Ever wondered what it’s like inside an MBA classroom? What kinds of questions do students ask? What kinds of answers do faculty members give?
Every month, we’re sharing insights from top GLOBIS faculty to give you a peek behind the classroom doors of Japan’s No. 1 business school.
May 2021 Questions & Answers
Q: How do I know if my business idea is unique enough?
A: People often ask about the uniqueness of their ideas. But the idea itself isn’t very valuable. Nowadays, there are many entrepreneurs all over the world, so it’s likely someone else has come up with your idea. The important thing is how to verify your idea.
Entrepreneurs need to verify two things: 1) that the problem they are working on is worth solving for the customer, and 2) that their solution really fits the problem. In other words, they need to verify their idea experimentally, not logically.
Building a minimum viable product (MVP) is one way to do this. Entrepreneurs need to frequently perform build-measure-learn cycles through communication with their customers. And they can do that through MVPs.
Q: When making a strategy, what comes first: selecting the right people or setting goals?
A: It was Day 3 of Business Transformation through Innovation, and we were studying a business case on the Weather Channel to understand business model transformation, putting emphasis on people management. I facilitate the class based on the McKinsey 7S framework, starting from Hard-S transformation (strategy, structure, systems), and then Soft-S transformation (shared values, skills, style, and staff). It’s a step-by-step approach.
One student asked, “Sensei, why don’t we start from staff, selecting the right people? In another class, we learned that globally excellent companies select the right people first.”
It was a very good question! Strategy consists of multiple, simultaneous actions. You should align those actions to achieve the common goal. Each S of 7S is one of those actions. So as a leader, you should pay attention to all 7S, and align them to each other. In class, I use a step-by-step approach for the sake of better understanding. But in reality, those actions are simultaneous, so you should pick your people as you’re addressing the other steps. Whomever you choose, that person’s capabilities should be aligned with your strategic goals.
Q1: Who are the ultimate customers we serve with our kokorozashi?
A: In the Entrepreneurial Leadership Class, all students present their kokorozashi (personal missions). These can be anything from developing new IT products in education to strengthening the political ties between the United States and Japan, or even solving an inequality problem in society.
Upon hearing the presentations from her classmates, one student asked, “Who are the ultimate customers that we serve with our kokorozashi?”
I initially thought to reply that we serve society and Mother Earth (through sustainability, etc.), but then I realized the answer is our children. By bringing future generations into the picture, students are more able to think about the society they want to create and live in. They can form more concrete plans with their children in mind. This is similar to the Native American/First Nation Seventh Generation Principle of thinking seven generations ahead when making decisions.
Q: Can (or should) team leaders or bosses remain neutral when facilitating a meeting?
A: If you are a team leader or other kind of “boss,” you could run meetings in two basic ways, depending on your purpose.
One is as a facilitation meeting. This is a good option if you want to discuss your strategy and plans for the next year, a new idea, a problem, or some other issue. The purpose of a facilitation meeting is to get people engaged and provide input. In that situation, even if you are the boss/team leader, it’s best to initially act purely as a facilitator to get the best ideas and solutions on the table. There may be a better idea or solution than your own!
Another way to run the meeting is as a negotiation meeting. This is a good option if you have a proposal or idea that you want to “sell” to your team, your boss, and/or a group of your senior managers. If you need someone’s buy-in or agreement, you don’t want to be a neutral facilitator. However, you do still want to get to know and understand people’s opinions and interests before you try to persuade them. To do that, you’ll want to listen as much as you can. So even for a negotiation meeting, I suggest you run the first part of the meeting more or less like a typical facilitation—save the negotiation for the second half.
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