Oxford MBA

Back into the swing of things: Hilary Week 0 done at 100mph…GOTO, Workouts & Lockdown 3.0…

I’m still not entirely sure why we have a Week 0 at the start of term. My guess is because our core classes haven’t actually started (Strategy and Firms & Markets this term) and Week 0 is always a bit “different”.

Week 0 in Hilary Term is all about GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford) which I mentioned last week. It has been a full on week; a very enjoyable one, but also slightly daunting as everything feels to have been turned up a notch (as if it that was even possible after last term!)

Monday morning, 9am we started with a 3.5 hour Zoom session with the entire cohort and GOTO faculty. An informational session about GOTO, project expectations, hearing from GOTO alumni and tips on how to make the most of it. It feels very different to anything we have done before. It’s not a taught class, it’s very broad and we have the opportunity to tailor our project as we wish. The whole aim of GOTO is to investigate a systemic problem in the world and understand why it is that way, and what we can do about it. And I mean literally anything, anywhere.

In previous years, groups have tackled everything from: the exponential growth of greenhouse gas emissions from smartphones, to how the people of Ladakh can strengthen their cultural heritage while adapting to pressures of climate change and economic growth, to the complexity of governing a fragmented seaborne freight industry over international waters. A real mixed bag! As I am part of the “Health” track, our project will be related to Health, but apart from that, it is entirely up to us.

So to kick off that conversation about our chosen topic, we also spent a good chunk of time this week with our new team. “Health 62” – catchy team name incoming – is a great group! Simon, Michael, Randolph, Marianna and I all bring different perspectives, experience and interests to the team so I’m really pleased with my new group and I really think we can do well. (Did I mention there is a prize for the winning team…maybe I did last week…yes I definitely did…)

Alongside lots of Zoom calls discussing various project ideas, we played a group simulation on Wednesday afternoon. What started out as a bit of fun, turned in secrets, lies, and defecting…(that should be the subtitle of the GOTO Fisheries Simulation: Secrets, Lies and Defecting).

In the simulation everyone played the part of a fisherman. We were split into a number of different “oceans” and there were about 8 people in each ocean. We had to decide as a group of fishermen what our strategy was going to be. The aim of the game was to be the person with the most assets at the end: ships and cash from selling your fish. Essentially you could all work individually and the fish stock would be depleted pretty quickly, or you could work together to try and keep the fish stocks sustainable so you eventually all make more money.

My group all decided to work together to keep the fishing sustainable. To do this we were honest and open about how many ships we sent out each round to catch fish, and how many ships we bought at the market…Or so we thought! Little did we know, that Alex, who was keeping very quiet and dropping in and out of the game, was off playing his own game and completely defecting from the strategy. It wasn’t until we were back in the group session and the tutor called out Alex as the winner (out of 80 or so people) did we realise what he was doing. Alex was asked to explain his winning strategy and it was basically; “I disregarded everything the group agreed on and sent out all of my ships, all the time, and told no one!”

We couldn’t believe it! I think the tutor could see it on my face (poker face I do not have) as he said; “Jo, I can see your mouth is wide open there, were you in the same ocean as Alex?” Of course, I was just joking it wasn’t a serious game at all, in fact it was quite fun once we got into it. And it was even more hilarious to see how everyone reacted to the defector in our ranks!

Apart from a lot of GOTO work, my week has also been kept very busy with Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), lots of walks with friends, and lots of workouts.

CDL is one of the extra-curricular activities I am involved in this year. CDL is a not-for-profit organisation run by the Business School to maximise the probability of success for science and technology-based startups from across the globe. The program involves a group of startups, mentors and MBA students. Intensive full-day sessions take place every 8 weeks with the purpose of assessing the startups progress and setting new short-term objectives. As MBA students, we get matched with a startup and provide support in whatever way the business might need it the most. Whether that’s developing financial models, evaluating potential markets, or fine-tuning strategies for scaling.

Last term we were matched with our startups (think Channel 4 First Dates) and earlier this week myself and two fellow MBAs had a call with the founders. Unfortunately, for confidentiality reasons, I can’t disclose the name or nature of the company I am working with until the program is over. However I can say they are working in the Health space and they are doing something very exciting.

As normal socialisation is off the cards currently, I spent a lot of time this week walking with friends (one at a time, obviously) and doing lots of workouts. This includes both myself; nearly 70 miles on my bike that goes nowhere and 15 miles of running, Zoom workouts for the class, and when the sun made an appearance I got to don my Personal Trainer top for my fab housemate!

This feels like a long entry this week! And that’s really because it’s been another busy, full-on week in the MBA. I miss going to the Business School and just walking down the canal everyday to go there. I miss seeing my friends in-person, in class. I miss going out of an evening and just getting to know people. But I’m hopeful it won’t be for too much longer, and everyday I hear the vaccination stats, I pray we are one day closer to getting things back to normal.

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