Universidad Icesi, School of Business and Economic Studies

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The Workshop on Management Competencies Development

An outdoor experience built on innovation, impact, and engagement exposes MBA students to a series of challenges that require decision-making, conflict resolution, teamwork, and leadership.

Call to Action

By design, Icesi’s MBA aims to develop competency in strategic thinking, leadership, communication, global perspective, and business ethics, beyond appropriating otherwise standard concepts, tools, and skills expected from top managers. The school has aligned the MBA's learning goals with these competencies, and explicitly states such intent in its syllabi, brochures, website, and other relevant materials.

The students' internalization of the intended outcomes, however, varies significantly, evidencing the need for unconventional approaches to introduce, reinforce, and assess the school’s learning goals.

Thus, the Workshop on Management Competencies Development was created to ensure, from the very beginning of the MBA program, a more effective dissemination and appropriation of the learning goals, stronger development of corresponding competencies, and a route map to achieve such desired outcomes.

The underlying hypothesis was that, by being conscious of the management competencies they were expected to develop throughout the program, students would acknowledge the relevance of the contents, skills, and methodologies taught. This, in turn, should result in more effective learning. The workshop is also intended to be the first landmark in what will soon be a progressive, two-year-long coaching protocol.

The school defined the following design principles that the workshop should include:

  • Offer a unique, active, challenging, and motivating experience.
  • Foster a conscious application of the MBA's management competencies to deal with unexpected situations in an unfamiliar context.
  • Facilitate a critical reflection on each student's behaviors, decisions, and outcomes.
  • Allow inferences, generalizations, and applications of the exercise to the students' personal and professional context.

Innovation Description

The Workshop on Management Competencies Development is the first formal academic activity for new MBA students.

By means of an outdoor activity, the workshop exposes students to a sequence of challenges that require decision-making, dealing with conflicts, teamwork, and leadership. Consistent with the design principles set for the workshop, each one of the workshop's components intentionally introduces or reinforces the MBA learning goals. During each workshop session, a team of expert coaches and 12 to 16 teaching assistants instruct, guide, and supervise groups of 20 to 40 students.

The workshop's outdoor portion involves a series of navigation challenges to be dealt with individually first, and then in groups. Using only a lensatic compass to find their bearings and their own step count to estimate distances, students are asked to complete unique routes throughout the entire campus. Upon successfully completing each challenge, students find hidden clues that provide instructions for the next challenge. At the end, all students should reach a common destination where they are rewarded with a snack and they assemble for the final debriefing and discussion activity.

The final, guided debriefing exercise motivates the students to make relevant inferences, generalize and extrapolate lessons learned to other contexts, and propose applications of these lessons to their life and career.

More specifically, the four-hour-long workshop is a metaphor that resembles the four-semester MBA journey along which the students subsequently progress from individual to group behaviors, from unstructured groups to effective teams, and from competing teams to a well-articulated organization.


The Workshop on Management Competencies Development is a unique, value-adding experience that effectively builds on AACSB’s pillars for quality improvement in business education:

  • Innovation—The workshop is a one-of-a-kind, out-of-the-box teaching innovation, different to most conventional academic approaches. The challenging logistics and complex planning involved in the workshop's preparation, setup, and execution motivated the faculty to experiment, prototype, and assume unprecedented risks.
  • Impact—The workshop achieves immediate, tangible impact on both participants and facilitators, as has been evidenced by the students’ and instructors' positive feedback. In the long term, the school expects to measure a significant impact in terms of an enhanced learning disposition and subsequent development of the desired management competencies.
  • Engagement—By offering a memorable, interactive, multidisciplinary experience that blends theory and professional practice in a fun, challenging fashion, the workshop motivates the students' enthusiastic and committed participation. This will surely foster a higher self-awareness of how to apply the lessons learned both in the workshop and throughout the MBA program.

Other workshop by-products are also expected. The workshop will be the stepping-stone to a one-on-one mentoring and follow-up process by means of which students will increase their personal potential as business leaders and, correspondingly, their personal value for employers and industry.

The Workshop on Management Competencies Development will thus be the first step toward a career- and life-transforming MBA program. In the long run, the workshop creators expect to conduct a longitudinal investigation that will advance current knowledge on learning effectiveness and the determinants of academic and professional performance.

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