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Hearing how tough the first term of an MBA is is entirely different from actually living through it. I feel fairly safe in saying everyone in the MBA class of 2012 has felt challenged at some point during the term, whether on a particular assignment, getting their head around a specific concept, or simply adjusting to the volume of things to deal with day-to-day. However, with just a couple of weeks to go before the end of term we’re looking forward to a well-earned rest.

But before we disappear for xmas there’s the important matter of end-of-term partying. Last Saturday, for example, hosted the annual London Business School Santa Pub Crawl. Armed with the words to several well-known carols, and (more importantly) some half-price drinks vouchers, 400 student santas (plus a handful of reindeer) headed off for the streets of London – a quick search on Youtube will give you an idea of what this actually looks like…!

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The workload for our core courses has ramped up several gears, speaking of which I have three assignments due in for 8:15am tomorrow morning… Before coming to business school I felt pretty comfortable with my time management skills (watch my wife roll her eyes whenever I mention a ‘to-do’ list!) but already I’m having to work out new strategies for making the most of any spare half hour or so I find. And with mid-terms only a week away I expect the coming week might be the busiest so far…

To get through the workload you have to rely on your study group. Study groups are put together by the programme office and are made up of 6 or 7 first-year MBA students. The group’s members have a mix of backgrounds and experience, the idea being that someone in the group will probably have some prior knowledge for almost all the group assignments your given. This gives each of us a responsibility at some point to step up and put on our teacher hat.

My turn came this week. Putting ourselves in the shoes of Airbus management back in 2001 we were tasked with having to work-out whether or not Airbus should go ahead with developing the A3XX. I was pleasantly surprised to find how relevant my background in accounting was for this task as we began to wade through depreciation tax shields, capitalisation, working capital adjustments and so on.

Away from the work, many of the clubs on campus have been busy recruiting students to join their committees over the last few weeks. The process usually involves a written application (which brings back memories of writing application essays!) and/or an interview with some of the existing committee members. The number of club events each week still surprises me, and as I mentioned in my blog on ‘FOMO’ the biggest problem is working out which to attend!

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London Business School is renowned for its finance department. Educating many of the City’s leading lights and boasting world-renowned faculty, the school’s finance courses are famed for their rigour and applicability. So you might imagine my surprise when our Organisational Behaviour professor managed to run an auction during class for a £20 note. Even I can value a £20 note – £20, surely? Well, in what was perhaps the best illustration of where financial theory ends and behavioural finance comes in, two highly intelligent, rational individuals in our class bid up the price to £31! Want to know how it happened?? Afraid you’ll have to sign up for the MBA to find out….

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Posted by: Allen

During the summer I came across an interesting acronym from an alumnus of the school – ‘FOMO’. Apparently, most London Business School MBAs regularly suffer from attacks of ‘FOMO’ during their time here. In fact FOMO, I was told, is a phenomenon that you may experience more of during your time at business school than at any other point in your life… At the time I didn’t really believe them, but 4 weeks in and I’m starting to understand exactly what they meant!

What does this mysterious acronym stand for? ‘Fear Of Missing Out.’

Perhaps the best way to give you a flavour of what FOMO feels like is to give you a quick run through of September (so far) for the Class of 2012. On the voluntary competitions front there has been the PE Competition, the Stock Pitch Competition, the Case Competition, the Business Plan Competition, the Good Idea Competition…. the list goes on. On the clubs front there has been a club kick-off event, social events/speaker events for those that have already started or training for the sporting clubs almost every day. And on the social front the Class of 2012 has been doing itself proud with regular nights out across London (with Stream D leading the way with an excellent pub crawl across Islington last Monday!). In among all this we’ve needed to fit in our group work, case preparation, (extensive) reading and MBA classes as well. And somewhere in there we’ve also squeezed in some eating and sleeping too!

So, unfortunately, I’m learning that FOMO is very real! It’s just not possible to be in every club, attend every speaker event and enter every competition that takes my interest. But having too much choice isn’t the worst problem to have in the world, and I expect I’ll come to find that regular outbreaks of FOMO will simply remind me how lucky anyone going to London Business School actually is.

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The Case Method…

Posted by: Allen

The London Business School MBA often uses the ‘Case Method’ as the basis of its various units. Given this, one of my biggest questions before the MBA began was how exactly the Case Method would work in practice. Sure, I’d heard about it and seen video clips of classes being tutored using this approach. But what would it be like actually being a part of one of these lectures? How effective would they be? And how best to actually participate and contribute?

In case you haven’t come across the Case Method before, let me briefly explain what it involves. At the start of each unit (e.g. Strategy) we are given a binder containing the cases and additional reading for each lecture. Before each lecture everyone should have read the case in detail and summarised their thoughts (e.g. What are the key issues? How did management react? What should the CEO have done differently?). In class the lecturer will briefly introduce the case before posing a question to class based on the case, such as ‘Why was Honda’s entry to the US market so successful?’ Someone in the class will volunteer their thoughts, before someone else comments on that answer, builds on it or offers an alternative. The lecturer goes on to direct and chair the ensuing discussion, linking in to underlying academic theory as the class progresses.

In my opinion this method has so many benefits over the traditional book-based method of teaching business that I can’t possibly summarise all of them. But let me offer a few of the most important for me:

1) It’s more fun! Even as an accountant I find some of the more detailed parts of finance a little dull. But framing the topic as a case brings the subject to life. No longer are you learning what the optimal capital structure is for the sake of it, you’re trying to find the best way of funding the growth strategy for a new low-cost airline. You’re not trying to define what exactly a ‘competitive advantage’ is, you’re trying to find out how best Honda could secure an enduring position in the US motorcycle market.

2) It brings business back to reality. Having read more than my fair share of management books prior to London Business School ‘business’ had started to seem like quite an abstract, academic subject. The case method rapidly brings you back down to earth, reminding you that business involves real people being forced to make enormously important decisions often based on incomplete and/or poor quality information.

3) Cases allow you to benefit from the experience of others. How exactly would you have reacted to IBM’s entry to the personal computer market if you were Steve Jobs running Apple? What would have been your priorities if faced with turning around American Express in the early 90s? How do your answers compare to what decisions were actually made? Through this process you gain an insight into why business leaders of old decided on the choices they made. And, more than this, you get to benefit from listening and reacting to the views of your fellow classmates.

4) You practice articulating arguments clearly and concisely. No matter how brilliant or insightful , unless you’re able to clearly convey your ideas they’re likely to go nowhere. This is particularly important in business where the correct decision often needs to be made and executed quickly. The Case Method forces you to practice structuring your argument and conveying it clearly… how well I’m doing will become clear when I see my first class participation grade (did I forget to mention that we’re graded on the quality of our contributions in class?!)

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