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Course Retrospective: Managerial Thinking

Ben Binbin Wu, GMBA Class of 2018

One core module that Tsinghua GMBA-ers will remember with fondness is Managerial Thinking, taught by Professor Steven White. The course focuses on how to solve problems with a global mentality. The hands-on, practical course divides the class into small teams, each tasked with solving a problem of broad impact and developing a concept for a semester-ending pitch competition to a panel of experienced venture capitalists and angel investors. Ben Wu from the Class of 2018 recaps his experience and what he learned from the course.

The main project for Managerial Thinking required each study group to come up with a solution for a need faced by identified focal users. To begin the process, each group sat together to brainstorm common issues that we felt affected individuals located within the “bulk of the pyramid.” Professor White emphasized the importance of looking beyond the surface-level problems to the various components that make up a system and the ramifications of those components. During our brainstorming, we recognized that many of our group members had friends who were in the process of having a first child. From there, we were able to distill down to our potential focal users – expecting mothers and their families.

After we decided on the group we wanted to address, we conducted actual face-to-face interviews with expecting mothers to gather their insights. From our interviews, we were able to surmise that the main problems facing those expecting in Beijing were the tedious examinations they had to complete on a monthly basis. Sometimes the examination would only be a 30-minute blood test, but the entire process would take the expectant mothers three hours due to the uncertainty of traffic as well as the queue at the hospital.

Summarizing all the interviews and refining our challenge statement, we recognized the need to make the pregnancy process for “the expecting mothers much more efficient to save time, money, and resources [both] now and [in] the future.” With this challenge statement in mind, our group devised two possible solutions to fulfill the needs of our focal users. Our first potential solution was actually having designated “nurses” spread throughout Beijing to conduct the examinations in the homes of the expecting mothers. The nurses would then transport the test samples back to the hospitals for testing. Our second solution was a “moving hospital,” where all the necessities of the hospitals would be installed into a moving caravan to conduct the appropriate tests.

With our solutions, we conducted a second round of interviews to see how our focal users would receive the potential solutions. Our interviewees unanimously favored our first idea to have the simple examinations like blood and urine testing performed at home, whereas the complicated procedures like ultrasounds would still be conducted at the hospitals. Gathering all the feedback and consulting within our group, our final solution was a mobile application that allowed the expecting mothers to book appointments at the hospitals as well as book a “mobile nurse” to conduct the tests in the users’ homes. The app would also allow the expecting mother to track the progress of the pregnancy as well as communicate with other expecting mothers to gather more information.

For the final step, we had the opportunity to actually pitch our solution to distinguished venture capitalists and receive valuable feedback. This final step was very helpful for me in my future endeavors because it gave me additional insight into important information VCs wanted to hear. It allowed our group to narrow our ideas into the relevant points that would appeal to a venture capitalist and best position us to receive the funding a project would need.

The entire project was a great learning opportunity and, I believe, will be helpful for my future plans. I learned in a more tangible way the importance of dealing with specifics and not focusing only on the end product. The deeper I can dig into the mentality of my focal users, the more significant the problems I can address to make the final product even more relevant to the needs of those users. Our group treated this project like a potential business venture; because of this, it was especially fulfilling to see the brainstorming yield a final product. The project taught us how to think more effectively, from gathering information to solving the needs of our focal users. This mentality will be critical to maintain as we progress through our careers.