And so it Begins

So, I suppose we are all officially university students now. Today marked our first day of class as part of the Woodcock Global Honors Fellowship Program and it was a notably different experience from our first few days. However, different is good and it was great to start the first course of many, Managing in Complex Environments.

Our first point of discussion was centered upon the success of Starbucks. In preparation, we each read the first chapter of our textbook and a brief report on the company. It was fascinating to dissect such a well-known brand through such impersonal means, and we approached the question from many angles. It is amazing how many different opinions a group of only eleven pre-freshmen could form. While it is certainly difficult to argue the long-term success of the company now, with all the data provided I concluded that from a multi-goal view, Starbucks was failing in many aspects at the time the report was written.

We then turned our eyes from a specific company to an industry case study. We went through Porter’s Five Forces and the Stakeholder Theory to analyze the casino gambling industry. This highlighted the complexity of an industry that, though very visible, I knew very little about. In addition to these theories, we discussed the Open Systems Theory. This shows us that a firm must interact with its environment if it wants to thrive.

PESTLE and VUCA both serve as important tools for the analysis of an environment, and thus for the management of said environment (the crux of the course). Personally, VUCA was one of the stand out parts of the day. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity and it explains the difficulties of the environment. By understanding and adapting to these principles, it allows you to make the best decisions you can. However, you will never make all the right decisions, as is touched upon by ambiguity.

In the latter stages of the day, we were visited by Pitt Advisor Liz Adams, who led us through a discussion and exploration of our strengths. We determined these through the Clifton StrengthsFinder and then learned about what they all meant. My top five strengths are as follows:

  1. Input – a craving to know more and to archive information.
  2. Strategic – the ability to create alternate paths to success as well as locating relevant patterns and issues.
  3. Ideation – a fascination with ideas, creativity, and the ability to find connections between vastly different items.
  4. Deliberative – showing a serious care in the decisions I make as well as the ability to foresee obstacles.
  5. Intellection – introspective and intellectual.

This portion of the day was a great opportunity to learn more about myself and to bond further with my classmates. Our group has gotten along very well and I look forward to the rest of the program with them. It seems like we have known each other for much more than just a few days.

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