Within the Westminster MBA we have over thirty years of experience working with professionals to enhance their careers. With that heritage, the challenge for any MBA Director in my experience is to ensure that the programme evolves and continues to remain fresh and relevant for participants and importantly, for current and future employers.
Existing within a professionally focussed Business School located in the heart of London the programme has collaborated with real organisations who work with MBA participants on their consultancy projects. If you were to ask what teaching tool is most often used within MBAs, the words ‘case study’ will often be the first to emerge. Over forty years ago case studies became synonymous with MBA teaching and Harvard (said to be the pioneers) have developed a healthy reputation for writing and using some of the best cases.
For us, yes, within our Strategic Management module we indeed use a range of written cases which fall within the Harvard style, but increasingly we are working towards a range of different forms of case study which fall within other modules. From January to May 2016 for example, our MBA students working within the Creating Customer Value module (marketing, economics and operations management combined) experienced a range of different case types for both learning and assessment purposes:
Type 1- using Lego as an established brand case to create new value propositions
During weekend teaching sessions, we initially looked at the value proposition for Lego. In one Saturday, teams had identified a completely new-to-the-world Lego product proposition having identified the key markets and brainstormed the most effective marketing strategy and tactics for them within these market contexts. We saw some fabulous examples including my favourite which looked at personalising Lego people using photos of your friends and family.
Type 2 – watching real marketing activity as it emerges- unveiling the new Milk Tray man
On a dull February Friday evening we indulged in discussions about chocolate. The new Milk Tray man had been revealed and so looking over the campaign surrounding the search we were able to compare the changes adopted by Cadbury to reflect the contemporary marketing era. The session also probably inadvertently led to increased sales for Cadbury as during our break our UK participants were eager for their international peers to sample a UK heritage brand.
Type 3 – getting out there – becoming educational tour guides
As we moved into the spring we were blessed with a sunny Saturday afternoon. What better way than for a field trip around our own Marylebone area. By this point in the semester we were drawing near the module end and so the MBA students adopted a specific role in order for us to consider how marketing, operations and economics are entwined in real organisations. Working in groups of three our MBA participants adopted the role of either marketer, economist or operations manager. Visiting any organisation they chose within the specified area they were to discuss how from the perspective of the role they had adopted how value was created for the customer. A range of organisations were visited including Big Bus (opposite our campus outside Baker Street Station), a mobile flower stall, a luxury handbag store located in Marylebone High Street and a coffee shop come recording studio. Meeting at the band stand in the park behind the campus we then discussed findings before our teams joined others to take them on a Creating Customer Value tour pointing our how they had discovered differences and similarities between the various value propositions.
Type 4 – working with host organisation clients for assessment
While our MBAs were busy with these various forms of learning from cases they were also busy engaging with two host organisations who had agreed to act as clients in order for their marketing and operations strategies to be reviewed within their economic context. GBE Services Ltd is a London based M&E construction organisation and Kensington Dexter is a Kensington based property developer. Complex organisations with a multitude of areas to consider the MBA participants worked with their clients virtually before presenting reports and their recommendations face to face in a final session series of presentations. With more than one group working with each client the organisations were able to gain a variety of perspectives from MBA participants with wide ranging professional experience. Our final session also involved a discussion with Cormac Lewis (GBE) and Elliot Dexter (Kensington Dexter) about whether there was any scope for these two organisations potentially within the same supply chain to gain benefit from doing business together.
Why get involved – The clients perspective
Using live case studies from a teaching perspective add a reality that can otherwise be missed in static, dated written cases but we were interested in the value to the host organisation. The response from Elliot Dexter gave us a definitive answer:
“Kensington Dexter creates beautifully renovated homes in period Kensington buildings. The students instantly understood that proposition and had a number of great ideas on the marketing and other aspect of the business. I’d be involved again in a heart beat”
Furthermore we have since heard that some of the suggestions proposed by the MBA participants such as bringing in a member of staff with responsibility specifically for marketing to carry out specific tasks is something the organisation is pursuing.
What did you get out of it – The MBA participants perspective
Of course we also were keen to establish how our MBA participants felt working with a client contributed to their learning experience. Dorothy Kufeji a paediatric surgeon and Executive MBA student commented:
“Having a live client to work with brought the module to life. It gave me an opportunity to put into practice all that I was learning and to also see how the business was putting theory into practice in order to succeed in their enterprise. Doing the presentations in front of the clients and having that conversation from the students’ perspective and theirs brought it all together nicely. A very valuable experience.”
So, as you can see, within the Westminster MBA we take our use of case studies seriously, just not always in the traditional written format.
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