In-company projects

We are all in the final phase of MBA: The in-company project.

If my guess is right, most of my classmates are, just like my partner and I, struggling with one big challenge right now… “How to convince large corporations to appreciate the novelty of our recommendations and how to convince them to invest resources and to implement these solutions”… It’s a wild guess, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not unfounded :) Here are two perspectives to this challenge the way I’ve come to realise in this past month:

Perspective One: Cultural adaptation

The definition of “Culture” is that it is a shared and learned system of values, beliefs and attitudes.  One of the first courses in the MBA was “managing across cultures”: Although we only discussed one dimension of culture which were cultures across nationality, this concept seems to be just as relevant today for the culture of the school and that of the corporations is quite different.

eiquadrantWhile the MBA year challenges us to constantly think “outside the box”, we are often required to think “inside the box” to come up with improvement ideas in companies… To be honest, to hear words like “global standards must be respected”, “this is how it’s been done for ages” and “system wise, this is not feasible” can be disorientating after having spent a year in MBA learning that these stereo types must be broken. One might argue that these barriers can indeed be broken by using change management fundamentals, but unfortunately 2 months is simply not enough time for that. Ok, so to be successful in company projects, we need to adapt quickly to a different culture. Unfortunate, but necessary adaptation. I doubt an MBA by itself can help us here… to a large extent it depends on emotional intelligence. I wonder if this is the primary reason why companies often complain that students from certain schools (often consisting young students with great GMAT scores) are too academically focused! Fortunately, I think that won’t be a problem for Vlerick for the average age and average experience of students is far higher than most MBA schools (assuming there is high correlation between maturity and age/experience).

Perspective two: Distorted view of Creativity

creativityWe often go back to the companies with “break-through” solutions which often are in fact “begin from scratch and do things completely differently” solutions :) The trouble here is that students will often go for “sexier” and high impact solutions because we after all want to begin changing the world even before we graduate and yet the companies have zero tolerance for any solution which has high risk (large variation in the chances) of success and therefore prefer only incremental improvements in small phases which will sum into significant savings. Students want “revolution” and companies want “evolution”.

Here’s the simple truth: designing solutions with “revolutionary” approach is relatively simple compared to “evolutionary” approach while implementing “revolutionary” changes is exponentially more difficult compared to “evolutionary” changes. Students often design, Companies Implement :) the fact that we come up with revolutionary solutions only means we took the easy path and does not by any chance mean we were at our creative best :)

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