Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 1am

Hands-on Learning with a Lancaster MBA

Hands-on Learning with a Lancaster MBA main image

Yuki Takahashi

I’ve finally got to the last stage of my Lancaster MBA journey. After three elective modules lasting a month, we had a day of reflection in the Lake District to wrap up the ‘Mindful Manager’ element of the course – the spine of the Lancaster MBA. As we walked in the scenery, appreciating William Wordsworth’s poetry, we undertook several activities which allowed us to picture past, present and future events in our own minds.

When I decided to pursue an MBA, it was because I wanted to fully understand my core values. Despite my longstanding ambitions, something had discouraged me from challenging new roles outside of my comfort zone. With hindsight, I’ve come to understand that my hesitation was rooted in a fear of not understanding ‘the how’.

I was looking for learning opportunities which would allow me to understand both my core values and ‘the how’ in order to give me the confidence required to proceed.

Hands-on learning

The ‘Learning Through Practice’ or hands-on learning approach is embedded in the Lancaster MBA’s core values. As at other business schools, we were taught to utilize theories to analyze what is or was happening in any given situation.

However, we were also taught to understand the limitations of theories and tackle the wicked problems and uncertainty of the actual business world. Especially since the Strategic Management module, I began to consciously take the perspective that theories and frameworks were used as tools to crystalize the complexity of a situation and identify the base issues.

Hands-on learning helps to ask questions like what is behind the theories and frameworks one can detect? What are the company’s motivations? Should they change and if so how? These were the questions we were encouraged to ask. Putting theories into practice is not to adjust one for another. Practical approaches to problems may be found by seeing through the lenses of various theories and frameworks. This is what hands-on learning taught me through group work and business projects, including the ‘New Venture Challenge’ and the ‘Consultancy Challenge’.

Hands-on learning through classmates

The other definition of hands-on learning for me was learning through the behavior and words of my classmates. Thanks to the rich diversity in terms of nationality, age group, background, and, of course, individual personalities, every conversation provided me with a precious learning opportunity. The more I engaged in collective activity, the more I came to appreciate the difference between others’ perspectives and mine. If I could put his/her theory into my practice, how would that look? No matter what the topic or the depth of the conversation, interaction with my classmates led me to reflect on myself. This also helped me to define the socio-cultural norms which had prevented me from stepping out.

Core values and confidence

So I enter the final stage of the Lancaster MBA journey understanding my own core values and with the confidence to go outside my comfort zone. My last challenge is an internship as a project coordinator of a local business. Unlike the past two challenges, I have to demonstrate my own ability in a new role on new stage. This is definitely my biggest challenge, and accordingly one which has the potential to boost my confidence to the next level.

At the beginning of my MBA journey, the picture which was shown in the first lecture of Mindful Manager – Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Snow Storm’s ‘Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ – summed up my feelings well. Now? Now I feel a bit closer to the clarity of George Pickering’s Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell.

About Yuki Takahashi

Originally from Japan, Yuki is an MBA student at Lancaster University Management School in the UK, from which she will graduate in 2014. After seven years in sales at the Nikko International Corporation she served as the managing director of Global Co-Star LLC. She studied drama and theatrical arts at Meiji University in Tokyo, focusing on traditional Japanese forms such as Noh and Kabuki and has spent time volunteering for the Shinagawa Boys and Girls Choir.

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