Thursday, October 8, 2009

MORS-430: The Swiss Army Knife of Kellogg Classes?

I occasionally (read rarely) get questions from folks that happen to stumble onto the blog. Personally, I love it! I choose to write about things that I think are interesting about grad school, but I know that you all may be seeking first-hand information about a completely different aspect of the Kellogg experience. I appreciate that, because until recently I was in the same boat, so I strive to respond to those questions within 24 hours with an honest answer from a slightly biased viewpoint (I am still a Kellogg student after all).

I normally won't put email questions or responses up on the blog, but I thought this last one was general enough to provide good info to anyone on the outside looking in. In addition, it touched on the value of soft skills, a topic that was mentioned by Robert Macdonald, the CEO of Proctor&Gamble (that my friends, is a namedrop), during a presentation on leadership today when he urged us to focus on building those skills in grad school.

The question was whether or not the compressed class that we take during orientation (MORS-430: Leadership in Organizations) is the most useful class at Kellogg. Obviously, I've only spent 3 weeks in a handful of classes at this point, so keep the following in perspective.
At Kellogg, there are good professors, not-so-good professors, and then ROCKSTAR professors. The rockstars are amazing and really make a difference in the classroom.

For the Leadership in Organizations course, it looks like they brought out their rockstars, and that really enhanced the entire experience. I had Professor Medvec, who is a renowned expert in Negotiations, which was a key component of the course. The course lasted 12 days, and every class was 3 hours long (2x as long as standard classes). During that time, we covered 5 primary topics: Decision Making, Managing Teams, Negotiation, Social Capital (personal networks), and Leading Change in Organizations. We used case discussions, simulations, movies, readings, and lectures to cover all of the material, which was interesting and in some cases eye-opening (particularly decision making biases and teamwork pitfalls). I still can't say if it will be the most useful course that I take during my two years here, but it was extremely important. The topics that we discussed seem to underpin a lot of major business interactions and are rather crucial to teamwork at Kellogg. In addition, several of the concepts have already been reinforced in our other classes. Overall, the class was a very fun and demanding way to begin grad school.
As I mentioned above, the class was a lot of fun and covered some really interesting topics. For example, during the Negotiations portion, we split off into teams of 3 and spent an hour negotiating with another team in the context of 2 companies trying to agree on the terms of a partnership. Each team was given unique information about their priorities going into the negotiations, and you received points at the end based on how many of your key items you ended up getting. We had already discussed some basic Negotiations strategies, including Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers (MESOs - Prof Medvec came up with this, and she swears by it), which we were expected to utilize. The best part of the exercise was afterward in class, when everyone wrote up their cumulative points on the board. Some teams that thought they had done fairly well actually got logrolled in the end, coming away with pretty bad deals.

After finishing the course, I became much more interested in the MORS (Management of Organizations) department, which specializes in soft skills topics, but I still don't know if I'll end up fitting anymore classes from their catalog into my schedule.

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