Articles published in July 2010

Top 5 Podcasts for Aspiring MBAs

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Two weeks ago, we featured free classes available online for prospective and newly-admitted b-school students. Today, we’re featuring podcasts. Almost all universities have podcasts these days, and if you’re interested in a school, it’s worth poking around the website for lectures or interviews. But here are the top five that stand out:

  1. Knowledge at Wharton: Wharton’s podcast follows a traditional radio-interview format. A host sits down with an interesting guest to discuss a meaty topic, like the next generation of Internet search or the future of the book business. Podcasts regularly feature Wharton professors speaking about their own research, as well as CEOs, government officials, venture capitalists, and others. And you don’t actually have to download the files”you can just stream the interviews from the website.
  2. Darden School of Business, Speaker Series: UVA’s Darden School of Business uploads recordings of anyone who visits campus as part of the Darden Distinguished Speaker Series, the Darden Leadership Forum, or the 50th Anniversary Speaker Series. That makes for a lot of podcasts featuring a wide variety of leaders, from former Mexican president Vicente Fox to Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.
  3. The London School of Economics, Public Lectures and Events: The LSE seems to host speakers constantly, and it’s no surprise the school draws some big names. Besides professors, the roster includes a number of presidents, plus social media guru Clay Shirky and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. This series is especially great if you’re interested in emerging markets or global business. But their offerings vary widely, and they aren’t necessarily what you’d expect. The archive includes lectures on contemporary art, climate change, and even Slavoj Žižek on the end of capitalism.
  4. Insead, Leadercast: Also good to check out if you’re globally inclined is Insead’s Leadercast series. Professors sit down with European leaders like Thomas Rabe, CEO of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, and Todd Stitzer, CEO of British confectionary company Cadbury. You can either watch them as embedded videos or download the audio as mp3s, and next to each video is an overview of the company discussed, for further reading.
  5. Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge: It isn’t updated regularly, but HBS has an archive of their Working Knowledge podcast, which features faculty members discussing their research, current events, and the like. It’s not extensive, but the available content is worth a look.

Have we left your favorite off the list? Let us know in the comments what other podcasts you like!

MBA Curriculums Get Creative

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MBA programs are getting creative with their classes these days. Two recent trend pieces highlight schools’ new offerings that aren’t exactly traditional courses like accounting or stats.

First, the Financial Times spotlights the growing number of b-school classes on practicing philanthropy, which aim to teach future titans of industry how to give wisely. They teach how to measure the impact of one’s donation and smart practices like site visits to non-profits. At some point in their lives, most of these students will either be a corporate donor or an individual donor and my class teaches them how to do philanthropy effectively, says Boston University School of Management professor Kristen McCormack. Most general MBAs that I’ve taught marvel that there is this world out there that they never thought existed, and they are surprised by how hard it is to give away money.

Meanwhile, other b-schools are attempting to teach the ineffable skills of leadership. And according to US News and World Report, they’re adopting some creative strategies. UVA’s Darden School of Business is using the performing arts to train future managers, with a course called “Leadership and Theatre: Ethics, Innovations and Creativity.” Instructor Ed Freeman explains actors have to know themselves before they can persuade anyone to believe in their characters. “I think being authentic, knowing who you are and working on trying to be more in touch with your emotions, that’s what leadership’s about,” he says.

More reasons to get excited about business school!

Friday Fun: MBAs Take Sample Sales Online

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We like to take the occasional Friday here at the MGMAT blog to spotlight interesting paths taken by MBAs. Today: Gilt Groupe, which is bringing sample sales”long an urban fashion institution”to online shoppers.

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the up-and-coming online retailer. Here’s how Gilt Groupe works: Upon registration, members receive a daily email announcing the afternoon’s deals on luxury brands. Labels like Christian Louboutin and Marc Jacobs are regularly discounted up to 70 percent. Last year this clever scheme brought in $170 million in revenue, and the company is currently valued at $400 million. And Gilt Groupe might not exist if founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson hadn’t chosen to get MBAs. The two met as classmates at Harvard Business School, where they laid the foundations for Gilt. They launched the company with merchandise from designer Zac Posen”whom they had advised while still in business school. Back then, he was an emerging brand that was starting to gain a lot of visibility, but didn’t have a business plan in place or a way to finance the brand’s growth; we helped him take a look at that, says Maybank.

It’s a great example of how the networks you build as an MBA candidate can really make a concrete difference to your career.

Brush Up On Business Basics Online

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The prospect of returning to school for an MBA can be a bit daunting, especially after a few years in the workforce. Once you get in, you might want to get a head start on your classes. Or maybe you’re considering applying, but you aren’t sure about the classroom experience”what it’s like, whether you feel prepared, if it’s something you really want to do. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can get a taste of the b-school curriculum ahead of time.

Many schools essentially offer entire classes online: lecture notes, classroom handouts, assignments. For example, MIT is a big participant in the OpenCourseWare program, an international consortium of schools that post course materials online, completely free of charge. So you can take a closer look at many of the Sloan School of Management’s offerings before you ever even make a campus visit. They’ve got bits and pieces of an impressive number of classes online, including:

Columbia has some seminars posted, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business posts interesting videos of speakers and panel discussions at their YouTube channel. You’ll have to sort through commencement videos and the like, but it’s worth investing some time to see GE’s Jeff Immelt talking about leadership.

Even if you’ve already been admitted to your school of choice, you might want to brush up on your fundamentals before arriving on campus. You wouldn’t want to be ill-equipped for the dreaded cold call. There are a number of classes that will help lay a firm foundation for your first year coursework. Carnegie Mellon has a stats class, and Berkeley has audio of both micro and macro economics courses available.

Then there’s the just-plain-interesting. Yale University has made Professor Ben Polack’s Intro to Game Theory available here. (Follow it up with Sloan’s Game Theory for Managers.) You can even download lectures onto your iPod, but be careful not to get distracted by backward induction and evolutionary stability”we wouldn’t want you to walk into traffic. Johns Hopkins has a class on occupational health, while Tufts offers one on multilateral negotiation.

And that’s just the beginning of the intriguing b-school resources. Next week we’ll round up great podcasts for prospective and incoming b-school students.

What does the World Cup have to do with Business School?

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For those of you who followed the Word Cup, the BBC has a great analysis of how management styles and skills can transcend the finance world.

In this article business professors take a look at what soccer team coaches can teach us about management techniques.  Once you’ve gotten your MBA , will you lead like France: closing your team off to the outside world, or like England: encouraging individuality to a breaking point?Ultimately, you may want to emulate Spain’s coach, Vicente del Bosque. According to Santiago Iniguez, the dean of IE Business School in Madrid, he’s the archetypal cool, calm, cerebral type.

Bringing the World Cup home to Spain wasn’t a bad show, either.

Ace the Essays? No, Thanks!

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We all know that the essays on the GMAT are scored separately and that the schools don’t care as much about the essay scores. We also know we have to write the essays first, before we get to the more important quant and verbal sections, so we don’t want to use up too much brain-power on the essays. Still, we can’t just bomb the essay section; the schools do care about the essays somewhat. So how do we do a good enough job on the essays without expending so much energy that we’re negatively affected during the multiple-choice portion of the test?

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Hybrid MBA Programs Growing Popular

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Plenty of prospective MBAs don’t want to give up their jobs to go back to school. So what if the promotion you want requires an MBA?

Part-time programs have long been a popular solution to this dilemma. But the Wall Street Journal points to another, digital-age option: hybrid programs, blending limited class time with extensive online work. One Johnson & Johnson employee used Babson’s Fast Track MBA to land a plum gig overseas without having to take time off of work for school. Universities like the programs because they’re cheaper to run”if students aren’t on campus, they don’t need campus services.

But there are downsides. Students don’t spend as much quality time with their classmates, so there’s less opportunity to network. “There just isn’t enough team building or interpretation of emotional quotients,” says one dean, explaining why many business schools don’t launch hybrid programs. And career changers might want to think twice, because they typically don’t provide the same level of counseling.

Ultimately, traditional rules for choosing a b-school apply: Students have to go with the program that suits their needs best.