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Rotman Adventures!

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See you on the other site! www.kiransajwani.com

Whatcha doin’?  Methinks you’ve wandered over to the first iteration of my blog – I’ve transitioned over www.kiransajwani.com where you’ll find all my previous blog posts, and new ones too!

Come on!  Click on www.kiransajwani.com – and you can read some of my thoughts on Design Thinking, Golf, and even The Godfather! 😀

See you on the other site!

-Kiran.

The Adventure Continues…

ImageI started writing this blog – “MBA: Must Bring Adventure!” – as a way to chronicle my experiences during my MBA at the Rotman School of Management, and share my journey with family and friends.  My MBA culminated this summer, with a glorious graduation ceremony that had me grinning from ear to ear, surrounded by wonderful family and awesome friends, some watching and cheering for me from the other side of the world, as I finally achieved this long-held dream of mine.  While my MBA was nothing short of a terrific, high-adrenaline roller-coaster, I feel like the adventure has only just begun. Life’s too short to be just ho-hum; it deserves our best effort to bring an adventurous spirit as we charge ahead to leave our own mark on the world.  So, I intend to continue approaching each day as a new adventure, knowing not where it may lead me, but just that it deserves a creative, optimistic and determined spirit.  I intend to continue chronicling my adventures, and I hope you continue to join me on the road ahead…  🙂

To Sir, With Love

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite wrote him, Sidney Poitier played him, Lulu sang him… But are inspirational teachers like Mark Thackeray just confined to our books, our screens, and our stereos?  I’m very fortunate to say that I’ve come across some inspiring teachers and mentors, each one of them playing a role in spurring me on to greater heights.  Some of them appeared in the classroom, some in the boardroom, and some of them offered silent wisdom as they went along their way.  For me, most of them appeared in the hallways and classrooms of the Rotman School of Management, each one of them inspiring me to do better than I thought I could do, and one day hopefully, emulate their insight, foresight and wisdom.  But I wouldn’t have found myself at Rotman, learning from these amazing professors, had it not been for one particularly inspirational professor, Roger Martin.

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A few years ago, while searching for the future home of my MBA, I perused catalogs, websites, emails, blogs and videos, trying to find something that clicked with me, something that I could identify with, something that would spark my curiosity, and fuel my fire for learning and knowledge.  While Rotman was always in my top choices, it wasn’t until I saw a video of Dean Roger Martin at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF-5) Collaborative Innovation Summit in 2009, that Rotman became the only choice for me.  Professor Martin spoke of Rotman redefining business education from “narrow, shallow and static” to “broad, deep and dynamic,” and producing business professionals capable of handling today’s business problems, but also proactively tackling the wicked problems of tomorrow.  After watching that video, Rotman became my only choice, and suffice to say, I was deliriously happy when they sent me their acceptance letter about two and a half years ago.

Over the past two years at Rotman, I have not only acquired a strong foundation in business knowledge, but I have also been very fortunate to learn from some truly stellar professors, many of whom became mentors, as I navigated my way through this roller-coaster, each one of them providing unique insight that helped me along my way.  But I do owe Professor Martin a special nod of thanks.  Thanks to him, I found myself at Canada’s top business school; I understand the incredible value of Integrative Thinking; I discovered my passion and delight for Business Design; I find myself applying Human-Centered Design Thinking principles everywhere I go; I am yearning to tie up Strategy and Innovation in the challenges ahead; I am inspired by the academic pursuit of excellence; and I can’t wait to pay it back to my school.

After 15 impressive years as Dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin stepped down as Dean this summer, and took a leadership position at the Martin Prosperity Institute researching democratic capitalism.  Professor Martin, during your years as Dean, you have had innumerable incredible accomplishments that have elevated Rotman through the ranks.  However, I think your biggest accomplishments would be the impact you’ve left on your students; we’re better today than when we first walked through Rotman’s doors, discovering new skills and passions, and raring to tackle the world’s little and wicked problems.  And so, it is with utmost gratitude that we say, “To Sir, With Love.”

11,111 and counting… Thank You!

KS - MBA Blog

I started writing “MBA: Must Bring Adventure!” about 22 months ago, as a way for me to chronicle my MBA journey at the Rotman School of Management.  I’ve loved writing ever since I was a little girl, so this blog naturally became a happy place for me to share my thoughts… happy & sad, frustrated & excited, freezing & melting, bittersweet & joyous.  What I didn’t expect was so many people sharing my Rotman journey, through every reading, paper, report, project, presentation, along with endless cups of coffee.

Today, mustbringadventure.wordpress.com crossed 11,111 views!  That’s eleven thousand, one hundred, eleven views, and counting!  And for that, I thank you, each and every one of you! 😀

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

Rotman Design Challenge 2013

After experiencing what was undoubtedly one of the highlights of first year, with the Rotman Design Challenge 2012 (RDC 2012), I was determined to pay it forward when the 2013 edition came along.  While the competition itself only took place in March of this year, fervent preparations for RDC 2013 began in earnest shortly after our first year came to a close.  From pitching to prospective clients, to liaising with our competition sponsor, to liaising with generous partners, to scouting locations, to inviting judges, to inviting speakers, to developing learning program, to managing internal and external teams, to managing multiple communication channels, to finally putting together “one of the most awesome case competitions ever” (testimonial by an enthusiastic participant!), and I was very fortunate to be a part of the awesome team behind the magic.

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As the RDC Sponsor, Target challenged teams to find an innovative solution to, “How can Target leverage it’s ‘Expect More. Pay Less®’ brand promise and it’s mantra of ‘Design for All’ to become and be recognized as a leading company in sustainability?”  Our eager participants came from schools across Canada, United States and Europe (we went international in just our third year!), from Aalto University, California College of the Arts, Darden School of Business, IIT Institute of Design, Ivey School of Business, McCombs School of Business, Ontario College of Art & Design, Sauder School of Business, Sloan School of Management, and of course, the Rotman School of Management.  125 eager business designers fully immersed themselves in the challenge, using business and design techniques and frameworks, to create amazingly creative concepts inspired by unique user insights.  And their presentations resonated the words of our keynote speaker, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, offering a creative and “productive combination of analytical & intuitive thinking” to move the business world forward.  Innovation was the theme of the day, with Daniel Duty from Target saying how, “engaging with their guests and building brand love, requires constant innovation.”  Kate Heiny also offered words of wisdom for our eager participants, “Dream big, make it simple, make it look good, and you should be set!”

The Judges did not have an easy task as they deliberated extensively (timing one of the rooms was highly enlightening – so much wisdom & insight from our Judges!) to select the final 5 teams from IIT Design, OCAD, MIT Sloan and Rotman (It was a proud day for Rotmanites when two of their teams went into the final round!).  The final round judges had an even trickier task as they reviewed, questioned and debated, before awarding first place to ‘Team Meta’ from IIT Design, second place to ‘We Almost Forgot Our Passports’ from MIT Sloan, and third place to ‘P-Type’ from Rotman!  Yay!  😀  

The RDC was an incredibly exhausting, yet amazingly exciting experience, and I particularly enjoyed meeting with eager business designers from different schools.  In short, the RDC was like a design melting pot, where like-minded individuals came together, to share their curiosity, creativity, and commitment to innovation, and I can’t wait to see what the next year’s team has in store for Rotman and business design!

Puppy Therapy at Rotman!

Now that school’s out, I find myself with a little more time on my hands; going from full-time studying to full-time searching still takes up a significant amount of time, but with a little more free time than before.  It’s been really nice to spend time with understanding family members I barely saw during my program, catch up with friends for reasons other than group projects & deliverables, get back to cooking for joy & health rather than speed & convenience, get back to working out without worrying it cutting into my study time, read a book not because it related to a course, see a movie without worrying about a paper that’s due in a couple of hours, and just take leisurely walks through the neighborhood with my camera and take in everything.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Rotman, and it’s been an incredible roller-coaster ride that I’ve enjoyed completely… but sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy a less manic pace too! 🙂

KS with Stevie, Therapy Dog

It was on one of these neighborhood strolls that I came across an adorable little puppy that took me straight back to Rotman.  During a particularly stressful period at Rotman, with exam season just around the corner, the Graduate Business Council and the Rotman Health & Wellness Association brought in Stevie, a St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog.  An adorable little 4-year-old female miniature poodle, Stevie loves to cuddle, meeting new people, and playing tug-of-war with her very soggy chew toy!  Although the Puppy Therapy didn’t last very long, the after-effects lasted quite a while… I had a relaxed smile on my face for the rest of the day, and I was constantly lighting up with glee around puppies & dogs for a good few days after Rotman’s Puppy Therapy session. 😀

Spring Term Marathon with Strategy & Design!

It’s a little bittersweet writing this post…  It’s taken me a little while to write it, because it marks the end of my MBA courses here at Rotman, and it’s a little overwhelming to think about this chapter coming to a close.  It’s exciting to be finally crossing the finish line, but the last two years have gone by so fast, it feels happy & sad all at the same time.  I’ve met some amazing friends here at Rotman, been part of some awesome club events, learnt from some brilliant professors, and been guided along this entire process with Rotman’s cheery staff!  In some ways, my second year felt like a marathon, right down to the finish line, with so much to do, so much to learn, and so little time!  The same goes for the courses I took during the Spring Term; intense, challenging & demanding, but stimulating, exciting & manageable.

Professor Geoffrey Leonardelli takes you into the challenges of designing, managing and leading teams in “Leading Teams.”  With the view that teams work better than individuals, and companies shifting from one-man shows to collaborative group structures, the course aimed at helping us identify gaps in team dynamics, and turn them into opportunities to optimize team performance, particularly given the growing prevalence of cross-functional teams.  While the course offered a number of simulations and exercises to put into practice the theory that was being discussed, I think the most practical application may have been the team project.  It challenged us to act as consultants where we would identify a client, analyze its team’s interactions, and based on our analysis of their team dynamics, make recommendations aimed at improving their team cohesion and building their leadership.  Working on a live case for a live client, with a new team, touched upon almost every element of the course, and really put it into practice.

KS - CorpStrat Team

Professor Ajay Agrawal takes you into the analysis and challenges of corporate or multibusiness level strategy in “Corporate Strategy.”  The course aimed at moving from competitive advantage to corporate strategy, the boundaries and structure of firms, using size to exploit increasing returns with extreme competition, the strategic advantage of being small, the Innovator’s Dilemma, and the role of humanity in strategy.  While the Professor covered all the aspects expected from a Corporate Strategy, he certainly upped the ante, with a visit to the TSO to understand multi-stakeholder corporate strategy in the Arts, a visit by Reza Satchu with candid, insightfuls lesson in entrepreneurship, and a case analysis project that had us pull out all the stops to convince a board of directors to purse our proposed course of action rather than our competing team’s recommendation.  He pushed us, challenged us, and demanded more of us, and I think it’s because he believes we’re capable of so much more than what we do now… while I did utter an audible sigh of relief when this course was over, I’m going to miss his demanding, insightful tutelage.

Professor Heather Fraser takes you through a practical journey of understanding, practicing, applying and imbibing design thinking in “Business Design Practicum.”  While the course covers why design thinking is important to growth and success, and what frameworks and tools can accelerate the innovation and business design process, the best part of the course was how do we apply those principles and tools to the creation of innovative solutions and new business models, through an end-to-end business design project, collaborating with design students from OCAD, for our live client, SAP.  SAP called for an exploration of the Future of Work, with a user-centric approach into how might we help utility workers better serve their customers in the future.  The project itself was almost like a cake, with business and design forming layers of cake and ganache, and feedback from SAP and industry professionals forming the icing on top…  All in all, an exciting experience I was happy to sink my teeth into!

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You might have gathered by now that I’m a Roger Martin fan.  I picked Rotman as the home of my MBA education after hearing Roger Martin speaking about Rotman’s approach to business education, at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF-5), and I loved his course during first year on “Integrative Thinking Practicum.”  So when an Independent Study Opportunity on Business Design arose, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.  Professor Roger Martin, with Mark Leung and Stefanie Schram, guided us as we tackled the user experience challenges of a home healthcare organization with a Business Design Consulting Engagement.  It involved expanding our skillset in Business Design, in terms of ethnographic research, prototyping and business modeling skills, and enabled us to apply a structured innovation methodology to a live project.  Challenging, exciting, demanding, and insightful, the Business Design Consulting Engagement was an incredible opportunity to learn more about and take a practical approach to the practice of business design, and the response and feedback from our presentations to the client and Dean Roger Martin were particularly insightful.  It was a splendid way to wrap up my Rotman MBA, by presenting to the Dean of the school who inspired me to come to this school, and spark this incredible journey of learning about strategy, innovation and business design, and hopefully continuing to practice in my professional life ahead.

So, that’s my view on the courses I took in the Spring Term. Although they were definitely challenging, they were eye-opening in trying to expand my views, exploring different avenues in solving problems, and I particularly enjoyed the live case opportunities.  It feels a little odd to have this roller-coaster come to a close, but what an awesome ride it’s been!  Take care, and talk soon! 😀

Business Design Hackathon

There are many reasons why the Rotman MBA is an awesome experience, but I think one of the key reasons is because it teaches you to think and do.  It’s not enough to just learn something helpful and new, if you don’t know how to put it into practice.

With that in mind, Rotman DesignWorks hosted its first ever Business Design Hackathon, and they got things off to a creative start with students submitting 60-second video pitches applying to be a part of this challenge.  
Over the course of three days spread out over two weeks, we used design thinking principles to solve a live problem for the Rotman Marketing Team.  The overall challenge pertained to, “How might we redesign the digital student experience at Rotman?” covering three different areas – Internal Communications, Ambient Experience, and Non-Academic Student Culture.  Our team tackled the Ambient (Physical) Experience, with the more focused challenge of, “How might we help students be more informed when it comes to initiatives on the Rotman campus?”  We went out and interviewed students in the full-time and part-time programs, to gain deeper insights into their views on learning about school initiatives, good & bad experiences, and the role of different technologies in their lives.  The helpful creatives at DesignWorks helped us to synthesize our findings, journey map, ideate and prototype, although just when you think you’re done, it’s time to iterate!  While iterations can be mildly frustrating, they’re inherent as part of the business design process, and are stepping stones on the way to helping you build better, more effective & relevant solutions.  We capped off this experience by presenting our multi-faceted proposed solution, the Rotman Huddle, to the Rotman Marketing Team and other Senior Rotman Directors.  Here’s a peek at our solution’s intro!

The Business Design Hackathon was a great way to combine my passion, energy and curiosity, with a collaborative, experimental mindset, to gain practice in applying the principles of Business Design, and have some good fun along the way!

Winter Intensive Insights

You know it’s been busy when a post on a Winter Intensive course comes just when Spring begins!  I am 33 days away from my last deliverable of my MBA here at Rotman, and it’s still pretty hectic!  Whoever said Second Year is a breeze needs to take their heads out of their textbooks!  If all you’re doing in Second Year is courses, then of course, it’s more manageable.  However, if you’re anything like the ambitious, proactive, dedicated students of the Rotman community, you tend to get involved in a lot more than academics – there’s club leadership responsibilities, club activities, extra-curricular engagements, and lots of networking – all while trying to balance home, school, and the job hunt.

However, as crazy, hectic & exhausting as it is, I truly love it.  And in 86 days, when I walk across the graduation stage, I’m going to miss it even more.  It’s exciting to be coming so close, but it’s also bittersweet.  More than ever before, I value and treasure every experience that’s been happening so far, because I know it’s probably the last time I’ll get to do it.  I want to take it all in, and embrace it completely.  That’s how I approached my Winter Intensive course – Getting It Done – with Professors Brendan Calder & Dr. John O’Dwyer.

KS with Brendan Calder, Dr. John O'Dwyer & Billy AndersonAside from the numerous positive reviews I’d received from my Upper Years (now class of 2012), the fact that it’s limited to 25 people only every year with a strong ‘Getting It Done’ Alumni Network, the Pre-Course Meet & Greet Social, its focus on Integrative Thinking, and the insightful interactions I’d had with the two Professors, one of the key factors that drew me to this course was the fact that it was “a doing course and not a memorizing course.”  Getting It Done synthesized the knowledge and teachings from Peter Drucker, William Reddin and Michael Kami, and tailored them to help us become better knowledge workers, who go beyond just efficiency with doing things right, and instead embrace effectiveness with “getting the right things done.”  The tag team of our two Professors – Brendan Calder & Dr. John O’Dwyer – took us through management tools and methods that would link the practices of strategic planning, business planning, managing for results, and continuous improvement, and use it for personal, professional and organizational management and leadership.  We weren’t just learning, we were doing something about that learning too – our amazing group took all the insights from the course, and applied them on a daily basis to a management simulation based on running a beach resort.  I firmly believe it worked – our group took First Place in the simulation!  On a side note, after returning from spending the winter break in tropical climates, a simulation based on a tropical beach resort, while it was ruddy cold and snowing outside, seemed a tad bit ironic and cheeky! 😛  Alongside the content, exercises and simulation, we also had some insightful speakers, who shared their thoughts and experiences around improving our personal effectiveness, integrating the tools into our teams, making our management styles more effective, continuous improvement, and even courage.  Given that this course was designed to help us improve our individual effectiveness, which as such relates to human behavior, it would be unreasonable to expect instantaneous results.  However, with regular practice and application of some of the tools over the past couple of weeks, I do find myself being more effective with my time and efforts.  Practice it until you perfect it, then practice it more until it becomes a habit, then go learn something new, and then practice and repeat! 🙂

Earlier, I mentioned that the non-memorizing, doing aspect of the course drew me to it.  I didn’t want to just learn something, I wanted to take that learning, and do something with it, which is what I believe most of my classmates are aiming to do… take their MBA, and do something amazing with it!  I’ve long believed that merely memorizing copious amounts of notes, swallowing textbooks, and regurgitating them in a 2 hour exam is counter-intuitive to real learning; it does nothing to measure your comprehension and application, but merely tests your powers of memorization.  And if, like me, you end up with headaches during the cold, well, there goes all that memorization!  (I’ve come to accept that Canada has cold weather, however, my body still yearns for warmer weather!)  I’m really fortunate to be taking courses this year that are testing how I apply what I’ve learnt on real, live problems, rather than how much do I remember of what I hope I’ve learnt.  In my many years of professional experience, never once did I have a manager ask me to fix a huge problem within two hours without any available resources.  I firmly believe, and I’m not alone in that belief, that the effective utilization of education is the application of that knowledge in ways that benefit individuals, organizations and society, not how much you can memorize and regurgitate.  Education is meant to be impactful, not bulimic, and it disappoints me when people judge you solely on the basis of your test or exam scores, rather than all your other wonderful accomplishments or your incredible potential.  Go ahead, be impactful, make your mark on the world, and believe in your amazing possibilities! 🙂

Halfway Through Second Year!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and although it’s been a little quiet on the blog front, it’s been really quite hectic behind the scenes. The first half of December was occupied with wrapping up the Fall Semester, then the second half of December was occupied with an exhaustingly good trip, then the first half of January was occupied with a fantastic Winter Intensive Course, and now, the Spring Semester is off to a snowy start!

While there will be more posts to follow on the events of late December onwards, let me get to the subject line… Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in mid-December 2012, I completed half of my Second Year, which officially had me at 75% done with my MBA! That’s an exciting, but scary thought… I really only have a couple more months of school until I’m out of here? But I really like school!

Being in Second Year has its perks… You’ve gotten used to the pace of the intensive MBA program and all its components, you’ve settled in to the city, you’ve figured out all the shortcuts to school, and you’ve figured out where’s the best place to give in to your cookie cravings! That said, it’s still pretty hectic & intense, but it’s just more manageable. The same goes for the courses I took during the Fall Term; intense, challenging & demanding, but stimulating, exciting & manageable.

Professor Brian Golden takes you into the challenges that prevail after you’ve planned that grand strategy in “Strategic Change & Implementation.” Given people’s natural resistance to change, part of me wondered if it was actually possible to teach people how do they implement strategic changes. We were taken through a variety of cases which illustrated leadership, alignment, strategy, structure, systems, influencing change, knowledge management, and even storytelling. I also loved being exposed to these variety of concepts in a variety of forms, from your traditional business school cases & readings, to the Golden Bear Award-Winning “12 Angry Men,” to the entertaining “Jamie’s School Dinners.”

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Professor Nina Mazar takes you through the different aspects of human irrationality in “Behavioral Economics.” Unlike its much older brother – traditional economics – which explores the idea that people are “capable of making the right decisions” for themselves, Behavioral Economics explores “the (quite intuitive) idea that people do not always behave rationally and that they often make mistakes in their decisions.” I really enjoyed exploring how behavioral economics could be utilized to better understand the user, by better understanding their decisions related to options, choices, payments, fines, saving, commitment, behavior changes, reciprocity, morals, ethics, and dishonesty, and then applying that knowledge to two live cases. The highlight of the course was probably the Behavior Economics Fireside Chat we had with Professor Dan Ariely, one of the leading behavioral economists of our time, and it was fascinating to hear about his experiments, and his discoveries about “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.”

Professor Alexander Manu takes you into a completely different direction with “Innovation, Foresight & Business Design.” He challenges you to think outside the box, and use non-traditional approaches to solving unseen problems, or unidentified opportunities of the future. This class isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed learning about innovation as a behavior, foresight perspectives, new context mapping, disruption, behavior spaces, experience mapping, and using the ambiguity in the world around us, to find and capitalize on its hidden opportunities. Our group – ‘The Itty-Bitty, Farm and City, Witty Ditty, Nitty-Gritty, Dog and Kitty, Pretty Little Kiddy Show’ – took our learnings through a three-phased process of Discovery, Expansion, and Application, eventually culminating with a business pitch for our idea.

So, that’s my view on the courses I took in the Fall Term. Although they were definitely challenging, they were eye-opening in trying to expand my views, and exploring different avenues in solving problems and capturing opportunities. Stay tuned for my next post, where I cover the Winter Intensive Term! Take care, and stay clear of the snowstorms!

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