Goin’ on a FIELD Trip…HBS Style
Remember when you were in elementary school and you got to go on a field trip? Wasn’t it exciting? ! You probably turned in your signed permission slip, packed your lunch, and then got on a school bus to go to a museum / state legislature / petting zoo / educational IMAX movie and then, when the experiential learning was finished, you hopped back on the bus and that was that.
For those of you who were unaware, HBS has taken this concept and made it much, much more complex. HBS has changed up its curriculum for the first time in…well, forever…and is getting all 900 of us out of the classroom and into the real world. This new course that they have added to the first year required curriculum is called “FIELD” and is incredibly ambitious (click here for the “official” description of the course). Gone are the days of pontificating about what we would do if we were the CEOs from the comfort of our mahogany-paneled classrooms.
Starting tomorrow, 900 first year HBS students will jet off to all corners of the Earth to spend a week working for an international client. Sound like a logistical nightmare? It is. HBS students will be heading to over 10 different developing countries, and teams of six will be working on individual projects for different clients. Each team has, at its disposal, a driver and translator for the entire trip, as well as an on-site faculty advisor and some support staff in the event that something goes awry (which let’s face it, it very likely will).
Things are complicated enough when we get to our respective countries, but consider the logistics of even preparing all of us crazy kids to go! HBS turned the innovation lab into a full service medical clinic in the months preceding the trip, and all of us cycled through at our appointed times to review our immunization records, talk to a doctor, get any shots we needed, and pick up prescriptions of any medicines that we’ll need in country. The school contracted with an agency to help us secure visas to get into our countries. They established relationships with companies and, subsequently, projects all around the world so that we would have interesting things to work on. They prepared materials on business etiquette and customs for us. They have literally done everything short of holding our hands to make sure this thing is a success. And, based on my experience so far, I think it will be. These people know what they’re doing, and anything less than complete success does not seem to be an option.
So, where am I heading for my FIELD trip, you may ask? Vietnam! I leave tomorrow morning and am really excited to get to know Southeast Asia. I’ll be working with some awesome teammates on a project for Vietnam’s second largest Telecom provider. We will be staying in Ho Chi Minh City for a week, and then once the work is over the fun begins! I’m sticking around for another ten days to travel with some friends and see all that ‘Nam has to offer.
Once we get back from our global experience, FIELD takes another interesting turn…we will be put into teams of six to establish a “viable business”. Each team has to come up with a product or service that can be sold at an arm’s length in the market (e.g., not to your Mom or best friend). All teams are funded a minimum of $3,000 to come up with their product or service, and additional funding and in-kind support (like legal services, software development, etc.) will be available to us as needed. The intellectual property for each team will reside in its own LLC, so after the course is over the team members will own the IP (not HBS). To make things even more interesting, the entire first year class will be able to “invest” (not with real money, but rather with an allotment of points) in the ideas that seem the most promising, so our fledgling businesses will actually have a market value. The teams that get the best grade will be the ones who are able to successfully conceptualize and launch their business, while also communicating the value proposition to the “market.”
Whew! Intense. HBS has clearly adopted the “go big or go home” philosophy with the new FIELD course, which I respect. I mean, why do anything halfway, right?
We’re going big, people!