ACL Series: The Learning Effect
This post is part of a series that dives deep into an experiential learning course, one of Kellogg’s unique curriculum offerings. Keep checking Inside Kellogg for more insights from Professor Shapiro and his students!
By Joel K. Shapiro, Clinical Associate Professor of Data Analytics
In winter 2020, I relaunched Kellogg’s Analytical Consulting Lab, a 10-week experiential course in which student teams work with real companies on real projects in real time with real data. In my last post, I mentioned what one client/company referred to as ACL’s “learning effect” for their organization.
If you’re a company interested in participating in ACL, please keep reading. There’s no way you won’t be intrigued, and more than a little impressed by what the “learning effect” could mean for you and your bottom line.
A team of four really bright Kellogg students were helping a well-known global manufacturing company build a predictive model to help guide investments around new product development; an excellent project — important and challenging, yet feasible.
After 10 weeks of scoping, data cleaning, analysis, client calls and excellent recommendations, the Kellogg team had every right to be proud. “We wish we could have done more,” they said to me. (This sentiment is almost always the hallmark of a great project. The students know there’s more to be done, if only they had more time and data. “We wish we could have done more” is almost always an indicator that the students’ work was well-received and will spawn numerous important next steps.)
The learning effect
In my debrief with the client, their head of market intelligence raved. He said, approximately, “The students’ insights were very helpful. We had been making some guesses about trends, and the students showed us that some of our guesses were right, and that some were probably wrong. They also helped us uncover some insights and new questions that we never even thought to ask about our product strategy.”
Okay, so far, so good. Kellogg ACL students are excellent at exactly this — not just doing analysis and building models, but connecting results to important business decisions. ACL isn’t a data modeling class, it’s a business problem-solving class.
The head of market intelligence continued. “But more than the insights, the team’s work had a profound ‘learning effect’ for me and my entire division. Kellogg’s team showed us what a really high-functioning and professional analytics team should look like. They helped us understand how to match our business questions to a data strategy, and what a ‘data strategy’ even means. They shared their code, and we all agreed that my current team should never try coding.” (Funny, and very true in this case.)
He ended by extolling the students’ professionalism and communication skills. “Every week, they came prepared with a clear agenda, concise explanations, and new insights. I wish I could say the same for all of my meetings.”
Now look, I admit I have a pretty good idea that ACL projects will be a great experience for the students and for the companies who bring projects. Students must apply and be admitted to ACL, so I only take qualified students (in this case, the Kellogg team included a stats teacher, a top-notch management consultant, and two engineers — a combo I highly recommend!). And I only accept companies who have a well-defined business problem and relevant data. The burden is on me to make good matches, and I’m pretty good at it.
But boy oh boy…the “learning effect.” What a great benefit to the companies that participate in ACL. I never saw it coming, and yet I’m not at all surprised. Kellogg students can help you find important insights in your data, for sure. But they also will model exceptional, professional, and valuable business problem-solving. They can be transformative, in more ways than one.
It feels like there’s a mic drop moment in here somewhere, but I’m not sure it’s mine to own.
I am so proud to be part of this endeavor.
If you want to engage with Kellogg by participating in Analytical Consulting Lab, please go to: www.JoelShapiroAnalytics.com/analyticalconsultinglab or send me an email at email@example.com