In the real business environment, activities are not conducted in water-tight compartments. Different business functions are interdependent and interact with each other on a regular basis. But students in a marketing classroom (without any prior work experience) would neither know much about cross functionality nor would they understand the importance of working together with other functions. Thus, a cross-functional integration in the marketing curriculum would enable students to have a broader perspective about business issues and activities and would convey the mutually dependent roles in business decision making.
The learning exercise that I propose involves an exposure to the interdependence of marketing with other functions. The Professor would invite a panel of managers from a real company (at least twice for the semester and from different sectors or industries). These managers would belong to different functions in the business. The managers would discuss aspects of their respective jobs and how the tasks they perform are intertwined with other functions. For example, the Human Resources manager helps the marketing function in recruitment of salespersons while the marketing department helps the human resource function by designing and placing recruitment ads in different media. Similarly, the Information Systems manager designs the marketing information systems for the marketing department. Thus, the students would gain some understanding of the cross-functionality of business operations.
But before the panel visits the class, there is some homework to be done by the students. The students would be informed about the panels and the companies in the beginning of the course. They are expected to go through the company profile from the company website and also read about the company and the industry to which the company belongs (from other sources). Two weeks before the panel discussion, the students are expected to submit a two page summary (single spaced – Times New Roman – Font size 11) about the company and the industry. This will account for 25% of the grades allocated for this exercise. Then, one week before the panel discussion, the students are expected to submit 3 questions that they would like to ask the managers on the panel. This will account for another 25% of the grades allocated for this exercise. The students would thus be encouraged to think of or imagine scenarios in the real world. This would trigger a critical thinking process and prepare students for active involvement in the panel discussion.
One week after the panel discussion, the students would be required to submit a 2 page reflective paper (single spaced – Times New Roman – Font size 11) about their understanding of the various business functions and how they work hand-in-hand to make the business operations successful. This would account for the remaining 50% of the grades allocated for this exercise. The reflective paper would trigger the reflective thinking process in students and enable them to digest and grasp the information they received from the panel discussion.
Thus, this entire exercise involves active learning, cross-functional exposure, interaction with real-world business executives, real-life scenarios, critical and reflective thinking, discussions, and an opportunity to test the students’ writing skills also.