There are many reasons why we believe our MBA in Global Hospitality Management is the best of its kind. One of the more important is the unique, real-world industry exposure it offers, through the Business Consultancy Project. Senior Lecturer Bilal Hassan tells us more about this challenging and immersive student experience…
In recent weeks, we’ve provided an in-depth exploration of our flagship MBA program. We’ve talked about what’s changing and why, gained insights into the two exciting new specializations – in Advanced Revenue and Performance Management and Hospitality Entrepreneurship and Business Development – and discovered how the principles of effective leadership are embedded within the program.
What knits all these elements together is the moment when students get the opportunity to put what they’ve learned to the acid test: solving real-world business issues for some of the biggest brands in the industry.
“We use real clients with real problems that need real solutions”
“With some MBA cohorts, students are promised ‘real life’ case studies to work on in class,” explains Senior Lecturer Bilal Hassan. “These are fine to an extent. But you are dealing with a historical event, where the outcome is known. There’s no pressure; no room for risk-taking or creative thought.”
For Les Roches MBA students, the situation could hardly be more different. “We use real clients with real problems that need real solutions,” says Bilal. “It takes the MBA students outside the campus boundaries, outside of any textbooks, and directly into the corporate world.
“The clients bring their problems to us because they genuinely believe our students have the capacity to discover workable solutions. And the evidence to date is that they do!”
So far, industry partners who have offered Consultancy Projects include Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne, Hotel d’Angleterre, Clinique La Prairie, Accor Hotels, Rocco Forte Hotels, Peninsula Hotels and New York Times.
When these partners judge the overall success of the project, they are asked to focus on four key areas:
- How well the students tackled the problem, and the knowledge and skill sets they used;
- How creative the solutions were, and how creative the students’ approach to problem-solving was;
- How applicable were their ideas in the real-world scenario?
- How much, if any, investment the company will be prepared to make in implementing the idea?
The recruitment ‘ROI’
Consultancy Projects are challenging, fun and rewarding. But the real payback comes after graduation, when students are fighting for the best jobs or building their own businesses.
“If you look at today’s recruitment models, when the top companies interview people, many of them will give you a problem to solve, a case study or something where you can prove your professional credentials under pressure,” notes Bilal.
“Our approach trains students so they are already proactively thinking about solutions before they go to see potential employers. They have answers from recent, real-life experience; not ideas found in textbooks. The world is moving too fast to rely on case studies from five years ago.”
Bilal went on to give a little insight into the methodologies for problem solving that set Les Roches Consultancy Projects apart.
“The client briefs us about the problem. Then the first thing the students have to do is not focus on the specific problem, but to look around it for the background context, the root causes. In that way we can discover the ‘problem behind the problem’. After all, if it was a linear problem with a linear solution then the company would probably have found the solution already, so wouldn’t need our help!
“I’d say 95% of the time the solution is not directly related to correcting the particular problem. It’s about finding something new – either a new product or a new way of working. That’s where the entrepreneurial element comes in; and this is as important in a corporate setting as it is for students running their own businesses… especially as the industry recovers from the present crisis.”
“Teamwork is still the most effective way to solve problems creatively – it’s what keeps us humans ahead of the machines.”
Students are taught the classic problem-solving frameworks, since these are important to know even if not always deployed in a given situation. And with his lengthy experience as a consultant, Bilal is also able to give the students valuable insider expertise on consultancy, equipping them to deal with clients confidently and proactively.
And, just as importantly, they learn to work effectively in teams. “Teamwork is still the most effective way to solve problems creatively – it’s what keeps us humans ahead of the machines,” says Bilal. “Our project pushes them to work in teams. Some can be uncomfortable with this to begin with, but they quickly learn how to work with different cultures and characters, play to people’s strengths and find common ground amid their differences. In short, they learn how to collaborate.”
Your exclusive ‘audition’
And, of course, such projects are brilliant for networking. Bilal has already seen MBA graduates picked up by their Consultancy Project clients; and he regards the projects as an incredible opportunity to be ‘auditioned’ outside the formal recruitment process.
“One of the things students often say to me at the start of the project is that they’re looking forward to it because they don’t think they have the confidence to go out into the real world. And developing this confidence is absolutely key for us. We make sure that after the course, and all the client meetings, presentations and the like, they’ve built their confidence and entrepreneurial spirit from the inside.
“That is the key to my class.”