Things you actually learn in a B-School
This post is formally an entry for the InsideIIM ‘Great Indian B-School debate’
Name: Bhanu P
Institute: IIM Trichy
Team Name: Lucy in the Sky with powerpoints
Team Mate’s name: Venkat Iyer
Article I am refuting: http://insideiim.com/things-you-wont-learn-in-an-mba/?mailer=insideiim
I don’t know how to be myself. It’s like I’m permanently outside myself. Like, like you could push your hands straight through me if you wanted to. And I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I’m doing it but I’m incapable of what needs to be done. I’m like Pinocchio, a wooden boy. Not a real boy. And it kills me. – Fyodor Dostoevsky in ‘The Double’
The picture above is a scene from the movie ‘The Double’ where the protagonist-a lost, hapless creature trapped in a workplace where he is never noticed, starts mulling suicide.
When we begin to look at life in a pessimistic way, there is no end to it. Our thoughts then take a dive into the spirals of darkness, resulting in misery and melancholy. The article ‘Things you won’t learn in an MBA’ is clearly written by someone who hasn’t immersed himself properly in the MBA curriculum. I do agree that ‘learning’ during the MBA life is highly subjective but well, here is my version of it.
The MBA program has a lot to offer and everything starts with this very notion. It just depends on how open you are to the entire learning experience. As for me, I was clueless in the beginning but lately, I’m allowing myself to enter into a transformation phase.
I’ll begin with things I disagree with.
Completing two years of an MBA is definitely not a requirement to start your own business but it has its own advantages.
Firstly, you learn a whole lot of subjects like Accounting, Marketing, Competition and Strategy, Organizational Behaviour, Business Law, Consumer Behaviour, Business Ethics et al. that will help you understand a number of intricacies of a business. To run a business, it’s just not the idea but the implementation that matters. You can learn as you go or choose to make those mistakes that were totally avoidable.
Though the theoretical frameworks have their limitations, the case study methodology is definitely much closer to reality. It puts you in the shoes of the company and makes you think about the decisions to be made at various levels. So what’s the harm in making mistakes now and losing nothing than to make mistakes at a later stage and risk losing your business?
More than anything else, the MBA degree provides you a cushion to fall back on when everything goes wrong. You can always go apply for that consulting job if your own venture fails. You can be rest assured that your needs of Roti, kapda and makaan will be taken care of duly. This is where your networking comes into perspective.
So, there isn’t a textbook we are handed for this. But how many times have we asked our friends from schools, colleges, neighbourhoods and even those we met at summer camps for help in filling up surveys? How many times have we asked them for contacts they might have in a company? How many times have we spammed their inboxes with details about that B-fest of ours, with requests to like our entries in events? We network, period; throughout subjects, throughout days, all through nights. And we learn to do this even after we pass out. The MBA teaches us how asking people for help isn’t necessary a bad thing to do. After all, we all want a win-win situation, don’t we?
This depends entirely on whether you challenge yourself or think of yourself as a lesser mortal.
The curriculum demands from you a number of impromptu presentations, class discussions and project presentations (where spoken and written communication skills are paramount). If you plan on taking any of these seriously, you will see a radical change in you compared to where you started off.
In my class, there are a number of people who never opened their mouths before, now they just can’t shut up during class discussions. If you see others expressing their opinions and freely conversing with lecturers, you can’t help but feel a bit insecure. Pretty soon you’d ask yourself: “Why can’t I do the same?” I’m sure no one has any special skills that make them omniscient. It’s just a matter of being clear and confident and not being afraid of making mistakes. There are so many platforms where you can express your opinions: Group discussions, debates, or even the day-to-day class discussions and group work.
There is the whole wide world to talk about, how can you keep quiet?
There are courses on written skills but the learning doesn’t stop there. The moment you enter the institute, you keep churning out SOPs, Resumes, Summaries, reports, articles, blogs et al. that squeeze out every bit of your vocabulary. As long as you strive for the best, you have a number of platforms where you can show off those literary skills.
I like writing articles, especially on Finance. When I started off, my writing never had any structure to it. There were just bits and pieces of information that I collected from intensive reading. How did I put them together? I took the help of professors and my peer group who reviewed my articles and gave me useful insights. I slowly became comfortable with personalizing my work and giving it a coherent flow.
When I took up the Business Ethics elective this term, little did I know how much my written skills would matter. The incisor-like comments from the professor were enough to put me in place, but they taught me a lot. I learnt how important it was to structure my arguments coherently and then pen it in a simple and lucid manner. It isn’t just about presenting facts, but how you opine on the subject; that is what matters.
There are people who are born to be in sales. They can roam the breadth of the world, striking conversations with anyone around. I did not meet this criteria and I was sure of it.
One professor of ours (B2B Marketing) overturned this perception of mine upside down. I never thought I’d enjoy a marketing class as much as a good old lecture in Corporate Finance. But his approach to solving a case and the vivid detailing of his arguments made me take up cases very seriously. His practical approach to cases, right from asking us to maintain good relationships with the receptionist to deciding on which manager to call upon was what made all the difference.
Politics (I would rather call it Group Dynamics)
There are over a fifty students in our section. You end up with a different set of people each time the professor decides to use a random number generator to form groups. There are all kinds of people in a group and your role could vary from being a free-rider to the one who does all the work. I have been on every point on the scale and it has been an enriching experience in Group dynamics.
In the beginning, none of us had an idea about the other’s inclination to work on a project. The person who ends up talking too much in class might not be all that interested in making that presentation you are supposed to submit. What do you do then? You might be clueless the first time but then you have a fair idea of who does what (people might still surprise you!). Though you prefer collaborative work, it just doesn’t happen. Due to the varied levels of interest and ‘commitment’, someone ends up taking the role of the leader who assigns work while someone is just comfortable finishing the tasks. The real question is “Can you assign the tasks and also get it done? Group dynamics in college, I believe, is the perfect Launchpad for work, where this aspect is of utmost importance. Experiment as much as you can, for thou shall not be forgiven at the workplace.
Learning requires patience. If you are willing to put yourself through this rigorous curriculum and emerge a different person, it sure takes a lot of effort. You might have participated in numerous competitions, albeit with no success. Have patience. This is the umpteenth article I am writing this term. I’m not sure if this will get selected but I’m sitting down and writing it, patiently when I don’t remember being like this before (My mom would agree with me). Frustrations are pointless, efforts aren’t-for I have the belief that after every effort, I shall emerge a stronger version of myself. The thought is enough.
The most important learning- Being ambitious is different from being a bully
Everyone who made it to an IIM must have surely worked hard to get there and would definitely have ambitious plans for the future. While there is competition in every step, a healthy one is what is constructive. Are you expressing your opinions and being assertive? Awesome.
But please stop being overtly assertive and don’t force your opinions on everyone. People sometimes get confused between being ambitious and being downright selfish. You don’t always have to think ‘what’s in it for me’? Sometimes it’s good to ponder about others too. I have seen people take a stance, an irrelevant one, just to satisfy their ego. They really don’t care about the impact it has on others.
We all can agree that working in an organization not only involves competing with one another but also thinking together as a group. In terms of the latter, I haven’t come across much, unfortunately.