A common misconception in the research phase of a consulting project is that “data” and support for a project’s hypotheses needs to come in the form of a specific numerical representation.
The phrase: “We need to support that with data,” or, “What do the numbers show,” typically translates into a scramble to find the X% of this, or the $XX of that. Finite numbers which show, prove, or otherwise represent a quantifiable outcome to a hypothesis are sought after. It can be a tricky process, especially if an industry outlook is rapidly evolving and even subject matter experts are hesitant to weigh in on the subject in specific terms.
This misconception that numbers are more “real” and “accurate” forms of data significantly discredits qualitative sources of data. In fact, these qualitative sources can provide robust yet precise details about many fluid characteristics of industry change.
Take the Stakeholder Analysis my team is conducting, for example.
The team has strengthened our industry and internal analyses by conducting University-wide interviews with key stakeholders
As part of the Fox School of Business’s full time MBA curriculum, students undergo a semester-long foray into consulting, called Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC), and work on a specific client project. My team’s client is attempting to navigate the quickly changing environment of higher education by determining how to best position itself in the online learning space. This question offers numerous opportunities to start digging into enrollment statistics, costs of comparable peer institution programs, and other quantifiable sources of data.
But what this quantifiable data is showing us is that the industry is headed for a significant and powerful change. We want to know how the client is prepared for this rapid change and what internal resources, frameworks, and mindsets might prevent widespread adoption of an online learning strategy. But the process to answer these questions is not as simple as looking at the client’s balance sheet and income statements; we won’t be able to gather insights from the enrollment trends by itself.
The team has strengthened our industry and internal analyses by conducting University-wide interviews with key stakeholders – from Deans of the internal Schools, to top-level Executives and Trustees, and (in our next phase) even students, alumni, and faculty of both traditional and pure online programs. However, the result of these interviews is an unstructured text-based output that is not easily scanned for trends, points of parity or difference.
How have we been able to find meaning in this qualitative data?
Overlay a quantifiable format over this unstructured data!
It’s not cheating, I promise. It simply will allow a meaningful and structured approach to combing through the data you’ve gathered – or, more appropriately, listened to – while on your stakeholder interviews.
And what we’ve found is very interesting. Sample static quotes include:
There will always be a market for a traditional campus. College is more than just going to class. People are willing to pay for this. Although a commuter population probably will gravitate towards online…
I do not know what we should look like, but it is not what we look like now.
My issues are not the same as the university. One size does not fit all.
Our faculty interest in online learning is at the beginning state. Right now they don’t know what is available. While we would like to have several people who experiment with online modality, we currently don’t have the staff to handle that component.
These sound bites give us insight into the current mindset of the client, and understanding that there are numerous stakeholders who wield significant power in any University-wide decision.
This internal voice could not have been heard through the story the financial numbers were telling us. We needed to go directly to the source, and listen – first-hand – to what obstacles and resources exist within the client’s control.
So, when you barrel into the research phase of a large project, remember:
- Data is Data: qualitative data is just as important as quantitative data
- Start with your Nearest and Dearest: the people around and associated with the client have strong opinions and first-hand experience about your research topic. They’re living in the client’s reality. Make sure to measure their stories in your research.
Hi everyone! It’s AUGUST! You know what that means. Counting down the days of summer (who needs them, anyway?), waiting and hoping that the first day of school comes quickly!
You’re not excited for the upcoming school year? What? All of those readings, quizzes, exams, and lectures not getting your head spinning? (Well, perhaps in a bad way… )
Maybe these gadgets can help.
Your mobile electronics are dying and there’s no electrical outlet in sight. The Powerstick is your lightweight solution. This device can fit in your pocket and hook up to iPods, Blackberrys, cameras and more.
The Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack is a bag for students with gadgets who need to be mobile. With 4 Watts of power and every size converter you can imagine, it will quickly charge all your handheld electronics. A padded laptop sleeve and sizable front pocket keeps everything secure and in easy reach. The bag will stay charged with solar panels and has a number of pockets and compartments for all your school supplies, books and gadgets. It’s roomy and durable.
(Or for just a cool-looking light backpack, try: LEvertigo 21)
It may not take the notes for you, but Livescribe’s Echo smartpen does just about everything else. The pen includes a voice recorder with up to 8GB of storage capability and includes neat little trick — just tap a word of your notes to replay the corresponding audio snippet of that moment of the lecture. With an infrared sensor that senses the tiny dots on the Livescribe notebook paper to use as reference points, it’s more magic wand than pen. After the lecture, simply connect the pen to your computer using a USB cord, and the accompanying software (Windows and Mac OS X) uploads handwritten notes exactly as they appeared in your notebook. The Livescribe Desktop application then organizes notes — even converting simultaneous note taking and recording into “pencasts” that highlight words in synchronization with audio when played.
Need a higher-quality caffeine fix than the muddy brew your cafeteria or local coffee house serves up? Handpresso Wild might just scratch that java itch. A handheld espresso maker, the Handpresso Wild only requires boiling water and any E.S.E. Pod, (think of them as espresso tag bags) found in most grocery stores or coffee houses. You can order these from Starbucks. Easy to use and you can get creative with your own flavors.
Dropbox protects your digital files from crashed hard drives, frozen computers, and misplaced flash drives. As PCWorld.com notes, the cloud-based service easily syncs documents, photos, and videos across multiple systems, moving them from laptop to smartphone to iPad without so much as a single wire or USB cord. Access uploaded files — free for up to 2 GB of storage — from any computer or Android device. You can get more storage space, but it’ll cost you: 50 GB costs $9.99 a month and 100 GB costs $19.99 a month.
And the goofy:
Does this need an explanation? Just, awesome.
Hours of typing produces sore wrists – and hopefully that final paper. Ease that tension with Hammacher Schlemmer’s Forearm Pain Relief Massager. The compact massager was invented by a licensed massage therapist.
Now, go out! Have a good school year,
and happy consumerism to you all!
There is a wealth of professional advice, tips, tricks, and training for how to search for an internship of your choice, how to prep for that humbling first interview, and also how to secure and accept the final offer.
But how do you actually start the internship?
I started my internship on May 14th, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I walked into my new manager’s office and expected… what? What did I expect from this position? Yes, we spoke on the phone about the projects I would be undertaking, but nothing can be verbalized about how to fit into an organization. Especially when your term is a quick three months. How do you integrate yourself into the culture of an organization quickly, effectively, and smoothly such that you (and the host company) both benefit from the engagement?
It’s all about planning. Coming into that first meeting you need to have a plan. The following is a list of steps to take for day-one as MBA Intern:
- Treat your first day as an extended interview. Wear your most comfortable and conservative suit until you get to know the work environment.
- Understand what is expected of you. Ask ahead of time what projects you’ll be working on. Hopefully, you’ve signed an agreement of sorts that specifies what the host organization expects of you. This will give you some fodder to ask questions pertaining to these projects.
- Ask questions. Remember that every workplace has its own way of doing things, and it’s easier to ask how things have been done before than start the work over again from scratch.
- Be innovative. If the questions you’ve asked shed light on the fact that the way things have been done in actuality aren’t effective, do something about it. Create something new. These type of volunteer projects will help you get noticed, but don’t neglect any assigned work.
- Smile a lot and be friendly. Get to know your co-workers and what their interests are.
- Use your lunch hours to get together with your current co-workers, although it may be tempting to meet up with your former ones or classmates.
- Pay attention to the grapevine, but don’t contribute to it. You don’t want to gain a reputation as a gossip monger.
- Don’t complain about your boss, your office mate, any co-workers, or your previous job.
- Continue to arrive early and don’t rush out the door at the end of the day.
- Keep a positive attitude and an open mind. Your life has changed and it will take getting used to.
Starting a new role – even an internship – can cause a lot of stress. You’ll make it harder on yourself if you try to do everything on the first day. Spend plenty of time getting to know your new culture. Your manager doesn’t expect you to create full value for the company during your first week, so take it slowly. Have a plan, and revisit the plan daily to keep you on track to get out of the experience what you originally planned for. Try to focus on a few small victories that will help you establish credibility and visibility within the organization.
Remember that an internship is a learning experience. Test the waters and determine what the best way is to integrate into a new company. You’ll need to know this after the end of your MBA program, so what better place and time to start but now!