Electrifying MBA Electives and Courses From The Top Programs


Electrifying MBA Electives and Courses From The Top Programs

March 16 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Top business schools set the bar high — and keep raising it — by offering innovative, engaging, and truly exciting elective courses that augment the core classes. We’ve been poring through their course listings to highlight some of the more “electrifying” of these electives.

Harvard Business School (HBS) Electives

“Building a Business in the Context of a Life”

You’ll want to take this course if you’re intent on pursuing your “life vision” like an entrepreneur goes after a business opportunity: “With relentless passion and without regard to resources not currently controlled.” Instructor Janet Kraus is a recipient of Boston’s “40 Under 40” and was a finalist of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year; she’s a senior lecturer in Entrepreneurial Management.

“The Financial System in Extremis”

Taught by visiting professor Jeremy Stein of the Economics Department, this course will use the global financial crisis that began in 2007 as a means to study the modern financial system, focusing on the “interplay between a variety of institutions and markets, the resulting fragility and potential for systemic risk, and the ongoing roles of financial innovation and regulation in shaping the evolution of the system.” Let’s hope it promotes the practice of Chaos Interruptus!

“Entrepreneurial Solutions for Market Failure”

Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration Joseph Bower (a leader in general management education at HBS for over 40 years) teaches this course focused on a range of goods and services vital to the performance of modern society but that “cost too much and the quality is inadequate.” Here you’ll examine the characteristics of entrepreneurial activity that enable it to overcome the systemic barriers experienced elsewhere and build a framework to create solutions that are sustainable, profitable, and impactful. Finding opportunities amidst the ruins sounds intriguing.

“Contemporary South Asia: A Survey of Intractable Problems and Innovative Solutions”

This survey course focused on problems faced by South Asian countries such as education, health, and governance. You’ll be immersed in an interdisciplinary and university-wide setting to look at current issues and explore a range of entrepreneurial attempts to solve them. This course is taught by Tarun Khanna – Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor and Harvard’s Director of the South Asia Initiative. A true window to the future of this dynamic region.

Stanford GSB Electives

“Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability”

Jointly offered by School of Engineering and GSB, this course affords you a unique opportunity to join a small team and apply engineering and business skills to create solutions for challenges faced by the world’s poor. You’ll collaboratively design product prototypes, distribution systems, and business plans for entrepreneurial ventures in developing countries. What better learning lab could there be?

“Entrepreneurship from the Perspective of Women”

Among the topics you’ll cover is how to use networking to advantage. What particular challenges do women founders face in raising venture capital or managing a board of directors? What’s the best way to manage difficult conversations and negotiations? And how can entrepreneurial women find a balance between their careers and family responsibilities? One student who took this elective says, “I am more likely to consider getting some corporate experience before launching my next company . . . . I realize how the styles, personalities, and companies of women entrepreneurs don’t have to look a particular way.”

“How to Tell a Story”

“Stories” are central to crafting a truly compelling marketing campaign. But a good story is not enough; it must be well told and have a purpose. In this seminar, you’ll learn to break down the basic elements of storytelling, elucidate the power of the verbal as well as the visual, and explore how storytelling helps build brands and organizations. Once upon a time, there was this little company with the silly name Google . . . well, you get the picture.

“The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry through Literature”

Organized around the interplay of religious traditions and national identities, this course uses novels and plays as a basis for examining “the moral and spiritual aspects of business leadership and of the environment in which business is done.” In this elective, literature will be used to shed light on the “cultural contexts of values and beliefs within which commercial activities take place in a global economy.” Sounds like Ethics 101 on steroids.

Columbia Business School Electives

“Innovate or Die”

Taught by Jeffrey Harris, this elective looks at the accomplishments and challenges of select entrepreneurs as they struggled to create and implement disruptive business models while introducing new products and services. Each class focuses on a different industry, pulling examples from the worlds of IT, automobiles, finance, retail, government, media, and the arts. If you don’t leave with a long list of cool startup concepts, then you must have been asleep in class.

“Napoleon’s Glance”

This isn’t a study of the art of management; instead, with Professor William Duggan you will learn the art of management through strategic intuition – otherwise known as Napoleon’s glance – through analytical tools and techniques. A sequel to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”?

“Social Networks & Social Capital”

Effective social networks are increasingly key to important business outcomes – from finding jobs to building brands, from harnessing creativity to ensuring your organization’s survival. In this hands-on elective, taught by Associate Professor Ko Kuwabara, you’ll learn to understand, measure, and develop key resources, diagnosing one another’s social networks to identify career opportunities and analyzing corporate networks to ID opportunities like IPOs and mergers. And you thought Twitter and Facebook were just for laughs.

INSEAD Electives

“Your First Hundred Days”

You and your team of fellow managers have just bought a company and assumed managerial control. All contracts have been signed and you enter the “real world,” rife with events and crises. Your mission will vary according to the event. “Sometimes you will simply have to state what you as a management team propose to do. At other times, you will actually have to go and do it.” Above all, your mission is to react to each situation in such a way as to ensure that the buyout will be successful in the long term. Fun stuff! “Monopoly” anyone?

“Psychological Issues in Management”

Concepts taught will include both time-tested and recent findings, putting you at the forefront of management thinking and giving you the chance to practice and experiment with these ideas. Through class exercises, videotaped exercises, interactive assignments, and cases you’ll turn concepts into competencies. The course will develop your repertoire of skills in individual effectiveness, emotional intelligence, leadership effectiveness one-on-one, and team leadership. To paraphrase the late Dr. Freud, sometimes a merger is just a merger.

“Blue Ocean Strategy Simulation”

Ahoy there! Instead of competing head-to-head, in this interactive elective, you will learn to reconstruct market boundaries and unlock new demand. Understanding how to go beyond competing in existing market space to create blue oceans is critical for leaders in consulting, strategy and business development, and entrepreneurship. B.Y.O Dramamine!

Michigan Ross Electives

“Organizing for Sensemaking and Meaning”

How do people organize and manage meaning — both short-term (“sensemaking”) and long-term — in organizational settings? Events are typically complex and ambiguous, and therefore subject to interpretation. “For action to take place, the diversity of these interpretations must be reduced. For action to be coherent, these interpretations must embody direction. And for the meanings to be retained, they must be embodied in good stories.” Makes good sense to us!

“Writing Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs”

You’ll have an overview of basic business principles and you’ll get to write…write…write — personal biographical statements and product descriptions, value props and industry overview, target market analyses, and mission statements. You’ll also evaluate business plans and solicitations for funding. Perfect for the quant jocks who silently envy the poets in the class and would also like to be “qual” jocks.

“Management Presentations”

Not as basic as it may sound. Putting you at the podium, in this elective you will learn to design, develop, and deliver effective management presentations. Emphasizing how to make strategic communication choices (to PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint?), improving and expanding your communication style, and adapting to others — especially your audience — you’ll make presentations by developing outlines, drafting speaking notes, adapting content as needed, and designing complementary materials. Stuff you can put to work immediately to impress the boss at your summer internship or first post-MBA job.

NYU Stern Electives

“Managing the Digital Firm”

Learn to maximize the business value of IT investments –about 35% of all business capital investment in the US — that are changing the way people and companies are organized. Hear directly from the likes of management gurus at Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle on how to identify the challenges faced by their iconic companies; discover the technologies that will help them meet these challenges; design business processes to take advantage of the technology; and create procedures and policies to implement the required changes. Can you say, “ROI”?

“Women in Business Leadership”

By examining the “real-life” experiences of successful female execs you’ll gain a real appreciation of the potential of women in business. Explore the strategies that organizations can undertake to develop a more diverse and creative pool of leadership talent and analyze the historical, ethical, and legal implications inherent in the exclusion of women from power positions. Best of all, this is a co-ed course that’s also open to enlightened males.

“Corporate Branding & CSR”

Marketing and ethics converge? Who knew?? In this study of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the context of corporate branding, look at the corporate need to protect long-term investments in brand image, the emergence of large segments of affluent, ethically sensitive consumers, and the incompleteness of law and regulation, especially in global markets. Here you can discover how to do good and do well.

CMU Tepper Electives

“Funding Early Stage Ventures”

Learn to appreciate the art of the deal — and see how high-potential transactions get done in the real world. You’ll explore the complexities and nuances of creating successful investment transactions for the company, investors, and founders starting with an analysis of risk and moving to look at the structure of the VC industry. Understand the process and context in which equity investors make decisions and how an entrepreneur can favorably affect that decision process. Then explore the due diligence process via a real-life case study: you and your team will negotiate the terms and structure of a deal, then compare your results with the actual outcome of the company’s efforts. How cool is that? Next stop: Silicon Valley.

“Business Acting I”

“This is not a course in professional lying.” What you will acquire, however, is the ability to communicate what you truly believe in live, face-to-face communication. You’ll learn then practice exercises and specific communication tools borrowed from the stage. In a participatory and experiential way, you’ll practice live communication in a public space and learn empathetic listening and assertive influence. Ready? Action!

“Trends and the Future of Manufacturing in the US”

Examine the invention and use of technologies that support corporations in crisis as well as those that can improve competitive positioning. Through case studies of major companies in crisis, you’ll learn how to utilize new or existing technology as a leveraging tool for recovery and growth. Technologies that will be considered include robotics, advanced medicine, novel energy technologies, mobile computing, advances in manufacturing (process and product), and forms of financial invention. A perfect place for non-engineers to discover and celebrate their inner geek.

UCLA Anderson Electives

“Using Microcomputers for Strategic Information”

How does personal computing support strategic analysis, decision making and management communication? Explore this in case situations in areas including financial analysis, personal information management, small business planning, and organizational design. Personal productivity tools and network resources can enhance organizational effectiveness by furnishing quantitative and qualitative info; you’ll see how in this hands-on elective. Ladies and gentlemen, start your iPads!

“Great Ideas in Management”

In this seminar, you’ll hear directly from senior Anderson faculty members as they discuss ideas related to their own research in one-hour formal presentations of ideas and a one-hour discussion followed by an informal reception for seminar members and presenters. Cutting-edge learning plus complimentary wine & cheese? We are so there!

“Managing Processes in the Information Age”

As a newly minted MBA, you may be asked questions like: “Should this company outsource? If so, which business processes should be outsourced?” and “Can you identify areas where IT could be used significantly to improve our business performance?” Learn how to answer them in this elective. Business leaders bear an enormous burden as they attempt to understand the challenges and opportunities provided by 21st-century technologies in order to make intelligent decisions. Having the knowledge and confidence to make tough choices is what this elective is all about. Future CEOs, COOs, and CTOs, this one is for you!

London Business School Electives

“New Creative Ventures”

Led by lecturer John Bates you’ll explore how entrepreneurs identify and analyze the commercial feasibility of creative ideas, turn them into products and services, and take these to market. Consider “value creation” and how it applies to creative businesses — coping with demand uncertainty and inherent substantial upfront fixed costs. Examine how the “creative process” is affected by technological change, and explore how and why the culture of creativity matters. In exploring a wide range of issues surrounding creative ventures you’ll also consider management issues and gain insight into opportunities in sectors from design to film and TV, from fashion and advertising to music and computer games, and in publishing and the performing arts. Future entrepreneurs, if this doesn’t get your imagination soaring, nothing will.

“Service Management Field Project in Greece”

Talk about going into the “eye of the hurricane.” Greece on the brink of financial insolvency continues to be in the headlines, making this block-week course timely. Taught by operations and service management guru Professor Nikos Tsikriktsis, you’ll engage in real-life projects for Greek firms in the service sector. Rather than studying operations management, you will engage in an actual consulting assignment and, depending on the problems and situations you encounter, you’ll draw upon a variety of skill sets. In a word, “Opa!”

“Going to Market: Managing the Channel and Sales Force”

Theories and plans are great, but business ideas are proven only if and when the marketplace says, “Sold!”Once the value proposition is established, then the go-to-market approach — when and how — critically determines a company’s sales success. With lecturer Anja Lambrecht you’ll examine how a well-designed and executed go-to-market strategy can become a major source of differentiation. What does it take to make the critical decisions that define this strategy? The answer requires an in-depth understanding of your customer’s needs and then placing a premium on getting it right the first time. Learn the fundamentals on how to successfully design, manage, and evaluate a company’s channel and sales force management strategy and tactics, then study the interaction of those policies with variables such as branding, pricing, product characteristics, and product lifecycle. That’s a lot of stars to be in alignment, but when they are, watch out world.

University of Texas McCombs Electives

“Innovation and Knowledge Management”

“Innovation happens only when knowledge is shared.” Research suggests that most large, complex, information-technology intense attempts at knowledge management fail. Professor Reuben McDaniel reveals why this is true and provides options for enabling better knowledge management. You’ll analyze strategies to encourage knowledge sharing and examine why smart people with good intentions often fail to use strategies that work. Better to learn and master these valuable lessons now in the classroom than later in the marketplace.

“Business Intelligence with Data Mining”

How does a smart company know what prospective customers want before even those prospects know what they want? With Professor Maytal Saar-Tsechansky, you’ll examine how innovative marketers constantly search for new ways to find and use data. We all know that online retail powerhouse Amazon provides suggestions for new purchases based on a consumer’s transaction history, and airlines use customer data to increase loyalty through discounts or merchandise. Moving beyond such transactional data and conventional applications, this course will reveal newer applications of data mining that allow other disciplines to benefit from systematic data analysis. Go for the gold!

UNC Kenan Flagler Electives

“Power, Politics, and Leadership”

It’s a jungle out there, people. What are the various ways that power is used within business organizations today? Here you’ll examine advanced leadership issues related to managing your manager, managerial sabotage and succession, changing difficult subordinates, gaining promotions, navigating through office politics, and ensuring a successful career and life. Using live, complex cases you’ll develop key principles of leadership. Bottom line: you’ll learn how to think and act like the CEO that you intend to become decades from now. It’s good to be king or queen.

UVA Darden Electives

“Leadership & Diversity Through Literature”

Here you’ll study diversity and leadership while expanding your literary knowledge. Condensed readings from classics will introduce you to culturally diverse protagonists ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Virginia Woolf — icons who confronted leadership challenges much like those encountered today and whose writings continue to influence assumptions about how to manage people. See the world through stories and realize the significance of stories to understand yourself and others. This elective will challenge you to examine classic stories in new ways with greater relevance than you ever imagined. Watch out, Oprah’s Book Club!

“Establishing Yourself at Work”

Here’s your “how-to” guide for navigating in the real world. In this elective, you’ll develop career management skills that help you become a more effective leader in your summer internship or upon graduation. Through examination of films, TV, and movie clips this class will raise issues that inspire interactive conversation focused on individual students in the class. Explore critical phenomena about “joining up” such as establishing credibility, learning organizational language and norms, aligning with work groups and teams, managing upward, and dealing with difficult personalities. After this course, you may well find yourself fitting in and gaining influence more quickly — and even outperforming your competition. Being the “new guy” at work doesn’t have to be so stressful.

“Markets in Human Hope”

Yes, it sounds kind of “out there” but also very engaging. In this elective, you’ll explore the feasibility of constructing financial markets for firms in the social sector as well as capital markets in countries and regions where they don’t currently exist. Examine the role of financial systems and entrepreneurship in economic development and social transformation. Explore constraints on financial markets and on entrepreneurship in the social sector. You’ll be introduced to new financial instruments and innovative entrepreneurial initiatives through a historical survey, and be presented with economic development as the design of new financial instruments and “the fabrication of new markets in human hope.” Want to make a real difference in the world after b-school? Start here.

“The Spirit of the New Workplace”

What are the possibilities of human organization? In this course you’ll assess yourown core values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations about work. The intention here is to “spark a lifelong quest for learning” about who you are, and how you can best perform and lead others to success in an ever-changing business climate. You’ll discover what “work” can be at both the individual and organizational levels. Through group discussions, movement exercises, journaling and free writing — even guided meditation and individual reflection — you’ll “discover what is true for you and move forward with that knowledge.” Even better than a Magic 8-Ball, we promise.

Yale SOM Electives

“Strategy, Technology & War”

Crossing boundaries between management, politics, and economics, this course offers an integrated examination of technology and strategy in a fascinating, vital field: national security. Key concepts such as technology strategy, macro-organizational behavior, and strategic posture are developed to describe the international strategic environment. “Analysis of the changing structure of defense in light of new dynamics, i.e., a second nuclear age, the spread of advanced technologies to China, India, militia groups, etc., network-centric and information warfare, private equity investment in defense and intelligence, and a shifting locus of innovation to lower-tier firms.” Forward, march!

“Mathletics: Modeling Through Sports”

When should a batter take a swing on a 3-0 count? What long-shot college hoops team is most likely to knock off a top seed in March Madness? In Mathletics, you’ll immerse yourself in solving sports issues like these via probability models, statistics, decision analysis, and spreadsheets. The hidden agenda is to develop your modeling skills by capitalizing on your love of sports and, well, sports betting. Finally, an MBA course that could pay for itself. Enough said.

“Competitive Strategy and the Internal Organization of the Firm”

Ultimately, what makes or breaks any company is its people. Here, you’ll learn to think more strategically about an organization’s human resources and how to align a firm’s HR structure with its strategic choices in the product marketplace. You’ll explore topics including HR policies, compensation and incentives, and organizational structure, and discuss social and legal issues in managing people.

“Listening to the Customer”

Are you interested in strategy consulting, market research, and brand management careers? Here you’ll gain experience in understanding what data — qualitative and quantitative — about consumers and markets can help them make strategic marketing decisions. You’ll find how industry-leading companies get to the top — and stay there — by paying attention to those whose purchases and loyalty define success.

Dartmouth Tuck Electives

“Business & Ethics at the Base of the Pyramid”

Sorry, no field trip to Egypt. This course is about the world’s economic “pyramid.” Through case-based discussion, with Professor Maggie Hanson you’ll explore how market-based ventures overcome challenges in contexts ranging from environmental conservation to health care delivery, social safety nets to humanitarian and disaster relief. You’ll discuss opportunities, challenges, and dilemmas attendant with working in very low-income markets. This is a course that “may test traditional assumptions that MBA students make about how society intersects with markets, and raise questions not only of business aims but also broader questions of risk and responsibility.”

“Economics of the Credit Crisis”

Straight from the headlines of the Wall Street Journal. Take this deep dive into the economics and financial aspects of the current credit crisis, with a focus on the subprime mortgage market, the practices of securitization, and regulatory response. With Professor Bob Hansen, you’ll gain an appreciation for the way that economists examine a subject, “from our reliance on theory and principles to careful empirical analysis.”

“Strategy in Turbulent Environments”

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto! When change is the norm, as it has become in today’s business environments — driven by technology, demographics, innovation, financial shifts, governmental intervention, or unforeseen crises — strategies must be dynamic. Here you’ll engage in a group project and also explore strategies with Professor Alva Taylor, examining situations ranging from banks to biotech firms to nightclubs. Party on, Professor T!

Oxford Said Electives

“Leading Strategic Change”

Today’s financial markets are troublesome, to say the least; however, recessions have occurred every decade or so, historically. The difference this time is the speed of arrival of the problems and the depth and breadth of the crisis. “In this kind of world one does not just need to know about survival but also about the recovery and renewal of organizations as we move through and out of the recession. In these processes, leading strategic change is a key corporate task.” Led by Professor Andrew Pettigrew, internationally renowned for his research and writing on leading strategic change, you’ll study the leadership of change and the management of performance improvement with an emphasis on turnaround and renewal in turbulent times. With this kind of training, you’ll be ready for whatever the future has in store.

UC Berkeley Electives

“Opportunity Recognition: Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley”

Whether you’re a tech-head, a finance wizard, or a marketeer, here you’ll gain the core skills needed to identify opportunities that can lead to successful entrepreneurial high-tech ventures. This course closely examines the approaches “most likely to succeed” for entrepreneurial companies in light of markets and technologies, emphasizing creating and executing strategies where there is rapid technological change and limited resources. Watch out, Google and Facebook!

“Power and Politics in Organizations”

If you’re keen to examine “the art and science of influence in organizations” then this course is for you. Organizations are, after all, political entities and power and influence are how things get done. Here you’ll learn to diagnose the real distribution of power, identify strategies for building new sources of power, develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the role of power in building cooperation and leading change. This course is guaranteed to pump…you…up!

“The Future of IT”

Here you’ll evaluate the strategic options and their consequences and view the IT industry through the eyes of a general manager or CEO of an IT firm. “Evaluate the role of regulatory, technological, economic, and market forces in shaping the IT industry structure, value chain, business and operating models, competitive strategy and dynamics, and barriers to entry.” Techno-geeks, prepare to be transformed.