How to Build a Do-It-Yourself non-MBA, MBA

Certificate of who's got time_

Who’s got time to do an MBA. Not me… that’s for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great people out there with great skills. Some of these people even have MBAs.

I can see the need to reskill and upskill. Especially in this weird economy. However, I haven’t got time for another qualification. And I don’t want a divorce.

Google it. MBA often correlates with divorce. It’s a real thing.

What I really need though is some new ideas. And some new tools that allow me to move forward in uncertain times.

And not everyone cares as much about degrees and qualifications as they used to. 

I decided all of this at Christmas time this year. Christmas is always a great time for introspection.

And by introspection I mean the general disillusionment and existential distress that follows too much eating, drinking and time with relatives.

But what I realised is that the best way forward for me was to look at building myself my own MBA.

And not really an MBA at all. A kind of DIY non-MBA, MBA. So I put a very fuzzy plan in place earlier this year.

What I needed, I decided, was some new inputs… a combination of things that made sense to me.

I’m sure research would suggest that eclectic approaches lead to incoherence. However, while this might be true for groups, eclecticism works on an individual level.

In other words, my choices for my DIY non-MBA, MBA don’t need to make sense to anyone except me. And I can choose them intuitively if I want to or let one thing lead to another.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Everything around me seems to be changing anyway. And rapidly. If I know one thing is true, it’s that I need to adapt to this pace of change and change too.

I also know that the toolset that I’ve been using for the last 10 years is no longer enough. At least that’s my perception.

I mean… I’m sure that I can get by on my existing toolset. But I’m no longer sure that I want to. I’m looking forward to the change and disruption that lies ahead.

Well, kinda.

What I’ve seen though, when I gaze into my crystal ball, is a mixture of opportunities and problems that I want to understand better. But I feel like I don’t have the tools to analyse them or manage them.

So here’s what I did. I had a look at what I’m interested in personally and professionally. And then I booked myself into a series of short courses over the last six months.

Three were with the Executive Education programme at the University of Auckland’s Business School. I already had a relationship with Auckland because I’ve studied and worked there.

The three courses I’ve undertaken so far have been excellent and I’ve blogged about two of them.

One I wrote about extensively. This was Service Design Thinking.

Then a few months later I picked another one. This time it was about Critical Thinking.

The one I haven’t blogged about yet was Project Management which I’ve just completed. I’ve got a lot to say about this in future posts.

One nice thing about these two-day workshops is that they keep the disruption of my life to a minimum. Each of these has been a two-day intensive in Auckland.

This timeframe is about right for me. I love Auckland, but too long and the traffic gets to me.

I’m going to write more about this soon, but the short version, for now, is that I got a lot out of the Project Management course.

It was just an introduction. And I don’t have any real desire to become a project manager.

However, I think the future of work – for myself, anyway – is projects. I know this is true for me for the last 12 months. And it certainly looks that way for the immediate future.

And managing projects is really hard.

I struggle to manage my own time and projects, let alone projects involving others. But I feel that I’ve got a basic toolset now to make sense of my own and others’ projects.

So… watch this space for more on projects and project management.

And if you’re good at maths, you’ll realise that I’ve only accounted for three of the four short courses so far in my DIY non-MBA, MBA.

The other one feels a bit weird to write about here.  But in the interests of full disclosure, I did a weekend course on sandal making at Shoe School in Wellington.

Before you judge me, there is a connection to all the other stuff I’m interested in. But I’ll have to leave that to another day.

In the mean time, check out the sandal workshop gallery here. If you see some black ostrich leather men’s scuffs. They’re mine. I designed them, cut them out by hand, then stitched and glued them together.

So much fun.

TEACH: How should I plan my teaching sessions and activities?

TEACH (15)

Every teacher, trainer or tutor involved in foundation education needs to plan ways they can meet their learners’ literacy and numeracy needs within the constraints of the limited amounts of time they have together.

Planning happens in lots of different ways. Let’s have a look at a few different ways that tutors actually manage their planning.

“It’s in my head”

Sometimes we plan things without writing them down. This is something that experienced teachers do. Sometimes the plan might be a few scribbled notes on a piece of paper, but the planning happens mentally.

This kind of planning is usually based on what the educator knows will work from doing the same things on other occasions with the same kinds of learners.

Needs-based or improvised

This kind of planning is when you develop an idea on the spot when a need arises or an opportunity presents itself. This is also something good teachers do automatically and intuitively.

Experienced teachers can improvise a plan based on what kind of feedback they’re getting from their learners and what they know the learners need to do next.


In some teaching situations, it makes more sense to keep a record of what actually happened, rather than to plan extensively beforehand. This is often the case where the learners and teaching contexts are more dynamic.

One example might be an ESOL workplace literacy course where it’s uncertain which learners may turn up. In this case, the teacher might have a loose plan when they start, but then record the session details afterwards only noting what they covered.


A plan can also be a deliberate, written guide for what to do in one or a series of teaching sessions.

This is something that all new teachers do when they’re getting started. Some keep the practice, but just get better at it or find ways to plan faster. Others find that after a time they can shift to planning in their heads or improvising.

For most teachers though, the actual reality of planning reflects some combination of all of these methods. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on written planning. This means that if you are used to planning everything in your head, you’ll need to write some of this down.

If you’re a teacher or a trainer who is used to improvising, you’ll still need to develop a written plan. But there’s an opportunity after each of the three teaching sessions to reflect and review what actually happened.

What are some guidelines for writing up my teaching plans?

Our criteria are simple when it comes to what to include in your teaching plans. If you can answer yes to the following question, you’re likely to include everything we need:

  • If you were away for a day, could a colleague with similar training pick up your planning and resources and teach your class?

We don’t think you need to include any more details than are necessary. Aside from knowing your learning outcomes and having copies of any resources, all your colleague should need is a set of instructions to follow for the activities.

How To Improve Your Writing? Use the Hemingway App


My daughter told me she’s just started using an app called Hemingway to help her edit her writing.

I’d heard of it before, but never tried it. It sounded like a glorified spell checker.

And it turns out it is.

But it’s cool and I like it. A lot.

I used the free online version to to edit my last blog post. And now I’ve downloaded the desktop app which costs $9.99 and I used it to write this post.

If I was still teaching academic writing, I could think of a dozen applications for this in a computer lab.

What a great little application and I’d encourage you to have a play with it here. There’s also more info available here.

You can toggle the editing functions on and off for a distraction free environment if you want.

I’ve posted in a couple of screen shots below so you can see how it works. The first shot is of this post, which you can see is plain English.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 13.47.10

The second screen shot shows an earlier blog post of mine. You can see  my long winded writing style highlighted in various colours.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 13.50.20

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with this company