Kanika Chaganty


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United Kingdom





By Kanika Chaganty

Surely You’re Joking…..

Blog #1 dedicated to: some surely fantastic people who stood for the class rep elections (Ally, Chris, Cesar, Jorge, Muntasir, Philip, Pinky). You guys were brilliant and it was amazing how you linked your speeches to the case studies discussed in Module 1…

Surely You’re Joking moment #1: Surely you can’t fit this in your already hectic life? It all started when I moved to Oxford in 2015. As I often drove past the Saïd Business School, I found myself drawn towards it, and finally giving into its allure. Call it my midlife crisis, but I succumbed to desire – a desire to learn, to stimulate my mind, and to learn to do strategy better in the current climate of innovation. I thought why not see what’s offered at the school, and I discovered the Strategy and Innovation diploma course. Now, I’m a typical so-called ‘sandwich generation’ (juggling parenthood, work and caring for ageing parents). So, between the demands of family and work life, time is a rare and valuable commodity. While doing a typical MBA needs high time commitments, I felt the 4 module structure offered by the diploma afforded a course work which seemed a better fit in my busy schedule. So I went through the application process, crossed my fingers and waited, as I was well aware of the stringent selection process of a prestigious institute like the Oxford University. I felt a sense of overwhelming joy when I received the acceptance email.

The eagerly anticipated Module 1 arrived, and there we were in the classroom. 68 ½ (go figure!) of us from 33 different nationalities and 39 different places all over the world ; each of us bringing a tiny speck of the universe to the class, collectively creating a global community, with a singular common goal – ‘to become strategy geniuses’ (as if!). There it was – a global platform to exchange ideas, cultures, views and enriching experiences – in just one classroom at the Saïd Business School. A good balance of yin and yang, all of us intently waited for Professor Felin to impart the knowledge of the secret sauce over the next 4 days. Next, what each of us experienced was way beyond our expectations and imagination – we undoubtedly learnt a lot about strategy through case studies and Prof. Felin’s style of keeping the class very participative and collaborative, in addition it was also the cohort’s interactions outside of the classroom and socials that added to our learnings.

Surely You’re Joking moment #2: Surely you’re not going to end Module 1 without giving us the magic answer to all strategy questions? (akin to the number 42 – the answer to the ultimate question of life in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Like many others in the class, I too waited to find the secret. Only to realise, the key is the tools and frameworks provided in the class, as well as the discussions and interactions with your cohort that enriches you intellectually. The time that followed, also made me realise that I have always been surrounded by ‘strategy at play’, but it’s only after Module 1 that I started noticing and comprehending it in my own environment.

Surely You’re Joking moment #3: Surely you are not asking us to dress up in a costume to write an exam in the next module? The Oxford University tradition requires that you wear a ‘uniform’ to write an exam. Your first reaction – you can’t be serious! Yet, when it sinks in, you start to appreciate how truly unique it is to Oxford. Further it makes a dreary event like an exam feel like a special ceremony, and then you don’t mind at all, and even start to look forward to it (For more on the exam dress code see Maria Lagutina’s blog…)

Surely Module 1 was a tremendous start: In the quest of finding the key to effective strategy, I think I have also become privy to Saïd Business School’s secret sauce – what makes it so inimitable and formidable is the entire Oxford University ecosystem of 38 colleges; the incredibly rich history and heritage, the academic excellence, the link between business, core academic subjects and research groups, the libraries, the entrepreneurship for social causes and the ingrained attitude to ‘critique’ and not accept the status quo. That’s exactly how I argued when, this morning, I had a minor domestic squabble with my husband regarding who’s school is better! (He happens to be an alumni of another top notch business school).

(The title of this blog is inspired by one of my favourite books – Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by the Noble Prize winning physicist, Richard P. Feynman)

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