by Caleb Ellis
With our first week of classes officially in the book, it’s safe to say that the quality, depth, and intensity of the dialogue Professor Christensen both expects and fosters has exceeded any and all of our preconceived notions. Within the span of just five classes we’ve covered topics ranging from investment banking and IPO’s to steel and plastic production to radiology and healthcare, honing in on a bevy of companies that interact and coexist within them.
More importantly, we’ve been introduced to theoretical frameworks that prompt us beyond simply reading a case, but challenge us to use conjecture and reasoning to draw conclusions on our own terms. It’s an empowering way to learn, one that demands a personal investment everyone has been willing to give.
Each class represents an evolution in and of itself. Professor Christensen dives right in, cold calling one of us to introduce the article, company, or dilemma at hand. From there, the conversation grows organically, so much so that you can observe the shift in processing of every student. In discussing the role that resources, processes, and priorities play in running a successful enterprise, our conversation grew from classifying these elements in a company to how they incubate innovation between one another. Instead of simply assigning a specific production method or manager as “innovative,” we began to dissect how autonomy can afford individuals the room they need to facilitate innovation, as well as when it does not. While this represents just one example, tackling these cases with such a diverse group of students brings the multifaceted nature of decision-making to the forefront. It requires everyone to identify how they arrived at their conclusion, and perhaps more importantly, how those who disagree arrived at theirs.
Thanks to some finagling (chocolate chip cookies still work wonders), our program coordinators Kimberley and Amy were able to secure us a new classroom off the main quad, right next to Stanford’s ornate mosaic-laden Romanesque church. Though it can’t quite replace the Duke Chapel, it’s a beautiful new backdrop for our commute from Mountain View, and the new classroom offers ample space and visibility, a serious upgrade from our original quarters.
While the rigor of the program has certainly begun to set in, recognizing the dynamism that has emerged from our brief time in Silicon Valley has been thrilling. Our early site visits offer a glimpse of what it will be like to incorporate the skills and passions we are cultivating the program into something tangible, and watching your classmates become enthralled with a company they’d previously never heard about establishes a palpable sense meaning to the program. Despite the work it requires, there is a unanimous desire to make our classes with Professor Christensen count for something more than letter grade. That desire, so colloquially thrown around as the spirit of Silicon Valley, has already begun to sharpen our convictions, ambitions, and confidence, pushing us toward an end product I can hardly wait to see realized.