Monday, March 15, 2010

Barcelona GBE (Global Business Experience)

How can you go wrong when you sign up for a course that a) means one less course next year, b) involves strategy, c) takes place in Barcelona and d) involves looking at all the popular tourist destinations?

Well, let me suggest two ways that this strategy might not pay off. First... if the week in Barcelona (which I was sure would be in the 60s, after all, they have palm trees down there!) contains the worst snowstorm since 1962. Second... if the last few days of your trip are spent in your hotel room as you battle a mysterious illness. (Okay, to be fair, I did not require a visit from a Spanish doctor as some of my fellow travellers did, but I still don't consider this the best way to spend Spring Break!)

Anyway, my impressions of Barcelona are suffering from recency. If I dig a little deeper into my memory, I remember that we had some really good times. So...

The course was on viewing strategy through the design lens. After a quarter of learning frameworks and discussing capabilities, the transition to a more metaphorical view of strategy was definitely interesting. We looked at how designers like Gaudi, Picasso and Dali created breakthrough innovations and then discussed how we can apply those to business strategy. This process involved looking at a whole lot of Gaudi architecture (Colonia Guell, Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Battlo), visiting the Picasso and Salvador Dali museums, and visiting a number of other really old cities and cathedrals. It was a good switch to go from the spreadsheet-focused analytical mindset to the art-viewing creative mindset. (Of course, that said, I do miss my spreadsheets after putting together a scrapbook-type journal as an assignment for the course!)

Throw in some Spanish nightlife, endless paella, tapas and sangria, thirty fun Darden students and some great shopping, and you've got yourself a great trip. I would definitely recommend the Barcelona GBE to anyone considering it, but would also recommend that you avoid getting sick and aim for beach weather instead of "oops, I should have brought my snow boots with me from Canada" weather!

For some more detailed recollections of the trip, check out for some more posts. She live-blogged throughout the trip, and has even included a pic of the snow.

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