HRB 793, Case Studies in Herbal Product Design, is designed to present groups of students with business challenges and have them leverage all of their education and skills to present recommendations to the stakeholders. All students signed a legally binding Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prior to working with the stakeholders. For that reason, there are no artifacts, only this reflection.
We met with our stakeholders early on and were presented with various business problems. We were divided into groups and given particular areas to focus on. As a group, and individually, we immediately began researching to understand the problems and look for solutions. The surprising part of the process was that the solutions, or hypothesis, were frequently determined to be outside the scope of assigned work. Finding good ideas and then having to discard them because they are assigned to another group, or contrary to core values or framework of a company, requires significant discipline. Maintaining that discipline and avoiding scope creep was a constant challenge throughout the course.
I learned a great deal about some of the business problems faced by herbal product manufacturers. I personally made phone calls to the health departments and various state and county bodies within the states where the company is located. I was able to learn about the laws and regulations that applied to the company and their products. I built upon my understanding of the Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) requirements. I can easily located certified kitchens that pass inspection criteria and allow manufacturers to be GMP compliant. Additionally, I learned further nuisances that cause herbal products to be regulated as food (teas, honeys, etc), cosmetics (topical balms, lotions, etc), drugs (any product marketed as a treatment for a disease), and alcohol (herbal cordials, bitters, etc).
This course was predominantly group work, which presents its own challenges and learning opportunities. I will end this reflection by including an excerpt from my Individual Reflection Paper that I believe illustrates some of MUIH’s core values while staying authentic to who I am as an herbalist.
First, the group members each had different perspectives shaped by their cultural, religious, or social beliefs. Added to that, each group member had unique work experience and skills. The diversity in the group provided an advantage because it complimented the areas where I am weak. For instance, I apply a logical, analytic approach to problem-solving. I am not good at intuiting what others care about or understanding how information may be received. I have not worked in jobs where feelings were taken into account so it is a significant shortcoming for me.
In the fields of computer science and intelligence, there can be an undertone of academic and intellectual elitism. Value is placed on those with strength in those areas. Intellectual property and expertise are the currency. That currency does not serve a different market. When dealing with healers, particularly those interested in holistic or spiritual healing, a deep understanding of scientific principles may not be as useful as someone with intuition and an ability to connect with people or plants. Without the intuition and insight from my teammates, I may well have been tone deaf to the needs of the stakeholders or unable to understand them.