As part of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) programme, a group of six MBA students from Smurfit took part in in a one-week module titled “Behavioural Science of Management” in Yale School of Management in June this year. Launched in 2012, the GNAM includes 30 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, and cultures. The GNAM offers students the opportunity to partake in a Global Network one-week course offered by a partner business school.
There was a lot of interest in this module from fellow classmates due to the strong heritage of Yale in the field of behavioural science, not to mention the strong reputation and high ranking of the Yale MBA programme. Expectations for the module were high and we certainly were not disappointed!
We arrived into New York City a few days before the module began to take in the sights. More importantly, we had to collect our mode of transport for the week in New Haven, a GMC Yukon Denali, a ridiculously sized car, which we affectionately christened “The Beast”. Lorcán had the honour to drive it to New Haven and peppered the journey with outbursts such as “…how am I supposed to keep this thing between the lines?”.
The module commenced with a fantastic presentation from Professor Shane Frederick, a leading expert in the field of behavioural science and contributor to the Harvard Business Review. Shane brought us through topics including framing effects, context effects, and choice architecture – the principles that underpin how we make decisions and the techniques used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour.
Shane’s presentation included several examples of how rational consumers make irrational choices. He presented logic puzzles, prefaced with “…I’ve presented this problem thousands of times and I still don’t know if I agree with answer.” He showed us how consumers can be influenced to make purchasing choices that might not be appealing if the rational mind kicked in.
A key element of the GNAM week in Yale is the opportunity to network with MBA students from business schools across the world. The opening cocktail reception on Monday evening provided the ideal opportunity to mix and mingle with classmates from China to Ghana to Mexico. This resulted in cross-cultural learnings, a highlight of which was when Monica from Monterrey, Mexico remarked to Lorcán “You are definitely Irish.” She then turned to Johannes from Berlin, “You are Irish too, no?”. Lorcán and Johannes had to give Monica a crash course in the cultural differences between Germany and Ireland!
On Tuesday, we were treated to a tour of Yale University. Yale University is steeped in history and has an almost “Hogwarts-like” feel to the place; college buildings are architecturally beautiful and students are allocated to certain houses in their first year via a “sorting process”. We were almost expecting to find some Bertie Bott’s Beans in the Yale gift shop at the end of our tour. Instead of finding sweets, the lads did their best to get a Yale preppy look going. Thankfully, Ciara and Fiona gave some “constructive feedback” which put an end to that.
On Wednesday, four busloads of MBA students departed Yale for a trip to Boston to visit TD Garden, the home stadium of NHL’s Boston Bruins and NBA’s Boston Celtics. Owned and operated by Delaware North, the state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena. Members of the Delaware North management team treated us to an insightful overview of the company and its expanding global reach. Delaware North manages and provides food and beverage concessions, premium dining, entertainment, lodging, and retail at many large venues and special places. These include sports stadiums, entertainment complexes, national and state parks, airports, and casinos. If you have been to London Airport or Wembley Stadium, you have consumed concessions provided by Delaware North.
Back in Yale, Thursday commenced with a panel discussion with students from the class. Three highly accomplished classmates spoke about their career paths, MBA journeys, and their views of leadership and working across cultures. It is always inspirational to hear how peers have driven themselves to almost dizzy heights to achieve what may appear as the unachievable.
One of the highlights from the week was the diverse teaching styles of the lecturers. In the “Negotiation Mindsets” lecture delivered by Dalyian Cain, we had the opportunity to partake in a mock negotiation in pairs. As many of the Smurfit gang had already completed a negotiations module in Smurfit earlier in the year, we were quietly confident that our knowledge of “BATNAs” and “Reservation Points” would seal the deals. However, Lorcán managed to buck the trend by engaging in a technique known as “negotiating against yourself”. He blamed a language barrier with his international colleague – he didn’t say whether it was his Donegal accent or theirs that caused the trouble! Don’t tell Stephen Boyle.
Some of the other topics covered during the week included how to make better decisions using behavioural science, understanding consumer experiences, and behavioural finance.
Our final social outing of the week was to a popular New Haven bar for some karaoke. After providing background vocals to “My Heart Will Go On”, the Smurfit contingent rose to the challenge by belting out their best rendition of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Who knew that effort can overcome not having a note in your head.
The week concluded with a series of group presentations to the class on Friday. We had the task of providing a 5-minute group presentation showing how the principles of behavioural science could be applied to a real-life problem encountered in an organization of one of the group members. There were no boundaries to the scope of content presented by teams or how to interpret the behavioural science principles learned earlier in the week. Presentation topics ranged from a video advertisement, created in under an hour, to a presenter-led fitness dance class.
The GNAM week was an incredibly rewarding experience. The chance to network with MBA peers from around the world, to experience different cultures, and to attend one of the world’s leading universities were all fantastic opportunities. Behavioural Science is becoming increasingly relevant in business (see Richard Thaler’s recent Nobel Prize in Economics) and we all found that the possibilities suggested during lectures were eye-opening. The experience and knowledge gained during the Smurfit MBA allowed us to actively contribute in classroom discussions. The trip was an excellent end to our EMBA journey.
Maria Barry & Lorcán Gormley EMBA 2016/2018