As I sit to pen down this article for 'Inside IIM' I have some realizations. These are important to share, because they will form the context for a lot on this site, and a filter for each one of you to go through this.
For someone who is from an IIM, writing the 'Inside IIM' has a minor conflict of interest. For a whole lot of us (IIM Alumni), saying that IIM was an amazing experience is natural - not only because it is, but it also adds more value to what we have gone through. It makes the experience exclusive (i.e. I have gone through it and you have not) and thus reinforces some sense of 'IIM Superiority'. I have seen this really happen, so I would encourage you to take whatever the IIM gang writes on this site with a pinch of salt.
That having said, I had the time of my life @ IIM Bangalore. :)
But then Inside IIM also has to be about ONLY what happens in IIM I feel. And a lot of what happens in an IIM happens in many other business schools, even those which are not 'top notch'. Its just that the people are different. They are hyperactive and academically intelligent minds - who are human - have their strengths and weaknesses, greed and insecurities, aspirations and hopes. No different.
So then what is almost exclusively 'Inside IIM' and WHY should you care?
Here are a few things that make an IIM experience unforgettable and so meaningful (Disclaimer: I primarily refer to IIM ABC and LIK to an extent - not the new ones) .
A. The infrastructure - beautifully done campuses where thought has gone into design and planning. The space helps create a culture of sorts - in a country where infrastructure is at a premium, having lots of space and a residential program makes a huge difference
B. The faculty - in an IIM there is intensive research which is happening all the time. There are a very few other institutes where this happens and learning from those who are creating knowledge makes a whole lot of difference. The internal culture within faculty is collegial - which means they are treated more or less as equals and not paid mega salaries. This attracts really passionate and some seriously amazing people!
C. I would say that the pressure, the expectations and the structure of the course are typically more intensive. The competition as a result is much more intense too. Which may be good (for a cut throat corporate life) or bad (for the whole lot of people on the other side of the normal curve)
D. External parameters like placements, the exchange program, the 'brand', the networks, the alumni, the opportunities and the marriage proposals that come - which actually are to quite an extent the result of the selection process that filters out the intellectually brilliant people.
Having said this, why should you care?
For one, it is possible to create a whole lot of these elements from the IIMs into your own B Schools - just a little bit of initiative and clever thinking, and you will have 'upped' the quality of your management
Second, if you do plan to do an MBA and are starry eyed about the IIM, you atleast know what you are aspiring for.
Third, and obviously it will help the 'how' - how to make most of the management course you are in, and how to do best in your preparation.
And honest discussions about management as a profession and a way of looking at the world - if that happens, and hopefully it will, we should be able to raise some important questions about what it is to be a manager, a leader and everything in between.
Finally, about the whole Inside IIM quest reminds me of something CS Lewis wrote - "The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it." For every inside IIM, there is another inside and yet another and yet another.
So do it - do it for the game, the kick, the journey, the experience. Not to break into the ring :)
(The writer is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore - Class of 2005. He has worked with Deutsche Bank, Boston Consulting Group and Hay Consulting in the past. He is the founder and the chief mentor at the Blue Ribbon Movement.)