Spring Term Marathon with Strategy & Design!

It's a little bittersweet writing this post...  It's taken me a little while to write it, because it marks the end of my MBA courses here at Rotman, and it's a little overwhelming to think about this chapter coming to a close.  It's exciting to be finally crossing the finish line, but the last two years have gone by so fast, it feels happy & sad all at the same time.  I've met some amazing friends here at Rotman, been part of some awesome club events, learnt from some brilliant professors, and been guided along this entire process with Rotman's cheery staff!  In some ways, my second year felt like a marathon, right down to the finish line, with so much to do, so much to learn, and so little time!  The same goes for the courses I took during the Spring Term; intense, challenging & demanding, but stimulating, exciting & manageable. Professor Geoffrey Leonardelli takes you into the challenges of designing, managing and leading teams in “Leading Teams.”  With the view that teams work better than individuals, and companies shifting from one-man shows to collaborative group structures, the course aimed at helping us identify gaps in team dynamics, and turn them into opportunities to optimize team performance, particularly given the growing prevalence of cross-functional teams.  While the course offered a number of simulations and exercises to put into practice the theory that was being discussed, I think the most practical application may have been the team project.  It challenged us to act as consultants where we would identify a client, analyze its team’s interactions, and based on our analysis of their team dynamics, make recommendations aimed at improving their team cohesion and building their leadership.  Working on a live case for a live client, with a new team, touched upon almost every element of the course, and really put it into practice.

With the snazziest, smartest, and funnest group of people I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with!  Here's our dramatic pose after our final presentation! :P

Professor Ajay Agrawal takes you into the analysis and challenges of corporate or multibusiness level strategy in “Corporate Strategy.”  The course aimed at moving from competitive advantage to corporate strategy, the boundaries and structure of firms, using size to exploit increasing returns with extreme competition, the strategic advantage of being small, the Innovator's Dilemma, and the role of humanity in strategy.  While the Professor covered all the aspects expected from a Corporate Strategy, he certainly upped the ante, with a visit to the TSO to understand multi-stakeholder corporate strategy in the Arts, a visit by Reza Satchu with candid, insightfuls lesson in entrepreneurship, and a case analysis project that had us pull out all the stops to convince a board of directors to purse our proposed course of action rather than our competing team's recommendation.  He pushed us, challenged us, and demanded more of us, and I think it's because he believes we're capable of so much more than what we do now... while I did utter an audible sigh of relief when this course was over, I'm going to miss his demanding, insightful tutelage.

Professor Heather Fraser takes you through a practical journey of understanding, practicing, applying and imbibing design thinking in “Business Design Practicum.”  While the course covers why design thinking is important to growth and success, and what frameworks and tools can accelerate the innovation and business design process, the best part of the course was how do we apply those principles and tools to the creation of innovative solutions and new business models, through an end-to-end business design project, collaborating with design students from OCAD, for our live client, SAP.  SAP called for an exploration of the Future of Work, with a user-centric approach into how might we help utility workers better serve their customers in the future.  The project itself was almost like a cake, with business and design forming layers of cake and ganache, and feedback from SAP and industry professionals forming the icing on top...  All in all, an exciting experience I was happy to sink my teeth into!

The Fantastic Five (I know, very corny!) with Dean Roger Martin

You might have gathered by now that I'm a Roger Martin fan.  I picked Rotman as the home of my MBA education after hearing Roger Martin speaking about Rotman’s approach to business education, at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF-5), and I loved his course during first year on "Integrative Thinking Practicum."  So when an Independent Study Opportunity on Business Design arose, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.  Professor Roger Martin, with Mark Leung and Stefanie Schram, guided us as we tackled the user experience challenges of a home healthcare organization with a Business Design Consulting Engagement.  It involved expanding our skillset in Business Design, in terms of ethnographic research, prototyping and business modeling skills, and enabled us to apply a structured innovation methodology to a live project.  Challenging, exciting, demanding, and insightful, the Business Design Consulting Engagement was an incredible opportunity to learn more about and take a practical approach to the practice of business design, and the response and feedback from our presentations to the client and Dean Roger Martin were particularly insightful.  It was a splendid way to wrap up my Rotman MBA, by presenting to the Dean of the school who inspired me to come to this school, and spark this incredible journey of learning about strategy, innovation and business design, and hopefully continuing to practice in my professional life ahead.

So, that’s my view on the courses I took in the Spring Term. Although they were definitely challenging, they were eye-opening in trying to expand my views, exploring different avenues in solving problems, and I particularly enjoyed the live case opportunities.  It feels a little odd to have this roller-coaster come to a close, but what an awesome ride it's been!  Take care, and talk soon! :D