Designing an online MBA class
Since 2009, I’ve been giving a few times a year a class on business model design for the executive MBA students of Kedge Business School, in Marseille, Paris, and Shanghai. It’s usually a fully packed 3-day class where we discuss the difference between managers and leaders as the ones who are managing business as usual and the ones who are managing the real uncertainties behind the curtain. We share and learn to apply most of the practical tools I’ve been using for more than a decade as a consultant in strategic innovation and get very hands-on regarding the business projects participants will have post-MBA.
And like pretty much everyone giving MBA classes, I am in the process of switching this face-to-face traditional format to an online version. This means this is not going to be the same class at all and yet it has to bring the same deliverables. Quite an interesting challenge!
I’ve now fully redesigned the class and will record the online material in a few days. I thought it would be interesting to share the layout and my strategy to make it manageable from a distance.
The key idea that we used with Stéphanie with great success for previous online corporate training is to slice the 8 hours of every day that would have been done face-to-face, into 8 online modules of 30 min. And each of the 30 min modules is designed with recurring constraints:
- Keep it to only one key concept at a time.
- Challenge the initial mindset of the student with a memorable narrative.
- No more, no less than 3 examples with enough details to anchor the concept in reality.
- Keep it fresh and never use examples that are more than 5 years old, unless there is a specific reason. (Don’t talk about Apple or Kodak, unless very necessary.)
- Provide one tool or framework to clarify the concept and make it usable for a real business.
- Immediately challenge the students to use the tool or framework in the context of their own practice.
- Each module should work as a stand-alone.
- All modules should be connected to one another in a clear way with a progression logic.
- Every module ends up with a specific 20 min assignment.
- Every fourth assignment (2 out of 8) should be really challenging ; )
My usual starting point though is 100% analog with a paper draft of how the modules connect together and how I’ll intend to comply with my self-inflicted constraints:
Then there are (quite) a few many other things in regard to how to organize the students in small groups for the online part of the class, the kind of tools and strategies used to coach them from a distance, etc.
I don’t know if this could be useful and I don’t claim it’s a best practice of sorts. But knowing that some of you are probably scrambling around trying to assemble a first online class, I’m just sharing what worked for me.
I’d be super interested in learning what worked really well for you too. As usual, you can contact me via Twitter, Linkedin or directly by mail (Get In Touch menu up there). 😎
In regard to my MBA class, the full syllabus is as such:
Business Model Design
The ambition of this course is for students to get a solid 360° understanding of “what is a business”, without staying in a vertical perspective such as strategy, marketing, finance, human resources, etc. As so, it’s also designed as an introduction platform to all of these domains, so that students can effectively adapt to them, and use them in the most effective way in their professional life.
Our socio-economical environment has drastically changed since the nineties. It would be probably exaggerated to claim that most of the tools used to pilot and lead an organization are now outdated and obsolete. Still, many of them are now misadjusted and skewed.
Leaders in the early 21st century have to deal with many paradoxes: technology cycles and adoption are faster than ever, and yet markets are less and less technology-driven; business paradigms are flipped over by increasing “black swan” events, and yet companies are more and more risk-averse; manufacturing delocalization and disintermediation have been rendered mainstream by the net economy, and yet marketers are still stuck in a product-driven approach…
To survive and strive in this new world, a perspective adjustment is called for. The main new perspective that we will present and work on through this course will be to let go of the traditional top-down strategic instinct and shift to a more transversal business vision.
Instead of defining business perspective as a predictive battle plan, with step-by-step development of “the perfect” competitive posture through a specific portfolio of products or services, we will try to focus more deeply on the business architecture and how it develops a powerful and well-identified added value.
Through this course, we will explore the tools that will help us change perspective and specifically how to design powerful, sustainable business models, whether you are a startup, a multinational, or a non-profit organization.
After this course students should be able to:
- Challenge and reframe old business models by understanding current market drivers and how they weaken or strengthen specific parts of a business architecture;
- Understand the business architecture of any venture, and specifically what added value is created to specific customers’ segments, how revenues are generated, how the cost structure is dealt with, what the key resources and competencies involved are, etc.;
- Coordinate various business approaches (strategy, marketing, finance, innovation, HR) to develop, sustain and enhance competitive business models;
- As entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, design new added values fitting specific visions and markets, while being also able to set it up as concrete, real-life activity.
Part 1 – UNDERSTANDING MARKET FIT
This first part of the online class will discuss how often businesses are losing track of their market by focusing myopically on products. Customers only buy two things: a solution to their problem, or commodities. This harsh reality is worth remembering to shape meaningful and sustainable strategies. Together we’ll explore these pitfalls and understand how to avoid them while not only focusing your business but also building clear leadership.
- Module 1.1 / A slow and a fast race
- Module 1.2 / Understanding the impact of technology
- Module 1.3 / Innovation is business as usual
- Module 1.4 / Puzzles and mysteries
- Module 1.5 / Solutions without problems
- Module 1.6 / The only 4 problems you can solve
- Module 1.7 / Thinking like a startup
- Module 1.8 / From management to leadership
Part 2 – ENGINEERING VALUE
In the second part of the class, we will move from understanding the markets’ problems to building not only value but added value. We will distinguish different approaches depending on the nature of your market and explore the wide possibilities offered by the way you’ll decide to price your offer.
- Module 2.1 / The business model framework
- Module 2.2 / Added value analysis in B2B
- Module 2.3 / Added value analysis in B2C
- Module 2.4 / The cultural variable in B2C
- Module 2.5 / Benchmarking competition properly
- Module 2.6 / Pricing and monetization strategies
- Module 2.7 / C2C, B2G & administrations and NGOs
- Module 2.8 / Business models vs. business plans
Part 3 – DESIGNING BUSINESSES
The last part of the class will allow you to zoom out and consider the many strategic options offered by thinking in terms of business models. Past the simple business model framework, understanding how risks in the market can unlock opportunities; how several business models can build optionality for large corporations; or how startups should think about their innovation project.
- Module 3.1 / Connecting the dots from strategy to operations
- Module 3.2 / The 3 business cultures
- Module 3.3 / Using market and tech risks strategically
- Module 3.4 / Being real and testing MVB
- Module 3.5 / Integrating business portfolio strategies
- Module 3.6 / How digital changed the game
- Module 3.7 / Dealing with black swans
- Module 3.8 / Preparing your strategic business project
A few extra resources…
If you want to dig deeper by yourself on how to design an online training, I’d suggest you start with a few guides such as:
- The e-learning design methodologies guide of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (I know, surprising… it’s really good and comprehensive though).
- If you don’t have a designated online platform to start with, you can bet on Moodle as a reliable first step.
- Consider checking what Seth GODIN has been doing with its AltMBA and the way they manage peer-learning and online group interaction too.
I’ll update this part with other resources that you‘ll suggest!