There is an art to teaching and the classroom can be a space for play and innovation. My classes combine elements of traditional lecture with discussion and activity, moving between the creative and the analytical, combining theory with practice. Listed below are a number of pedagogical innovations I have experimented with in the classroom and found to be effective at driving learning. Across these interventions you should sense that I believe content known is less important than how individuals search for, interpret, and make sense of available information related to a problem. As Laszlo Block, the hiring manager of Google argues, "the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it's not I.Q. It's learning ability. It's the ability to process on the fly. It's the ability to pull together disparate bits of information."

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One thing I impress upon my students is the importance of integrating creative and analytical thinking. In other words, they must learn to be both credible and clever. A lack of the former leads to bad ideas. A lack of the latter results in good ideas stuck in the bottom of some executive's desk drawer. So how do we develop these skills? One of the ways we practice creativity is with the New Yorker Caption Contest in my Marketing Strategy course. Each week, students submit captions to the weekly cartoon contest. These captions are then evaluated by three individuals within the comedy space (two improv comedians-- Matt Sterenberg and Rick Treur-- and one comedy writer-- Bryan Kett). Across the semester, students learn to play with language, to consider ways in which things are framed shapes how they are perceived. And, hopefully, it make the class a bit more funny.

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While creative thinking is one piece of selling ideas, building credibility is another. More and more, this requires understanding a world laden with traces of data. While most students accrue basic statistics knowledge in their early general education courses, making this information relevant and applicable is challenging. To build this skill, students are required to learn basic programming language for R, one of the most flexible (and free!) platforms available today. As they lean into this language, I then task students with specific business problems where data might be helpful. In the Fall of 2014, Tony Bakker from Six-String Country asks students to help him understand trends in his users, and Krista Clement from Helper Helper looks to students to help her understand the drivers of student-athlete volunteering at the collegiate level. Real Problems. Helpful Tools. Better Thinking.

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Led by Harvard Business School, the case teaching method has revolutionized business education. But this solution is not without faults. Poor decisions still happen as managers focus on the wrong information and use case-derived anecdotes as a substitute for real thinking. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. In an alternative vein to the typical case teaching style, I often get students to identify all of the facts available in a given case-- whether seemingly relevant or not. By starting there, we can focus on questions 1) what facts are missing and how they can be accrued, 2) what information is relevant and irrelevant, 3) how these factors are related to each other, and 4) what might be changed as we engage this world. What this helps students develop is strategic intuition, and the ability to make sense of a complicated world with a mix of theory and data.

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One of the most effective ways to help students grow as thinkers and leaders is for them to move rapidly between the classroom and the real world. When done well, this process shapes students learning and also engages real organizations in the problems they face. In my marketing strategy course for example, I divide students into groups of four, and then let these teams compete against one another to solve a client's problem, with the winners presenting their advice to leaders with the ability to implement. Past clients include medical device firm Stryker, furniture design icon Herman Miller, food wholesaler Gordon Food Service, and third-wave coffee upstart MadCap Coffee. Moving from deep industry dives to conceptual understanding, I task students to come up with credible and clever recommendations for their client. And the results speak for themselves. As one client, Becky Anderson from Edward Jones, reflected, "Working with Hope students and professors has proven to be empowering, educating and very enlightening. Their input has played an integral role in the strategic planning of our marketing efforts." Further information on this project structure can be found here. Please contact me directly if you are interested in pursuing a customized project with your firm.