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Sep 13

Homemade MBA Curriculum – Choosing my ‘hMBA’ Courses

In my previous post about my homemade MBA plan, I showed a Gantt chart of my homemade MBA curriculum.  This is a great way to visualize my plan, but not the best way to explain why I chose the courses I did.  This post will go through a description of each course I am taking, and why I chose it.

 

My homemade MBA curriculum was designed to mirror Harvard Business School’s (HBS) first year – called the Required Curriculum.  This is the core set of business classes that lay the foundation of any good business education.

 

The HBS Required Curriculum consists of the following courses:

  • Finance 1
  • Financial Reporting and Control
  • Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • Marketing
  • Technology and Operations Management
  • Business, Government, and the International Economy
  • Strategy
  • The Entrepreneurial Manager
  • Finance 2
  • Leadership and Corporate Accountability
  • FIELD 1: Leadership, FIELD 2: Global, and FIELD 3: Integrative

 

Taking a closer look at each of these classes, the course descriptions give us a better idea of what each class is all about:

Finance 1

  • This course examines the role of finance in supporting the functional areas of a firm, and fosters an understanding of how financial decisions themselves can create value.

Financial Reporting and Control

  • Recognizing that accounting is the primary channel for communicating information about the economics of a business, this course provides a broad view of how accounting contributes to an organization.

Leadership and Organizational Behavior

  • This course focuses on how managers become effective leaders by addressing the human side of enterprise.

Marketing

  • The objectives of this course are to demonstrate the role of marketing in the company; to explore the relationship of marketing to other functions; and to show how effective marketing builds on a thorough understanding of buyer behavior to create value for customers.

Technology and Operations Management

  • This course enables students to develop the skills and concepts needed to ensure the ongoing contribution of a firm’s operations to its competitive position. It helps them to understand the complex processes underlying the development and manufacture of products as well as the creation and delivery of services.

Business, Government, and the International Economy

  • This course introduces tools for studying the economic environment of business to help managers understand the implications for their companies.

Strategy

  • The objective of this course is to help students develop the skills for formulating strategy. It provides an understanding of: A firm’s operative environment and how to sustain competitive advantage, how to generate superior value for customers by designing the optimum configuration of the product mix and functional activities, and how to balance the opportunities and risks associated with dynamic and uncertain changes in industry attractiveness and competitive position.

The Entrepreneurial Manager

  • This course addresses the issues faced by managers who wish to turn opportunity into viable organizations that create value, and empowers students to develop their own approaches, guidelines, and skills for being entrepreneurial managers.

Finance 2

  • This course builds on the foundation developed in Finance I, focusing on three sets of managerial decisions: How to evaluate complex investments, How to set and execute financial policies within a firm, How to integrate the many financial decisions faced by firms.

Leadership and Corporate Accountability

  • In this course, students learn about the complex responsibilities facing business leaders today. Through cases about difficult managerial decisions, the course examines the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of corporate leaders. It also teaches students about management and governance systems leaders can use to promote responsible conduct by companies and their employees, and shows how personal values can play a critical role in effective leadership.

FIELD 1: Leadership, FIELD 2: Global, and FIELD 3: Integrative

  • FIELD 1 – Leadership Intelligence: FIELD Foundations engages small teams in interactive workshops—held in new flexible classrooms called “hives”—that reshape how students think, act, and see themselves. Through team feedback and self-reflection, participants deepen their emotional intelligence and develop a growing awareness of their own leadership styles.
  • FIELD 2 – Global Intelligence: FIELD 2 immerses student teams in emerging markets, requiring them to develop a new product or service concept for global partner organizations around the world.
  • FIELD 3 – Integrative Intelligence: FIELD 3 brings the entire first-year experience together by challenging students to synthesize the knowledge, skills, and tools acquired in the RC within a real microbusiness they must design and launch themselves.

 

Ok, so now we know what a first-year MBA is expected to learn at HBS.  I did a quick look at the core curriculum requirements of Wharton and Stanford, and they are pretty similar, so I’m confident that this is a good set of classes to use for my homemade MBA.

 

Now, as I mentioned previously, I think that coursework is the best way to learn; thus, I set out to find the above business classes available online for free.  This search quickly lead me to Coursera – one of the leading Massive Open Online Course providers.

 

On Coursera, I found the following free classes from world-class business schools:

  • Introduction to Corporate Finance
  • Introduction to Financial Accounting
  • International Organizations Management
  • Introduction to Marketing
  • Introduction to Operations Management
  • Globalization and You
  • Foundations of Business Strategy
  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Markets
  • Critical Perspectives on Management

 

This list matches up almost perfectly to HBS’s Required Curriculum, as you can see here in my homemade MBA curriculum table.

 

However, one needs to look beyond just the course title to see if these classes are teaching the same concepts as HBS’.  So, here are the course descriptions, straight from Coursera:

 

Introduction to Corporate Finance

  • Parent University: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series (more on this series later) This course serves as an introduction to business finance (corporate financial management and investments) for graduate level business school students preparing for upper-level course work. The primary objective is to provide a framework, concepts, and tools for analyzing financial decisions based on fundamental principles of modern financial theory.

Introduction to Financial Accounting

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, the course is designed to provide an understanding of financial accounting fundamentals for prospective users of corporate financial information, such as investors, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers).   The course focuses on understanding how economic events such as operating activities, corporate investments, and financing transactions are recorded in the three main financial statements (i.e., the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows). Students will develop the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis.  Students will also learn how accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the financial reporting process.

International Organizations Management

  • Parent University:  University of Geneva
  • Description: This course provides an overview of the management challenges international organizations & NGOs are faced with. You will learn key theoretical frameworks and practical tools to excel in this environment

Introduction to Marketing

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, this course is part of the Wharton MBA foundation series in the MOOC format. It is taught by three of Wharton’s top faculty in the marketing department, which is consistently ranked as the #1 marketing department in the world. This course features on-location videos and debates between the three professors. The three core topics focus on customer loyalty. The first is about branding: given a very disparate world in which new startups are emerging constantly, brand equity is one of the key elements of keeping customers so that they have a trusted source for their needs. The second topic is customer centricity, which is taught in a global context where students learn how to gather needs and focus on the customer via discussion forums and empirical examples which are advanced by the mix of cultures in the course. Finally, the course explores practical, go-to-market strategies to help students understand the drivers that influence customers and see how these are implemented prior to making an investment.

Introduction to Operations Management

  • Parent University:  University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
  • Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, this course will teach you how to analyze and improve business processes, be it in services or in manufacturing. You will learn how to improve productivity, how to provide more choice to customers, how to reduce response times, and how to improve quality.

Globalization and You

  • Parent University:  University of Washington
  • Description: This course offers an evidence-based analysis of globalization that addresses what is happening to us personally as well as economically amidst the market-led processes of global integration.

Foundations of Business Strategy

  • Parent University:  University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
  • Description: In this course, we will explore the underlying theory and frameworks that provide the foundations of a successful business strategy. We will develop your ability to think strategically by providing you the tools for conducting a strategic analysis. Strategic analysis is critical for analyzing the competitive context in which an organization operates and for making reasoned and reasonable recommendations for how that organization should position itself and what actions it should take to maximize value creation. Aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, analysts, and consultants all may find value in mastering these fundamentals.

Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship

  • Parent University:  University of Maryland
  • Description: Explore how to identify and develop great ideas into great companies. Learn how to identify opportunities based on real customer needs. Develop solid business models. Create successful companies.

Financial Markets

  • Parent University:  Yale University – School of Management
  • Description: Financial institutions are a pillar of civilized society, supporting people in their productive ventures and managing the economic risks they take on. The workings of these institutions are important to comprehend if we are to predict their actions today and their evolution in the coming information age. The course strives to offer understanding of the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths and imperfections of such institutions as banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, and the future of these institutions over the next century.

Critical Perspectives on Management

  • Parent University:  IE Business School
  • Description: Innovative management and inspired leadership need more than rules and knowledge: imagination, creativity and lateral thinking are also integral. This class offers students the opportunity to consider different ways to ask questions, ponder problems, discover opportunities and explore key concepts that inform the contemporary practice of management.

 

As you can see, this is a match made in heaven.  The course descriptions match extremely well, and the universities offering these courses are extremely reputable.  I’m sure you noticed that 7 of the 12 courses here are offered by business schools that are internationally recognized as being top tier business schools.  Did I mention this is free?  Incredible.

 

One slight omission

Astute readers will find that there is one obvious omission from my homemade MBA curriculum – The Harvard FIELD classes.

 

I don’t have FIELD classes, or their equivalents, included in my homemade MBA curriculum because there is no need.  As a person working in the real world, I live and breath “FIELD” everyday.  Here is how I get the same “experiential learning” from each FIELD class at my normal job:

FIELD 1 – Leadership

  • FIELD 1 at HBS – Leadership Intelligence: FIELD Foundations engages small teams in interactive workshops—held in new flexible classrooms called “hives”—that reshape how students think, act, and see themselves. Through team feedback and self-reflection, participants deepen their emotional intelligence and develop a growing awareness of their own leadership styles.
  • FIELD 1 at work – I am a member of a small team, as are most people in most jobs, in my daily work.  I also am a member of multiple, short-term small teams as projects pop up that I work on.  The difference here is that I am developing an awareness of my leadership style and emotional intelligence at work, doing real things.  Whereas, an MBA student will be developing their leadership styles and emotional intelligence in a simulated work environment, doing simulated things.  I’d prefer my method.  “But, there’s no professor guiding you!” you might say.  No, but there is a boss.  And a boss has a lot fewer students to interact with, and more at stake than just a grade.

FIELD 2 – Global Intelligence

  • FIELD 2 at HBS – FIELD 2 immerses student teams in emerging markets, requiring them to develop a new product or service concept for global partner organizations around the world.
  • FIELD 2 at work – This one depends on your company, but is an easy one for me.  Those of us fortunate enough to work for large, multi-national companies with employees all over the world are lousy with global intelligence.  If you seek it out, you can get real-life experiences in almost any market.  For example, I worked on a project in Hong Kong for six months.  This was a great introduction to Asian culture, and an opportunity to travel around the region.  I am currently on a 2-year assignment in Norway; a great way to learn about the Scandinavian way of life, and see some of Europe in the process.  I would argue that spending a week in an emerging market putting together a PowerPoint for a company will garner you less global intelligence than the opportunities available to employees of large organizations.  For those of you at small firms, or with no international opportunities in sight – why not seek employment at a company that does have such opportunities?  The world is a big place, and you will become more culturally savvy – not to mention more marketable – with a little international experience under your belt.

FIELD 3 – Integrative Intelligence

  • FIELD 3 at HBS – FIELD 3 brings the entire first-year experience together by challenging students to synthesize the knowledge, skills, and tools acquired in the RC within a real microbusiness they must design and launch themselves.
  • FIELD 3 at work – Ok, so this isn’t the exact same at work.  Instead of designing and launching a microbusiness, we tend to do projects.  A good substitute for FIELD 3 would be to lead a multi-disciplinary team project.  Through leading a team with people from different functions – e.g. Sales, Engineering, Finance, HR, Marketing, etc. – you will get a similar “synthesizing” of knowledge, skills, and tools required to accomplish something at work.  The nature of your specific project will determine how similar your experience is to the HBS students in FIELD 3.

 

So, there you have it.  The content of my homemade MBA is a pretty close match to the core material of a Harvard MBA.  It is heavily dependent on Coursera, (maybe it should be called the Coursera MBA?) but I view this as a strength and not a weakness as Coursera is awesome at free online classes.

 

I’d like to know what you think of my approach.  Leave a comment below if you think this is great, think it’s ridiculous, or think it’s somewhere in between.  I’m also curious to hear if any of you are doing something similar – what was your approach?

5 comments

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  1. Jonathan

    I note that you have based your course plan on the first year of the Harvard MBA. Have you given much thought as to how you will approach the elective-based second year?

    1. homemadeMBA

      Hi, Jonathan. Indeed, I have thought about the second year elective curriculum at Harvard (and other top MBA programs). My conclusion is relatively simple – I don’t really need it.

      Why not? The elective curriculum, the second year of most MBA programs, is really more about developing a specific skill set in order to transition out of business school and into your career of choice. In other words, you customize your elective curriculum to hone in on your dream job/industry. Being that I am currently working at (more or less) my dream job, I don’t find the 2nd-year elective curriculum to be of much benefit to me or to my Homemade MBA project.

      Do you think that makes sense, or am I missing something?

      Thanks for the comment, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

      1. Jonathan

        It certainly makes sense, and i am in a similar position where I think my own work experience will supplement the formal courses. I suppose, just as a theoretical exercise, I was thinking of what avenues someone who wasn’t necessarily already in the workforce could use to gain that knowledge/experience.

        Having a look at the courses available on Coursera, I am thinking that things like some of the Law subjects would be an interesting elective. I am actually thinking of doing English Common Law, as it is the basis for the legal system here in Australia. I must say, I have noticed a distinct lack of any Human Resources related courses.

        1. homemadeMBA

          That’s true – there is a bit of a gap in Human Resources-related courses. I also agree that taking some kind of basic law class is a good idea.

          1. Jonathan

            I’ve been thinking a bit more about this as I have been further refining my own homemadeMBA. The elective year provides an opportunity for “depth (of experience), breadth, or both”. The elective component of the Harvard MBA is 10 units, from an available 120 units across 10 subject areas. This seemed like a lot of potential knowledge and experience to be gained.

            For me, I will certainly get depth of experience from my current work. However, I figure that I would have gotten that anyway, whether I was doing a Harvard MBA, my homemadeMBA or no MBA.

            Given the sheer number of courses available on Coursera alone, there is certainly plenty of scope to develop an elective year curriculum for either depth, breadth or combination of both.

            While my first year curriculum is fairly similar to yours (with a few substitutions), I decided to do a bit of a combination approach for the elective year, albeit skewed towards a breadth approach. There are two Harvard courses that I am currently looking at that I am yet to find a Coursera equivalent for. Hopefully, by the time I get towards the tail end of all the rest of the courses, there will be appropriate courses availible.

            My current curriculum for the elective year is as follows:

            Harvard MBA -> homemadeMBA

            Design Thinking and Innovation -> Design Thinking for Innovation – Darden
            The Arts of Communication -> Introduction to Public Speaking – Washington
            Legal Aspects of Management -> English Common Law: Structure and Principles -London
            The Moral Leader -> Unethical Decision Making in Organizations – Lausane (or) On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Great Philosophers – École
            Innovating in Health Care -> Innovating in Health Care – Harvard (available on edX) (or) Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Duke
            Enterprise Risk Management: Strategy and Leadership in the face of Large-Scale Uncertainties -> Organisational Analysis – Stanford
            Creating the Modern Financial System -> Generating the Wealth of Nations – Melbourne
            Role of Government in Market Economies -> Understanding economic policymaking – IE
            The Board of Directors and Corporate Governance -> ??
            Negotiation -> ??

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