In the real world, the information a manager has to go on isn’t always tidy or thorough – that’s one of the lessons Amol Joshi, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, hopes his BA 466 students learn through the team case analysis presentation that makes up one-sixth of their final grade.
The course syllabus calls BA 466, Integrative Strategic Experience, “the undergraduate capstone course at Oregon State University’s College of Business.” It’s designed as the final preparation for students before beginning their careers and/or graduate school.
Joshi taught two sections of BA 466 winter term, roughly 60 students, and following the last midterm exam in mid-February he divided the students into 12 teams; each team’s mission was to analyze a problem faced by an actual company and make a set of strategic recommendations using knowledge and concepts picked up throughout the course.
The teams, dressed in business attire, made their presentations in class during dead week, meaning they had about three weeks to get everything together. Each presentation was 20 minutes, plus a 10-minute question-and-answer period.
The problems were given to the students in the form of classic cases that are part of the business curricula at either Stanford or MIT, Joshi said. Each dealt with an industry and company the students hadn’t yet studied – industries included automobiles, solar power and pharmaceuticals – and they were required to use only the information given to them in the roughly 30-page case studies.
“I wanted to simulate a real managerial situation,” Joshi said. “Often a manager is given incomplete, imperfect information and has to make the best decision he can based on that – he can’t simply look on the Internet and find a solution. We want to teach critical thinking. And the teams were picked at random because in the business world, unless you own the company, you don’t get to build your own team.
“From my own experience as a manager, I believe many aspects of management are conversational,” added Joshi, a former electrical engineer who’s worked for a variety of firms including BeVocal, Inc., a voice-recognition-technology company he founded and later sold. “You have to engage co-workers and colleagues in dialogue and discussion and debate so you can figure out what’s going on, and I want to help students be more persuasive in their management decisions, to create more compelling points.”