In 2011–2012 the MBA Program launched FIELD—Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development—a yearlong course in the Required Curriculum that provides students immersive, field-based, action-oriented learning experiences while working in small teams.
In FIELD 1, the first of the course's three modules, entering MBA students developed leadership intelligence through simulations and exercises, peer feedback, and personal reflection. In FIELD 2, students focused on developing global intelligence, working in groups of six to develop a product or service concept for a real company in an emerging market. This module culminated in a week-long immersion during January Term, when the groups traveled to work directly with Global Partner organizations and their customers, and then to present completed proposals.
During the spring term, in just over 100 days, student teams designed and launched 150 microbusinesses. Each team pitched its idea to other students, took part in a custom-developed market simulation designed to value each company in a companion section, and refined its ideas until Launch Day. Teams with viable business ideas had to generate arm's-length revenue and advanced to IPO Day, while the others moved to the "failed business track" and analyzed why they had not succeeded. The IPO judges selected the top team from each section in industries ranging from business services to entertainment, retail, and social media. The overall winner was IvyKids (later renamed Tiggly), an iPad application that helps children learn by interacting with physical objects.
“Students report that FIELD is a powerful complement to their other RC courses. They are taking the skills they have learned and tools they have mastered across the first year and applying them in FIELD, and then vice versa, so that we can see the impact throughout the RC.”
From immunization clinics for FIELD 2 to FRED—the new Field Revenue and Expense Details reporting tool—for FIELD 3, the new course demanded attention to myriad details and the development of new skills and capabilities at the School. The market simulations in FIELD 3 required robust technology to handle 10 markets (sections), each with 15 stocks (team businesses) and 90 traders (students), all trading at once. To meet this need, HBS built the Financial Market Simulator (FiMSim), drawing on a tool Professor Joshua Coval had been using in an elective class for several years.
Sending the entire first-year MBA class around the world to develop global intelligence skills in FIELD 2 required a massive scale-up effort by the newly created MBA Global Experience Office. Staff built on their experience with IXPs in conducting city-by-city health and safety assessments, arranging travel and lodging with an array of providers, and training more than 35 staff who volunteered to serve as global program managers to handle in-country logistics during the January Term immersion.
Such services were only one aspect of the project. Working in collaboration with the Career & Professional Development Office and FIELD 2 faculty, the Global Experience Office identified potential Global Partner organizations and worked with these companies to scope student projects for faculty review. In all, the process generated 152 distinct projects with 140 Global Partners in 10 countries. (In addition, a few students who were constrained by special circumstances worked with U.S. companies.)
Field-based learning opportunities continue through the Elective Curriculum, with approximately 20 field courses across six academic units. One of these is Impact Investing, taught by Kash Rangan, Michael Chu, and Shawn Cole. In this course, the majority of student time is devoted to team-based project work outside the classroom. Under faculty supervision, teams work directly with client organizations, either impact investing organizations or social enterprises within the portfolio of an impact
investor, including at least one field visit. Each team presents its results to its client partner and to its faculty advisor. Classroom meetings occur up to 10 times throughout the semester to discuss issues in the project cycle and support the teams' work. Students in this course have undertaken engagements including the assessment of an impact measurement system for a global microfinance portfolio and the development of a maternal care franchise portfolio in Africa.
Under the leadership of Professor Kathleen McGinn, the newly appointed faculty chair, the Doctoral Programs undertook a comprehensive review between fall 2011 and spring 2012. The internal review committee surveyed HBS faculty, students, alumni, employers of alumni, and Harvard graduate education officials to determine how the programs could be improved. The findings led to two streams of change.
One set of program changes is directed at enhancing the rigor and relevance of doctoral students' academic preparation and research and heightening their training in teaching theory and practice. A key innovation is Business Education for Scholars and Teachers (BEST), a comprehensive sequence of immersion courses to be taught during three consecutive January Terms. The first two courses will focus on the practice of business and on developing research directions that are valuable to practice as well as to scholarship. The third course will train students in teaching excellence and will give them the opportunity and support to design a course that they will likely teach in a first faculty appointment.
The review committee identified a number of ways to deepen the engagement between students and faculty and strengthen mentorship. These include seminars, social events, an Intranet-based collaborative research hub, and the proximity of student and faculty advisor office space. Additionally, student interaction will be improved by a single early-August start date for all programs beginning with the 2013–2014 academic year.
Young Alumni Research Day expands both learning and community-building opportunities by bringing doctoral graduates who are between two and eight years into their careers back to campus to present their research. These returning alumni can provide current doctoral students—some of whom may have overlapped with them at HBS—with valuable insights not only on research matters, but course development and tenure review preparation as well.
Young Alumni Participants, 2012:
When the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation (DNATF) sought out HBS to help its project managers develop a more robust business perspective in late 2011, faculty and staff from Executive Education and Harvard Business Publishing worked rapidly and experimentally to develop a novel approach to program delivery.
"In assessing DNATF's needs, we saw that working independently within our two groups would not be the best approach," says faculty chair Willy Shih. "Instead we acted as a single team so that we could be more flexible and responsive, and we were able to marshal the School's unique strengths for deeper impact. This ability is a distinct advantage for HBS, and one we want to find more opportunities to leverage."
The learning model seamlessly blended virtual and face-to-face curriculum elements. In designing the curriculum, the team analyzed which topics could most readily be taught in a virtual environment, and which—such as negotiation—would benefit most from direct personal contact. Because DNATF's project managers work autonomously, it was critical to bring the 60 participants together for a one-day launch in Denmark that included the formation of learning teams. Then, over the next nine months, the participants completed a virtual module, a weeklong residential module at HBS, and three more virtual modules. This blended approach enabled the program to cover more content and take best advantage of two complementary learning modes.
The program utilized Harvard Business Publishing's powerful Leadership Direct platform. As a result, the virtual modules closely mirrored the School's participant-centered learning, with live lectures, case discussions, simulations, and study group presentations conducted in real time. A single moderator worked with participants throughout the program, helping them synthesize and apply learning. DNATF leadership cited the blended approach as the best of two worlds, and the participants were enthusiastic and engaged throughout the program.
Both the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and the Owner/President Management Program (OPM) now sponsor biennial immersion events that introduce alumni to emerging global markets and new course material, utilizing program faculty and the School's global research centers and classrooms. Bringing together alumni from different years and decades also leverages the power of the AMP/OPM experience, as these diverse participants bond to form a learning group.
In February 2012, AMP inaugurated an HBS-style classroom in Mumbai with four days of classes, small group discussions and other opportunities for networking, and site visits. The 50 alumni participants, 15 of whom were from India, spanned 20 years of AMP. OPM held its first alumni immersion program in Shanghai in June 2011, with nearly 80 participants ranging from the most recent class back to 1989 and representing 25 countries. The program followed a similar format to that of AMP, with the addition of a field exercise, conducted in small groups, to probe the outlook and habits of the Chinese consumer. Both AMP and OPM are planning their next alumni immersion events, with OPM's confirmed for Brazil in 2013.