Design the Future
January 19–20, 2016: Training
January 20–22, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

2-Day MBA: Essential business skills for designers

Derek Alderton (UCLA Anderson School of Management)
9:00am - 5:00pm, Tuesday, January 19 and Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Location: Generals Residence Dining
Average rating: ****.
(4.29, 14 ratings)

This training course takes place 9:00am - 5:00pm, Tuesday, January 19 through Wednesday, January 20 and is limited to 35 attendees to maintain a high level of hands-on learning and instructor interaction. Participants should plan to attend both days of this 2-day training course. Training passes do not include access to workshops on Wednesday.

Prerequisites and requirements

There is no “assumed knowledge” for EMBAD, but participants must be willing to concentrate on and participate in the program while obeying some basic rules of the road (e.g., not interrupting other participants, not making derogatory comments about ideas or suggestions expressed by other participants). As part of the theme of becoming more effective at dealing with senior management, I will provide all participants opportunities to join the conversation and address the group. Participants may wish to visit the Audeze company website to become familiar with the design history and progression of the product line.


EMBAD is an intensive, interactive, in-person, 2-day program for a small group of experienced design professionals who have progressed in their careers to the point where they need to interact and deal effectively with senior management (C level and boards) that do not have design backgrounds and are primarily “business professionals.” Through EMBAD’s case-method approach, participants will gain an understanding of the concepts, vocabulary, and priorities of senior management by discussing a series of real-world situations as though they were actually the senior executive team. The program will follow the key situations and decisions faced by the senior team at Audeze, a headphone company that in five years has grown from four people building headphones as a weekend hobby to a company with $10M in yearly revenue. Their first professionally designed consumer headphone, by BMWDesignworksUSA, is now available in Apple retail stores.


Over two days, participants will address and respond to key decision moments faced by the Audeze management team. In the course of these discussions, participants will be introduced to key concepts and terminology. Each morning and afternoon session will end with a general discussion in which participants will be challenged to apply what they have learned to their own industry.

Day One


1. Participant introductions

2. “We want to grow/change the world/do this full time/make more money. What do we need? Who do we get it from? How do we persuade them?”

a – Strategy

  • What is competitive advantage? How do we gain/keep it?
  • What is our value chain?
  • Can an investor provide more than “just money?” Who? How?
  • Build, buy, or lease?

b – Finance

  • Are we an attractive investment financially? Are we “making money?” How much?
  • What is the company worth? How do we value it?
  • Why do we need “working capital?”


3. “We need to hire more people, but how do we organize? We need to sell more. What should we promise our channels and consumers?”

a – Organizational behavior

  • How do we define roles?
  • What are the incentives for our employees? For us?
  • How do we protect our company?
  • Ethical crises

b – Sales

  • What sales channels do we use, and how do we work with them?
  • How do we keep them working together?
  • Should we compete with our own channels? How? When?
  • What new products do we need and at what price points?

c – Ethics

  • We don’t have to do this legally. Should we do it anyway?
  • What is wrong? What is right?
  • Employees doing…what?

Day Two


4. “We need more and different people to buy our new products. How do we market to them? We need to reduce the manufacturing costs for our new products and get our supply chain certified. How do we do that?”

a – Marketing

  • Who are our consumers? Who will buy our new products?
  • What messages/theme/people do our target markets respond to?
  • How much do we spend? On what? When?

b – Operations

  • How do we build a global supply chain?
  • How do we reduce cost while maintaining or improving quality?
  • What is our learning curve?
  • How do we integrate continuous product development with production?
  • Crisis! What just happened? What do we do?


5. “What are our investors thinking about? How do we get our money out?”

a – Advanced strategy and finance

  • Growth and exit options: M&A, IPO, PE funds, etc.?
  • What is a listed company? Why are they different?

b – Competitive dynamics

  • How do we assess future markets?
  • Will competitors force us down the cost curve?

6. Conclusion

Photo of Derek Alderton

Derek Alderton

UCLA Anderson School of Management

Derek Alderton is the faculty director of the Anderson Strategy Group in the MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Derek has been an adjunct faculty member at the Anderson School for 10 years, developing and teaching courses in entertainment strategy, entrepreneurship and venture initiation, entrepreneurial operations, and strategy. His student teams have won multiple awards in the Applied Management Research program. Before starting his own boutique management consulting firm, Derek spent 10 years at McKinsey & Company, where he was responsible for the West Coast Media & Entertainment practice and became a leading expert on the impact of technology on entertainment business value chains. His clients ranged from established global entertainment companies to the fastest-growing technology companies, including some exceptional startups. He has been on the faculty at numerous McKinsey and other corporate training programs, has spoken at a wide variety of technology, media, entertainment, and entrepreneurship conferences, and has been published multiple times. Derek holds an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, degrees in law and economics from the University of Sydney, and a diploma in finance from the Securities Institute of Australia. He is also a chartered accountant (US CPA equivalent).