Tuck School’s New Mini Course Mimics Real-World Decision Making

Tuck experiential learningThis fall, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth is bringing back an experiential learning exercise remembered by many alumni of yesteryear as their first chance to think like a senior-level business person.

Launched in 1974 by Tuck professor James Brian Quinn as Tycoon: The Tuck Management Game, this week-long exercise had students work in teams to simulate the process of acquiring and running a business in the clock-making industry.  At week’s end, teams were evaluated on metrics such as productivity, return on investment, and market penetration.

The game was phased-out in the early 2000s, but a reincarnated version of the course returns in November as TuckINTEL,  a customized experience delivered as a mini-course to second-year students.

INTEL stands for Integrative Experiential Learning, and the idea behind it is as straightforward as Quinn’s idea in Tycoon: to offer an experience that helps students integrate the key insights from the first-year core curriculum.

“TuckINTEL is Tycoon for the 21st century. In other words it is a souped-up version of Tycoon,” says Praveen Kopalle, associate dean of the MBA Program and Signal Companies’ Professor of Management and Professor of Marketing, in a university press release. “Tycoon was strategy-focused, while INTEL is much more directed, and a broader effort to integrate as much of our core curriculum as we can.”

Kopalle developed the course with Richard Sansing, associate dean for faculty and the Noble Foundation Professor of Accounting, and their first step was to interview all the faculty who teach core courses.

They compiled the most important lessons from the courses and then worked with Tuck alum John Thomas of the Regis Company to build a four-day, computer-aided exercise that incorporates key elements of finance, accounting, marketing, communications, statistics, economics, decision science, strategy and management, and operations.

Eventually, they chose urban wind power generation as the business industry and created a realistic case study that requires students to run a company that’s competing to bring the fictional Twists & Undulates Currents Kinetically (TUCK) NextGen Turbine (TNT) to market.

During the course, teams of four or five students run a company for an accelerated multi-year time frame. Each “year” constitutes a period of decision making about such areas as marketing and communication, strategic priorities, timely production, economic analysis, cash requirements and funding, presentations to the board, team excellence, and personal leadership impacts. Students evaluate relevant data and input their decisions into the Regis online platform by a given deadline.

The algorithm then computes the impacts of the decisions of each team and delivers results in the form of performance metrics. At the same time, Kopalle and Sansing, along with a few other core faculty, are monitoring team dynamics and discussions, answering questions, and debriefing with students about their results.

For student Ankitha Rajendra Kartha, who participated in the program’s May pilot, TuckINTEL provided a valuable reminder of what she had learned in her first year. It was also the first time she was asked to solve a complex business problem without a lot of specific guidance.

“We’ve looked at a lot of cases and been given perfect data in the core,” she says. “In this, we had to evaluate for ourselves and say, OK, maybe we should do a net-present-value, or maybe we should suggest a capital expenditure for the next year. I needed to figure out what concept to use, and how to use it.”

Like Tycoon, TuckINTEL is custom creation for Tuck students, and thus different from anything offered at other business schools. Kopalle explains why. “At Tuck, we have a unique combination of scale, focus, and community to pull this off,” he says.

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