Davies is a star in the account planning field. Account planning was invented in UK to give ad agencies a deeper understanding of the consumer. For my money, planners are the most anthropologically minded people in the agency world. They believe in culture and many of them have a deep and nuanced knowledge of it.
Davies has created what he calls the Account Planning School of the Web. He thinks of this as a correspondence course and so far it works on a kind of call and response model made famous by African American music and the Oxbridge Don.
In the call and response model, the band leader (or don) sets a topic, a problem, proposition, and the student (or musician) crafts a response. Davies is planning to set an assignment once a month and plans to ask industry luminaries to pose problems of their own. Participants right up brief essays and submit them for Davies’ scrutiny and comment. It’s a little like visiting our Cambridge tutor and hoping to high heavens that he/she likes what we’ve done. (Because if he/she doesn’t, there’s not much place to hide…and in this case, the criticism is particularly public.)
Davies’ model occasioned a couple of thoughts:
1. that the opportunity here is not only graduate business education but executive development, that students who came for an MBA might want to stay involved with an enduring connection.
This raises questions of the kind that swarm every new enterprise in the new economy. In this case: is there an important distinction here between executive education and an MBA? How important is the latter credential? What value does it create for the participant? Or are degrees really just a bricks and mortar preoccupation?
I have a feeling that the BBS (bloggers business school) is most interesting as an information exchange of a hyper intensive, highly participatory nature. It will help cultitvate talent and in the process it will help sort talent. The MBA may be an "all or nothing" label when in fact the BBS advantage is the ease with which it demonstrates student abilities so that enterprises can made hires that are better informed and therefore more exact.
Tough questions, these, but the stuff of an excellent case study for the BBS. How much of the bricks and mortar model should a BBS enterprise carry with it into the new? What are the new units, new relationships, new incentives? Where is value truly becoming created? Where is it being captured? (I like the fact that we know live in a world where the ordinary assessment of opportunity demands quite searching questions and quite a lot of intellectual power and imaginative ability. So much for capitalism being the simple pursuit of the obvious. And just when you’re shooting your mouth off, you stumble upon a mission statement. BBS objective: to give students the intellectual power and imaginative ability demanded by the new capitalism.)
2. that the BBS could and should serve as a knowledge exchange. (Now the resonance with the Bulletin Board System has a certain poetic aptness.)
I like the idea that students work through problems together, case study style. This builds lots of skills, but it also builds lots of connections.
The knowledge exchange works on several levels. It works in the classroom but it also works across specialties. Thus Davies’ students, the good ones, have a deep knowledge of contemporary culture they can trade with students who are strong in the areas of management theory or strategy.
The connections that begin in BBS should endure into professional life. Good b-schools give the graduate access to a large field of gifted consultants who are prepared to work for free (as long as the call doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes.) The BBS school difference ought to be that it builds networks that are deeper and larger. If it doesn’t, it should. This has to be an objective. Maybe there are grounds to doubt the value of the case study method.
3. velcro world
Sometime ago, I put my money on the idea that the corporation would take on a velcro character. We would launch a new brand the way Hollywood creates a new movie, by bringing together all but only the people who can get the job done. And once the job is done, every one goes back into their respective talent pools to await the next assignment, the next configuration. (Since I made this bet, the "fixed personnel" corporation has got ever stronger.)
If and when the velcro model comes to pass, however, the blogger business school will serve us well. It will serve as a fluid network that launchs lots of fluid networks. The identification of opportunity and the problem crunching necessary to take advantage to it, these will belong to the people who are superbly good at hunting and gathering in the vast data fields of the internet, people who have astonishing powers of pattern recognition, people who can reach out and piece together the tasks and the teams that can get the job done. More and more business will move onto the internet and the bloggers skills, cultivated and intensified by BBS, will prove increasingly valuable. This might be the ultimate value add of BBS, but I think this suggests that we need to rethink the case study method.
It makes your head spin, but then I guess that’s what it’s for.
Last thought: having people like Russell Davies as a colleague, I believe that’s one of my incentives/objectives for participating in a BBS.