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Learning on the Edge

Futuristic Course Alerts Students: World Is Changing While You're Studying

By John Gregory

By John Gregory

Welcome to edge, the course launched this past Spring to prepare soon-to-graduate, full-time Merage School students to initiate innovation amid emerging new forms of entrepreneurship, international competition, social networking, marketing and organization.

Merage School’s David Obstfeld, assistant professor for strategy, in partnership with technology guru and disruptive innovation expert John Seely Brown, have set out to create a new course that explores how technology and globalization are transforming business by opening markets, transforming industries and erasing boundaries.

“The impetus for edge,” says Obstfeld, “came from (Dean) Andy Policano’s insight that we needed a capstone course to assist students and faculty in exploring important new trends reshaping business.”

A Curriculum Innovation Committee, chaired by Vijay Gurbaxani, the Merage School’s senior associate dean, developed
the preliminary concept of the course, which in its early form was to provide students with the tools to understand how trends in technology, globalization, demographics, and macroeconomics are redefining the business landscape.

“JSB (as Brown is widely known) and I, with Vijay continuing to collaborate with us, designed the course to reflect our belief that we stand on the verge of a dynamic transformation of business and society, and that business schools need to do more to anticipate where such change is taking us,” Obstfeld said.

Obstfeld told his 65 students at the outset, “While you are studying, the world is changing.”

In the opening session, Brown told the students, “The billion-dollar question is, ‘What is the new, emerging common-sense model?’ It’s different from anything we or any civilization has ever experienced. Continual change underlies its infrastructure. Billions in investments are being ripped up and new bets are being made.”

Also in the kick-off session, Professor Gurbaxani explored new ways that information technology continued to reshape value creation and strategic advantage. Obstfeld and Brown pulled together a diverse crop of experts to capture the dramatic changes that edge explores.

For the second session, “Marketing 2.0,” public relations executive Gary Goldhammer, vice president of interactive solutions for Edelman public relations, described how his advertising work is now focused solely on helping major corporations redirect promotions through websites, digital media, viral video and virtual worlds. Goldhammer described how the Web is morphing, indicating that the first stage of the Internet featured the transmission of information. “Now with Web 2.0, social networks connect people peer-to-peer. The media don’t own news anymore; citizens are becoming journalists.”

In the third session, Padhraic Smyth, a professor at UC Irvine’s Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, described the major new strategic opportunities afforded by analyzing the massive data generated by commercial websites.

The following week, John Hagel, a business strategy consultant formerly with McKinsey & Company, traced new business trends in China and India and emphasized that globalization is being reshaped more by new forms of collaboration across organizational and national boundaries than by technology, breakthrough products or access to capital.

To further capture the fluidity of how business communication is being reshaped, edge unveiled a new website, http://edge.merage.uci.edu, a venue for faculty and students to share information, hold dynamic exchanges on class topics and post articles and video links. Several students have set up shop as bloggers, commenting regularly on course proceedings and other issues. (The website also has a forum where the public can engage these issues.)

Students were asked to select one of four options as their final project: identify business opportunities for a Web 2.0 startup; conduct a marketing campaign using video and other rich media; provide strategic analysis for a web-based social network start-up that has already secured venture capital; or consult an Orange County apparel firm, in conjunction with a major Hong Kong global trading company, to determine when and how the local firm could best outsource its manufacturing operations.

Sessions to be held after press deadline included: Social networks, “growing up digital,” and navigating virtual worlds; Virtual commerce and the phenomenon known as “Second Life;” New forms of marketing communication; New forms of leadership and teamwork; and Alternative paths for organizing and competing.



Mike Mata said:

The post is more of a news story about a very interesting course rather than a resource article.

November 25, 2008 5:34 PM

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