McGill University professor of Management, Henry Mintzberg, questions how well one can learn the art, science, and practice of management simply by taking an MBA course. To be a good manager, one needs to experience the theory in action.
Make no mistake, it is hard work to organize an experiential project and the class will encounter many challenges, roadblocks, and even conflicts. Welcome to the real world. It is also exiting as the outcome of the project is never certain. Good tactics, strategy, vision, and the use of technology tools is helpful, but patience and persistence might be more important.
Although there are many days when I wonder why I persist with these complex experiential projects, I believe the benefits to the students make it worthwhile as follows:
- Motivation. Nothing motivates students better than their peers. It is one thing to hand in work late to a teacher, but quite another when it affects your team.
- Critical Thinking. Students encounter problems, have to think of solutions, weigh options, and take action.
- Personal Development. Comments from your team members, the teacher, and others in the class provide real time feedback to improve your work and your self-knowledge.
- Teamwork. Working as a team, students experience the stages of team development by living it, feeling it, and seeing it. For example, students learn about the "storming" stage by experiencing the actual conflicts evident in this stage.
- Interpersonal Skills. Students learn to listen, communicate, deal with conflict, build consensus, and cooperate.
- Resume Building. Students will have interesting and authentic stories to share on a resume and in an interview.
- Success. Ultimately, working with others to achieve a common goal feels great and builds confidence.