Mustard Seeds as Means for Creative Problem Solving, Ethical Decision Making, Stakeholder Alliance, and Leader Development Through Experiential Learning in Management Education


  • Lora L. Reed


Management education is fraught with challenges related to teaching students how to thrive in an increasingly competitive and changing business environment. On one hand, innovation and creativity are essential to the complex problem solving skills often essential to sustainment of strategic alliances and stewardship of shared resources. Simultaneously, new managers may end up stifling their creativity and innovation due to constraints of organizational culture and strategic decision-making. This paper introduces an experiential learning project management model (Mustard Seed) designed to foster creativity, innovation, problem solving, and decisionmaking that can lead to development of corporate citizenship behaviors. Specifically, Mustard Seed is designed to teach students how to achieve mutually desired outcomes while working with diverse organizational partners in strategic alliances. The paper begins with a description of Mustard Seed and an overview of the project’s history. Next, the literatures on project management and experiential learning, as relevant to the project model, are reviewed. Specific attention is devoted to Kolb’s experiential learning model, social learning theory, deep smarts, and directed creativity as processes essential to the Mustard Seed model. The importance of intergenerational work teams and diverse stakeholder groups as components of the model is discussed. Mustard Seed’s latent effects, including ongoing conversations related to development of stakeholder networks, cultivation of systems thinking, examination of ethical decision-making processes, and continuation of learning in community are considered. Plans for expansion of the project through inter-disciplinary collaboration and college-communityorganization partnerships are discussed. The paper concludes with analysis of the project’s strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for future research.