Monday, April 14, 2008

Start of BGI Spring Term

There have been some interesting organizational and personnel happenings at BGI in the past six weeks. Two involved stakeholder engagement and "problems" associated with growth, The Split Intensive Incident and the Rebranding Rebellion, and the third was a bit of a bombshell on the instructor front; call it a slightly over the last minute change in our economics instructor team. What I found fascinating was observing the stakeholder engagement piece as well as the change in instructors. There has been some (warranted) hand-wringing and gnashing-of-teeth over academic rigor, management, and communication throughout this process. I am interested to see how it turns out, and be a co-creator as much as I feel compelled to.

So, back to studying. Spring Term courses are (with syllabus excerpts),

  • Systems Thinking in Action (figure above is my first stab at a model): The focus of this course is to help develop practitioners who are well grounded in systems thinking and the principles of a systems approach. The course will enable students to think systemically about this turbulent world and the manner in which they participate (reflective practitioners), as well as to effectively apply systems concepts and tools. Students will evaluate the complex nature of the challenges we face in our world and learn to appreciate the differences between mechanistic and holistic/organic paradigms. People often respond to situations or problems in a mechanistic or a reactive way, and therefore fail to see (uncover) the underlying patterns, trends and systemic structures that led to problematic unintended consequences. Frequently the root cause is a quick fix that was applied earlier to solve some initially perceived problem. The fix triggered a chain of consequences, often involving multiple delays, that eventually led to a proliferation of new problems…problems that are often worse than the initial problem.
  • Econ II; Macro & Political Economics: This course on macroeconomics looks at the interaction between actors with varying degrees of power -- namely, bankers, companies, governments, and workers -- and the resulting levels of environmental sustainability, stability, growth, and income distribution in the economy. Business decision-making occurs in the context of the rules of the capitalist game, worked out between these actors. This course looks at the structure that these rules create, the challenges posed to it by the dynamics of capitalism, the ways in which policy makers shape these rules, and the ways in which businesses and workers are affected by these changes. We will be particularly interested in the environmental and social impacts of the functioning of capitalism and, through the study of ecological economics, on the quality of life that it generates.
  • Quantitative Analysis: This class is intended to build on the Finance and the Triple Bottom Line class and begin preparation for the Sustainable Operations and Entrepreneurship classes to be taken next year. So far, our learning has been based on static assumptions with no risk incorporated. This class will teach students various methods to calculate risk as part of business decisions. It will provide various tools to gather and analyze the data needed to make information-based decisions. The course will look at tools like basic statistics, linear programming, regression analysis, decision trees, simulation modeling, and scenario planning to help the decision-making process.
  • Leadership & Personal Development: This quarter continues to build on your leadership introspection, attitudes and aptitudes. As you continue to exercise your values and your leadership style, we request you expand your sphere of observation even further. What are you learning about leadership through your ALP team? How do you use your leadership skills in other classes – economics, systems thinking and accounting, if you are taking it this year? What are the internal conversations you hold? How aware are you of your mental models? Are you able to be curious and ask questions about the implicit assumptions of others? How are your listening skills? Are they becoming more effective? When do you use powerful questions to create new perspectives? When conflicts or tension arise, how do you react, respond and contribute?
  • Continuation of Action Learning Project (mostly in Systems)
Leadership class is already stretching my internal limits, bringing up inquiries that require time and reflection. The term promises to be interesting and challenging, as I plan to be synthesizing much of what we have learned since October of last year into our work and deliverables.

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