If I distill my two engineering degrees and one management degree down to the one key lesson from each degree, it comes down to this basic difference:
- The Engineering degrees taught me how to take a complex problem and move towards its logical conclusion using a series of well defined steps. An engineering problem can be attacked by breaking it into smaller chunks and solving each ‘independently’. If you define the problem well and follow the steps accurately, you are reasonably sure to reach the correct answer.
- The Management degree taught me how to look at a complex problem and fit it into a pre-defined framework. The framework can help identify linkages among the various sub-components of the problem and provide a path towards a few possible solutions. At the end however, you may not have one single answer, rather an array of solutions. The final step is to convert this array of solutions into one or two possible actions, using some level of managerial intuition and judgement.
Given this fundamental difference, it is important to recognize the importance of ‘last mile’ judgement and intuition in a management decision making scenario. If an organizational leader can hone his judgement skills, it would give him a great boost in the ability to achieve successful outcomes from seemingly uncertain scenarios.
It is also important to note that very few people can make judgement decisions well from the get go. For the rest of us, we should put in specific routines in place to hone our judgement skills. For example, one can practice predicting the price of oil or the currency every week using a set of ‘rules’. We can define those rules for ourselves, but just the act of predicting an uncertain outcome based on a set of rules should help sharpen our judgement decision making skills.
It’s almost done. A year during which 570 of us went through one giant roller-coaster, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. ISB has provided a fertile ground for 570 day dreamers who landed on campus with myriad aspirations. Every single student had a visual image of what they will look like once ISB ends. For most, the dream has already come through but for some its still in the works.
Placement season at ISB is in full swing. Days 1 and 2 are done and Day 3 of placements is lurking around the corner. The mood is mixed, with objectivity and emotions playing their part in making people laugh and cry both in happiness and sadness. It’s feels like it’s been really long since people on campus discussed anything other than jobs. This is the moment of reckoning. This is the time to put our ISB essays into action and materialize the thoughts we passionately spoke about in our interviews.
I got news today that I have been accepted into the Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (EDI) – ISB’s incubator. I spent a whole year exploring various business ideas, and now feel that I am very close to choosing one that will dominate the next 5-10 years of my life. It now feels as if ISB was just a start to an exciting new journey for me. Having spent the past 12 years in the US, this now feels like a whole new start. Here’s to the 570 dreamers and their unwavering resolve to turbo-charge their careers and as a result, their lives.
One of my favourite courses at ISB has been a term 7 course called “Economics of Strategy”. When folks told me that an MBA can broaden your thinking and make you look at the same things in a very different way, I didn’t quite understand what that meant until I took this course.
The course took a very unique view on economic models and drew counter intuitive connections between economic models and business strategy as they play out in the real world. Heck, we even debated the role of game theory in promotion settings, especially in service intensive professions like Consulting, Investment Banking, and Law. We dealt with myriad industries such as aviation, breakfast cereals, microprocessors, human resources, and so on.
To top it all, we had our final exam for the course today and it was a well spent 2 hours. Not to risk giving out too much information on the final exam and getting into trouble with the school authorities, I can tell you that the exam dealt with how economic models are applied to the Web 2.0 industry, with a “very popular” website going up against a promising upstart from a search giant. Writing this exam made me think of this industry in ways I have never thought of before.
An MBA can do wonders to you if you get into it with the right attitude. I have found that taking diverse courses far away from my field of expertise or my liking has actually helped tremendously in widening my horizons. I have deliberately taken up *high risk* courses which promised to stretch my thinking and help me get the most out of this degree.
A very important reason one goes to b-school is to expand their network, meet diverse and interesting people, and learn personal and professional best practices from the diverse set of people. Right?
I want to believe the above view is represented by a large percentage of MBA students, but sadly, I am observing the complete opposite. MBA students, some very smart ones, are rarely pro-active in working with *random* group of people, or taking up assignments/projects/competitions with a group of people they have not met before.
Instead, most people just flock to others who they know well and have worked with before. In some ridiculous cases, I have seen students request re-shuffling the entire set of class study groups just so they get to work with the 2-3 students who they are comfortable with.
I wish this was not the case. Folks need to realize that uncertainty, ambiguity, and diversity all go hand in hand. One can gain A LOT from working outside the comfort zone and trying to work with people who are different and I daresay, *hard* to work with.
These two seemingly mundane words wield tremendous power. Think about the following exchange between two MBA’s evaluating a healthcare business plan and a team of entrepreneurs:
- Person 1: This looks like a good team because the individuals have a lot of industry experience. We should score them high on experience.
- Person 2: They have lots of experience, so what?
Think about what just happened. By asking a simple “So what?”, person 2 has just made person 1 think much deeper as to what he/she feels is good about the team’s experience. Is the team’s experience relevant to this particular business idea? If you had to pick just one aspect about the team, would you pick their experience over other factors like motivation, team dynamics, network, etc?
Just these two powerful words can make us question unsubstantiated assumptions, tall claims, and any such construct which can lead us down the wrong path. Asking such “So what” questions is a trait I have recently observed in many good professors at ISB as well as some of the most successful people I have met in my life.
Here is a simple task each of us can execute today which is guaranteed to help us with our own plans:
- List the top 3 activities you are doing today in your professional life (for example: taking a certain course, participating in a competition, working on a certain project)
- For each activity, ask yourself “So what?” and jot down the thoughts that come in your head
I guarantee you, this little exercise will make you think in ways you never thought of before.
Since I last wrote something here. The last 6 months have gone by really quick.
My transition to Sales inside Google (almost a year into it) has been a fun experience, lots to learn, lots of customers, conferences. Its a dynamic group of people that I work with so every day brings new challenges and learning opportunities. I love it here.
Gurome, the GMAT Prep and MBA Admissions Consulting company, has seen tons of ups and downs. What a ride it has been in the last 6 months. There are some very positive trends which we are pursuing, will provide more data on this as we go through with some exciting new initiatives.
Made a quick trip to India, mostly a family time visit. Mumbai is an amazing city, so much energy and life, totally love it.
I took the GMAT, did decently well. Came within 20 points of my target score, but I will settle with the score I got and give it a shot for 2011 admissions.
A lot more has happened, will write it out as I think of it.