Said Business School (Oxford University)

How could we teach leading executives managing megaprojects with budgets of $100million+ the counter-intuitive effects of Complexity on key business outcomes?

The Setting:

The Master in Major Project Management is a leading executive education programme for executives at Said Business School, Oxford University. We were invited to design a lecture and workshop for the Systems Design Week.

The objective was to give participants the necessary tools to understand the counter-intuitive effects of complexity on key business outcomes, such as the dangers of sub-optimization for organizational performance, in-group bias and herd behaviour disallowing innovation, and handling variety and personalization while simultaneously optimizing for economies of scale.  We aimed to do this in a manner that bridged theory with everyday practice.

Addressing the Challenge:

We devised a workshop, where students are given simultaneously a product, process, and service design challenge in the most naturalistic of settings: dinner.

Working in teams and under time pressure, the students must exercise leadership and devise an organization to coordinate and deliver on the challenge.

The different strategies adopted by the students and resulting outcomes serve as a basis to reflect on the experience, illustrating principles of complexity, group psychology, leadership, and design thinking.

The Outcome:

The workshop has been praised by the students as a highlight of the week.

Said Business School selected the workshop as a permanent fixture for the programme, celebrating it as an example of innovation in executive education.

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