Three lessons I learned from San Francisco – EMBA International Business Study Trip

David Wilson (EMBA 2017) reflects on the EMBA International Business Trip to San Francisco, taking away three key lessons.

Executive MBA participants working in a study group

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on last month’s International Business Study Trip (IBST) to Silicon Valley.

It was an intense and transformative experience – my mind is whirling with the new ideas that I encountered during the trip!

Three aspects of the trip really stood out for me:

Innovation is about more than technology.

As an example, we experienced social innovation at the Delancey Street Foundation. We learned about how programs run by people with criminal convictions or who have suffered from substance addiction can enable other people who’ve hit rock-bottom to become good citizens and contribute to society. Although it was described as the “Harvard for the bottom 2%”, I was struck by the humility, passion and quiet confidence of the people from the Foundation.

Differences between cultures matter and aren’t always obvious.

The academic team from Cambridge Judge Business School was superb in providing frameworks for us to explore differences between cultures as well as presenting the results of their own research. I also learnt a lot from my classmates – we have 30 nationalities in the class and we work in an even larger number of countries. On the final day, we delivered presentations on the market entry strategy for fictitious companies entering various overseas markets.  This was a great opportunity to learn directly from my peers about their cultures!

“I also learnt a lot from my classmates. We have 30 nationalities in the class and we work in an even larger number of countries.”

It’s good to span boundaries and give something back.

During this trip, I met many people who have multiple professional interests – for example, they often combined several roles including entrepreneur, investor, academic and broadcaster.  We met some inspiring role models including Jerry Engel of University of California Berkeley, Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications & Marketing and Lisa Van Dusen of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund. This really made me think about how I can expand my network and professional activities into new areas.

I feel tremendously excited about the opportunity to incorporate the learning from this trip into my daily life – both at work and at home!

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