Why an MBA and why now?

By Jenna Hattingh, MBA Class of 2018

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the benefit that this MBA would provide. It began with the module ‘tackling global challenges’ where I was able to spend hours (and hours) researching one of my favourite topics – Climate Change. The amount of knowledge that was gained both during the course and in the research thereafter broadened my perspective and allowed me to develop my understanding on topics that I had previously misunderstood. This trend has continued throughout the course, and I now appreciate how skills can be developed through research, trial and error and even the occasional failure.

The pressure of workload, deadlines, and team dynamics makes you a stronger person. You may need to adjust your expectations and learn about other peoples personalities, and what is required to manage those personalities within the work environment (self-restraint in most cases).  Interpersonal relationships are just as important as quality of work in environments where teamwork is encouraged. These lessons are ones you most certainly cant learn at home. Some people will inspire you… Some will challenge you… And some will become your greatest friends.

Startup Weekend Exeter 2017

The weekend of November 17 – 19 saw the University of Exeter Business School transformed into an incubation space for Exeter’s brightest minds and entrepreneurial spirits. Now in its fourth year, Techstar’s Startup Weekend Exeter is a 54-hour startup sprint designed to guide entrepreneurs in shaping their innovative ideas into business realities over the course of just three days. The weekend captures the essence of the entrepreneurial journey; full of energy, hard work, camaraderie, and hours of high-intensity fun as teams compete to determine who wins 1st overall, people’s choice, or best purpose driven idea.

Sponsored by the University of Exeter Business School and SetSquared, many postgraduate students from the 2018 Exeter MBA cohort were in attendance, alongside a healthy mix of undergraduate students and members of the Exeter community. The weekend kicked off Friday evening, with a rousing welcome party hosted by TechStar facilitator David Andersen, followed by inspirational speeches from local social entrepreneur Kalkidan Lagasse and executive coach Ian Hale.

This year’s event centred around business with a purpose, and both Hale and Lagasse represented the power of purpose-led business by recounting their inspirational success stories. Lagasse began her retail business, Sancho’s Dress, as a way to bolster the income of her Aunt, a talented seamstress struggling to make ends meet in Lagasse’s home country of Ethiopia. Lagasse began her business as a student at the University of Exeter, selling her Aunt’s homemade scarves at a booth in the forum. She then engaged with the ThinkTryDo! Student Startup programme, and soon grew her business into a successful brick and mortar shop on Fore Street. Recently, Lagasse has expanded her business to fill a second retail space. She sells organic, cruelty-free clothing, jewellery and accessories.

Now it was time for Friday’s main event: the pitches! Participants were asked to come prepared with a business concept, and had only 60 seconds to present their idea to the Startup Weekend Exeter delegation. In all over 30 pitches showcased an incredible array of creative, innovative and inspiring ideas – from making a wood pulp substitute out of sugar cane, to creating building materials out of used plastic bottles, to stilettos capable of converting into flats by detaching the heels! Once all the pitches were heard, participants cast their votes for the top ideas.  In the end, a total of eight teams were formed, and it was the teams with representation of a variety of demographics and an expansive array of skills, that were most successful.

Once assembled, teams quickly got to work brainstorming on how to bring their ideas to life, and created their agendas for the weekend. The task: ideate, validate, create, and actuate! Typically, ideation begins with an expansive view, then focuses in on a realistic attainment, the creation of a prototype, or minimum viable product (MVP).

On Saturday, teams were expected to validate their ideas in the marketplace. This involved taking to the streets of Exeter, and discovering whether or not consumers would actually be interested in their business. Saturday also featured think tank sessions with an impressive array of mentors from all across the tech and entrepreneurial communities. Mentors conducted individual sessions with each team, offering tech support, logistics advisement, business development expertise, and much more.

Startup Weekend Exeter is a hectic, busy, and exciting time. Teams often find it hard to break away from the work to eat and relax. Thankfully, the amazing organising team had refreshments and relaxation covered with comfy couches, table tennis, and delicious free food all weekend long! Participants enjoyed the delights of Spanish paella, Mexican tacos, and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, alongside sandwiches from Pret-a-Manger, snacks, and sweets to keep their energy levels up and brains firing on all cylinders.

On Sunday, teams continued their frenetic pace, turning their ideas into action. They finalised their MVPs, put the final touches on their presentations, and squeezed in a few more sessions with the mentors. By late afternoon, the judges arrived and it was time to compete!

 

Judges for Startup Weekend included:

Antonia Power, General Counsel for Blur Group

Richard Eckley, Senior Investment Analyst for Crowdcube

Christine Allison, Director of Roborough House Associates

Stuart Robinson, Director of the Exeter MBA

Ideas were assessed according to their validity in the market, strength of their business model, and execution and design. The judges then chose the team that had presented the most convincing business and awarded the prize for best purpose driven idea and also handed out the award for the People’s Choice.

In closing the event, TechStars facilitator David Andersen said:

“Startup Weekend Exeter was a really special experience. I think there were some great teams, with great energy and great ideas. Participants here were really open-minded and keen to do new things. Basically, everything we could throw at them, they took on with a positive mindset. It really says a lot about the community here in Exeter, and I would love to see that spread after the weekend. That’s what the Startup Weekend is all about: inspiring the participants to go out and change the world.”

Special thanks to the University of Exeter Business School, the ThinkTryDo Student Startups team, Bunzl catering, Pret-a-Manger, and all of our wonderful mentors, judges, and participants.

Written by Jessica Ilyas

The sweet spot: Why spaceships can help us design for a circular economy

According to Dana Meadows (1992), to reach systems change, the most important element is to have the power to transcend paradigms.

This is hard to do with anyone, let alone MBA students.

This week, Adam Lusby, adjunct lecturer at the Exeter MBA and Delfina Zagarzazú, 2016 Alumni, piloted a 2 day workshop coined Generation Space, where 43 students worked on the mission:

“Scope and define the internal characteristics of a spaceship that can evolve to host 1000 people for 1000 years for generational interstellar space travel”                

By setting the context in a galaxy, students were allowed to enter a new paradigm without considering it, allowing re-design  to happen at many different levels of a system including food, water, manufacturing and health to meet the needs of life in space.

Using Design Thinking to guide the process, the exploratory phase of  it allowed students to push the boundaries of creativity whilst in ideation staying aware of the need to build a circular economy strategy for the underlying importance of closed loop design to keep resources in use through the voyage.

What is your strategy to ensure the continuous uptime performance of all your resources? In other words, how do you propose to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value during the voyage?

Further inspiration for circular design was enabled by Chris Grantham and Arianne Orillac who lead Circular Economy at IDEO in London who guided the spaceships to consider reiteration of product design onboard using circular economy strategy cards.

After prototypes and definition of spaceship purpose, teams were judged by an all women panel to put their circular innovations forward.

  • Hege Saebjornsen, Country Sustainability Manager, IKEA UK & IE
  • Lynn Maxwell, Sustainability Developer, IKEA UK & IE
  • Emilie Sandberg, Creative Leader, IKEA UK & IE
  • Arianne Orillac, Circular Business Designer, IDEO London

This project is part of the Corporate Challenge 2018 in collaboration with IKEA and IDEO.

Blog written by Delfina Zagarzazu

Partnering on Purpose

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Practical Insight into Data Analytics, one of the required modules on the University of Exeter’s One Planet MBA programme, is taught by Stuart Robinson, a former executive of Alliance Bernstein. In four intensive days, Stuart focuses on data understanding, preparation, modelling and evaluation. The module is enhanced by SAP’s Michael Jordan, one example of how business partners strengthen the academic modules taught on the One Planet MBA . At SAP, Mike has the curious title of Knowledge Transfer Architect. “His role is to give a practical angle to a lot of what students learn”, says Stuart. The other key partner in the module is IBM’s Jamie’s Cole, who opened the recent module with a discussion about Cognitive Computing and the Internet of Things. Continue reading

Global Challenges and the MBA

It’s great to see our new cohort of MBA students starting to get involved with the 2017 programme.  We started formal learning last week with a module in which we discussed global challenges: economics and inequality, social change, technology and climate.  Four expert guest speakers joined us to bring their perspective on each of these.  The speakers came from Oxfam, IBM the UK Met Office as well as our own academic team.

We’re a truly global group this year; people from 21 countries have come to Exeter to join the full time MBA.  This diversity brought a lot to our classroom debate; maybe too much, as most of the guest sessions ran over time with participants from different parts of the world contributing their perspectives.  It all came together on the last afternoon when each study group presented their views on the challenges.

I think this kind of debate is important at the start of an MBA where many of the participants want to build their ability to make positive change in the world.  Being clear on the challenges we face and hearing others’ perspective on these helps us understand and shape our own opportunities and the skills we look to gain from the MBA to pursue these.

Written By Stuart Robinson

The Exeter MBA

From September 2018 we’ll be changing the name of the programme to ‘The Exeter MBA’.  Moving away from the ‘One Planet’ MBA name doesn’t mean that we’re changing the ethos and content of a programme which has been increasingly successful both for us and our students and partners since 2011.  The change is a result of developments in our relationships with partners and our aim to bring the principles of the One Planet MBA to a wider body of potential students.

We intend to strengthen the Exeter MBA offering to address a growing group of potential MBA candidates and sponsors who recognise that good business is now in the mainstream.  They will look for MBA programmes that help them acquire the range of skills needed to drive forward the emerging business models we have developed in the One Planet MBA in a widening set of business, third-sector and governmental situations.

You’ll see ‘The Exeter MBA’ name appearing in our literature and communication over the coming months.

Post written by Stuart Robinson

Message from the New MBA Director

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I was very pleased to be appointed as the new Director of MBA programmes here at Exeter University Business School. I’ve been teaching on the MBA since I joined the University from industry in 2012 and have enjoyed (and learned a lot!) from working with our MBA students over the last five years.

I’m also taking over an MBA that’s in great shape and that has an exciting future. We’re highly committed to MBA level education and see it as a way that the School can really make a difference in the world. My predecessors have built a programme that has a strong and growing reputation as well as a large and diverse cohort of students. I’m looking forward to meeting the new students when they arrive.

Dr Stuart Robinson – MBA Director

Written By Stuart Robinson

The Global Challenges of our Times – Digital Connectivity

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In a digital age people still matter and connecting well to those that you lead certainly matters

A post by Jacqueline Bagnall

Even with the computing power to analyse huge datasets and the big data world of companies such as IBM, there is still the need for the human sense maker. The human ability to ask questions and make sense of the results, spotting inconsistencies and better defining the question at the core of the analysis.  As automation takes hold and we see the diminished need for low skilled manual labour, this calls for a better understanding of how the human mind can add value to the organisation. What is it that creates the difference between competing organisations when the slick precision of a wholly automated function delivers product perfection?

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The Global Challenges of our Times Call for New Business Models

The Global Challenges of the 21st Century – A post by Prof Nicolas Forsans

Once again in 2017 the World Economic Forum highlighted in its 2017 Global Risks Report the interconnections that exist between some of the most significant challenges that are shaping business and society in the 21st century. Those interconnections are represented below in their Risk Interconnection map.

Risk-interconnection-mapEconomic and societal challenges

Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of poverty by enabling people in emerging countries to take part in world trade. Deregulations and privatisations have encouraged competition and innovation, leading to declining prices and higher quality products while urbanisation and industrialisation in emerging economies have enabled 3 billion people to generate an income of at least $10/day.

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One Planet MBA shines a light on Women in Science and Technology

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Young girls in Europe take a great deal of interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, math) and that interest peaks at around age 11. According to a new survey, commissioned by Microsoft, by age 15, girls’ enthusiasm for sciences wanes and all but vanishes by the time they finish secondary school. Much of this is due to conformity and social expectations, and lack of positive female role models. “Not surprising”, says Stephanie Lindan, one of the recent graduates of the University of Exeter’s One Planet MBA programme. Having been featured as an Outstanding Woman in STEM by IBM, Stephanie may very well become the role model young girls need. Continue reading