MBA leaders experience transition under pressure

This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

MBA studentsOn Friday March 13, the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) and Foster MBA Association (MBAA) celebrated the upcoming leadership transition as elected 1st year students prepare to take over the reins from soon-to-graduate 2nd year students. This event is part of our year-long Leading Across Boundaries (LAB) workshops series. The theme chosen for this half-day event was to Transition under Pressure.

MBA studentsWorking in four parallel teams of six to eight students, each team was charged with designing a giant Rube Goldberg machine! Teams consisted of both 1st and 2nd year students. Machines were required to involve at least 4 transfers of energy from one “mini” machine or component to the next culminating in a final machine that would drop a weight into a cup. Armed with an array of materials including dominoes, mouse traps, springs, and marbles, second-year students were instructed to work on the upstream portion of the machine and first-year students were instructed to work on the downstream or terminal portion of the machine. Midway through the event, the facilitators transferred a key player from each team to another team and added design requirements. The purpose of this challenge was three-fold:  1. To focus on how well, under extreme time pressure, the 1st and 2nd year MBAs coordinated the effort and communication needed to make all parts of the machine connect and work as one; 2. To examine how well teams adapted to unexpected and disruptive changes in their structure and resources; and 3. To observe how leadership emerged and was shared to achieve the team’s objectives.

MBA studentsFollowing the ending of the game competition, feedback about how the teams worked to achieve their goals was provided by the judges – CLST’s Bruce Avolio and Chelley Patterson; 2012 alumnus, former MBAA Executive Vice President, and co-founder with CLST of the LAB series, Colin Beazley; and Director, Full-time MBA Student Affairs, Sigrid Olsen.

Many thanks to outgoing MBAA Executive Vice President, Soleil Kelley, for keeping the LAB tradition alive and for all his thought- and leg-work putting together this Rube Goldberg event! And now we move on to working with the new MBA leadership on the next LAB event as we move into the Spring quarter…


L.A.B. sessions enable MBA students to discuss topics of interest with business and community leaders while  developing their own leadership skills. The sessions are sponsored by MBAA and CLST. Visit CLST’s website to learn more.