01 Jun 2014
FIELD 2 in Accra
A city of contrastsTopics:
Tim Leach (MBA 2015) had backpacked in Africa before, so he was somewhat prepared for the heat, noise, traffic, dust, and disorientation he and his FIELD 2 team experienced in early January, when they emerged from the airport and began their week-long assignment in Accra, Ghana. But, as the Australian-born Leach notes, "Even if you've traveled extensively, going to a country for a short period of time, working with peers you have not selected, for an organization you know little about, is hugely challenging."
Leach and his five teammates were assigned the task of helping MultiTV, a Ghanaian multimedia company, devise a monetization strategy for its online presence, primarily by gathering information about the viewing habits of young, well-educated, upscale consumers. A key finding that emerged from their surveys, conducted in shopping mall and university venues, was the extent to which respondents said they viewed online content on multiple devices. "Research indicates that smart phones and mobiles are where it's at in emerging markets," says Leach. "But we found that many people still use computers that rely on Wi-Fi. For a client that pushes content on 3G or 4G networks, that's important information."
Learning by Doing
Introduced in 2011, FIELD 2 is a transformative experience in learning that sends all 900-plus first-year MBA students across the globe to emerging markets each January where they work with partner organizations on projects with real business consequences. FIELD 2 is the second module of a three-part, required course called FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development), developed as a result of an intensified focus on field-based learning to be a complement to the School's celebrated case method.
FIELD 2 is the type of large-scale initiative that creates unprecedented intellectual, logistical, and financial challenges. Gifts to the HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation play a critical part in enabling such ambitious undertakings, which help ensure that the School prepares its students to lead in an ever-changing, increasingly global business environment.
Among this year's FIELD 2 countries, Ghana has both the lowest GDP per capita and the highest rate of GDP growth. "The country has a large and growing wealth divide," notes Leach, who said the team was struck daily by "the incredible contrast between emerging-market mayhem and tech-savvy efficiency" in a country where energy and optimism coexist with persistent poverty and corruption.
He says the team came away with a more realistic view of the challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that await a generation of MBAs whose careers will routinely cross borders between developed and emerging economies.
"The skills we learn at HBS—how to analyze problems, propose solutions, and execute—are tremendously valuable in places like Ghana," asserts Leach, who will bring an awareness of the role multinationals can play in supporting local communities to his planned career in the energy sector. "We can help these countries develop more efficient and equitable ways of doing business."
Even as an HBS student, Leach notes that the trip to Ghana began to make him feel part of the HBS mission of making a difference in the world. "You could see it when we talked to young kids about their lives and ambitions and ways they could make their dreams happen," he says. "Our presence in these countries can be a catalyst for building social change."
See other ways HBS is deepening student and faculty global understanding.
Tim Leach (left) and his teammates are joined by their client at MultiTV, Richardson Doe (center).