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Leadership: Copenhagen MBA Students Take Top Secret Trip Into The Swedish Wilderness

No one knows where they're going. No one knows what they’re going to be doing. It’s all top secret


Mon May 21 2018

No one knows where they are going. No one knows what they’re going to be doing. It’s all top secret.

The Copenhagen MBA’s Leadership Discovery Process takes MBA students on a journey into the heart of the Swedish wilderness. That’s all that can be disclosed; trust me, I asked. To no avail.

“Part of what we do in the Swedish wilderness has to stay a secret,” says Laura Starkey, a current MBA student at Copenhagen Business School, speaking to me having just returned from the wilderness trip.

All 43 members of the Copenhagen MBA spend the time leading up to the trip immersed in a pool of leadership theory, intertwined with “small modules and practices during the year,” Laura explains.

The Swedish experience lifts the students fully out of their comfort zones, and places them into entirely new surroundings. Over the four days and three nights, teams of students are challenged on their ability to solve tasks under pressure, constantly on the move.

The creativity involved is something Copenhagen MBA program manager, Gitte Kramhøft Jacobsen, revels in. “In Sweden, the students leave the comfort of the classroom and go into a simulated reality where their leadership skills are needed in ways they cannot prepare for,” she asserts.

“The learning obtained throughout the year will become clear to the students as it unfolds in the context of a shared experience with their MBA colleagues.”

What does it reveal?

“It really helped me understand not just how I am different as a leader, but how various people need to be led in different ways, and how [certain] tasks call for different leadership styles,” Laura says.

Before the simulation, Laura admits she would have been happy managing a team, but she was unaware of the level of leadership or task she’d have been comfortable leading.

“After completing the simulation, and taking on a key leadership role, I found so much confidence in myself and felt centered on the leadership style I have and what works for me,” she continues.

“I was also able to explore different modes of leadership. Normally, I’d have said I was a collaborative style leader—the leadership discovery process trip really made me see there are other levels of leadership I can achieve.”

Today’s world is often characterized by the acronym VUCA—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous—and the Copenhagen MBA trip into the wilderness encapsulates that.

It’s not just the tasks that were changing all the time, Laura tells me. The weather was a constant menace—sunny and tepid days would shift to grey and cold. “Then at night,” Laura explains, “it was extremely windy.

“It’s dealing with external conditions we had no control of,” she adds.

But, that’s an ideal simulation of professional life. People change businesses all the time, roles evolve, projects and tasks alter. “It seems weird to make the connection between the simulation and the business world, but I really appreciated how closely tied they were,” says Laura.

The creativity behind this trip is synonymous with the innovation omnipresent in the world of Scandinavian business. Indeed, it’s what hooked Laura to Copenhagen Business School in the first place.

“I wanted to live and study at a school that was thinking about sustainability and responsibility in business,” she says. “In Denmark, like in the Netherlands and Germany, a lot of development is happening in cleantech, clean energy, and clean innovation.”

Laura spent the year before she landed on the Copenhagen MBA travelling. Serendipitously, it was while staying in Bogotá, Colombia, that she came across the school.

Copenhagen Business School was present at an MBA tour there. Laura began speaking to the former admissions manager at the school and “it seemed like a really good decision,” she says.

For anyone considering the MBA at Copenhagen Business School, Laura points to the strength of the people as a major advantage—she was able to contact a fellow American and now alum during the application process.

“That was a huge deciding factor for me,” she concludes, “the fact that I was able to reach out to another student at the time of applying and hear about the MBA program. She was enthusiastic and positive, and that gave me a very clear vision!”