Coming into the Spring semester I was prepared to relax, I thought the semester would be simple and straightforward; however it ended up being quite difficult, and for that I am thankful as that difficulty forced me to grow.
When the Spring semester began, I was exhausted. Over the course of the fall semester, I had taken four classes, worked twenty hours a week at my family’s business, worked another fifteen hours a week as a teaching assistant, while also spending another twenty or so hours a week training for a business case competition called JDC West, which I attended at the start of this semester.
The fall semester ended mid-December, giving me a little break to regather some energy before the next semester began at the start of January, however this energy was all spent continuously training for the case competition which I was to attend during the second week of January. Resultantly, I never ended up regaining any energy after a draining fall semester.
However, the case competition I was training for was at the start of the next semester and I figured that once I got past that, my schedule would free up as I would no longer be training for twenty hours a week to attend the competition.
So, the competition came and went, and my team won (which was one of the happiest moments of my life). That was it, we had climbed the mountain and now all I had to focus on was school and work.
A Semester of Many Group Projects and Assignments
Soon after school began it became my primary focus, the workload encompassing a majority of my time. This semester I took my first three 400 level courses (in addition to one 300 level course) and was challenged with a large amount of group projects, which included:
- (Strategic Decision Making Class) a case study presentation and conduct an experiment demonstrating how concepts from psychology can be leveraged in business.
- (Business Strategy Class) a case competition worth 25% of our grade in which a first place finish meant 100%, while a second meant 80%, and a third 60%.
- (Consulting Class) three consulting projects with real clients.
- (Global Business Environment Class) a case study presentation and an in-depth market analysis.
Each assignment was fascinating and fun, but also required a significant amount of work and coordination among the groups.
This semester I had to turn in 50 deliverables over the course of three months, and truthfully turning in a deliverable more often than every other day while also working on major group projects for every class was incredibly difficult and strenuous; yet I did it, and based on my grades I was able to achieve a high quality of work for all deliverables apart of this large workload.
Some Fantastic Things I Learned
Completing as many deliverables and a countless amount of additional readings was a challenge, but I overcame it. And for it, I learned a lot. Below I seek to record some of these learnings.
What It Means For a Business to be Strategic (BUS 478 – Business Strategy)
From my business strategy class, there are three main ideas which I wish to capture in this reflection, these learnings are noted below:
- Business-Level Strategy – Business-level strategy is about how a company positions itself. To achieve above average results a business can choose to produce products at low-cost with reasonable differentiation (cost-leadership strategy), produce products at a reasonable cost with great differentiation (differentiation strategy), or in some rare cases try to do something between (integrated strategy). To develop an appropriate business-level strategy a company must understand its internal resources and capabilities, its external environment, and most importantly its customers.
- Corporate-Level Strategy – Corporate-level strategy is about how a company manages its portfolio of businesses. With corporate-level strategies, companies should seek to develop a portfolio (through both internal entrepreneurship and M&A) which achieves synergies that enable the company and its businesses to thrive.
- Entrepreneurial Strategy – Entrepreneurship is about solving real problems faced by real people. When a new venture begins, its founder is the company, for the venture to become successful the founder must move beyond being the business and advance to an executive role. For a young person, accomplishing this is difficult and for this reason, older entrepreneurs tend to be more successful.
Overall, strategy is about being intentional with actions to achieve desired objectives. I note these learnings in particular as I believe they will be foundational to my understanding of and ability to enact business strategy moving forward.
What It Means to be Strategic in Everyday Life (BUS 471 – Strategic Decision Making)
Most of the world has been built on intuition, intuition meaning grounded in processes that might not be seen as logical or rational. Logic and rational undoubtedly is valuable, yet so are biases and heuristics which act as decision making short cuts.
You may immediately think, how can biases and heuristics be valuable when they are not grounded in logic or rationality? Well, in a world where we are faced with hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day we need to be able to make decisions quickly as we only have so much time and mental energy.
Understanding biases and heuristics, is valuable not only because it allows us to debias ourselves, but also because it enables us to effectively leverage and manage them when we make decisions.
To be strategic in everyday life, we must be aware of how the brain works, have an understanding of where we want to go, and act in accordance with the constraints of our own ability and the external environment around us.
This class was particularly interesting to me, because prior to taking of it, I was of the notion that biases and heuristics were inherently bad, yet it seems that is not the case. In addition to this, I often see that many companies claim to be data-driven, however when learning about concepts such as confirmation bias, I have come to the realization that even when you have data to back up your reasoning, it does not inherently mean that the data says that is the right decision to make, meaning that many companies likely are not as data-driven as they claim to be.
Intuition is an incredibly valuable tool, I constantly strive to learn how to better use it and will continue to as I continue to gather more and more experiences.
I Am A Highly Capable Business Consultant (BUS 450 – Managing Emerging Opportunities)
Over the course of the semester, I got to partake in a consulting project for a robotics company, an agritech company, and a reforestation company, each project unique and interesting in its own distinct way.
Through the process I realized consulting is difficult. It involves a large amount of activities including scoping, maintaining client relationships, as well as a large amount of research. It really does require a generalist skill set and a flexible approach to problem solving.
Learning to manage these activities while working in a team was difficult, but it was also incredibly fun as I got to take on leadership roles for three projects which will have real impact for real clients, while learning about a wide variety of industries.
One particular skill I felt helped me succeed in this class was what I viewed as a strong ability to ask the right questions. Asking good questions can be difficult and it takes time to learn to ask them. Over the course of training for JDC West, I learned how to ask these questions and that skill transferred over incredibly well to this class.
Overall, with this class, I realized consulting could be a career path for me because I love talking to people, learning about new industries, and solving unique problems.
A Framework For Understanding International Markets (BUS 346 – Global Business Environment)
Through my strategy and global business environment classes, I learned how to assess international markets across their political, economic, cultural, and geographic dimensions.
Across the specific dimensions, I also learned a variety of frameworks, however as each region and situation is incredibly distinct and requires special analysis I choose to include minimal discussion of them here.
I recognize the ability to understand global markets will be incredibly important as the world only continues to become more interconnected. And I also recognize that although these learnings primarily were focused on differences across countries there can also be differences within countries and that for some contexts its better to group operations into regions as opposed to countries.
Be Conscious With Commitments
I am going to admit this, this semester I signed up for more than I can handle. I am a person who always seeks to deliver excellence and with the workload I was under this semester that excellence was hard to achieve (and I was not able to achieve quite as much as I would hav liked to). In addition to this, I either picked up or began to recognize a habit where I would describe intentions to group mates, then proceed to be unable to achieve those intentions. Resultantly, I am now more conscious of what I say I am going to do or be able to do to others, thinking about what I really can do as opposed to what I desire to do (which admittedly is everything).
Constantly Challenge Your Assumptions
Earlier I mentioned that data-driven companies might not be as data-driven as they claim to be. Prior to this semester, I assumed that they were (as I am sure they do to). Listening to the founders podcast, a constant trope that has come up is that time and time again throughout history, it is the individuals who challenge both their own and societies assumptions that are able to create change. Just remember, it was once (and still is by some) thought that the world is flat.
Be Flexible, Adaptive, and Resourceful
Every problem and every situation is distinct. Being able to organize within these distinct situations and act uniquely to meet the needs of the task at hand is a critical skill for anyone. Historically, I have been someone who is quite rigid, someone who looks solely at precedent when embarking on a new project thinking I should simply do the same things I did before because it was successful once (which is a flawed way of thinking, because one can always improve), but now I am someone who is always looking to adapt to the situation at hand. Working on three consulting projects in industries I had no prior knowledge of, engaging in a research paper which involved creating an experiment, and participating in a traditional academic case competition were all challenges which involved a large amount of unfamiliarity, yet I was able to thrive regardless. The way I was able to do so was by being flexible to the situation, adapting my styles accordingly, and being resourceful in looking to solve the problems at hand.
Always Be Genuine, Do Your Best, and Be Understanding
People appreciate it when you are genuine, they also appreciate it when you do your best, and most importantly they appreciate it when you understand them. Being genuine shows to others that you are just a person, doing your best shows you care, and understanding others shows you care for them. In all future ventures and projects, I will follow this philosophy, as I believe it will allow both me and my teams to succeed.
What Is Next
The Spring 2023 semester has now come to a close. So now you might wonder (though probably not) what is next for Kobe? Well, regardless of whether you want to know or not I have outlined what is next below.
Taking a Rest
First on the agenda is regaining energy. The primary way through which I seek to do this is with rest. I am trying to get lots of sleep, spend time with loved ones, and watch games of my favourite baseball team, the Seattle Mariners.
While also resting I do want to establish a general morning and night routine to bookend my days with non mentally draining certainty. As I mentioned when discussing my learnings from my strategic decision making class, you only have so much energy every day. Routine is one way to ensure that energy is used efficiently.
I have always loved golf and creating content. Creating golf content is a perfect marriage between the two, and it is something I have experimented with and had a lot of fun with in the past. Recently I think I realized a unique way I can contribute to the golf community, by leveraging my distinct knowledge about strategy and mindset to deliver content that can help people have more fun rounds of golf.
Learning to Build Mobile Applications
Finally, I have always desired to build great things. This summer, I want to learn how to create mobile applications. I do have a little bit of background in programming (though very minimal) and have always been incredibly interested in design, and this semester I want to harness these two interests to learn to build some really fun and great items.
I have also always desired to build a company, and as I mentioned before when you start a business you typically are the business itself, so with this endeavour I hope to learn some fundamental skills that will enable me to do it.
Overall, although it was difficult I am incredibly grateful for my most recent semester of school, after all the obstacle is the way (a great book by Ryan Holiday) and I am really looking forward to having a great Summer.