MBA class creativity in full flow

29 September 2003

The vivid creative energies of the UCT Graduate School of Business' (GSB) 2003 full-time MBA class were on display at the school's Strategy Games Expo on Friday, 5 September. As part of their strategy course the students had to create strategy learning tools, transferring the theory and approaches learnt in the lecture theatre into board or computer games.

The results were innovative inventions that reflected the creative potential of the students, said MBA senior lecturer Jonathan Foster-Pedley.

Foster-Pedley, who assigned students the challenging and unusual task of creating the games, said that they had not disappointed him in their efforts.

"The games brought out their most creative elements. The inventions were of a remarkable standard and could be used to help companies clarify their strategic thinking and direction," he added.

The Expo provided an open forum for the students to present the fruits of their creative labours to a wider audience of visitors. On display were several unique consulting tools; games designed to teach (and test) strategy to executives, entrepreneurs and managers.

These included: Kingpin, an online multi-player game about share trading and involving strategy choice simulation; PLOTS, involving complex project tendering; Collusion, a game to balance co-operation and competition; Oligopoly, designed to illustrate the forces behind mergers and acquisitions; and Big Wave, which teaches the differences between innovative and planned strategy approaches. As a condition of the assignment, the games had to be playable and had to include elements of choice, chance, dilemma, and the structuring of complex ideas.

Students who did not fancy the games route, carried out a Strategy Angels programme, where separate teams worked with five companies, including IT start-ups, a mining company, a clothing company and a restaurant chain, to provide free strategy consultations. These companies reported getting "great value" from this programme and many have since implemented significant strategic shifts that draw directly on the students' work.

"The assignments form part of an ongoing research effort to understand innovation in strategic thinking and to advance teaching and learning methods at the GSB," Foster-Pedley said. "At the same time, they also help the students to internalise what they are learning. By having the students run consultations or create games that teach the principles of strategy, they first need to know the theory exceptionally well.

"Strategy is as much a creative art as a science and this helps the students practice 'out-of the-box' thinking. We get them to live the strategy, not just think it," he noted.

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