While reading Kio Stark’s book, Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything, I discovered that I am an independent learner. I also realized that for most of my early life, I was a dependent learner, as I progressed through the formal education system – K-12, BBA degree, MBA, D.B.A., and various certification programs. The transition or evolution from dependent learner to independent learner was not obvious to me, yet it happened. In retrospect, had the changeover occurred sooner, advancement along my chosen career path might have been faster. For this reason, I believe that the sooner MBAs become independent learners, the faster they will advance along their chosen career path. Moreover, I believe an MBA program is the perfect place to start developing independent learning skills.
Do you know how much time you spend working with your computer each day? More importantly, how much of that time is productive? Most MBA students cannot answer these two questions with any certainty. However, MBA students run the risk of productivity loss because of their dependence on technology and multitasking. As aspiring executives, MBA students need to understand where their time actually goes each waking hour.
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Feedback is the lifeblood of a quality MBA program, the source of which is most often the curriculum’s own students and alumni. As a program improves and its reputation grows, the value of the degree also grows for all degree holders, even for those who graduated years ago. Unfortunately, when MBA students and alumni provide feedback, the quality is lacking, so they do not make as valuable a contribution as they could. Sometimes, quality is lacking because of the timing of the feedback request; or because respondents take too little time to prepare their response; or because respondents fail to recall the details necessary for providing quality feedback. MBA students and alumni can do many things to improve the quality of their feedback. For example, the most important element may be finding ways to improve their recall of events and activities in sufficient detail to be useful for providing feedback.
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As 2012 ends, many MBA students will take the time to reflect on the year and their many accomplishments while others will take the opportunity to look forward by establishing goals, which, at this time of year, is usually referred to as 2013’s New Year’s Resolutions. With this thought in mind, I take this opportunity to suggest a few resolutions for the current group of MBA students.
My suggested Resolutions are somewhat simple, and I believe they are easy to keep or to perform at least once. Most relate to things you can do to influence the perceptions others have of you, especially your MBA peers. While the MBA program environment is the focus of my resolutions, adopting and keeping any one of them may go beyond the MBA classroom and have a positive effect on other areas of your professional and personal life.
I recommend that you adopt one, some, or all of the following resolutions sometime during the first 90 days of 2013.
When talking with others, we sometimes say, “Now don’t tell anyone I said ….” Such statements are a request for non-attribution. The request is just for the case at hand and incorporated easily into the conversation. On the other hand, group settings, such as MBA classrooms, pose a different problem. Can you imagine an MBA classmate during a class discussion prefacing a comment with, “Now, don’t say I said this but my company …?” That situation is unlikely because when a student with valuable real world experiences to share is concerned about attribution, he or she is usually unwilling to participate in an open discussion. Unfortunately, the result is a missed learning opportunity for the class. One way of addressing the concerns of students regarding attribution is for the MBA class or the MBA program to adopt a non-attribution policy.
Sometime during their MBA program, MBA students learn the importance of data collection and the role data plays in decision-making. However, they are unlikely to learn much about the logistics of data collection, such as questionnaire design and the use of web-based survey tools. While learning the logistics of data collection may not be part of the curriculum of most MBA programs, it is important because logistical issues can make a significant difference to decision makers and the quality of the decisions they make. One way of learning some of the basics is for MBA students to begin using several of the available tools while they are earning their MBA degree.
Two tools with which I am familiar and use on a regular basis are SurveyMonkey and Google Forms. I use each for survey data collection and for standardizing data collection when manually collecting data from multiple sources, such as websites. Google Forms is free and SurveyMonkey has a reduced-capabilities version that is also free. Even though their names imply otherwise, both tools are useful for data collection when using either a questionnaire or a form.