Does this process make me look fat?

bang-head-here…Hey. Where did everybody go?!

Relax. When it comes to workflow efficiency or best practices, this is not a trick question. But it’s also not a question you’re ever likely to hear. That’s because people rarely ask for – or voice – an honest opinion on bad, bloated, or outdated processes. They’re just something we grudgingly don in order to get our work completed.

Truth be told, it’s oftentimes easier to bear the burden of “that’s just how it’s always been done” than to actually address the flaws of ill-fitting processes directly.

However, as part of my new role with the Learning Lab I’ve been given a unique opportunity to do just that. This need was born out of the Lab taking on an ever-increasing amount of multi-day simulations (such as the Executive Development Program) that require gritting through the bad stuff in the heat of the moment, while thinking of ways we could definitely do it better in the future. And just as you’d expect, I’ve found that tackling baked-in redundancies or antiquated inefficiencies can be a delicate dance between helping and offending. I’ve also learned that altering a process requires a process all of its own…

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Monopoly’s Anti-Capitalist, Socialist Roots as a Teaching Game at Wharton

Monopoly board game

“A virtue of gaming that is sometimes overlooked by those seeking grander goals is its unparalleled advantages in training and educational programs. A game can easily be made fascinating enough to put over the dullest facts. To sit down and play through a game is to be convinced as by no argument, however persuasively presented.”

— A.M. Mood, RAND Corporation (1954)

Look no further than the Learning Lab for proof that games play an increasingly valuable role in the classroom and beyond, having long been recognized as a uniquely effective means of experiential education. But while, today, we harness technology and data to craft immersive, competitive simulation platforms, sometimes all you need to teach complex concepts is a board, some moveable pieces, and a pedagogical goal.

Take chess, for instance, which has been used for centuries to impart lessons of military strategy – its rules and competitive purpose create the conditions for tactical thinking and planning needed to checkmate one’s opponent.

Then there’s Monopoly, wherein the primary objective is to bankrupt everyone else through clever investment strategies. Hard to square that with lofty, Ivy-league business objectives, right? Yet, what is arguably the world’s best-selling board-based simulation of capitalism (and frequent ruiner of family game night) was once used as a teaching aid in Wharton economics classes. But before you cynically smirk at the very idea, there’s something you should know about the game’s hidden history: A century ago, Monopoly was not a platform to illustrate the merits of a laissez-faire system; rather, it was a way to demonstrate an alternative to the corporate rent-seeking that drives inequality.

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Women! Where the heck are you?! The tech field NEEDS you!

women techI read a Fast Company article last night citing a recent SmartAsset study on women in tech. It has me thinking a lot about my own 20-year career in technology, and wondering: “Women! Where the heck are you?!

From my own experience working in technology, this is an amazing field – one where I have been given countless opportunities to progress, and one in which I am challenged intellectually every single day. I’m paid well (inline with my male colleagues), and when I’ve needed or wanted to seek out new challenges, it’s never taken me long to find something that fits my needs and desires perfectly. Most importantly, my career in technology has allowed me to build a life for myself and my family that is far exceeding expectations.

For all these reasons, the fact that we – female tech experts – are still a minority has me dumbfounded, and I’m trying to understand why there simply aren’t more of us. Read more ›

Recipe for Quick Coding: How to Cook Up a Good Glossary, Fast

glossaryTwo weeks before the Learning Lab’s new Customer Centricity simulation was set to go live for the first time in a Wharton MBA class, I was asked to add a CRM glossary to it – one that could grow as more data reports became available to a player throughout the course of the game.

Suffice it to say this was a quite a task given the timeframe. Nevertheless, I approached the challenge with an open mind and a lot of quick thinking. Viewing it as a somewhat exploratory endeavor, I managed to meet the deadline and our sim made its scheduled debut with a fresh-baked working glossary. Now, having devised an efficient process for whipping one up on the fly, I’d like to share with you my recipe:

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Fighting the Good-Code Fight (Or, ‘We Need To Talk About Tech Debt’)

Maximus

“What we do in life echoes in eternity…” 

I’ll hazard a guess that “Gen. Maximus Decimus Meridius” (hint: the gladiator in Gladiator) was not thinking about the importance of code quality and documentation when he addressed the above wisdom to his cavalry on the battlefield.

But really, what IT organization wouldn’t benefit from a fictional Roman general showing up before the start of a new project to gravely remind everyone about lasting consequences? After all, the decisions you make in code design today will affect your organization for months – or years – into the future.

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Bringing Customer Centricity to Life (and Biz Models to Black)

customercen_photo_bookIf you’ve ever sat through one of Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader’s highly engaging lectures on the merits of a customer-centric business model (or read his book on the subject), then you know how quickly he’s able to convince an audience that adopting this game-changing go-to-market strategy can trump a product-focused approach (from a profitability standpoint), and that – if done well – can create the conditions for longterm viability in the perilous, race-to-the-bottom age of commoditization that many companies are grappling with these days.

He’ll also handily disabuse any naysaying marketing execs of the notion that using data is just about collecting numbers, driving the point home that simply having a CRM system in place is not where the work ends, it’s where it begins – and leaving no doubt in their minds that if they think all customers are created equal, they have a lot to learn. Indeed, Fader is a maestro at shifting paradigms to embrace the power of data analytics for calculating customer lifetime value (CLV). But for this revolution in marketing strategy to truly take hold, theory must meet practice – and that’s where the Learning Lab comes into play.

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Reimagining Education: A Journey Through the ‘Looking Glass’

For the past year, students taking Wharton Prof. Ethan Mollick’s MGMT 801 class have been offered a unique alternative to traditional coursework – those who were game, as it were, got invited down a rabbit-hole and emerged in the fast-paced world of launching a startup.

This soup-to-nuts, wholly immersive experience in the “Looking Glass” was intricately designed by Wharton’s Learning Lab and built by Forio, a San Francisco-based system dynamic company that specializes in custom simulations. Under Mollick’s guidance, our bicoastal team crafted a storyboard comprised of sequential scenarios – from company onboarding to gaining angel investment – all tied to learning objectives that paralleled his course syllabus.

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