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Mini MBA - Unlocking the Ivory Tower

How Management Research Can Transform Your Business
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Last updated 3/2014
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  • 5.5 hours on-demand video
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Mini-MBA for Entrepreneurs

This course reviews management literature, and is designed for individuals and teams who want to utilize research in core business fields to become more effective managers.

Our premise is that management is a discipline that can be learned from study, and that a diverse set of academic research has practical and actionable implications for how to manage in a modern organization. The lecture material is based on our book Unlocking the Ivory Tower: How Management Research Can Transform Your Business.

The course addresses major fields in business:strategy, leadership, entrepreneurship, organizational theory, international business, innovation, finance, and decision-making.This course can serve as a distilled education for those who have not pursued a management degree, a refresher course for those who did, or a time-effective way to expand beyond the concepts taught in most MBA programs.

Students in this class will participate in team exercises to apply the academic research summarized in real-world examples.

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is designed for participants in organizations of all sizes, including entrepreneurs, managers in corporations and startups, and policymakers.
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What Will I Learn?
• Understand the key schools of thought academic research in core business fields.
• Understand the strengths and shortcomings in seminal research contributions.
• Apply this research in real-world settings to make you a better manager.
View Curriculum
  • None
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 70 Lectures Collapse All 70 Lectures 05:29:50
14 Lectures 55:41

In this opening lecture, Eric Ball gives a quick overview of strategy. Strategy has been studied for thousands of years and one of the earliest was “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. In the management field, strategy is often divided into two categories: corporate and business.

Preview 01:42

Eric explores the significance of some early models of strategy as frameworks for executives and CEOs to consider.

Preview 04:36

Why do individual employees join firms rather than acting as individual contractors? In this lecture Eric discusses how managers examine transaction and agency cost frameworks and why they make decisions to outsource as a strategy rather than giving employees empowerment.

Preview 06:45

Strategies not based on resources are unlikely to succeed. Strategy can be defined as anything that represents a strength or weakness within a given firm. Strategy involves striking a balance between existing and new resources. Here Eric takes a look at different views on the tradeoffs the firm might face between exploiting resources the firm already possesses versus developing new ones.

Resource Based Strategy

Executives are judged on their ability to identify, cultivate and explain the core competencies that make growth possible. Companies that have risen to global leadership began with ambitions totally out of proportion to their existing resources and capabilities. It is not resources but resourcefulness that drives success. This lecture examines this thesis.

Strategic Capabilities

Since the 1940's, game theory has arisen as a branch of economics, initially with a focus on how to optimize play within a particular game or set of rules. It is more profitable to shape the game you play rather than play the game you find. In business, it's possible to create non-zero-sum games that don't have traditional winners and losers. As Eric points out in this lecture, unlike games that have set rules, most of the action in business actually derives from changing the game.

Game Theory

In this lecture, Eric reviews an article that summarizes a debate between two different views of strategy. There is some evidence that suggests competitive advantage is not arrived at through systematic implementation of a carefully developed plan, but rather through an often disjointed series of reactions to external events. (learning)

Learning vs. Planning

Other potential sources of competitive advantage are examined in this lecture. It can be argued that strong, competitive positions are temporary and competition is really the process of building a series of new, temporary advantages over time. Eric describes how If all competitive advantages are temporary, instead of thinking how to get an advantage, you should think about the process you are going to use to generate a series of competitive advantages. Some of those, you aren’t even in a position to see yet.

Sustainable Advantage

In this lecture, Eric examines the literature that claims networks of relationships are a valuable resource and the interaction of relationship capital and intellectual capital constitutes competitive advantage.

Social Capital

Studies show that 50-80% of acquisitions fail and acquirers experience a negative average impact to their stock price. In this lecture Eric uses Oracle, as an example of a company that has acquired a large number of other companies (over 100) and examines several questions. Why are so many companies acquisitive? How are merger candidates identified by companies? Do common technologies matter when considering an acquisition?

Mergers & Acquisitions

Eric discusses in this lecture, specifically identifying how the real options created by projects or strategies can improve decisions about the sequence and timing of strategic investments.

Real Options

Financial projections are an incomplete form of planning for the future. This lecture covers how scenarios in the form of stories are a valuable tool for evaluating different possible futures.

Scenarios Analysis

Most companies struggle with strategy implementation. Eric explores how making it clear who owns the decisions and ensuring the information flows to where it's needed are the key levers for the successful execution of strategic initiatives.

Strategy Execution

Strategy Assignment
7 Lectures 31:12

Professor Joe Lipuma discusses the definitions of entrepreneurship and the big questions around why do some people exploit opportunities that are at the heart of entrepreneurship and others don’t. He lays the foundation for this section of lectures.

Entrepreneurship Introduction

The historical context of entrepreneurship provides insights into the field’s economic and behavorial roots, grounding managerial decisions. Professor Lipuma talks about the idea that firms can only profit if they take on uncertainty. Also entrepreneurs are individuals with unusually low levels of uncertainty aversion. Entrepreneurial-driven innovation is the crucial engine of economic change in a capitalist society.

Why We Should Study It

Opportunities are at the heart of entrepreneurship. Mistakes by one entrepreneur can provide opportunities for another. In this lecture, Joe takes a closer look at what really makes an opportunity.


Where do entrepreneurs come from? And why? Do certain geographies like Silicon Valley really make a difference? Joe explores in this lecture why entrepreneurs need to consider the population and the environment before establishing a new venture.

Entrepreneurial Entry

Access to a source of funding is a critical element for entrepreneurs. Joe takes a look at how the financial environment of location, be it availability of VC’s or other potential partners, for startups contributes to geographic clustering of entrepreneurs such as Silicon Valley.

Entrepreneurial Finance

Understanding the difference in regulatory environments, laws,culture and competitive advantages among countries is critical for managers seeking to operate in foreign nations. Joe explains how regulations can affect an entrepreneur’s ability to pursue and exploit opportunties. And how different types of entrepreneurship in different cultural contexts can be based on economic conditions and available employment options.

International Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship Assignment
10 Lectures 43:33

Machiavelli was unapologetic when describing how leaders manipulate their followers to accomplish their goals. As Eric Ball points out, his description of human natures has direct analogies to the corporate world and discusses some of those observations from his experiences in Silicon Valley.

Classic Theorists / Machiavelli

Chester Barnard wasn’t an academic but he did come up with his own theories based on years of experience as President of New Jersey Bell. As Eric describes in this lecture, Barnard’s thesis was that the primary responsibility of an executive is to define an organization’s purpose. Barnard was also one of the first to articulate the concept of organizational purpose.

Classic Theorists / Barnard

In this lecture, Eric takes a look at how managers tend to take on many projects rather than systematically organizing their activities, encourage interruption and respond quickly to any stimulus. They avoid abstract thinking and make decisions incrementally.

What Leaders Do (Reality and Myth)

In his second lecture about what leaders really do, Eric looks at Warren Bennis' thesis that routine work will drive out all time for strategic thinking unless leaders engage in efforts to empower employees to make decisions. Bennis also studied sixty corporate leaders and found they all shared four competencies which Eric explores.

What Leaders Do (Barriers to Leadership)

In the third lecture about what leaders really do, Eric explores how management is about coping with complexity and leadership is more about coping with change. Eric uses some recent examples from Cisco, Google and Facebook

What Leaders Do (Coping with Change)

In this lecture, Eric discusses how culture is the deeper level of assumptions shared by the organization and is critical to the organizations success. The first job of a leader is to create and sustain the organization's culture.

Leadership and Culture

There can be several factors contributing to destructive leaders. Typically, as Eric explains, leaders are isolated from the reality within the company. Depending on how the leader deals with the situation can determine the effect on the company.

Destructive Leadership

The conditions of leadership have changed, according to one academic author, Jean Lipman-Blumen, who argues that now people look more to individual leaders than they do to idealogies. In this lecture, Eric describes the styles of leadership where leaders use different strategies to accomplish goals successfully.

Constructive Leadership

Leaders need to engage their followers. They need to monitor, measure and adapt. More is known about bad leadership than effective leadership. In this lecture, Eric summarizes theories by Jay Cogner and Ron Riggio and their findings about what works and what doesn’t work in leadership.

Effective Leadership

Leadership Assignment
Organization and Process
9 Lectures 51:04

Organizational design is the alignment of structure, process, rewards, metrics, and talent with the strategy of the business. In this chapter, Eric describes what has (and has not) been established to promote organizational effectiveness.

Introduction - Organizational Design

Identifying the pattern of shared basic assumptions within a group is a powerful tool to understand organizational behavior. With cultural change losses are more certain than gains; therefore managing change entails convincing people that the likely gains outweigh the losses. Eric discusses in this lecture powerful culture forces can be because often people are unaware of them.

Culture - Organizational Design

In determining the behavior of individuals in groups, situations can have a larger impact than inherent personalities. Poor organizational structure can predetermine destructive outcomes. In this lecture, Eric described some powerful studies on human behavior as it relates to organizational structure.

Structure - Organizational Design

Failure is an essential prerequisite for learning -- organizations must allow people to fail in order to grow. Success fosters reliability, while failure fosters resilience. Eric explores how not all failure results in learning, but if you’re in an environment that values resilience, you will find value in failures and in those who have failed.

Learning - Organizational Design

Organizations repeatedly reward behaviors that are inconsistent with the desired behavior. This misalignment of incentives can be confronted and reversed. As Eric points out in this lecture, individual incentives are often forgotten in organizations and points out how powerful the impacts can be.

Aligning Incentives - Organizational Design

Job satisfaction does not actually drive job performance. Setting goals, particularly specific and challenging goals, does lead to higher job performance. Context is the key to job motivation, particularly that provided by culture, job characteristics, and job fit; in addition, says Eric in this lecture, workers are motivated by subconscious as well as conscious sources.

Motivation - Organizational Design

In this lecture, Eric shows how power in an organization means the ability to get things done the way one wants them done. Power accrues to those who cope with the organization's problems, and is therefore the secret of success. Powerlessness (not power) breeds bossiness. Power can mean efficacy and capacity. To expand power, share it.

Power - Organizational Design

In this lecture, Eric reviews improvement approaches that have been in and out of fashion since 1990. Modern information technology can enable organizations to eliminate non-value-added activities instead of merely automating them to make them more efficient. Studies employing better methodologies tend to find a positive connection between IT and organizational productivity.

Information Technology - Organizational Design

Organizational Design Assignment
International Business
6 Lectures 35:19

Understanding the reasons, processes, and outcomes associated with multinational business has been aided by recent development of theories of the multinational enterprise (MNE). As Professor Joe Lipuma explores in this lecture, such theories address international operations and the control-based forms of multinationals, product lifecycles, stage theories of internationalization, and the eclectic theory based on ownership, location, and internalization advantages.

Multi-national Entrepreneurship

Internationalization is intended to provide companies with competitive advantages, and companies take various approaches to their foreign market entry and expansion in the context of broader economic, political, and business activities. This lecture explores how knowledge acquisition and internalization are key to multinational corporate evolution.

Internalization Advantages

The environment in which MNEs (multi-national enterprise) operate affects—and is affected by—the MNEs. As economic actors, MNEs affect other companies, the labor force, technological and overall economic growth in their host countries. As political actors, Joe points out in this lecture, MNEs may influence the political environment in these countries in ways that can be inconsistent with the political aims of the corporate headquarters.

Political Economy - International

MNEs, as HQ and subsidiary units, affect the environments in which they operate (both politically and economically). In this context, MNE managers must determine how to structure the activities between headquarters and subsidiary. In this lecture Joe asks such questions as: How should the structure map to the firm’s strategy and learning, and the market needs of the industry globally and locally?

Multi-national Management

In this lecture Joe discusses how In the international context, corporate culture mixes with national culture and becomes even more central to organizational performance. Culture affects foreign market entry mode, multinational management, and international negotiations.

Culture - International Business

International Business Assignment
6 Lectures 28:46

What is innovation and the patterns innovation follows? In this lecture, Joe says it’s essential for managers to understand the context for innovation and takes a look at why some cities seem more entrepreneurial and innovative than others.

Introduction - Innovation

Ideas, information, invention, and innovation are related, and require the innovator’s investment to extract returns. Joe describes in this lecture how the economics related to perfect markets and the market for information may lead to underinvestment in innovative activities, thwarting invention and subsequent economic growth. Managers must develop strategies and policies to promote innovative company cultures and practices.

Technology Issues and Innovation

Economic theory may not be the best for explaining the birth, growth, and death of firms. Innovation associated with venture emergence and growth is path-dependent: the history of the entrepreneur and of the company matter. Joe explores in this lecture how despite societal variance in creative individuals and economic growth, innovation and industry lifecycles follow standard patterns, the knowledge of which can aid strategic decision-making.

Patterns of Innovation

Innovation and innovative competition may vary based on the size and position of the firm and the nature of the industry. As Joe points out in this lecture, innovation may be driven by industry incumbents, entrants, or by users. Protecting proprietary information is key for innovators, as getting the value from innovation motivates innovative activities.

Technology Competition and Innovation

In this lecture Joe describes how governments can play a role in the creation of environments conducive to innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. Governmental actions can facilitate the development of systems of innovation, but may be less important than the actions of entrepreneurs.

Institutions and Innovation

Innovation Assignment
11 Lectures 52:14

In this introductory lecture, Eric explains how finance is the study of how investors allocate their assets over time under conditions of certainty and uncertainty, and typically examines the relationship between money, time, and risk.

Introduction to Finance

The value of a company is unaffected by how that firm is financed (in an efficient market absent taxes or bankruptcy costs). In this lecture, Eric says those who argue that capital structure impacts valuation should start by showing how relaxing assumptions leads to a different result.

Capital Structure

Investor diversification can eliminate stock-specific risk so that only non-diversifiable market risk remains. In this lecture, Eric discusses how investment choice then becomes a combination of a single riskless asset and one combination of risky assets. The capital asset pricing model provides a price for any security, given a riskless rate and the expected return for the market, based solely on how sensitive that security's return is to the market return.

Capital Asset Pricing

Asset prices reflect all information contained in the history of past prices, and also reflect all publicly available information. As Eric points out in this lecture, prices may even reflect much non-public information (except that detailed information held by stock exchange specialists and corporate insiders).

Efficient Markets

In this lecture, Eric shows how when one group (managers) performs on behalf of another group (owners), the interests of the two groups can diverge. Contracts can minimize the differing incentives, and it can be in the best interest of managers to contractually restrict their own behavior.

Agency Theory

In this lecture, Eric explains when entrepreneurs have inside information about their project quality, the value of the firm will increase with the share held by that entrepreneur. Financing does matter. Knowing that management has inside information, investors will interpret any issuance of equity as evidence the issuing company is overvalued. This will cause firms with limited debt capacity to pass up good investments.

Imperfect Information

You can only manage what you measure explains Eric in this lecture. The financial statements prepared for investors are an inadequate source of information for managers. Companies need to identify performance metrics, and link this scorecard to ongoing executive action. Companies can achieve higher shareholder value if they use an economic measure of value added rather than an accounting measure.

Balanced Scorecard

This lecture is based on the concept that companies can better manage for shareholder value if they use an economic measure of value added, rather than accounting measures that ignore investment.

Economic Value Added

Agents are not rational, points out Eric in this lecture, and markets are not efficient. People exhibit persistent and significant cognitive biases in how they process information, assess risk, and make investment decisions. These biases are consistent enough across people to be predictable.

Behavioral Finance

Some journalists have stated that a cause of the bubble in mortgage backed securities was a widespread belief that other people had valued the assets so that none did so. In this lecture Eric discusses how Eugene Fama casts doubt on this hypothesis, given that so few Wall Street professionals appear to believe in market efficiency.

Did Efficiency Kill the Market?

Finance Assignment
Emerging Topics
6 Lectures 30:46
  • Ensure everyone lives the mission explains Eric in this lecture. Be action-oriented and driven by results. Know who your customers are. Define performance concretely and keep score on yourself. Allocate your own life, make yourself a leader by focusing on what you want to be remembered for. Develop your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Managing Non-Profits (and Businesses)

In this lecture Eric explores how people are bounded by the time they take to make decisions, their rationality, their awareness, and their ethicality. Individuals tend to take cognitive shortcuts which result in mis-estimating risk and probability and making suboptimal or inconsistent decisions, even when the stakes are high. Understanding these tendencies can enable us to make better decisions, and to better evaluate decisions made by others.

Decision Making

Individuals tend to avoid the effort involved in slow well-reasoned analysis in favor of making instant intuitive assessments. Experts can hone their intuition says Eric in this lecture, but only produce better decisions if they operate in environments with regular feedback providing an opportunity to learn.

Are Experts Better?

Marketing is inseparable from strategy. In this lecture, Eric describes how the market orientation of a business determines its performance. Such orientation is facilitated by management's response to customer needs, higher interdepartmental connectedness, and decentralized decision-making. Consumers' cognitively biased tendency to engage in mental accounting has implications for marketers seeking to influence consumer behavior.


A complex adaptive social system consists of interdependent, interacting agents whose micro behavior responds to macro patterns they produce, resulting in a system which evolves. Eric explains in this lecture how computational modeling tools are well-suited to such systems. A variety of social phenomena (e.g., political, financial, economic, and natural behaviors) appear to be better understood using this perspective.

Complex Systems

Emerging Topics Assignment
1 Lecture 01:13
Concluding Lecture
About the Instructor
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18 Students
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Eric Ball is Senior VP of Finance at Oracle Corporation and was named as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Finance” in 2011 by the editors of CFO and Treasury & Risk Managementmagazines. He earned his PhD in management at the Drucker-Ito School of Management. Eric’s research in venture capital has been published in the Review of Financial Studies. He is also a Kauffman Fellow – a participant in a selective program to train leaders in the venture capital industry and a Kauffman Fellows Academy Instructor.

4.5 Average rating
1 Review
18 Students
1 Course

Joe LiPuma has consulted in business and information technology internationally for more than 25 years. He is Associate Professor and Director of the International MBA program at EM-Lyon Business School in France. Joseph holds a DBA in strategy and policy from Boston University, and has taught there as well as at Drexel University and St. Joseph’s University. His research centers on international entrepreneurship and has been published in several academic journals. He is co-author of Unlocking the Secrets of the Ivory Tower and an instructor for the Kauffman Fellows Academy.

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