will see this happen on a continuous basis
  • Run your ideas / theories by your cohort, the smartest filters from across the world you will ever get under one roof
  • Get a crash course across multiple sectors in one year flat
  • Realise how much more you are capable of doing in a 24 Hour cycle. Its very enlightening!
  • Understand the real meaning of ‘Global playing ground for your business’…You’ll realise how not a big deal it really is!
  • Give your Entrepreneur size ego a one year’s much needed rest.

 

Does it bother me when I keep reading about various companies getting millions of dollars in funding in India as I’m multi-tasking between taking notes and catching up with the world outside? Yes. Do I miss the world as I knew it? Yes. But I can credit it to the restless creator inside me. One that has kept me going through all ups and downs and one that I know will never go away. But I know, post my MBA I won’t go back to the world as I knew it.

I’ll go back to work stronger, wiser, snappier and well rested; to a world that I will choose with an insane amount of analysis over the remaining 8 months.

Dhruv Bonnerjee, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

The Duality of Knowledge

Examinations. I have never met anyone who actually enjoyed exams.

Of course there are people that are good at them and there are also people who may prefer an exam over a group assignment however, all things considered, examinations have the ability to ruin your otherwise perfect day. And no one wants that.

Take for example our Block 1 and 2 examination period which culminated last week. Some people felt they did well, most people thought they had failed and a few people were hysterical. As I referred to last post, the Cass MBA isn’t a sit back and just enjoy the ride kind of road-trip. You must apply yourself. You must work until you understand it, not until you just know it. You can either be in the driving seat or riding shotgun – but never a back seat passenger!

Thankfully, and for the moment at least, our examinations are over. We can relax a little and prepare for Blocks 3 and 4. There is no doubt we will be challenged again soon enough, but that is the point obviously.

The biggest difference I feel between an MBA exam and any examinations I have completed in the past, either as an undergraduate or as a high-school student, is that in an MBA exam more often the questions are designed in a way so that a single and definitive answer doesn’t exist to the problem posed. It is our comprehension and approach that is being tested not our recollection of the basic facts. The Cass approach aims to separate the people who can simply regurgitate slabs of text and those who actually comprehend the theories and apply them in an increasingly wider context in an ever-evolving business and social world. This is only a good thing.


The other day, David Bowie passed away. That of course you already knew. What you may also have known is that he was a reasonably visionary guy and, if you had sifted through the endless number of fan tributes currently circulating social media, as many have, you may have come across this video of David Bowie and Jeremy Paxman from 1999. If you have seen this before than I would certainly encourage you to re-watch it now and if you haven’t seen it, then the advice is largely the same – watch it now. (If for no other reason that the remainder of this blog won’t make any sense to you. Thanks.)


So, once you look past the fact Jeremy Paxman hasn’t really changed (whether this is a good or a bad thing I’m not really sure yet) you will see that Mr Bowie really gets it. Stay with me here, but this video is exactly what our MBA exams are about! (I’ll admit there is a small risk that it may simply be the 3rd coffee of the day talking now but I will explain.)

Two things stand out to me. First of all, the stark difference between Bowie’s and Paxman’s understanding of the internet (from about 6:40min) and secondly, the wider implications of Bowie’s attitude of the ‘grey in the middle’ (from 9:10min). I’ll leave you to take whatever you want out of the rest of the interview however I will elaborate on the first point further.

Fortunately for us, Paxman pressed Bowie deeper on his view of the internet and as a result we get a fantastic example of the difference between thorough comprehension and simple recollection. Bowie may not have foreseen all that was to come with the Internet however there is no doubt he understood the significance of the arrival of the internet and the tremendous opportunities that would present themselves to those that embraced it, not only for his line of work in music but also to the much larger and wider world. Very impressive.

I would presume that any past, present or future Cass MBA student would draw obvious parallels with this particular example and the Cass MBA approach. For me it is the importance of deeper comprehension rather than merely focussing on the obvious yes/no and black/white type answers. As Bowie puts it, the time of singular answers to singular questions is over. Luckily, life is about the greyness – the three, four and five different points of view.

Difference in opinions is what makes life interesting, unpredictable, challenging and exciting. Difference is also why an MBA is more important now than it has ever been – as long as your business school understands that too.

In Bowie’s case, perhaps  it was his flamboyant youth consisting of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” that helped elevate him to see the world from a rather enlightened perspective.  For the rest of us however, there is a particular MBA designed to help you reach your ‘psychedelic’ state instead.

Later

@samuelhcook

Sam Cook, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

Executive MBA – International Consulting Week in Chile 2015

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