EWMBA students explore business in South Africa

Group of students in South Africa
EWMBA students participating in the Seminar in International Business (SIB) in South Africa, an annual Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program course.  

One day last March, I gathered with my fellow EWMBA students inside of a 20-story building overlooking Johannesberg to learn about the world’s seventh largest coal mining company.

Our group also toured Nelson Mandela’s red-brick “matchbox” in the Soweto heat and spent time absorbing city politics, noshing on the local cuisine and markets, and visiting small businesses—all part of the Seminar in International Business (SIB) in South Africa, an annual Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program course.  

SIB South Africa builds upon the relationships of professors Mark Rittenburg and Ingrid Gavshon, who have deep connections to South Africa through decades of work around coaching, communication, and media in the country, and Lecturer Janine Lee, EWMBA 14, who previously attended the trip as a student, the SIB faculty team built a curriculum to push students to become more global-aware leaders and communicators.

While labeled as a business class, business was one many windows we were able to peer into while visiting South Africa. 

Part of our class pre-assignment focused on South Africa’s history and politics. We discussed Nelson Mandela’s rise, the years of apartheid, the country’s democratic transition, and its current economy. Learning about its history reminded me that apartheid was not a relic of a forgotten past but indelible in the townships we drove past and part of what drives South Africa’s entrepreneurs toward change. 

Through the network of our professors, we had a unique week, highlighted by the hospitality of their friends and professional colleagues in intimate settings that helped us better understand companies. We visited ABSA, a banking conglomerate based in Johannesburg, and SASOL, one of Africa’s major energy companies, where we had a chance to speak to some of the senior leaders. 

Outside of traditional corporations, we also visited multiple non-profits in South Africa, including iHub, Harambee, and Rise Above Development, learning about the aspirations of South African youth. A highlight was a chance to collaborate on a crisis management role-play exercise with the students at iHub, giving them a glimpse of how things could work in their future careers. Between rounds of Nando’s chicken, a South African classic, we continued many conversations as part of an informal meet and greet, discussing careers, skill development, and passions. It was a lesson in hope, shared humanity, and, once again, perspectives you often won’t find in a standard business school class. 

a group of students sitting in a circle working on a project.
MBA students working on a project in South Africa. Photo: Ingrid Gavshon

Our most unique visit was with the deputy mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Eddie Andrews. A city the size of Boston that prides itself as one of the most beautiful places in the world, we got an inner glimpse into the workings of Cape Town. A former rugby player turned politician, Andrews was kind, patient, and enthusiastically answered more than an hour of questions, touching on everything from structure, sustainability, funding, national politics, and more. His mission to set an example of good governance for South Africa inspired us.

Layering on the many ways we interacted with different sectors of the South African economy, the class also allowed us to experience South Africa as tourists, from the grasslands of Kruger National Park to the iconic mountains of Coastal Cape Town. We took solemn tours of Mandela’s prison on Robben Island and the Apartheid Museum, where we spoke to Mandela’s former jailer. They all contributed to our growing connection and understanding of the country.

It’s hard to talk about SIB without mentioning the people. As with any other Haas class, having diverse experiences added dimension. As EWMBA students, we all come from different backgrounds with different motivations for the trip. Our industries span from technology, healthcare, real estate, and education to jobs in sustainability, sales, and clinical research. This spectrum was foundational to our visits, yielding new questions at every site that drew upon students’ unique curiosities.

We went on excursions and dined together, shared jokes while passing snacks on our bus, and spent time reflecting on the week’s fun, stimulating, and complex experiences. Our celebration dinner included emotional toasts, superlatives, and Polaroid memories. As part of the course, our faculty team prompted us to write a letter about our dreams and aspirations for the trip, which encouraged shared vulnerability that pushed many of us to the edge of our comfort zones.

Toward the end of our trip, many of us agreed that SIB had shifted from a class and transcended into something more abstract—an experience, a journey, an academic version of catharsis. 

Reflecting upon the best parts of SIB, I was reminded of one of the Berkeley Haas core Defining Leadership Principles: Beyond Yourself. In South Africa, we were forced to challenge our privilege consistently. There was nuance in everything there, from starting and investing in a company to advising young people who come from very different upbringings. In all of this, we saw ways to better ourselves, better our perspectives, and grow an inch closer to the ethos of leadership we saw as a symbol of Haas.

For many of us, it was our first time visiting South Africa. Thanks to this experience with Haas, it may not be our last.

MBA students travel abroad again on consulting projects as IBD celebrates 30th year

portrait of David Richardson standing in front of a taxi in Asia
“We’re so happy to be up and running again.” – IBD’s executive director David Richardson

For the first time in three years, MBA students are traveling abroad this month to work on consulting projects through the International Business Development (IBD) program at Berkeley Haas.

“We’re so happy to be up and running again,” said IBD’s executive director David Richardson, who runs the marquee Haas global management consulting program that is celebrating its 30th year. “This is one of the most popular electives for our students, and we were crushed when we got hit by COVID restrictions and our students could no longer travel. But we want everyone to know that we’re back.”

Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who teaches the IBD course, added that the hiatus “made us all appreciate the value of experiential classes more than ever.”

Thirteen students assigned to four teams will head to Singapore, Finland, and Guatemala in mid May. To prepare, the students began the IBD consulting course last January, which included the much-anticipated “big reveal” when the students learn where they’ll go.

Group of IBD students holding country signs
The 2022 class of IBD students will travel for the first time in three years.

In Singapore, one project team will work with a global food company. Two teams are heading to Finland. One will work with a software company that offers consumer electronics service management solutions, and another is assigned to a company that built a digital food safety and operations system for hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. In Guatemala, students will collaborate with a social service organization that operates hospitals and vision centers that aim to eradicate treatable blindness.

portrait of Monica Shavers, MBA 23
Monica Shavers, MBA 23, will work in Singapore.

Monica Shavers, MBA 23, said she is looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food of Singapore, while working for the global food company.

“We’ve had lots of (virtual) client meetings, talking to our sponsor every week to figure out our itinerary and the ways in which we’ll learn about Singaporean food culture,” she said. “We’ve been talking through all of our ideas, and laying out what we will validate while we are in-country.”

When applying to Haas, IBD was one of the key attractions, she said. “I didn’t get to study abroad as an undergraduate,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me to get that global experience while I’m in school again.”

Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, is heading to Joensuu, a small town in Finland, in mid-May to work with a client that makes hardware and software used to control food temperature safety.

Portrait of Kylie Gemmell
Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, will work in Finland.

Gemmell, who worked in real estate investing before coming to Haas, said IBD has helped her explore a career change. “I’ve never had a consulting job and I wanted to experience what that would feel like—and here I am, 12 weeks into food safety regulation, an area I never knew existed,” she said. Gemmell added that her IBD consulting project has helped her learn more about herself, as the work differs from the independent nature of real estate.

“What I’ve realized is that I really love working on a team and that I get my energy from people and from working collaboratively.”

IBD has grown since JoAnn Dunaway, MBA 92, started the program after she graduated from Haas. “She saw a need for a challenging experiential learning program for MBA students to solve business problems,” Richardson said.  “JoAnn had an international background and interest and she brought that in—and the school ran with it.”

During the recent Alumni Weekend at Haas, six IBD alumni joined students for a combined virtual/in-person panel during the April 28 IBD class. The alumni shared insights on their projects and the impact the program has had on their careers. (Read more from IBD’s Associate Director Danner Doud-Martin on the IBD blog)

To prepare for the return to project work overseas, Richardson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, headed abroad last November to meet with potential IBD project clients. In recent months, he worked with UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office and Risk Services  to make sure Haas met UC Berkeley’s standards for mitigating the risk of Covid during student travel and at client sites. Over time, he said he’s updated the list of countries where IBD students were able to safely work.

Richardson said he feels great about the program’s future.

“We’re hopeful that we’re getting back into the business of sending more students overseas,” Richardson said. 


Consulting job acceptances rise for Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022

More Berkeley Haas students in the Class of 2022 accepted jobs at top consulting firms this year, a trend fueled by a need for more corporate help with everything from staffing challenges to brand positioning.

About 28% of graduating full-time MBA students in the Class of 2022 have taken consulting jobs this year, an uptick from 25% for the last several years. Students also accepted more job offers earlier in the cycle, and acceptances are up at top firms including McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), said Chris Gavin, a relationship manager in consulting for the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group“Consulting firms have been going all out with hires,” Gavin said.

Kim Ayers
Kim Ayers, MBA 18, worked at McKinsey for two years before moving to DocuSign.

Consulting is a top industry for MBA grads—second only to tech—for many reasons. Beyond the prestige of working at a top firm, the pay is excellent, with starting salaries averaging $158,000 plus sign-on bonuses that averaged $31,331 last year. Consulting firms also interview and hire on a predictable schedule—taking some of the stress and uncertainty out of the job search. They offer challenging assignments in great locations around the globe, and often serve as a springboard to careers in strategy and operations at big firms. 

“Consulting is a great way to get high-level experience across a number of industries, be connected to the company at the C-level, and continue the MBA learning journey,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships. “You are thrown a lot of high-level, challenging assignments early in your career, there is a lot of variety in the work, and the compensation is fabulous.”

Kim Ayers, MBA 18, was recently promoted to strategy director at DocuSign, a position she said she would never have been offered if she hadn’t worked at McKinsey & Company first.

“My time at McKinsey gave me the external validation that was needed: People could see McKinsey (on my resume) and see that I had the right business skills and knowledge. It also gave me internal validation,” said Ayers, who came to Haas after working for nonprofit organizations.

“Going all out with hires”

The consulting industry is also unique in that it’s open to people from so many different career backgrounds, Scott said. “They love people who come from non-traditional fields, from the military to not-for-profit organizations to banking,” she said.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22
Brandon Ehlert, MBNA 22, will go to Deloitte.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22, arrived at Haas thinking that he’d pursue real estate and perhaps return to the Four Seasons, where he worked before the MBA program, for a corporate job scouting new real estate prospects for the hotel chain.

But during his first year, he participated in Kearney, Deloitte, and Microsoft case competitions, which led to an interest in consulting and a career pivot. In those competitions, students tackle “a case that’s like a distilled version of a consulting project and provides a taste of what I would do in consulting.”

While interviewing for jobs during the pandemic felt uncertain, Ehlert said consulting, which schedules interviews and hires on a predictable schedule, offered a way to “minimize the uncertainty.” For Ehlert, the case competitions led to recruiting efforts, and an internship at Deloitte, where he accepted a job as a senior consultant in New York City.

“The hotel industry was narrow,” he said. “I thought consulting would open doors to other industries.”

Broadening a career

The appeal of a broader career also drew Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, toward consulting. 

Shane Wilkinson
Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, will work at BCG Digital.

Before coming to Haas, Wilkinson, who also holds a master’s degree in data science and predictive analytics, was a “Moneyball-style quant” who worked for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. “My draw towards getting an MBA was to get a broader business foundation because I was so focused in my career on the technical aspects,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t see that as my future.” 

Meeting fellow MBA students who worked in consulting sold him on the industry. “They have a certain level of professionalism,” he said. ”I admired their willingness to get things done.”

During the interview process, Wilkinson connected with a Haas alumnus who worked at BCG and helped him land an internship last April. “He passed my name along to the San Francisco office, which had a digital branch that aligned with my background,” he said. That led to a job at BCG Digital starting in January. 

International appeal

For international students, consulting holds global appeal—whether they plan to stay in the U.S. after graduating or return home.

Crystal Ang, MBA 22, who accepted a consulting job with McKinsey after interning there, worked for the Singapore government before coming to Haas. For an international student, the visa sponsorship of a consulting firm is appealing, Ang said.

Crystal Ang
Crystal Ang, MBA 22, will join McKinsey in San Francisco.

While attending coffee chats and case preparation workshops offered by the Haas Career Management Group and the student-run consulting club, she met Ehlert. The two began case prepping for interviews together during fall semester, and Ang ultimately received two offers from top firms.

She will join McKinsey’s San Francisco office as a generalist, apprenticing in different practice areas.  “I’m so excited about this job and that I will be able to stay near the Haas community.  I know my Berkeley MBA has prepared me for this next phase, and I’m excited to tackle whatever is next.”

Student speaker to 2021 undergraduates: ‘Our story is just beginning’

Five Haas undergraduates toss caps in the air.
2021 Haas graduates on campus tossing caps. From left to right: Richmond Tang, Michael Pratt, Hannah Miller, Tamarik Rabb, and Matt Portnov, all BS 21. (All students are roommates, except for Richmond Tang, who is vaccinated.) Photo: Matt Portnov.

On top of persevering through the rigorous curriculum, the Berkeley Haas undergraduate class of 2021 faced rolling blackouts, wildfires, and the global pandemic. It may not have been the experience they expected, but it will shape them for life, said commencement student speaker Phoebe Yin, BS 21.

“Today we celebrate something that’s unique to our generation: It’s a soft strength to stay malleable when the world is hard on us,” Yin said during virtual commencement last Saturday. “Our story is just beginning…we have nothing to stop us because we are ready for anything. To think only about the things we have lost would be to ignore the compassion, creativity, and unparalleled resilience we have gained.”

“Our story is just beginning.” – Phoebe Yin, BS 21.

The graduating class of 380 students included the first 41 graduates of the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) program and three students graduating early from the Global Management Program (GMP).

The M.E.T. program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants students two degrees in business and engineering in four years. GMP students enter Haas as freshmen and earn an undergraduate business degree with a concentration in global management.

“Your class has by far had the most impact on me during my time teaching here at Haas,” commencement speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.

Dwyer, a former broadcast journalist who is on the professional faculty at Haas, acknowledged that students are living in a time of widening income inequality—including within their own class. She noted that one of her students couldn’t afford to buy a working laptop, while another logged into class from a traveling adventure.

“…Stay humble…even in the midst of great accomplishments like the one you’re obtaining today. Stay resilient. The last 18 months have surely taught us that. And stay appreciative, even despite the unfairness and the obstacles that your class has faced,” she told the graduates.

Dean Ann Harrison, who wore full regalia for the sendoff commencement video, also congratulated the class for its many achievements.

“Your world was upended in the middle of your junior year at Haas due to a global pandemic, yet you showed true grit, mastering a rigorous academic curriculum during one of the most turbulent years any of us has experienced,” Harrison said.

Speakers praised the grads for all of their work outside of class during their years at Haas, including calling attention to racial injustice, winning case competitions, creating startups, and providing face masks to essential workers.

Erika Walker
“You met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a redefined sense of purpose,” – Erika Walker

“You have endured over a year of college life that was unlike anything you could have ever imagined four years ago. Yet you met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a redefined sense of purpose,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Berkeley Haas undergraduate program.

Haas alumni, who ranged from more recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged graduates to live by the Haas Defining Leadership Principles every day.

Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Kenneth Chen, BS 03, vice president and chief audit executive at Spotify; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Austin Drake, BS 18, who works in global operations at Facebook; Double Bear Lucky Sandhu, BS 96, MBA 15, president of Reliance Financial; and Jordyn Elliot, BS 20, a marketing associate at Ingenio.

Award winners include:

Departmental Citation winner: Akshat Gokhale, (M.E.T graduate)

Students Always: Ananya Gupta

Beyond Yourself: Arman Kermanizadeh

Question the Status Quo: Erinn Wong

Confidence Without Attitude: Tamarik Rabb

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award winner: Sooji Kim

Dan Mulhern, who teaches leadership in the Management of Operations Group as a member of the Haas professional faculty, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.

VIDEO: Wall Street pioneer Margo Alexander on thriving against the odds

As one of the first female leaders in the global financial services sector, Margo Alexander, BS 68, spent four decades achieving exceptional success on Wall Street in the face of pervasive sexism. Now, she’s using what she learned as a financial powerbroker to cultivate entrepreneurs who serve the world’s poorest people.

“The social problems of the country are not just for the government to solve. And corporations have the levers…they can make that decision to improve [society],” says Alexander, who spoke candidly about her experiences with Interim Dean Laura Tyson in the final installment of the 2018 Dean’s Speaker Series this month.

Alexander retired in 2003 after 30 years at UBS/Paine Webber, in equity research, sales, trading and asset management, serving as chairman and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management 1995 to 2000 and chairman from 1999 to 2001.  She then spent almost a decade as board chair of Acumen—a nonprofit committed to changing the way the world tackles poverty—where she continues to serve as chair emeritus.

She’s focused on helping entrepreneurs doing business in impoverished regions of Africa and South Asia—applying many of the same tactics she used to spot talent in the corporate financial sector. “I think being an entrepreneur is hard work anywhere. But imagine in a place where there’s no electricity, the water is intermittent, the workforce is uneducated…all of the resources that you would pull together as an entrepreneur to build an organization are somewhat rickety to start with,” she said.

“What we have found about our successes over time is the most important variable is the character of the entrepreneur. They’re operating in very difficult circumstances; there’s an enormous amount of corruption; and, if these people don’t stand up in an honest, ethical way, we’ll [withdraw our support].”

Alexander, who was recently honored with a Haas Lifetime Achievement Award, exemplifies the Defining Leadership Principle Question the Status Quo. Each time she entered into a new assignment and wanted to make changes, she took care to communicate to employees what would be in it for them. She would start by saying, “Here’s what I’ve learned about our group. Here’s what we need to do better. And here’s how we’re going to do it.” Then came the benefit: “It will improve our bonus pool.”

Her strategy was to link “the broader goals with the individual performance and what that would do in terms of the firm, the team, the individual.”

Alexander was one of just 27 women in a class of 800 to graduate from Harvard Business School in 1970. It took her two years to get her first job in finance. In her last semester, she signed up for several interviews. “You’d go in, and, frequently, they would say, ‘oh, I’m sorry, we don’t hire women.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ So, then you leave. I’ve had women say to me, ‘What did you say to them?’ Nothing. I mean, it was just how things were.”

Alexander persevered through years of gender discrimination, and she believes strongly that women bring tremendous assets to corporate finance. “I actually think women can have an advantage in dealing with people. I think women are generally more open, more inclusive, and warmer.”

She had lots of advice when asked how to attract and retain top talent, especially entrepreneurs. First, she advocates for offering robust training programs and fellowships.

“When you get involved in hiring people, you’re not always right, but you get a feeling for what is it that motivates this person. Do they have ethical standards?,” she said. “I would say we do not have a magic box. But, when you find out you were wrong, we don’t sit around. We’re done.”

Watch Alexander’s full talk:

New year, new program brings more undergrads to Haas

Undergrad students gather for orientation. Photo: Alyssa Fong
Undergrad students gather for orientation. Photo: Alyssa Fong

A group of 359 new undergraduate students—selected from the largest applicant pool ever—joined the Haas community this week, including 267 continuing UC Berkeley students and 92 transfer students.

They were welcomed Monday during orientation with an address by Interim Dean Laura Tyson, an ethics discussion, an overview of career services and alumni networks, an introduction to the Zero Waste plan for Chou Hall, and a session on “How to be Successful at Haas” with Lecturer Krystal Thomas.

Becoming a Haasie was especially competitive this year, with an acceptance rate of just 13.5%. All but one of the UC Berkeley students who were accepted decided to enroll; 92 of the 104 admitted transfer students enrolled. The Berkeley students have an impressive average GPA of 3.68, while the average among transfers is 3.91. About half of the new students are women.

Among them is Jordyn Elliott, BS 20, and a forward on the Cal Women’s soccer team.

“I’m really excited,” Elliott said. “Haas will be a challenge—but as an athlete you are primed to face challenges and I hope that helps me in next two years. I’m so excited to take all of the core classes and explore the electives.”

Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program, said business is now one of the most popular majors on campus, drawing many more students to Haas overall.

“We’re turning away many students, and we’ve been breaking record numbers consistently over the past three years,” she said.

In addition to the undergraduates at Haas, the program now has 33 undergraduate students enrolled in the new four-year Global Management Program, which began classes in London this week.

Students in the Global Management Program will study in London.
Students in the new Global Management Program will study in London.

Additionally, 52 new students are starting the rigorous Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) Program, which launched last year as a joint program with Haas and Berkeley Engineering.

The M.E.T. class is both academically exceptional and well-rounded. The class includes students who have built a bike sensor to alert cyclists of oncoming cars; created a “Gluten Guru” app to determine if products contain gluten; developed a YouTube following of more than 6,000 subscribers on an electronic review channel; and founded a nonprofit that promotes literacy to elementary school kids.

Students in this program hail from Puerto Rico, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

Berkeley-Haas to launch new Global Management Program for undergrads

Berkeley-Haas Global Management ProgramBerkeley-Haas is rolling out an intensive new international program for undergraduates in fall 2018, designed to prepare students to take their places as leaders in the multinational workplace.

The Global Management Program, a selective program for a small group of students, will be the second Haas program offered to high school seniors applying to UC Berkeley. (The Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) Program, which launched this year, is the first.)

About 30 students will be admitted to the inaugural GMP class.

The Global Management Program is intended to be completed in four years, awarding students a bachelor of science degree in business administration. It builds on the school’s existing Global Management Concentration, which readies-upper class undergraduate business majors for international careers.

The new program features several innovations. Entering freshmen will come to campus for eight weeks in summer 2018 to do preparatory coursework, meet their fellow program participants, and connect with the university community. They will then travel as a group to the UC London Center in the British capital’s Bloomsbury district through Global Edge, a campus-wide program offering freshmen a chance to study abroad during their first semester.

Erika Walker, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at Haas, called the new program a defining approach for the next generation of business leaders. “International experience is a key requirement for business education today,” Walker said. “This program will enable students to learn first-hand what life and people are like in environments away from home, and those experiences will ultimately help shape their leadership style.”

Program administrators stressed that the program will be intense.  On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, Global Management Program students will have to fulfill a language requirement and take specialized global business courses.

“This is a deeper program than we’ve ever had before at Haas,” says Dan Himelstein, a lecturer in the Berkeley-Haas Business and Public Policy Group, who serves as the Global Management Program’s faculty adviser. “In addition, it’s a cohort experience for the students, who will be working together throughout their undergraduate careers, sharing common experiences.”

For new students with an interest in management and a budding sense of wanderlust, the program may just what they’re looking for. “This is a strong opportunity to begin shaping who they are going to be as global leaders,” Walker says.

To be eligible for the program, admitted students must:




New California Management Review explores neuromarketing & the ed tech revolution

Like DNA tests gathered by investigators to solve a crime, human brain scans can provide key evidence for marketers trying to better understand consumer behavior.

At the same time, just like DNA tests, there are clear limits to what a peek into the brain can tell marketers, says Ming Hsu, an associate professor in the Berkeley-Haas Marketing Group and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley.

In “Neuromarketing: Inside the mind of the consumer,” an article published in the new California Management Review, Hsu aims to set realistic goals and expectations about what the application of neuroscience to marketing can and can’t do. Hsu’s case is among seven new articles included in the current issue, including an article by Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons on “Strategies for Higher Education in the Digital Age.”

CMR cover summer 2017

In his article, Lyons explores how new technology, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobile, are changing how education is delivered and structured. The article outlines eight examples of ways in which technology will be used to rethink everything from how students learn to how to train faculty to use their classroom time more efficiently.

“Ed tech is already changing the education product,” Lyons writes. “Therein lies its disruptive potential.”

One example is MATLAB, a coding course at UC Berkeley that used to be taught solely in a traditional classroom, but is now also taught online. The online format gives students access to a quick feedback loop that relies on a grading engine: students submit code and get instant feedback and help with problem areas. Students so loved the iterative part of the course that the engine is now used to teach the traditional campus versions of the same course. “This is a different product, not the same product distributed through a new channel,” Lyons writes.

Meantime, Hsu’s case discusses how neuroscience promises products that directly measure customers’ underlying thoughts, feelings, and intentions by testing a multitude of responses coming from the brain. The key differentiator of brain-based techniques is that they separate what people say they think from what they actually think, Hsu says.

Common tools used include EEG, or electroencephalogram, a test that detects electrical activity using small, flat electrodes attached to the scalp; PET, or positron emission tomography imaging; and functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. Indeed, these techniques are more expensive than traditional methods such as focus groups, and that expense tends to inflate expectations.

“Managers sometimes have a vision that brain recordings are effortlessly translated into customer insights and delivered with a bow,” Hsu said. “But that’s like asking DNA evidence to completely replace tools likes suspects’ interview, crime scene observation, or general critical thinking. The inability to reconstruct the suspects’ profiles from DNA evidence alone has not made the impact of genetic testing on forensics any less profound.”

Hsu suggests using tools to complement traditional approaches, not replace them; taking insights from focus groups or surveys and testing them using brain-based methods. This is particularly important when it comes to decisions in marketing and brand strategy, which often address questions regarding how customers think, feel, and respond to a company’s offerings.

Getting the wrong answers can mean costly mistakes that take years, even decades, to become apparent, let alone correct, Hsu said.  “A growing problem today is the inundation of data from customer focus groups, surveys, and social media, some of which can be mutually inconsistent and contradictory,” he said. “Brain based methods allow marketers to validate, prioritize, and select among putative insights generated from this mountain of data.”

About California Management Review: Published quarterly, California Management Review is a top-ranked management journal that serves as bridge of communication between those who study management and those who practice it.

To subscribe, visit cmr.berkeley.edu.