Two weeks ago Andromeda Training was a corporate attendee in Paris at the annual conference of the Executive MBA Council.

emba_conf_logo_2010I’m illustrating it with the logo from the conference a couple of years ago, because I think that better captures the essence of the EMBA – it is designed to open up the whole world to individuals who are already living the corporate life.

We work with a variety of academic institutions, but our strongest EMBA connection has been with Coles College of Business, at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. For the past eight years they have been running Income/Outcome workshops as part of their opening residency.

They start each EMBA cohort with a weekend retreat during which the simulation runs for ten hours. This achieves several things:

  • Ice-breaker. All the students are playing a game together, typically in eight teams with the involvement and supervision of up to a dozen faculty.
  • Team-builder. Students are put into the teams they will be working in for the next 18 months, and begin the forming and storming processes that will lead to norming and performing.
  • Discreet assessment. Faculty will notice at once if there are any individuals in the new cohort who are highly engaged, or unengaged, or will need particular attention.
  • Overcoming fear of school. The students are professionals who have been in the working world for years, and many of them are hesitant about coming back to an academic environment. The simulation clarifies that it won’t be all dryness and Death by Powerpoint, but with strong elements of fun, discussion and practical experience.
  • Overcoming fear of finance. Many students are following careers that appear to have no relation to Finance. They may feel intimidated by their peers who are comfortable with financial statements, budgets, cost/benefit analysis and ratios, fearing that these words will never have any meaning for them. The simulation shows that all these concepts are not merely logical and useful, but simple to grasp and can actually be visualized in 3D and full color.
  • Equalizer. It brings everyone, regardless of professional background, to a common understanding of the fundamental concepts of business finance, the use of financial statements, and the driving factors for good decisions and a successful business.
  • Foundational learning. It provides a big-picture overview of how all the pieces of business fit together, so that throughout the 18-month EMBA all learning, no matter how detailed, is always connected to everything else. Understanding and memory are improved through having this innate sense of the interconnectedness of Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Sales, etc.
  • Improved memory retention. The long-term retention of essential learning has been shown to be improved by 40% by introducing Income/Outcome at the beginning of the EMBA program.
  • Increased academic opportunities. When a concept like Depreciation can be explained in two minutes by a movement of items on a gameboard – instead of taking two lecture periods to talk it through – time is freed up to work through subjects in greater detail, or expand into additional peripheral areas.
  • Prioritization and Visualization of business information. One of the unique strengths of Income/Outcome is that the game-board structure can be used to represent real-world companies. When this is done, the key structural items of the company stand out visually, and give an immediate sense of whether the company is healthy or not, and what its strategic issues are.
  • Continuation throughout the EMBA program. The bonding, the strong memories, the fun and the visual clarity stay with the students through their EMBA experience and beyond. Not only can they tell you eight years later what their results were in the game and how their team-mates behaved, they will still be using the visual imagery to help think through real-world business problems.

That’s a lot to ask of a single workshop, isn’t it? That’s why it is such a good investment at the start of the EMBA program. Of course it doesn’t replace the school’s financial learning and other business courses, but what it does provide is a unique and extremely valuable introductory experience. The students all go back from their opening residency on a high note, fully engaged and enthusiastic about their next year and a half.