Yale SOM Invents The Global Virtual Team

The Beckenstein Atrium. Photo by Tony Rinaldo

The Beckenstein Atrium. Photo by Tony Rinaldo

The idea largely emerged when Yale School of Management MBA students returned from their summer internships. Professor Olav Sorenson, the director of the the school’s MBA curriculum, asked students about the challenges they faced working on global teams.

The big insight: It was rather difficult to work with very different people in different time zones around the world. Like most business schools, Yale has long prepped students in effective teamwork. But working on a team in a global virtual context is “the most sophisticated approach to teamwork,” says Edward Snyder, SOM dean.

So this year, Yale SOM is introducing a new core curriculum course, called Global Virtual Teams, that will introduce students to research on what makes global teams succeed or fail and help them develop the skills to work on projects with teams spread across regions and countries. The course will debut in January 2016 and is required for all MBA students starting with the first-year Class of 2017.


Global Virtual Teams will be taught on three consecutive days by Professors Victoria Brescoll, Heidi Brooks, Michael Kraus, and Amy Wrzesniewski. Students will then use the skills developed in the course as they work with colleagues from two schools in the Global Network for Advanced Management on a virtual team project in the Operations Engine course.

“We didn’t want it to be a fake project so we checked the school schedules of our network partners and realized that EGADE (in Mexico) and HEC Paris (in France) were using the same operations simulation at the same time,” says David Bach, Yale SOM’s senior associate dean for executive MBA and global programs. “And then they will have to write a reflective paper on the experience.”

EGADE Dean María de Lourdes Dieck Assad sees the innovation as an important way to prepare students for a global world. “Of course, it’s much easier to work on a team where everyone is in the same room,” she says. “But we are forcing students to think differently about how we live today and will live together in the future. This is just another example of reality today. You make decisions together at multinationals in 15 different countries. We have been living that in a very real way.”


The brainchild of Sorenson, the course on global teams was an opportunity to bring together two strengths of Yale SOM: its integrated MBA curriculum and its connection to the Global Network for Advanced Management. During the Operations Engine course, students will tackle Littlefield Technologies, a weeklong, real-time operations management simulation.

“It’s an area where there is a fair amount of academic research into how better to work in those teams and how better to manage those teams,” says Sorenson. “Our hope is that they will develop a set of skills for how to interact better with people who might be working from different cultures and different time zones, so when they go into real jobs they’ll be able to drop right in and be productive from day one. Our hope is that they will develop a set of skills for how to interact better with people who might be working from different cultures and different time zones.”

Including an experiential element was key, adds Professor Amy Wrzesniewski, who helped design the course. “The simulation will present students with the some of the same challenges that they’ll have when they are working in global teams in their jobs.” For example, in order to succeed in managing a 24-hour process, students will have to be effective in working asynchronously. “One of the big problems global teams face is in how they hand off and coordinate information—when you’re not always working together in real time, you need to be sure the team has what it needs to execute without interruptions, questions, or delays.”


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