My last blog post was written a month ago, as I was starting my semester 4 modules. This was about two weeks after the official start of the semester, which meant that I have had some catching up to do over the last few weeks, in order to be ready for the next Warwick Week which starts next weekend. However, I’m almost there now, with just a couple of lessons to complete. Here’s what the modules are looking like so far:
This semester I am studying the final compulsory module, Strategic Advantage, which encourages us to think above the individual functional concepts that have been explored in previous modules (eg. marketing, finance, operations), and look at the longer-term future of an organisation. It starts by considering how strategy can be defined, and highlights the various characteristics, problems, and tools to support its formulation. For the purpose of this module, strategy is split into four parts:
- external logic (how a company positions itself in the market)
- internal logic (the organisation’s resources and competences)
- performance over time
- managerial requirements
Even with this broad segmentation and long-term view, it is easy to see the links to previous modules such as marketing, operations management, accounting, and organisational behaviour (and others). The module then provides some insight into how to use some common analysis tools such as SWOT and PESTLE, and different approaches to analysing the industry and competitive landscape, based around Porters Five Forces. Next, the module looks at the concept of key success factors, which are required for an organisation to be able to survive and prosper in an industry.
I’m now at the point of completing the first TMA for this module, which requires us to consider the reasons for the rise and fall of Marks and Spencer. I think this will be an interested exercise, especially as I chose to write my Economics assignment on Marks and Spencer, so have a lot of background research ready (that was a lucky choice!)
This was one of my elective modules, which I selected because I really enjoyed the compulsory Marketing module in semester 2. One of the striking things about this module (so far at least) is its alignment to Strategic Advantage – many of the concepts covered are similar, just presenting a different view on the same set of business decisions. Another observation about this module is the level of reading required – 10 out of the 16 chapters from the core textbook (220+ pages) have to be read for lessons 2 and 3! This means that these lessons are taking a lot longer to complete than previous ones, which is not helped by the fact that the textbook includes lots of interesting examples – causing me to make frequent diversions to the Internet to find out more about companies such as IBM, Virgin, EasyGroup, Boeing and Tesco, and products such as Nike trainers (which uses a cushioning system with technology from Nasa) and a company that makes bottled water with no water in it.
However, this has the benefit that I now have only three chapters of the book left to read, so although these lessons have taken considerably longer than expected, hopefully the lessons in the second half of the module will require less time to complete.
The module starts by suggesting strategic marketing comprises four areas:
- Product-market investment decision
- Value proposition
- Assets and competences
- Functional area strategies and programmes
The second lesson quickly jumps into the core of the module, exploring the different ways of analysing the marketing environment, which includes both external (customer, competitor, industry) and internal focus areas (note the similarity to Strategic Advantage!). One of the nice features of these lessons is the introduction of a case study to support each of the key concepts, which is shared through video interviews with employees of Tyrrells Crisps; this was a welcome change to the reading, and interesting to see the concepts brought to life.
The third lesson then looked at strategic marketing options, and the different strategic positions an organisation can leverage; these include quality, brand equity, value, focus, innovation, and customer relationships. The lesson also looked at the implications for marketing in a global organisation, and was wrapped up with a discussion on how to select a strategic position.
I am now in the middle of lesson 4, which considers the various growth strategies that can be pursued, based on whether you are competing with existing or new products, and in existing or new markets. It is interesting to note that this lesson has also started to refer to the idea of creative thinking, which nicely links to the final module I am studying this semester.
Innovation & Creativity
I’m not far into this module yet as I’m currently concentrating on the previous two modules in preparation for Warwick Week. However, from what I have read so far, I think this will be quite an interesting module, and I am intrigued to see how they plan to ‘teach’ innovation & creativity. The first lesson introduced some of the basic types of innovation (incremental, semi-radical and radical), as well as looking at the reasons for innovating, and potential pitfalls or conflicts.
The next few lessons discuss the benefits of innovation in terms of business performance – which will be very interesting as prioritising innovation over more tangible initiatives can be a challenge – as well as exploring the “innovation landscape”. The module focus then turns towards the area of creativity, which will probably introduce a completely new (yet complementary) set of ideas to the first three lessons.
My third (and final) Warwick Week takes place in just over a week’s time, so I’ll post after then to share my experience from the Strategic Marketing and Strategic Advantage days, as well as the second half of the Leadership & Development programme (the first was at Warwick Week 1).