3 Aug 2011

The Cass MBA Perspective: Student Edition

Welcome to our summer edition of the Cass MBA Perspective eNewsletter, direct from our current MBA students. This issue has been brought to life with their opinions, highlights and experiences gained over the last year.

You can find out more about Henrik’s Business Mastery project and how he applied his academic learning to a real life business and Bettina’s reflections on the year spent on the Executive Programme in Dubai. Plus we also delve into the social life of the MBA students . From group work and away days to dinner events and after lecture drinks, they take full advantage of enjoying their time at Cass - look out for the photo gallery!

This newsletter truly reflects the student perspective of life at Cass Business School, and we want you as the reader to get involved. Position yourself as a successful business leader and join the debate on the challenges of leadership in the modern business world by leaving your comments.

I hope you have a wonderful summer and don't forget that if you would like to find out more about the MBA programmes, we have information sessions here at Cass and new online information sessions starting in October 2011.

Erica Hensens
MBA Programme Director

Reflecting on a year in Dubai

Dubai, September 2009: the 3rd cohort of the Cass EMBA in Dubai bustling together in the exclusive lounge at the 1st floor of the Dubai International Financial Centre’s building 2. All were looking rather dashing in formal attire, chatting attentively and politely to the person closest, happily unaware of the 18 months that lie ahead. 

Fast forward those 18 months, and meet the 3rd cohort - there at that 1st floor – a tight knit group of people from all walks of life, joking, discussing – no formal attire in sight (some even in shorts) and all proud, happy and very relaxed. Being accustomed to the uniqueness, quality and luxury of Dubai, Cass has not let anyone down. It has been a unique, personalized and very intense experience with grueling but inspiring lectures (forgetting QM, anyone?), performance of arts (economics coursework presentations, flooring everyone with laughter), competitions (remember who won Markstrat?) and enough laughter and fun to fill a much longer article than this one.

What 3rd cohort might not realize is that they are unique! Well, most cohorts are unique, but this is not any run of the mill cohort – close to 40% of the students are budding entrepreneurs with fascinating, exciting and potentially high impacting business ideas for this region! It might be a reflection of the Middle East – entrepreneurship has always been a natural, and mostly necessary, means to support families and the close community - it might be Cass’ emerging markets focus, the strategy teachings and the entrepreneurship and innovation focus, all supplying a framework for the students; or simply that this cohort has the right entrepreneurial DNA to build unique businesses! 

No doubt, that even if a few high profile entrepreneurial success stories have come out of this region, many more are needed to showcase that this region is full of well educated, incredibly focused, extremely creative and highly inspiring leaders. I bet you that you will meet some of the Cass Dubai, 3rd cohort in future breaking news stories of entrepreneurial success, and I will be forever proud to have been sitting next to them at Cass Business School!  

Bettina Frimann Larsen

An excellent finale to an eye-opening year

The MBA is an experience and adventure filled with high paced twists and turns. No sooner than completing the core programme and electives, it’s time for the final “Business Mastery Project”. 

This project is meant to draw on many elements of the course and tackle a real world business problem. With the help of a dedicated supervisor lecturing in strategy and quantitative methods, I’ve suddenly become a consultant for a start-up business!

I have designed my project around an international e-commerce company looking to gauge their market opportunity, refine their strategy, and secure venture capital funding. The deliverables will be a market feasibility study, a review of relevant strategic frameworks, and a business plan for future fundraising pitches to investors.

During my first meeting with my supervisor, ideas on strategic frameworks, entrepreneurial owners as people, international markets and trade-law, valuation, and sales and marketing are discussed openly and frankly. A straight to the gut and no holds barred dissection of the situation begins and the learnings from several MBA courses flash by. After an hour of what seems like mental gymnastics, the real issue begins to emerge and it’s time to meet the company for the first time.

The next day, entering an office mid-way through the daily conference call between the three founders, I’m instantly transported back in time to “work mode” as if the MBA year had not passed. The same sights and sounds, the same artefacts, the same coffee! But something feels very different inside. I feel calm, I feel in control, confident with my MBA toolkit at the ready. I’m looking forward to working with inspiring entrepreneurs and giving what I can from my MBA perspective in order to help their business succeed. I feel great!

We start the meeting, they are open for help, they want to grow the business but don’t know where the real value lies. Together we can crack it and after a lot of listening from my side, it becomes clear that they like my initial thoughts. This is going to be an excellent finale to an eye-opening year.

Henrik Karlberg

Motivation, addiction and Angry Birds

Motivation. If asking me about how I’m dealing with the work pressures that come with an Executive MBA, a psychologist might remind me that my motivation is driven by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. That is to say, my behaviour can be driven by my own unsatisfied needs and by my response to an external stimulus.

We all have needs that influence our behaviour. In his oft-cited theory, Maslow created a framework to describe how this might work in practice. Since needs are many, he categorised them from basic physiological needs (eg water) through to the more complex pinnacle of his hierarchy, self-actualisation (ie fulfilling potential). Maslow explained how somebody advances up to the next level of need only after the lower-level need is at least minimally satisfied. As such, unsatisfied needs influence/motivate behaviour, satisfied needs do not.

While I find it comfortably cogent, this theory has always seemed a little bit too neat to me. Enter Herzberg, who added a suitable layer of complication by blending in extrinsic factors. His findings revealed that while ‘motivators’ such as achievement, recognition and authority were more likely to cause satisfaction, distinct ‘hygiene factors’ such as administration, supervision and salary were more likely to cause dissatisfaction. Therefore, Herzberg showed that one must attend to both types of factors and not assume that an increase in satisfaction automatically leads to decrease in dissatisfaction.

Lo and behold, people are complex. So how does business all too often attempt to cut through this complexity? Money, of course, and in all its polite guises. (Dynamic performance management, anyone?!). As a budding b2b marketer, I learnt early in my career that to understand buyer behaviour, you had to consider whether a decision-maker might be rewarded for a particular behaviour that his/her company wants to perpetuate? Is an incentive silently at play?

To an employer, incentives may feel like a clean method of control, but again they are also complex. Studies show that if the person receives an incentive immediately, the behavioural effect of the reward is greater than if left for a while. (Think weekly sales commission vs annual bonus.) Furthermore, a repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become habit, whether required or not.

Eureka! So this must explain why I can be distracted during my daily commute by the seemingly pointless game that is Angry Birds, at a time when I am committed to completing an MBA for which there is plenty to read. Apparently so, according Griffiths, a professor of psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
“Addictions… are about constant rewards. I’ve never met anyone addicted to a bi-weekly national lottery, because there’s only two chances a week. On a slot machine, when you can gamble 30 times a minute, that’s very rewarding. On a game like Angry Birds, it’s every few seconds.”
“It’s also incredibly simple,” says Griffiths. “When you can pinpoint where you went wrong, this is called a near miss. It’s used all the time in terms of how scratch cards and slot machines are designed. When we fail to win, we create a reason in our mind why we didn’t. The losses effectively become near-wins and… the only way you can get rid of that frustration is to go back to the start and play again.”
I feel used. Where’s my iphone? I think most businesses are missing a trick.

Richard Samuel

Join the debate!

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Cass MBA - the social side

It’s not all long hours in the library! Take a sneak peek at the social side of Cass group events and students out and about in London.


New Online Information Sessions
The new engaging, interactive and convenient way to learn about the MBA programmes.
Join us for an hour from wherever you choose to and discover everything that you need to know about the MBA programmes at Cass Business School. 
The interactive presentation and Q&A with our MBA advisors, via instant chat is the ideal step towards helping you decide that the Cass MBA programme is the right choice for you. So log on from 6PM on 4 October to experience the Cass experience first hand.


Associate Dean goes to No.10

A leading light in the field of management research, Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey, Associate Dean, has the honour of being the only university academic invited to join the UK government’s new Employee Engagement Task Force. She recently joined British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street for the launch of this prestigious group, which will share good practice, generate debate and offer support organisations wanting to learn about engagement.

See more information on the Employee Engagement Task Force >>


Dubai - Guest Speaking Event on 5th June

In association with Cass Business School and Capital Club, one of Cass's strategy experts Dr Gianvito Lanzolla gave a personal view on the latest findings in Strategic Management Research on how to successfully conduct your company in uncertain times.

Held on Sunday 5th June 2011, the seminar explored whether corporate diversification is an answer
to uncertainty and shedded some light on its advantages, and limits. The seminar also briefly discussed how the strategy formulation process may be adjusted to deal with uncertainty.


Success Stories from Dubai

Three Business Mastery Projects (BMP) from the Executive MBA in Dubai Cohort 2008 were of such a high quality (and incidentally, achieved the highest marks awarded on the Dubai EMBA) that Prof. Rob Melville, Professor of Internal Auditing, recommended to the authors that they develop them as academic papers to be presented at appropriate conferences and for publication.

  • Kishore Jaichandani and Neeraj Teckchandani produced a BMP about potential links between governance and performance in the GCC. From this, an abstract was produced for a paper ‘Where Corporate Governance And Better Firm Performance Meet: Empirical Evidence of Public Listed Companies in the GCC Region’. This was submitted to the 9th Internal Auditing and Corporate Governance conference in London, April 2011 a peer reviewed event with an acceptance rate of only one in three. It was received very positively, and was awarded the conference prize of £500 for best paper. Competition included many experienced academics from internationally recognised universities.
  • Tim Travers produced a BMP about Shar’ia law in Islamic financial insitutions. This was developed into a paper that was put forward for the 1st International Conference on Organisational Governance, organised by the Centre for Research into Organisational Governance (CROG) at Leicester Business School, De Montfort University, Leicester, September 2011. This is a peer reviewed conference, and the organisers are very well known in the CSR and governance reseacrh community.
  • Thomas Hodgson and Damien Kriteman developed their BMP on corporate governance in sovereign wealth funds. Their paper based on the BMP ‘The Importance of Good Governance and Corporate Governance to the Government Investment Vehicles of the United Arab Emirates has also been accepted for the CROG event. Both theirs and Tim’s will have the opportunity to be published in specialist CSR journals as a result. 
Corporate governance and CSR are two of the key strategic issues for many very well known companies, and Islamic finance and governance is among the major areas for research, especially how it is developing in MENA, London and SE Asian locations. These three projects have made a vital contribution to the understanding of governance and show clearly that Cass' MBA students can compete as both extremely effective practitioners and as researchers of the highest quality.

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A snapshot of the Cass MBA, living and studying in London.

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