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Mellody Hobson MasterClass Review: Strategic Decision-Making

In this review we'll explore the impact and effectiveness of Mellody Hobson’s teachings on strategic decision-making in her MasterClass.

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Mellody Hobson teaches Strategic Decision-Making: Our Verdict (2023)


4.2 / 5

If you’re looking to sharpen your decision-making skills and explore the art of strategic thinking, Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass on “Strategic Decision-Making” is an engaging and enlightening choice. With a rich tapestry of personal anecdotes and in-depth case studies, this course offers valuable insights applicable to various aspects of life. I recommend this course in particular to managers, executives, entrepreneurs, or those aspiring to become one of the above.


  • Valuable personal anecdotes
  • In-depth case studies and real-life examples
  • Caters to a broad spectrum of interests
  • High production value


  • Lack of assignments
  • Instructor teaching style
  • Short course duration

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The capacity to make sound decisions is essential for achieving success. In her MasterClass, Mellody Hobson presents a methodical approach to making optimal decisions based on her expertise in finance, leadership, and investment.

If you’re reading this, you likely aim to enhance your decision-making abilities, whether in your professional career or personal life. You’re probably also wondering whether the “Mellody Hobson Teaches Strategic Decision-Making” MasterClass is a good fit for what you’re looking for.

How can we approach our decision-making strategically when every choice is always different? In what kind of scenarios can Hobson’s method be useful? This review will address these questions and provide a better understanding of what Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass is all about.

Table of Contents

Who is Mellody Hobson?

Mellody Hobson is the co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments
Mellody Hobson, co-CEO & President of Ariel Investments

Mellody Hobson, co-CEO & President of Ariel Investments

Mellody Hobson is a prominent businesswoman hailing from Chicago, Illinois, with an impressive career in the world of finance. Already during her time at Princeton University, she kickstarted her career as an intern at Ariel Investments. In less than a decade, she ascended to the top of the ladder. Today, Hobson assumes the role of co-CEO and President at Ariel Investments, a distinguished investment firm ranking among the largest in the United States.

However, Hobson’s influence extends beyond this; she chairs the board of Starbucks Corporation, serves as a director of JP Morgan & Chase Co, and was the former chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation. Her global impact is underscored by her inclusion in Forbes’ 2020 list of the 100 most influential women in the world, ranking no. 94.

Moreover, Hobson is widely recognized for her commitment to advancing financial literacy and driving diversity and inclusion within corporate America.

So, if you’re looking to learn decision-making skills from an exceptional leader and a finance expert, Hobson’s MasterClass might be a good place to start, based on her resume.

What does the Strategic Decision-Making MasterClass cover?

Mellody Hobson Teaches Strategic Decision-Making” is an online course on MasterClass comprising 10 video lessons, each with a duration ranging from 4-19 minutes, which allows you to complete the program in under two hours if just looking at the videos.

The course is quite straightforward and well-organized. It begins by presenting Hobson’s guiding principles and furnishing learners with Hobson’s strategic decision-making toolkit. Then proceeds to discuss their applications in her real-world professional circumstance.

While most of Hobson’s examples refer to corporate scenarios, you will learn about strategic thinking, a skill that proves indispensable in navigating diverse situations. Topics include:

  • Critical decision-making
  • Methodical problem-solving
  • Navigating adverse situations
  • Effective communication management strategies
  • Making professional strategic decisions

Additionally, the course offers a comprehensive 49-page class guide detailing Hobson’s teachings and guiding principles, the course toolkit and case studies, and more.

What are the key takeaways from Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass

The MasterClass kicks off with a deep dive into Mellody Hobson’s personal and professional journey. She shares her experiences, challenges, and the decisive moments that shaped her career, offering a behind-the-scenes look at her path to success, from a summer intern to CEO.

Hobson’s practical teachings garnered through experience, highlight five guiding principles and a comprehensive toolkit for navigating crises. The following are her principles:

  1. Putting others first
  2. Embracing co-leadership
  3. Seeking advice from those with experience
  4. Having a plan and not relying on hope and wishful thinking
  5. Emphasizing conviction, especially when making decisions

These are meant to steer your strategic thinking and planning, acting as fundamental guidelines for making better decisions in general. But when you encounter major issues, especially in business, Hobson suggests certain tools that we can fall back on, including:

  1. Identifying and understanding the problem
  2. Taking radical accountability
  3. Developing a clear action plan
  4. Communicating the solution: both internally and externally
  5. Looking ahead and setting a goal

Strategy is all about planning ahead. So, whatever the situation may call, these principles and toolkit offer a methodical approach to confronting them.

Case study: Ariel Investments

Over the next four lessons, Hobson dissects her pivotal decisions at Ariel Investments during the 2008 financial crisis, exemplifying the implementation of effective strategies during turbulent times. She, alongside co-CEO John Rogers, admitted sacrificing their own income and executed difficult staff layoffs, retaining only those in critical roles. Seeking counsel from Bill Bradley and George Roche, they navigated the turmoil facing the company by taking personal financial responsibility to ensure stability.

Hobson’s emphasis on concrete action plans over hope was instrumental, resulting in resilient risk-based choices to secure Ariel Investments’ future. Her unwavering commitment to her principles and the use of her toolkit offer insights into strategic corporate decision-making. This case study stands as a testament to Hobson’s remarkable journey, underscoring the importance of decisive and principled leadership during challenging times, all while prioritizing the company’s survival.

Case study: DreamWorks Animation

In the final three lessons of Hobson’s MasterClass, she shares her experiences as a board member at DreamWorks Animation during a significant industry transformation. She unveils the fascinating world of board seats, where she discusses the roles, challenges, and pivotal decisions made by those in such positions.

Here, learners have the opportunity to step into the boardroom, explore the dilemmas faced, and consider how they would approach complex decisions in their own lives. It’s an engaging and eye-opening part of the course, inviting you to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of corporate decision-making and how these insights can be applied in your own life.

My favorite lessons

There are many lessons you can draw from the Mellody Hobson MasterClass. To give you a sense of what they might be, here are three of my favorites.

Meaningful advice

Mellody Hobson shares George Lucas's words of wisdom
Hobson describing George Lucas’s words of wisdom

A recurring theme in Hobson’s course is the social aspect of business. I was intrigued by what made her remain vigilant and focused during the most challenging period of Ariel Investments. Not only was it someone uninvolved in the company’s operations that guided Hobson to make prime decisions, but also advice that was unrelated to finance. In a way, it was George Lucas, her then-boyfriend and current husband, who was the unexpected savior with his advice, “Do not look up at the storm; the only thing you do in a storm is watch your feet.”

These words helped steer Hobson through such a tough time. She was able to concentrate on the things that mattered, what she had control over, and in the end, took the crucial steps to ensure that Ariel Investments wouldn’t falter in the storm.

Withhold opinions as board chair

Mellody Hobson discussing the prospects for DreamWorks Animation
Hobson laying out the prospects for DreamWorks Animation

It’s not uncommon that business deals present two compelling alternatives. For DreamWorks Animation, it was either to sell their business to a private equity firm or Comcast. In both scenarios, they were getting a similar opening price; the difference would be in the company’s future or subsequent leadership. As chairwoman of the board at the time, Hobson held her opinion back on which option to choose. It wouldn’t have been the best outcome if she bullied the founders into either choice. While she had her own point of view, by intentionally holding back her opinion, she allowed the company to make what is, in retrospect, the best decision. I find this inspiring and a great reminder for leaders to be conscious of others and their opinions.

Circumstantial possibilities

Hobson emphasizing what individuals can and can’t have control over

In this lesson, Hobson reinforces the idea that we should prioritize the things that we can do over those that we cannot. Although most of her practical teachings are more relatable to corporate or business settings, this is an example of how they can be useful for almost any situation. It’s important to note that Hobson’s guiding principles are applicable to both professional and personal conditions. Putting others first, co-leadership, advice from others, planning, and conviction are broad guidelines within your power that can be useful for social as well as professional.  

Pros and cons of Hobson’s MasterClass

In evaluating Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass, it’s essential to consider what was good and what could be improved about the course to determine its overall value. While the course offers valuable insights, it also has its limitations that prospective learners should be aware of.


Valuable personal anecdotes

Hobson’s MasterClass is enriched by her personal experiences. She shares influential stories from her remarkable career in various professional fields, offering a unique insight into finance, leadership, animated series, and decision-making. These anecdotes not only make the content relatable but also provide learners with a more nuanced understanding of strategic decision-making.

In-depth case studies and real-life examples

The feature that stands out from the course is its comprehensive exploration of real-life case studies. Hobson delves into specific situations and decisions she has encountered throughout her career, showing the intricacies of each. This approach provides learners with a tangible grasp of strategic decision-making by examining successful and challenging scenarios, making the lessons highly relevant and actionable.

Caters to a broad spectrum of interests and skills

Hobson’s MasterClass transcends boundaries by catering to a diverse audience. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, executive, or simply an individual seeking to enhance your decision-making skills, the course is designed to accommodate a wide range of interests and skill levels. Its flexibility allows learners from various backgrounds to derive value from its teachings.

High production value

The production quality of the MasterClass is top-notch. With cinematic video quality, the course provides an immersive learning experience. The professional production values enhance the overall quality of the content, making it engaging and easy to follow.


Lack of assignments and assessments

One notable drawback of the course is the absence of assignments and assessments. While it provides valuable theoretical knowledge and practical insights, the limited opportunity for hands-on practice or feedback may leave some learners wanting a more interactive experience. Assignments and assessments can play a crucial role in reinforcing concepts and assessing one’s grasp of the material, which is regrettably missing from this MasterClass

Instructor teaching style

Hobson’s teaching style, though engaging and informative for many, may not resonate with every learner. Her approach is anecdote-driven and may not resonate with those who prefer to consider other hypothetical situations. The guiding principles and toolkit that are presented could be explored in thought experiments where the cases are not limited to the actual outcomes in the real world. Decision-making need not only be taught retrospectively.

Short course duration

Another limitation of the MasterClass is its relatively short duration. The course condenses a vast subject matter into a handful of hours, which may leave some desiring more in-depth coverage. Given the complexity of strategic decision-making, a longer, more intricate course could potentially offer a deeper dive into the subject. The concise duration might not adequately address the learners needs.

Target audience

Having discussed Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass, who is the intended audience? Well, individuals interested in finance, investing, leadership, and career development might find the most value in this course. Professionals, managers, executives, entrepreneurs, consultants, and strategists can benefit primarily from how Hobson’s guiding principles and toolkit are applied in real-world case studies. Hobson’s advice, underpinned by her personal anecdotes, are especially advantageous for those dealing with similar issues.

However, there are many lessons that can be beneficial for anybody seeking to enhance their overall decision-making abilities. Hobson’s principles and toolkit, as we have seen, can be applied to everyday circumstances.

How much does Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so you can’t purchase courses individually. If you want to take Mellody Hobson’s class, you have to become a subscriber

Annual plans are typically available at $120 a year (or $10 per month) for the Individual plan, providing access to MasterClass courses on one device, $180 a year for the Duo plan (two devices), and $240 a year for the Family plan (six devices).

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 180+ classes. So, if you’re interested in taking multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Conclusion: Is Mellody Hobson's MasterClass worth it?

In conclusion, Mellody Hobson’s MasterClass on strategic decision-making offers a wealth of insights, leveraging the strengths of her personal anecdotes, in-depth case studies, broad accessibility, and high production quality. Learners benefit from a unique blend of theory and practical application, making this course valuable for a wide spectrum of interests and skills.

Now, from the standpoint of someone considering solely taking Hobson’s MasterClass, the price-to-value ratio of a MasterClass subscription may not be worth it – but this calculation changes if you are also interested in any of the other courses on the platform.

While there are some drawbacks to the course, the advantages themselves seem to outweigh those limitations. The absence of assignments and assessments, Hobson’s teaching style, and relatively short duration might not be ideal, but this is outweighed by the substance of Hobson’s expert advice and valuable insights on strategic decision-making.

In the end, your choice to enroll in this MasterClass should align with your learning preferences and goals. Whether you seek to refine your decision-making abilities, gain insights into the world of leadership or are simply curious about corporate America, Mellody Hobson’s course offers useful perspectives.