Why Real Practice Matters

by Hanna Teklit, MBA '13 (2/26/13)
Hanna Teklit, MBA '13

Business cases are essential for reinforcing problem solving best practices, frameworks, and theories. However, because cases rarely offer opportunities for students to appreciate the complexity behind working through symptoms to identify the real problem, case-based training works best when students can also apply the knowledge and skills they learn to real business challenges.

During the Strategic Marketing Immersion, when teams of students work on real business problems for companies, my team and I had to act quickly and distill large amounts of information to deliver results for our client. When my team and I first learned of the problem our client wanted us to work on, we couldn’t even recognize the name of the product— let alone articulate its value proposition. We had to be creative and learn quickly in order to deliver an impactful recommendation. We reached out to the Cornell IT staff and even our family members – we did whatever it took – to quickly bring us all up-to speed on the ins and outs of the product and industry.

The learning curve remained steep throughout the process, but our information gathering process and techniques only got better along the way. The challenges did not end there, however. We had to continuously redefine the scope of the project and manage changes in the point of contact at our client in the middle of the project. 

Time was of the essence and our accountability was not only to each other but also to all of our stakeholders, which included our client, Professor Manoj Thomas, and others. If you’re keen on developing management skills, the Strategic Marketing Immersion project, like the one my team managed, will afford you with many opportunities to do just that. You will uncover many opportunities to lead, motivate, and establish a team culture. Overall, if your team clicks as soon as it comes together, that is great. If not, it is an opportunity for a glimpse at yet another layer of complexity that can keep managers up at night while attempting to tackle a business problem.

Within my team, we were all able to step in and fill in the role of leader at different times. Should you find yourself in a leadership position, you will need to adopt a leadership style that best fits the situation. The project allowed me to lead at times and also to observe my teammates as they honed their leadership skills. Johnson attracts highly motivated and talented students; therefore, having the opportunity to watch them in action and grow with them has been just as valuable for me as sitting in the classrooms and learning from my professors.

In business, problems arise from many different directions. When evaluating a business case, it’s easy to overlook challenges that arise from availability of information, clarity of the problem, managing multiple stakeholders’ expectations, or working through team dynamic. Many moving parts determine one’s ability to successfully identify a problem and devise a solution. Ultimately, the act of identifying and balancing these challenges takes practice.

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