The Action Learning Project at Hult International Business School is an academic/industry partnership. The program allows students to sharpen their management skills by solving practical business problems defined by participating client organizations.
BAE Systems is one of the five participating client organizations invited for Hult's Action Learning Project this year, alongside with IBM, Sylvania, HIS/CERA and Imaginatik.
A few months ago, Dr. Hitendra Patel, professor of Innovation and Growth at Hult International Business School, approached Larrie Cable, Vice President of E&IS' Innovation & Growth Initiatives (I&GI), about Hult's Action Learning Project. Dr. Patel described the project as follows:
"The Hult Action Learning Program integrates classroom teaching with real-life situations. We focus on 'learning by doing' not simply sitting in a classroom, but actually going out in the real world and applying the tools and concepts to real business situations. Theory is taught in the classroom through lectures and required readings. The theory is put to test in real-life situations through case studies of actual business problems and business simulations. An integral part of our curriculum is the Action Learning Project, which gives students a chance to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom as part of a small team focused on solving a current business problem for a real company."
There were four or five independent student teams per company with four to five students per team. Each host company had a student advisor and Hult faculty member to guide their assigned teams through the process. The project began on June 23rd and ended on August 12th, during the final module of the MBA program.
The expected deliverables for each student team included:
- A Business Opportunity Map, with key trends and events impacting the host company.
- Generation of four to five exciting and compelling new "Fields-of-Play" (a "Field-of-Play" is an opportunity area within a market as defined by the industry. A "Field-of-Play" is composed of a range of related business concepts which combine together to offer an overall opportunity that is greater than $10 billion dollars).
- Generation of three to five business concepts for a selected Field-of-Play.
- Developing and presenting one implementation plan per team based on the most viable business concept selected by each of the Hult student teams.
BAE Systems was assigned four teams of five students each. On three occasions during the program, Larrie Cable and Steve Jarry from E&IS' I&GI met with the student teams at their school in Cambridge, MA. The students began their project with virtually no knowledge of BAE Systems' technology, applications or markets. The teams developed their understanding of the company's capabilities through web searches, an overview brief and public domain information. Larrie's and Steve's responsibilities included answering questions regarding reasonableness of concepts or envisioned technology and potential desirability of concept application. In addition, they were requested to provide recommendations to each team for improvement in their analysis and presentation techniques as they generated and honed their concepts.
For the fourth and final meeting, the twenty MBA students came to BAE Systems' South Nashua headquarters on August 12 to brief members of E&IS' Business Development Team on possible collaborative ideas, demonstrating extensive understanding of the application of their selected technologies to generate innovative and compelling concepts for E&IS to pursue.
Throughout the process, the students received input from a client's perspective to further enhance their hands-on learning experience. The students quickly came together as extremely diversified and effective teams. Many of the innovative concepts presented were "outside of the box" of ideas generated during our internal Strategic Thinking Workshops. The next steps are to determine which of their presented concepts will be pursued as new business opportunities for BAE Systems.
"We were confident that offering clients teams of students from diverse backgrounds, trained on the IXL innovation methodology, supported by world-class mentors/consultants like Ron Jonash, and genuine commitment from clients would achieve great results. Our students are professional, composed and courteous in appearance and presentation, and clients are amazed by the unique global insights provided by them. Healthy competition between the teams led to great results. The teams came up with growth ideas that validated existing projects in the company and advanced the thinking on existing initiatives." said Dr. Patel.
Larrie Cable made his comment on the program, "The opportunity to be one of the corporate sponsors for this year's Action Learning Program at Hult was truly a win-win opportunity for both the MBA students and for BAE SYSTEMS. In addition to the benefit of having teams of intelligent, innovative and motivated MBA students use their diverse backgrounds and experience to evaluate and propose Fields of Play from which we can build potential future areas of pursuit; created from perspectives widely differing from those of us within the traditional Defense Industry, this opportunity gave BAE SYSTEMS another chance to demonstrate to future business leaders our diverse technologies, programs and products, and commitment to protecting what really matters for the citizens of our home markets throughout the world."
Mr. Cable has been developing the E&IS' I&GI since the beginning of this year. Although this new endeavor is still in development mode, and I&GI charter has not yet been formally advertised to the BAE Systems workforce, many innovative concepts have already found their way to the I&GI Team for review, development and presentation to the OG Board of Directors. One of the concepts has been approved by the BOD for completion of its business plan and preparation for the initiatives first year's execution. Over the next few weeks, more information related to how to submit your innovative concepts, or be part of a new start-up business, will be made available.