Economic disruption is nothing new. From the start of the digital age to the global financial crisis, history tells us that businesses need to be prepared for turbulent times.
The real question is, how can businesses adapt, grow and sustain a competitive edge throughout these challenges?
We spoke with alumnus Mark Higgins and current student Cassandra Castle, who explained how studying The University of Queensland’s Master of Leadership in Service Innovation* has helped them prepare for the future of business. The program hasn’t only helped them become critical and reflective thinkers – it’s also given them the knowledge to develop solutions for complex business challenges.
Tell us about your career so far. What led you to study the UQ Master of Leadership in Service Innovation?
Mark: My natural interest in puzzles and problem solving led me to pursue a career as a business analyst. I had previously worked as a contractor and consultant on some great projects, but beyond that, I always wanted to learn more about strategy and innovation. I spent some of my own time researching these topics, which resulted in career opportunities that saw me deliver innovative solutions to businesses. This experience sparked an interest in how I could take this further, eventually leading me into the Master of Leadership and Service Innovation program.
"I now work as a Business Process Lead, where I develop effective, efficient and customer-centred processes. Processes may sound boring, but they are how an organisation gets things done and delivers on its value propositions."
How is the Master of Leadership in Service Innovation going to help you change or enhance your career?
Cassandra: For me, it’s really about staying relevant and not becoming an archaic leader who has lost touch with the teams that they lead or the industry they work in. It’s really about staying relevant and maintaining that currency of skills. Whether I progress to a higher-level role or look to stay in the same career, the skills I’m learning are transferrable, and I can apply them in any industry and in any role. That’s what it’s about for me.
Society is moving to an experience-based economy where businesses co-create value with customers, and this course itself is actually co-creating value with students through our online interactions and the contemporary issues we are studying. It’s really phenomenal.
Has studying a 100% online degree been a challenge?
Mark: Between full-time work in a high-pressure environment and three children (the youngest was born in week two of the capstone subject!) there is no way I would have been able to make regularly scheduled face-to-face classes on campus. The online format fit in perfectly with my lifestyle.
Cassandra: I’ve completed a number of different online courses in my 20-year career and this one is by far the best. This is really different. Even though it’s 100% online, you still have access to other students. They’re placed all around the world, so you learn about their experiences and the challenges they face but you can also engage as much or as little as you want to.
"I think you get a richness of learning experience through online delivery that I haven’t encountered in other courses.”
What are some of your key takeaways from the Master of Leadership in Service Innovation?
Mark: So much! Where to start?
Innovation cannot be a shortcut; you need to let the design thinking process play out. It’s the only way the organisation can learn properly.
I went into the course thinking that I would hate the innovation culture topics, but found that they were among the most engaging. This isn’t some fluffy topic either – culture is king, and you can measure and change an organisation’s culture to increase their chances of success.
Process is the direct link to strategy execution. An organisation must define and execute its strategy through its processes, and by measuring processes, we can see if we are on our way to success or not – long before we get to the point where it matters, hopefully. Managing and measuring processes allows businesses to course correct along the way.
What have you learnt about yourself during your studies?
Cassandra: There are a lot of things I have learnt about myself, but I think given this course is in the leadership discipline, it really encourages that deep thought and self-reflection, which you can apply to any professional context or situation that presents itself. So, for me it’s about being a better leader and knowing that I can apply the customer experience skills I’m learning in the work environment.
What motivates you to succeed?
Mark: I’m motivated by the goal of leaving a positive legacy in every organisation I work in, by encouraging colleagues to increase focus on process and continuous improvement so their business gets a little bit better over time.