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Our Director Lays Out What it Takes to get into the Global Innovation Launchpad Programme and Why

To make the OBS Global Innovation Launchpad Programme application selection process more transparent, we took the time to ask the director, Alec Walker, what his vision is for the people who will attend and how he’ll evaluate them. Here’s our conversation:

First, why does anyone have to apply at all?

“We make people apply because we want to be sure that everyone who joins will love the programme. The applications help us ensure that participants have the interests, intentions, and capabilities that will not only allow us to deliver material most effectively but that will also ensure each student is able to extract the most from the others.”

So a part of what you’re saying is that the quality of the programme depends on the kind of people who attend?

“As is the case with full time master’s degrees in business administration, our programme derives a lot of its value from the people who attend. We believe in our strong material, but the people bring it to life. Curiosity is contagious, as is passion, and we rely on that contagion. We can’t dig deep if people are uninterested, and we can’t expect to spark lively discussion when people don’t care about the results. Our goal is for them to finish and then use the tools that they learned as well as the network that they built. Both are important!”

How did you design the application?

“Our interest is in determining which applicants are the best fit for our programme, not in creating unnecessary challenges or in being deliberately exclusive. We want to make the application process as transparent and straightforward as possible, and for this reason I’ve decided to simply share the metrics I use for evaluation directly. Our application process is designed to maximize our ability to assess these metrics while minimizing the time and effort needed to apply. To increase the chances of acceptance into our program, I recommend that applicants refer to these metrics while they complete their applications.”

I definitely want those metrics, but there’s more to explore, here. After we submit our applications, what is the review process like?

“I go over them all myself, evaluating on each of the metrics. I make notes on how the applicant demonstrates how they think, their personal interests, and their depth of knowledge in any particular area. After I have a sense of the applicant as an individual, I zoom out and assess how they’ll fit in with the rest of the community we’re building. The goal in this second part is to maximize cognitive diversity. I’ve learned that the best way to challenge assumptions, build strong connections, and boost overall creativity is through open interaction between really different people in an environment of acceptance and respect. That’s essential, so we’re building a motley mix!”

Ok. That sounds rosy, but are you saying you want people who are deliberately depicting themselves as strange or unique?

“We respect people who are proud to be different, but that does not mean that unconventional styles or attitudes are necessarily better than conventional ones; those things just don’t matter. The point is that ‘conventional’ becomes arbitrary in the context of innovation. We have to build a team that is objectively diverse, not just a team that looks a certain way when compared to what ordinary people do. As to how people show themselves, of course, painting an image of yourself that is different from who you are is likely to lead to disappointment for everyone involved. Open-mindedness and direct honesty form a much better tactic than aggressive unconventionalism and salesmanship.”

Anything else you want to tell us about the application process?

“Yeah! After submitting, don’t be surprised to hear back from us requesting a followup or even a phone call. Treat those as a good sign. We’ll be tailoring the progamme to the interests of the people who join. We have literally hundreds of companies and case studies to potentially add, so things will be carefully engineered for the interests and overall learning of the participants. We want to learn about our applicants to help with this process.”

Got it! Enough questions. Can you lay out those acceptance metrics now? 

(Alec Walker sent us the below in answer:)

  1. We are less interested in GPA than the applicants’ genuine interest in personal development during their time in China.
  2. At the time of the application, we are more interested in prospective attendees’ curiosity to broaden their global perspectives than their demonstrated knowledge of China. Applicants should accept the importance of China and be ready and willing to engage in China-related content, but this programme is by no means limited to people who are already China experts.
  3. The success of the programme is dependent on active student participation. Students will need to demonstrate that they are openly curious and eager to take social risks for the sake of learning. The design thinking parts of the programme will push students to engage in activities ranging from playing creativity-stoking interactive games to soliciting and conducting interviews with locals.
  4. The programme will be conducted in English, and all participants will need to comprehend native written and spoken English without issue as well as to speak English themselves at a level their classmates can understand. We need to ensure that participants can understand and learn from the lectures and activities, and we also need to ensure that our staff can understand the ideas and feedback from participants. Furthermore, much of the international media coverage will be in English.
  5. Demonstrated motivation to achieve creative business impact through corporate innovation or entrepreneurship. We like applicants who care about the content, but in particular we want those who care because they are eager to put it to use directly.
  6. Aptitude to assist the learning and progress of others. Following the application stage, participation in the program itself will not be competitive. The goal of the program is to maximize overall impact, and participants who support one another will each achieve more. The applicant should communicate interest in helping others learn and execute, and the applicant should exert effort in thinking of ways to help.
  7. The level of cognitive diversity that the student brings to the group. A heterogeneous team is much more likely to solve a hard problem than a homogenous team. The program looks for differences in background and goals as proxies, but often the way applicants express themselves is the most telling evidence of their differences in thinking.
  8. Overall enthusiasm and effort. We look at whether the applicant answered more questions than the bare minimum (following up with us), whether they used multimedia to augment their application, and what additional information they provided us above and beyond what was asked.
  9. Evidence that the candidate embraces tough challenges with an open mind. Leadership and past success demonstrate responsibility and capacity, which are both valuable traits in applicants. Engagement in uncommon or unprecedented activities shows an even more valuable willingness to explore and to take risks.
  10. Enthusiasm for engagement with traditional and new social media. We are looking for candidates who want to get attention and raise awareness, both domestically and internationally. Applicants should commit to actively seeking out opportunities to inform others about their own efforts.

Applicants may have their own questions. Please remember that I am always available to speak to any prospective participants directly alecwalker (at) oxfordbrightscholars.com. Thanks to all the applicants who take the time to read through all my answers and admissions information! Come join us!

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