Integrated Leadership Perspective - Part I
First-year SOM students have reached the culmination of the new Yale MBA core curriculum, a seven-week course called Integrated Leadership Perspective (ILP).
The course is designed to help students pull together all that they learned in the preceding Organizational Perspectives and Introduction to Management courses, by working through a series of cases about organizations of different scales. Students will evaluate one or two cases per week, working their way up from small entrepreneurial firms to large corporations and even the transition of Poland to a market economy. The cases will draw on skills first-year students acquired over the course of the year, from basic concepts of economics, accounting, and leadership through more complex probing of the internal and external issues at the center of effective, high-level management.
“Not only is the class designed to integrate everything that’s come before, the materials are more raw and current,” said Sharon Oster, the Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, who oversees the course. The focus on current, even evolving, cases allows the students to experience the challenges facing businesses today, often with insights from people involved in the particular company being considered.
Each class brings at least two new instructors to teach a case, drawing from the pool of SOM faculty, as well as outside entrepreneurs and executives. For the first day of the course, Oster was joined by professors Garry Brewer, Stan Garstka, the SOM deputy dean, and Doug Rae. The four discussed the case of EcoLogic, a company looking to expand its program of lending money to coffee growers in Africa. They were joined by Namrita Kapur, EcoLogic director of operations and business development.
On the second day, students were confronted with the question of whether paintings and sculpture can be indexed, analyzed, and quantified like cattle futures and other securities. The class was taught by Yale SOM Dean Joel Podolny and professor of finance Matt Spiegel, and looked at Fernwood Art Investments, a company that attempted to establish a market for art securities.
“You can imagine a world where some might want two shares of a particular Picasso or three shares of a Gauguin,” said Podolny, expanding upon the concept of art securities. “The idea is you’re going to take a shady, murky world of price setting and bring it into the light.”
Spiegel spoke next, and brought a particular expertise to bear. He, along with Will Goetzmann, the Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management Studies and director of the International Center for Finance at SOM, was contacted by Fernwood to help design a pricing index that Fernwood could use to update the value of its holdings, though they declined to participate in the project.
As Spiegel explained, the rise or fall in the value of art is especially difficult to determine without selling it. A stock’s value can be reasonably assumed from the last price other shares in the same company fetched. However, the precise value of one Picasso cannot necessarily be extrapolated from the sale of another, or even a whole host of paintings sold during a given time. There is just too much room for error. (On April 2, Bob Shiller, the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics, presented to the class his index monitoring housing prices across the United States as a way to deepen the conversation on indexes.)
For the second half of the class, students met in small groups to develop an idea for a business that would both bring liquidity to an illiquid market and attract investors. Citing eBay as an example, Podolny reminded the class that just because it was difficult to see how the venture could succeed didn’t mean it would absolutely fail. Many successful companies didn’t appear to be great prospects when they were mere startups.
A focus of week two is Charterhouse Group Advisors, LLC, an initiative to create a company to act as the external research and information arm of corporate boards and serve as an independent, objective, and neutral source of data and analysis for their deliberations on company policies and procedures.
As the course progresses, the ILP course will increasingly shift its focus from the challenges of entrepreneurial organizations to the challenges of more complex, established organizations.
We will carry further updates about ILP on our Curriculum News page, so please check back in the weeks ahead.