Agile MBAs: Cornell Tech Students Reflect and Grow Together

Aug 8 2018 · 3 minute read

Originally posted here.

I made so many new and diverse friends this summer in gorgeous Ithaca, NY. This is where my classmates and I spent the first three months of our Cornell Tech MBA program. A common goal that unites us is fusing technology with business and creative thinking - a core tenet of the Cornell Tech MBA. We also share the premise that the rapid pace of innovation in the digital age calls for a new approach to the way we learn, collaborate, and craft our experience.

With that in mind, as our MBA class of 2019 approached the end of our summer semester in Ithaca, we wanted to crystallize our experiences by reflecting on what had gone well, what could be improved, and what actions we should take going forward.

For those with experience on an agile team, these three categories likely sound familiar. They are the key tenets of a retrospective. Retrospectives give teams recurring opportunities to reflect, bond and collaborate to shape positive, incremental change. We decided to apply the best practices from the tech industry to our cohort in order to accomplish the following goals:

  1. Generate feedback & action items for individuals, our cohort, and Cornell Tech
  2. Spend time together reflecting, bonding, and collaborating
  3. Learn about Agile and retrospectives
  4. Eat pizza!

We drew inspiration from around the internet on ways to run effective large retrospectives. Here’s a quick summary of what we did at the eHub in 1.5 hours:

10 minutes
Intro & eat pizza.

25 minutes
Ran mini-retrospectives in groups of ~4-8 where everyone shared their thoughts on “what’s gone well?” and “what can be improved?”

10 minutes
Each group shared their top two themes.

15 minutes
We formed new groups to come up with action items for those themes.

25 minutes
We gave quick presentations to say what actions we’re going to take.

5 minutes
People volunteered to own and help with each action item.

Over 1.5 hours, we generated thousands of thoughts about what’s gone well and what can be improved. Here are just a few:

“Cornell’s Campus in Ithaca is Gorges”
“The temperature in our classrooms fluctuated too much”
“The fast paced curriculum helped me improve my prioritization and time management”
“Communicating on Slack was instrumental”
“High diversity of talent and culture in the cohort”
“Sharing is Caring was amazing”

We then whittled down those thoughts into themes and prioritized the ones we thought would be the most impactful. Here are a few examples:

  • Student Organized Groups
  • Culture of continuous feedback
  • Networking outside of our cohort

For each of those themes, we generated concrete action items. For example, one action item is to support Emily in scaling “Sharing is Caring” on the cross-disciplinary Roosevelt Island campus. (“Sharing is Caring” is an incredible weekly meeting where students share their expertise and wisdom with the class)

After the retrospective we all voted on a scale of 1-10 as to whether or not we should do another retrospective in the future, and the result was a net promoter score of 83! Here’s what that actually sounds like:

“Super helpful, collaborative, and actionable”
“I found it inspiring and enjoyable.”
“We came up with meaningful conclusions and action-items that were based on a variety of perspectives.”

We have continued discussing, coordinating and making progress on each action item in our cohort’s Slack. We’re looking forward to continue growing together by shaping the Cornell Tech experience on Roosevelt Island for not only ourselves but also future students!