Oregon MBA

The Sound of Sustainability

The modern symphonic orchestra is perhaps the greatest musical instrument ever invented. The cacophony of strings, winds, brass, and percussion is realized through proper preparation that includes all contracted musicians having practiced their fair share, full orchestral rehearsals, production coordination on stage, marketing, strategic planning, fundraising, and an audience to witness the final product. The conductor is the glue, the facilitator of the performance, responsible for interpreting the often-timeless compositions that were written over 100 years ago. She or he is responsible for the tempo, the balance, and the phrasing that is often nitpicked by critics to be too fast, too slow, to the extent that this interpretation is an insult to the classical music tradition.

You may be wondering what a symphony has to do with sustainable business practices. An organization has several moving parts and without proper coordination the core products may diminish in quality or the intended messaging of the product may not reach the target market. For example, if the marketing department is not in constant communication with R&D which is not in touch with legal, productivity is lost, financial growth potential is minimized, customer loyalty is diminished, and valuable resources are wasted. As businesses realize that incorporating social and environmental values within their mission leads to profitability, it becomes even more important for companies and departments to play in sync.

In my opinion, a business with mature sustainability practices functions akin to a nearly perfect performance of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, From The New World. And that is no easy feat. Each of the players has the responsibility to uphold their commitment to the rest of the ensemble, or else the entire collective can fall apart. In business, each employee and each department have a very specific duty to perform. The operations team requires precise control over its supply chain. And if a supplier is late, that can create backorders, and the marketing team needs to communicate with the unsatisfied customers…

Check out the final movement of The New World Symphony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHqtJH2f1Yk

Note that during a section or instrumentalist solo, the rest of the orchestra is in tune with the soloist, literally and figuratively. Each of the sections understands when it’s time to play in the foreground, and when to be the support in the background. The conductor guides all of the performers. However, even if the conductor were absent from the scene, the orchestra would still be able to perform since each of the players is so well prepared. In an organization, the CEO and full executive team have the responsibility – I’ll spare the reader from belaboring the analogy…

A couple of weeks ago, I took over the University of Oregon’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices social media accounts and focused on the social benefits of renewable energy. A few notable mentions include the increase in jobs, stronger communities, and vast health benefits for regions that invest in renewables.

The sustainability revolution is here, and we are just starting to see new clean energy business models take shape through partnership flips and virtual power plants. It is imperative that organizations, startups and corporates, that have a mission which involves social and environmental advocacy and action, coordinate their various functions as if every day is a nearly perfect performance of The New World Symphony.

Written by nzolan

Ness has 10 years of operations and fundraising experience working with non-profits in the performing arts. He has held the roles of General Manager for the Eugene Symphony and Associate Producer for the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Ness has worked with many politicians and celebrities but cares more about how many people he can convince to take up pogo sticking as a hobby, for the physical and mental benefits. Through the Oregon MBA, Ness is studying sustainability, innovation, strategy and leadership. Ness loves all people and the planet and wants to continue his service to bettering our society and the environment through business practices.

Oregon Companies, Making a Difference

How do you know when you’ve stumbled upon the right place to combine your life passions with your career aspirations?

I grew up in a Marine Corps family, went to college, and then joined the Marine Corps myself. I’ve moved so frequently that I don’t have one particular place I call home. My parents, and ultimately the Marines sent me to Idaho, Virginia, California, Vermont, and Japan. While there are amazing and unique things about each of these places, when it came time for me to pick where I wanted to call home I landed in Oregon.

Over the past five months I’ve tried to articulate what it is that drew me to the “Beaver State”. It was probably a decision rooted in some combination of my affinity for the west coast and a love of all things outdoors. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my choice. I’m staying.

As home to one of the top Green MBA programs in the country, it’s no surprise that Oregon businesses are leading the way with sustainable practices. Throughout my time in the program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and speak to many business leaders throughout the state. No matter how different a company is from another, they all share a genuine passion for making the right choices.

They have each proven that there are multiple different ways to have a social and environmental impact.

At Humm Kombucha in Bend, there’s a strong sense of connection with the local community who helped build the brand through continued support. As a result, the company is dedicated to giving back and supporting social initiatives.

When I spoke with the Marketing Director at Ruffwear, she emphasized how important sustainability is to their company because it’s just the right thing to do. As a result, they have worked hard to reduce waste at various stages of their supply chain.

Keen Footwear in Portland, invited us to their headquarters in the fall to learn about some of their sustainability initiatives. One major impact area that they are tackling is the reduction of chemicals in their production process.

One of the things I love most about being in Oregon is the culture and passion for good quality coffee. True to Oregon authenticity, the coffee companies I have come across value traceability and responsibility in their sourcing practices.

Choosing Oregon as a home, temporary residence or travel destination is a choice in good consciousness. You can bet that the people, communities and companies are making important and impactful decisions with a genuine passion for sustainability.

Written by bbuckles

Briana is a 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is an innovative and intellectual professional with four years of leadership and logistics experience from the US Marine Corps. She’s passionate about traceability and responsible sourcing of everyday products.

Why Sports are Important to Sustainability

Sports and sustainability are two areas that most people do not see going hand in hand. While organizations like the Green Sports Alliance and the Council for Responsible Sport (CRS) are working to fix that viewpoint, the everyday consumer may have more difficulty connecting the two. If you ask the right people, they may see how sustainable practices can have a large positive impact on sporting events in terms of waste reduction or energy efficiency. But would they mention that sports can also have an impact on the sustainability movement?

This summer I was able to work with the City of Eugene on a grant they received from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to help create a framework for responsible events. My specific focus was creating an engagement model for how best to utilize universities in the responsible event space. I was really excited to learn more about the events area, and was unpleasantly surprised when I found out that the majority of events that would be using this framework would be sporting events.

Let me clarify, I am not a sports fan. I say, “Go Ducks!” but I have never been to a game, and I’m definitely not the person you should ask if you want to know the outcome of last weekend’s game. I watch the Super Bowl, but only for the advertisements. So, when I found out that a significant portion of my research would be surrounding sporting events, I was less than enthusiastic. I could see how sustainability could benefit sports. It was clear that helping to implement those practices was important, but I was much more eager to learn about how sustainability had been executed at music festivals than baseball games.

I could not have been more surprised by what I learned from my conversations with multiple people in the green sports area. Many professional leagues are moving towards more sustainability-focused goals. The Final Four has been certified a couple of times by the CRS, and Major League Baseball has made efforts to have a Green Team at the All-Star Game. New ways of connecting sustainability and sports are coming up every year, and learning about how these events have been made more sustainable is exciting. While it was quite simple to see how sustainable goals were improving sports, my biggest takeaway was how important sports are to the sustainability movement.

58% of Americans identify as sports fans[1]. Sports as a platform for communication is invaluable. What sports teams support, and the messages they promote, will be heard by thousands. For the people pushing sustainability forward, the ability to use this platform created by sports allows them to reach people who might not normally be exposed to sustainable ideas. If people, especially children who grow up watching their favorite teams, see these stadiums or leagues “going green” they may be inspired to do the same.

My viewpoint on sports has completely changed since the beginning of the summer. While I still don’t identify as a sports fan, I finally see the value of sports as a platform. Last weekend I was able to incorporate these lessons into helping put on the Green Football Game at Autzen Stadium, where we met our goal of receiving 500+ pledges to be more sustainable. I’m looking forward to utilizing sports in my future sustainability experiences.


[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/183689/industry-grows-percentage-sports-fans-steady.aspx


Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

Wandering with Purpose at the 2017 Net Impact Conference

It’s the night before the first day of the Net Impact conference and I’m furiously looking through their website, writing down all talks I want to attend and people I want to network with.  The list was long – if I wanted to get to everything, there would have to be 5 extraverted versions of myself. I went to sleep feeling anxiously prepared.

Standing in line to register the next day, I saw a looming sign featuring the theme of this year’s conference – “Path to Purpose.” It struck me that I didn’t know my purpose for attending. Yes, I knew I wanted to network and learn new things, but that’s not purpose. Those are actions to satisfy my purpose. Suddenly, I felt like a lost child in a giant shopping mall. Where is my purpose?! Where’s an adult that can tell me where my purpose is?!

This isn’t a new feeling for me. Most of the time, I feel like a cat constantly changing direction to look at the new shiny thing. Professors, career counselors, and parents ask me, “what do you love to do?” In the words of one of the keynote speakers at Net Impact, Cheryl Dorsey President of Echoing Green, “what makes your heart sing?” I mean, a lot of things. I love connecting and helping people on a deep level. I love coming up with new and creative ways to communicate an old message. I love traveling and food. I love being outdoors. I love movies and culture and art and their impact on society. DO I HAVE TO PICK ONE?

At the risk of going crazy trying to define a purpose that would further my career and define my life’s work, I decided to keep it simple – be curious, learn something new. I left the extensive list of people and sessions in my bag and made game time decisions. It felt like I was moving with a tide – going to sessions and exploring which conversations moved me, then finding sessions that dig deeper into that topic. For example, Paul Hawken, the author of Project Drawdown, walked us through the top solutions to reverse climate change. I was moved to tears to hear that women’s issues had some of the biggest impact – Solution #6 was educating girls and solution #7 was family planning. Giving the control back to women gave them the power to choose their own path, which usually led to smaller families and higher education. This led me to the gender equality panel, one I didn’t consider before hearing those statistics. It turned out to be my favorite session. I learned about the implications of cognitive diversity from Mary Harvey, a Principle at Ripple Effect Consulting and former US women’s national soccer team goal keeper. I found out from a fellow student that computer science started as a female-dominated field before the personal computer revolution made it a “masculine” endeavor. Later, one of the sessions I wanted to go to was closed, so I ended up at “Don’t leave your values at the door.” Cause marketing is another passion of mine and it just so happens that the woman who essentially invented it, Carol Cone, was leading the panel.

I satisfied my “conference” purpose – I was curious and learned new things. Did that lead me to my life’s purpose? Not exactly, but it did reignite my passion for impacting food systems. And it did make me want to explore and understand gender equality and its impact on the workplace and environment. Most of the successful professionals I heard from had winding paths to their current positions because they were curious individuals with multiple passions. And with each pivot, their purpose became clearer. So, for all my fellow wanderers out there: Having a wide range of interests is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to follow your passions through unconventional career paths. Go to that art opening. Volunteer at that organic farm. Reach out to that person with your dream job – the one you never thought would want to talk to you. With each new opportunity, you’ll discover the common thread that spells out your purpose.

Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.

Building Connections: My Weekend at the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference

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On October 13-15, I attend the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference in Boston. The conference was hosted by Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, and I was beyond honored to be selected out of thousands of applicants to represent the University of Oregon at this incredible event. The speaker list was stacked with impact-makers from across the world including people like the 19th Secretary of State Madeline Albright; Alan Khazi, founder of City Year and national service champion; Daryl Davis, who did amazing feats to strengthen race relations; Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III; David Miliband, current CEO of International Rescue Committee and former Foreign Secretary in the UK; Olympic medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad; and 19th Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.

I heard inspiring talks on a variety of global issues, but to me, one key theme emerged: connection. It is the conversations between people that drive empathy and understanding, it is the partnerships between organizations that create massive change, and it is the networks each person at the conference had that allowed them to get where they are today. We are a global community that needs to work together to reach a common purpose, peace, and quality of life for every person. As President Clinton said, it is not division and subtraction but addition and multiplication that will help us create a better future.

I was particularly inspired by panelist Daryl Davis, an African-American man who decided to write a book on the Ku Klux Klan at the height of the civil rights movement. Like any good author, Davis needed to interview the subjects of his book, and he put himself in great danger to do so. But the conversations he had with KKK leaders also broke down walls. Through these conversations, Davis befriended 1000 Klan members who subsequently quit the organization. His words will stick with me forever, “It is when the conversation ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence.”

Seeing the theme of connection played out so strongly was especially empowering for me, because it’s something I’m focusing on here at the Oregon MBA. The application to attend Clinton Global Initiative U required a commitment to action. For me, that commitment is a program I developed called the Sustainability Hyperinnovation Collaborative (SHIC). It’s an event series that brings together multiple stakeholders to co-create sustainable solutions to the problems we see today. The inaugural event for SHIC will take place April 20-21 and will focus on creating integrated transportation platforms that will help cities and businesses create cohesive public and shared transportation systems. Government officials, transportation executives, university researchers, and passionate graduate students will be divided into teams and lead through rapid innovation processes to create a product in just two days.

It has been a challenge to develop an event like this, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of faculty members at UO who gave me the tools and connections to help this idea grow. With the help of my network, I hope to grow SHIC into a network of universities hosting annual events that support sustainable business through collaboration. Together, we can create bigger, faster, and stronger impacts; something that CGI U is working to accomplish as well.

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My take away from CGI U is this: connect with others. Impactful projects are only successfully with the help of a network and a team. Political and social divides can only be broken through mutual understanding, one conversation at a time. We can all do something to impact the world: communicate, listen, understand, grow, connect.

Written by Leah Goodman

Leah is a 2018 MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices and Strategy. She is a Clinton Global Initiative U '17 class member and a Net Impact Climate Fellow. Currently, Leah is developing an innovation lab, the Sustainable Hyperinnovation Collaborative, and hopes to grow this business after graduation.

Reflections on a Case Competition

Ok, deep breath, you got this, 15 minutes and it’s all over. This is what was going through my head right before presenting in the final round of the Simon Fraser University Sustainability Challenge. This was my first live case competition and I never thought our team would get this far. We were three Americans, competing in Canada, in a business and cultural setting we knew little about despite the similarities between our countries.

When we first heard about the SFU Sustainability Challenge, my team including Seth Lenaerts, Leah Goodman, and I, were all excited. We saw it as a great opportunity to compete in an international live case competition with a focus on sustainability.  Once we saw the case, however, we knew it was going to test our education, business ethics, and values. The case prompt was to provide feasibility and pre-engagement advice to the FortisBC team with respect to the potential for natural gas conversions in First Nations communities on Vancouver Island. Our initial reaction was, “are we supposed to market natural gas to First Nation communities?” It was difficult to see the link to sustainability and tested our ethics.

Feeling confused and a bit disheartened we sought guidance from a couple of advisors. We were questioning our values and trying to decide what our next step should be. Upon re-reading the case we realized we were not being asked to come up with a marketing plan but to consider if natural gas could be an option for these communities, what these communities’ values were, and how these related to the natural gas company. Once we realized this, we were reenergized and dove back into the case, viewing it as a challenge to bring environmental values to a fossil fuel company.

Incorporating sustainability into our proposal was not the only challenge we faced. We were also dealing with the cultural differences between Canada and the United States. Canada is a big proponent of natural gas as a clean energy source whereas our group still viewed it as an extractive fossil fuel. We were also playing catch up on the cultural context and understanding the history and relationship of First Nation communities in Canada. While these challenges hampered our understanding of the case initially, having an outsider’s perspective may have helped us in the end.

Our team worked wonderfully together, building off each other’s ideas and helping each other understand the nuances of the case. When someone struggled with an idea or concept we would take the time to go over the issue and ensure everyone was on the same page, often leading to a breakthrough in how we structured our case. Our finalized product was something we could all be proud of, a values-driven suggestion on how FortisBC could use renewable natural gas (something they were currently offering at a premium) to these First Nation communities.

When we made it to Canada we weren’t quite sure what to expect. During the opening ceremony, we were chosen as the first to present the following day. We quickly returned to our hotel room and practiced our presentation until we knew it backwards and forwards. We felt good about our presentation but were not confident we would move onto finals.

The next morning, we got ready, practiced once more, and headed off to present. Wow, that was rough. We were torn apart by the questions the judges asked us. We recognized our weaknesses: some points weren’t supported enough, some examples not fleshed out, some questions we simply couldn’t answer. At that point, it was hard to focus on what we did well, especially without getting to see other presentations for comparison. We decided that no matter what, this was a valuable experience and at least we would be able to see the final presentations to learn what a winning presentation would look like.

After a few hours exploring beautiful Vancouver we came back to hear who would move onto the finals. Four finalists were chosen, each picked out of a cup in dramatic fashion to determine what order teams would present in. Once the third name had been called our team was pretty convinced we were not going to be picked; we were happy to simply enjoy the other presentations and learn from our competitors. Then it happened, they called our name “Sustainasaurus.” We were to be the last finalist presentation!

A variety of emotions passed through our group from disbelief and excitement about making it to the finals to disappointment that we would be unable to see any other presentations. After taking in this new information we quickly made our way downstairs where we would spend the next two hours practicing our presentation and working on answering those tough questions we faced during the first round.

And now here I am, taking a deep breath and about to step out in front of the panel of judges and students. Our presentation went well. Again, we were faced with tough questions, many of which we could answer well, some of which we had no answer for. We then took a seat ready to hear the judges overall feedback for the day.

We all got it wrong. Almost every single team managed to read the case incorrectly. We were never asked for a plan on how natural gas could work for First Nation communities. We were asked what information the company needed to gather in order to make their own plan. The entire audience of students sat stunned once we heard that. A case that did not require a plan of action? Being MBA students meant we were trained to associate presenting cases with presenting solutions. The judges went on to give us more feedback on how the teams could have performed better, what information could have been included and what information should not have been.

We reflected on what had just happened and were reeling from some of the feedback we had heard. We felt good about our presentation but had no context on how we compared to others. We didn’t know if the judges only hit us with the tough questions or if everyone had faced those. We didn’t even know what other teams had proposed to see if what we said was even viable.

Walking into the ending ceremony felt amazing. There was a giant sense of relief that presentations were over and that, no matter what, we had made it to the finals. When they began to announce the winners, there was a sudden hush around the room as we all crowded around the podium.

“Third place goes to team Sustainasaurus.”

No one has been more excited to receive third place then us. We quickly found each other in the room and made it up to the podium. For the rest of the night people kept coming up and congratulating us; we could not have been happier! We made positive connections with other competitors and professionals within the industry, several of whom we are looking to work with in the future.

We learned a lot from this experience and are eagerly looking forward to taking that knowledge with us when competing in future case competitions.

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

The Path to a Powerful Cause Marketing Campaign

Times are a-changin’. No longer can a company skirt around their moral code. More and more, customers are demanding products and services that serve a greater moral purpose or stand for something good. This doesn’t mean companies can do one project or one campaign and claim they are a purpose-driven organization. Consumers are smarter than that. They can sniff out inauthentic approaches like a bloodhound. At the same time, companies shouldn’t be compelled to hide their efforts to keep their valiant efforts anonymous. On the contrary, now more than ever it is important to communicate what they’re doing to contribute to a better world. So how do you approach mission-based marketing in a unique, genuine way? I’m on a mission to find out. Below is are three considerations for companies struggling with this issue. Throughout this article, you’ll hear from an expert on the topic – Molly Malloy, Director of Brand Purpose Planning at Futerra. Futerra calls themselves a “Change Agency” and for good reason. They are “McKinsey meets McCann” – always on the cutting edge of combining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consulting and communications to deliver complete solutions for companies that are serious about making a change and amplifying their existing efforts.

“Don’t put lipstick on a pig” – this one seems obvious, right? However, companies are still taking a “greenwashing” approach to sustainability efforts on the reg. Many times, this isn’t an evil plot to fool consumers into buying into their fake mission. Executives may have the best of intentions, but aren’t putting the tools in place to really deliver on their promise. According to Molly, “consumers must feel a company’s desire is sincere to make a real change.” To ensure their clients are doing just that, Futerra and their clients put a lot of time into determining how they will implement initiatives that have real impact. This is built into their DNA. Their “logic” team is made up of sustainability and social impact experts that help clients implement the actual programs. The “magic” team (including Molly’s role) creates strategies to accurately communicate this idea internally and externally. The biggest takeaway? Don’t just say you’ll do it, actually do it. Commit to change and implement it. Then communicating it will come (relatively) easy.

Make it personal – One of the challenges I found in my research, and something Futerra confirmed their clients also face, is simply how to make more people care. “For a lot of brands, it isn’t enough to go after the hardcore environmentalists or social activists, we want to affect change by bringing these messages to the mainstream market. We’re constantly striving to scale these initiatives and campaigns. That’s how we make the biggest impact.” Molly explained. How do you do that? Make the issue personal and get creative. A lot of the problems our world faces are nameless and sometimes halfway around the world. How can you establish a connection? One example of how Futerra overcame this obstacle was through their work with the UN and their Wild for Life campaign. They realized that it was hard for people to care about wild life poaching since it was so far removed from a lot of people. They solved this problem by creating a quiz to find out what your “spirit animal” is, personifying and creating an emotional connection to the issue. They promoted it through partnerships with celebrities who disclosed their own spirit animals. Case and point – don’t assume people care already. Get them to care by establishing a connection with the issue using unique tactics and channels.

Do your research and establish meaningful partnerships – In 2012, Susan G. Komen Foundation and Baker Hughes Inc., an oil and fracking company, partnered up on a campaign to distribute pink drill bits to job sites around the country to increase awareness of breast cancer. I’m sure you can predict how this story ended. Since fracking is associated with cancer, both organizations suffered major backlash for this campaign.* To avoid making the wrong partnerships or promoting an initiative that may not align with your mission, do your research. “Not only do we look at data concerning consumer behavior, we reach out to experts that can inform how we approach our strategies.” Social, political, environmental, and social issues are highly charged. Admitting a gap in knowledge and seeking out credible information to fill that void is crucial. Consumers are always more informed than you think. Do everything you can to explore the range of topics associated with the initiative and seek out experts that may have opposing viewpoints. This will give valuable insight into the complex nature of these issues and how you approach solutions and communications strategies.

Authenticity, scalability and insatiable curiosity are essential to developing a successful CSR strategy and communication plan. However, every company and approach is unique. The most important question to ask yourself before pursuing these types of initiatives is “Why?”. Why are you doing it? If it’s to earn more revenue – re-evaluate. Consumers will pick up on the reason behind the campaign. Change may be scary, but companies shouldn’t shy away from the challenge. According to Molly – “Brands have to know, right now, what they stand for. If they don’t communicate their values, they are falling behind.”




Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.

Don’t Forget About Your Company’s Best Ally: Culture

Do you work for a startup company that is forming its business foundation? A mid-size company experiencing growing pains as they scale-up? Or a large company hoping to make a major organizational shift?  At all levels, you may be focusing on the numbers, the what and the how; but are you remembering to think about the why? At the core of your business lies the company’s mission, values, and culture. Every leader in the company surely knows the why — why did we open, why is what we do important, and the why behind each and every thing that we do.  Too frequently though, this simple why is not a part of a company’s process. This blog will break this down into three simple steps crucial to leading your company through challenges that you may be facing, with culture as your key ally in the process.

Step 1) Align: You – the leader – are facing a dilemma. Before you act, first look at the why. As a leader, you eat, sleep and breathe the mission, values, and strategy of your company, but have you thought about this dilemma in the context of the bigger issues? Too often we approach a micro-problem with a micro-solution, when really, this small problem is an indicator of an opportunity for a macro-solution. Take for example, in the context of a growing startup, an employee who is complaining about not knowing the guy who works across the desk from him. Your knee-jerk solution might involve introducing the two. Consider, however, that this may be an indicator of something more going on;  could it be a micro-example of the growing pains that your small business is experiencing as the culture of the company is changing?  Is this evolving work culture in alignment with your company’s strategy?  Before reacting to this scenario, you have the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of growth that your startup is facing and what cultural implications these may have.

Step 2) Ask: Our earlier example feeds nicely into step two. You need to take inventory of the rest of your employees. How is the growth feeling from their perspectives? What is their perception of the company’s culture?  In fact, from a social constructivist point-of-view, the company’s culture is defined – even created – by the mutual understanding of your company’s social values across employees. You really need to know the culture, inside and out, and employee engagement is fundamental to this understanding.  Don’t forget to find out the good along with the bad; it is all a part of the organizational culture and will be important in our last step.

Step 3) Adapt: The last step is to evaluate and decide how to evolve as a company. If your business is changing, maybe it’s necessary to accept the hard realization that the culture you started with might just need to change too. Or, on the contrary, if your original culture is still key to your company’s mission and values, then maybe you don’t need to change the culture but instead must figure out how to sustain it within your growing company. Whichever direction you go, realize that a company is never static, and neither is its culture. Cultural adaptability could be the missing puzzle piece for how your startup can grow, but to find that piece, you must start from step one.

Now that you understand these three steps, bring them to whatever dilemma your company is facing and view it with a fresh perspective. You have the opportunity to influence your company’s culture in a way that will reinforce your company’s mission, values and strategy. The result? A long-lasting company with a differentiated and ever-evolving organizational culture.

This blog was inspired by a class assignment developed for the Management Individuals and Organizational (MGMT612) course lead by Dr. Reut Livne-Tarandach.

Written by Leah Wheeler

Leah is a 2018 MBA from the Lundquist School of Business at the University of Oregon. Her interest in integrating sustainability into common business practices led her to choose the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, ranked #1 Green MBA. Originally from Washington, she graduated from Whitman College with a degree in Economics then worked in healthcare management for the majority of her career. After her MBA, she plans on combining her work experience in management with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her values.

Warsaw is Family: Reflecting on the 2017 National Sports Forum Case Cup

In early December, I was presented with the opportunity to be part of a team that would represent the University of Oregon and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the NSF Case Cup Competition. Knowing the magnitude of the National Sports Forum, the challenging format of the competition, and the stiff competition we would face, I hesitantly accepted the offer to fly into the middle of a Minnesotan winter.

The NSF Case Cup is a Masters level case-style competition held each year at the National Sports Forum. The competition is an opportunity for Masters students to compete in a multidisciplinary sports business case study in which teams are given 24 hours to tackle a challenging, real-world sports business problem that simulates the challenges we will face as we begin our professional careers.

This year, Luke Nofsinger, Danielle Barbian, Kelly O’Shaughnessy and myself were tasked with strategically utilizing Major League Soccer’s recent partnership with SeatGeek to boost revenue at Sporting Kansas City, one of the most successful clubs in the MLS. With just 24 hours to understand the case, complete research, brainstorm solutions and produce a 20-minute presentation, the competition was a fast-paced blur that consisted of only three hours of sleep and far too much coffee and junk food. As challenging and exhausting as the competition was, it was all made worth it when we were fortunate enough to be awarded first place, bringing the trophy back to Eugene for the second time.

The victory was definitely a proud moment for our team. We were not only excited to be recognized for our efforts but also proud to have been able to showcase the strength of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and the Oregon MBA on a national stage. Heading to Minneapolis, we felt that the academic and experiential learning opportunities provided to us over the last 1.5 years positioned us to be successful at the Case Cup. The extensive exposure to industry and the seemingly endless amount of group work and presentations that we have tackled through our coursework meant we were unfazed by the format of the competition and were able to approach the problem collaboratively and strategically. I can confidently say that our success at the National Sports Forum came from not only the combined talents and experiences of our team, but also from the experiences within the Oregon MBA that have helped us grow and develop into the young professionals we are today.

Perhaps the biggest thing that stuck with me upon leaving Minnesota though had little to do with the Case Cup itself. The support and camaraderie that existed within the alumni of the Warsaw program made a big impact on me. We were lucky enough to be joined by a handful of Warsaw alum at the conference and from the moment we arrived the team felt part of a larger family. This Warsaw community exists across the country and to me has been one of the biggest factors in my enjoyment and success in this program.

The NSF Case Cup Competition was definitely a valuable learning experience for me and my teammates but I think the real value of my time in Minneapolis were the connections I made with industry professionals, alumni and other students. It is one of many experiences that have been afforded me through the Oregon MBA that continue to reaffirm my decision to cross the Pacific Ocean and join the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. With just over three months until I graduate from this program and all the uncertainty that comes with the job search process, it’s comforting to know that wherever I end up, I will always be a part of the Warsaw Center and Oregon MBA families.


Written by Nick Hudson

Nick is a 2nd year MBA student in the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sport Marketing Center. Born in Australia, Nick has worked in events and sponsorship with Tennis Australia, Wasserman and the Prefontaine Classic and previously in a management consulting capacity with Deloitte. Upon graduation in June 2017, Nick hopes to return to the world of sports sponsorship and marketing with an agency or sports property.

Making a Case for Change

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the failed attempts at implementing an initiative you feel passionate about. You are certain it’s going to bring positive change in a variety of ways, but can’t seem to get others on board. You’ve all but given up on your noble crusade. Fear not brave change-agents. Below are tactics that can help you get buy in with upper management and move you toward responsibilities that don’t make you want to run for the door at 5 pm on the dot.

Do your research.

The biggest mistake you can make is stating a claim without backing it up.  According to Sean Ryan in Harvard Business Review, people have something called a “negativity bias,” which means we’re more risk averse than risk taking. “The average person requires a gain twice the value of the potential loss,” so hedge your bets by being over-prepared. Show, don’t tell, why you think your initiative is important to the future of the company.

Know Who You’re Talking To

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People famously wrote “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Rather than thinking about it from your perspective, put yourself in their shoes and frame the issue to address their motivations and concerns.  Is this person only trying to hit the bottom line? If so, is there a way to frame this as a revenue generating opportunity? Are they worried about competitive forces? If so, can you use your initiative as a way to differentiate and get ahead of those competitors?

You’ll Need Back Up

Teamwork makes the dream work, people. As cliché as it sounds, this holds true when you’re trying to sell something to upper management. On top of showing your boss you have support, gathering expertise from multiple areas strengthens your ideas. Don’t just ask your work husband for help, recruit those with influence that are most likely to get on board with your idea. Map out your network and organize it into four categories as shown below and determine your game plan to get the key potential supporters on board.

Two birds meet one stone

The other night, I decided to go out rather than go to the gym. We ended up dancing for a few hours and I woke up sore – no workout necessary! You know how good it feels to accomplish more than one goal with one action. So does your boss. Chances are, if you think your idea is worthy of your boss’s attention, it satisfies a greater need that they are already trying to address. This is called “bundling”. According to Ashford and Dutton, by bundling, “a seller taps into resources and communication currency the other issue may have.” In other words, your company wouldn’t have to start from square one. If there are already efforts in place that you can apply to your initiative, use those to your advantage.

Have a great idea? Believe you could inspire change in your organization? Stop. Take a deep breath. You can do it, but you need a plan. Sit down and evaluate who you need to convince and how you can back yourself up both with facts and with people. Think about your organization’s existing initiatives and how you can pair yours with your boss’s priorities. The more prepared you are and the more passion you bring to this endeavor, the more successful you’ll be. You got this.

This blog was inspired by a class assignment developed for the Management Individuals and Organizational (MGMT612) course lead by Dr. Reut Livne-Tarandach.

Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.