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Mark Addicks, adjunct professor and executive fellow in entrepreneurship and marketing, in the classroom. 

The Case for Learning How to Think

When it comes to teaching Executive MBA students how to strategize, Mark Addicks, adjunct
professor and executive fellow in entrepreneurship and marketing, believes in the power of the
case study. In the course Developing and Delivering Superior Customer Value, Addicks writes
and presents cases designed to help students learn not only how to pinpoint the exact issues a
company faces, but how to prioritize these issues and, ultimately, address them.

“Students in the class are expected to solve real-life problems,” Addicks said. “There’s not one
right answer but several possible right answers – and also many wrong answers. When they get
into their first case, they might be completely lost because no one is feeding them the exact
information or the necessary charts. They have to read, find the data and learn to draw their
own conclusions. I want them to get a feel of what it’s like to run a large company here in

Where Did You Learn to Think Like That?

Addicks has a good idea about what it’s like to help run a corporation, having joined General
Mills in 1988 and worked his way up to chief marketing officer in 2004 (also named a senior vice
president in 2007). As CMO, Addicks led the company’s global brand-building strategy,
including its advertising, promotions, public relations, design, packaging, online, licensing and
multicultural initiatives, before retiring in 2015.

He said he knew for a number of years that one of his goals for retirement was to take his
lifetime of knowledge and share it with professionals on their way up in the business world.
When it came to the question of where to do this, he recalled the positive experiences he’d had
teaching students at the Opus College of Business while still working for General Mills. Within
the Executive MBA program, he saw an opportunity to connect with students who are likely
candidates for the C-suite and teach them new ways to think about problems in business.

“At the top level, you don’t hand off important decisions to someone with less experience, but
you also have to understand how to work in teams, collaborate and listen,” Addicks said. “I want
to teach students how to look at the big picture, understand key marketing principles and how to
set priorities. Which problem do you need to solve first? How? What’s your next priority?”

Securing the Future of Minnesota Business

In Developing and Delivering Superior Customer Value, students work through three to four
case studies over the course of the semester. For each case, they are expected to be able to
show their method of action and back it up with sound reasoning.
Marketing always plays a big role. “We’re all marketers now,” Addicks said. “It’s in every aspect
of a business: customer service, web design, finance. Everything is customer focused. So even
engineers who want to move up in a company, or start their own companies, have to have a firm
grasp of marketing.”

“We’ve always had big companies in Minnesota and they’ve provided us with a high quality of
life,” he said. “St. Thomas can play a role in establishing the next generation of big businesses
in our state.”