A core part of the Harvard Business School MBA curriculum is FIELD, divided into 3 distinct parts;
FIELD 1 – Leadership Intelligence: An introspective classroom based-program focused on self-awareness.
FIELD 2 – Global Intelligence: A global immersion program, with a team-based project in an emerging economy.
FIELD 3 – Integrative Intelligence: Groups of 6 MBA first years are tasked with launching a microbusiness within the semester.
I’m not sure how I feel about the module names (?!), but click here for more information about: HBS FIELD.
In each section of FIELD, the emphasis is on ability for practical ‘doing’ skills, rather than knowledge-based learning. I’ll admit I was intrigued by the experience prior to HBS, and while many programs now offer some sort of ‘experiential learning component’ the effort and resources put into it by HBS did make it one of the more unique programs.
Most of the top schools offer some form of experiential learning, but I found it quite unusual to a) have it scheduled as part of the formal curriculum and also b) what this enables is to work in a group with your fellow students rather than an individual experience.
Instead most other schools focus on student-driven/optional programs which while giving greater flexibility inevitably offers a different type of experience – if it happens at all – due to all the other great things that are competing for your attention.
FIELD 2 takes place in the first year, with preparation in Cambridge and a placement in between the two semesters. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my time in Chengdu in China – not somewhere I was familiar with before my placement. While not a common tourist destination, it’s certainly somewhere interesting to visit from an academic point of view.
The course places you in a small team of 6 MBA students, assigned a project from a local company in your placement city and given a week to propose a solution. A significant portion of the week is dedicated to understanding the local market, tastes and preferences, ensuring mutual benefit for both team and company.
It’s been a fascinating week, and I was really lucky to be working with a social enterprise in startup community, which completely challenged my own preconceptions of business in China. Working with them led to a very different type of learning from just a tourist trip/b-school trek.
I also feel pretty pleased to have completed a small project that really seemed to influence our hosts, and changed the way they were thinking about a problem. They were more than happy to stay in touch and promised to share the results, which we will hopefully get to see soon!
For this semester, we are now on to the next part of the FIELD program, FIELD 3…