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Student Experiences

Elementary, My Dear Watson

In many of his fictitious adventures, Sherlock Holmes chides his partner, Dr. Watson, by saying, "You see, but you do not observe."

With its emphasis on teaching students to discover solutions to seemingly impossible problems, BYU Marriott's course Strategy 421: Strategy Implementation is one that Arthur Conan Doyle's character would have approved of.

Analyzing problems and deducing the best course of action are the main takeaways from the strategy major's capstone course, says James Oldroyd, associate professor of strategy in the Department of Management.

"When students think about a problem over and over, they get to a point where they actually have real insight. That's a fun place to be, when they have an insight that they can share with a client that has potential to change business," Oldroyd says.

The concept behind the course is straightforward: student groups complete studies for various clients—from local businesses to household-name companies—and deliver strategic recommendations for client dilemmas. Oldroyd explains that these are real projects from actual clients who approach him with a variety of problems for inclusion in the course. "The students collect data, meet weekly with the clients, and do a presentation for those clients by the end of the semester," he adds.

What's more, the course is so focused on that single goal—providing quality deliverables to clients—that any busywork is eliminated. "The class is 100 percent focused on value creation," Oldroyd says. "There are no assignments that aren't directly related to clients."

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Analyzing problems and offering strategic solutions are the main takeaways from the course.
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To give his students hands-on experience with their projects, Oldroyd takes a hands-off approach. Students handle client meetings entirely on their own, which teaches them to manage interactions and decision-making responsibilities professionally and independently. Students utilize everything from client data to their own independent studies to analyze the client's situation and offer direction on issues such as growth, market entry, product expansion, and optimization problems. The course also prepares students for these projects with supplementary work.

"Dr. Oldroyd did a fantastic job creating a curriculum to go along with the projects," says John Baadsgaard, a current BYU Marriott student majoring in strategic management. "I walked away feeling like I had learned so much more than I would have if I had just completed the project." By the end of each semester, every student team compiles an innovative and well-researched recommendation, often impressing clients à la Sherlock Holmes.

"There is nothing better than seeing a client's eyes light up when they hear your analysis and understand the insights you've found," Baadsgaard says. "It's great to feel informed about a new industry and to be able to answer their questions as well. Feeling like you've done real, meaningful work to contribute to a growing business is exciting. I've continued to follow the company I helped. There is nothing better than seeing them use some of the ideas we recommended."

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Written by Clarissa McIntire