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Welcome to the FT Business school newsletter, a weekly serving of management wisdom, reading recommendations and business-related challenges. FT subscribers can sign up here to receive the newsletter by email every Monday. If you have any feedback about FT Business school, please email email@example.com.
Andrew Hill's challenge
The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.
The Silicon Valley mantra about "embracing" or even "celebrating" failure is overstated, in my view — failure is a clammy and awkward bedfellow. But there is some truth to the idea that you don't progress without suffering setbacks. My column this week looks at a new The Museum of Failure, in Sweden, which displays 60 product flops, in the hope of persuading visitors to learn from past mistakes.
The museum's founder told me he was now looking for failed business models, so for my challenge this week, send me your favourite business model blunder, and, in one line, the lesson others should learn from it. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week's challenge — advise United Airlines how to recover its reputation — brought a record entry. My favourites came from Alex Sheen and Fernando Tisner. Alex proposed offering "crew for a day" experiences to members of the public, giving them the chance to report back on what it's like being on the other side of the galley curtain. Fernando suggested asking frequent flyers to send in short videos of what they hate and what they like about United — and then splicing the best into an advertising campaign. Incidentally, this week United's chief executive reappeared, playing down the risk of brand damage. Nothing to see here…
In further reading this week, I enjoyed Aimee Groth's recent article in Quartz about how the obsession with the "cult of the entrepreneur" has gone too far. Ms Groth went to work for the Downtown Project, a Las Vegas redevelopment mission set up by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh. She's written a whole book about the chastening experience, but the article offers plenty of cautionary tales, including this one: "Founders and their employees saw no boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. 'Play' became work, too. As a result, many burnt out and their startups folded."
Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.
Peter Tufano, dean and professor of finance at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School, selects:
Investment industry at crossroads must choose wisely Two dangerous mental traps are siloed thinking and an ahistorical approach, where context and the past are ignored. Gary Baker of the CFA Institute provides a timely warning against both traps for investment management.
He urges readers to consider how macro forces such as political instability will affect investment returns, citing how the calm of the past two decades was a historical exception.
He suggests that the investment management industry should focus on engendering greater trust by endorsing business models with long-term investor outcomes. It is heartening to hear as further integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors is vital.
Hurting Mexico will boost China and backfire on Donald Trump Larry Summers’ blog is the “doctoral course” of financial writing, bringing rigorous economic analysis to global trends. He is at his best in exposing unintended consequences, especially of complex issues.
His blog on Mexico, China and the Trump administration traces the potential effects of rupturing US trade relations with Mexico, suggesting that this policy might inadvertently boost China’s exports to the US and its soft power in the Americas. Mr Summers also reminds us to be evidence-based and forward-looking. Instead of spending billions to build a wall to combat illegal immigration, he advocates using technology, data science and greater collaboration.
Ask the academics
Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to email@example.com and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.
Jonathan Moules' business school news
The career path for MBA graduates is more complex than it used to be. Business school students have long used their qualification to switch careers, but the digitisation of industries and the creation of multinationals that did not exist at the turn of the century, such as Uber, Spotify and Facebook, the opportunities are far broader, and in some senses riskier.
This is particularly true for start-ups providing technology driven financial services, or fintechs, which use the reach and efficiencies of online communication to disrupt established players in banking, insurance, private equity and asset management. Several leading business schools have been telling me how fintechs have started to register on their placement figures, so I have looked into what is driving this trend. It follows an analysis recently of the rise of Amazon as a major MBA recruiter globally.
Many of the most successful fintech ventures were started by MBA graduates, such as Insead alumnus Giles Andrews at Zopa and Jeff Lynn and Carlos Silva, who developed the idea for Seedrs while studying at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. So perhaps it is not surprising that their senior management value business school graduates. Skills like data analytics and leadership are valued in start-ups, but it takes a certain mindset to join young companies, such as embracing uncertainty and the risk that your company may not be the winner in what is a fast-evolving market.
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Compiled by Wai Kwen Chan
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