Friday, November 2, 2007

The MBA : ritual or running-away?

Last week, P gave me this essay to read “Behind the mask : the MBA”, by Gianpiero Petriglieri and Jack Denkfeld Wood. The essay is basically about the psychology of high potentials attending an MBA, and about the “personal development elective” students can follow at IMD ( a business school in Switzerland).

Some unsettling insights reveiled themselves to me while reading the 24 pages.
Of course we all know the reasons why someone chooses to do an MBA (or so we think) : to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to climb even faster to a certain career goal. Next to this, however, there appear to be a whole set of so called “unconsciousness purposes” for applying, and according to the essay ,these purposes are actually the determining ones! I could summarize these purposes as “escapes”, whether it be from an unsatisfying or too demanding job, from parents’ expectations, from routine of every day life, or from a stagnant relationship (yes, that one also appears to be a motive), etc.
So I definitely need to discuss this one with P : what is his “hidden agenda” for the MBA??

The second insight I acquired, is that of the high potential themselves. The essay states that a lot of them appear (from the outside) to “have it all together”. And I must confirm this : to me, most of them indeed appear to be the brightest, happiest, smartest, most self confident, most stress resistant etc people I’ve met. I see them at INSEAD, but I also see them here, at work. They are always full of energy, driven, never tired, never appear to have a bad day, they work 60 hours a week, and besides that manage a family with 2 kids. I can only stare in wonder….(as I see myself as someone who most of the time doesn’t have it all together!).
According to the authors however, this image is a flawed one, hiding deeper insecurities that come with “living up to expectations”. I understand that high potentials are confronted with the same questions as every single one of us (basically “why am I here, on planet earth?”); but they still haven’t convinced me that the image of the so called “ golden boys” (and girls) is just a superficial one… I’ve seen too convincing examples of the opposite, and although I have to admit (already at the “Open Day” before the start of the academic year), that the other MBA-participants were “normal people” like me, I still, somehow, manage to feel inferior to them. (especially when they start talking about their finance or accounting or stats classes, and I even don’t know if they’re still talking English or some other exotic language).

The third and last idea I retain from this essay, is “the MBA as a ritual”. INSEAD’s slogan already states that it’s a year that will change you and your life forever . And the essay elaborates on this, seeing the MBA student as a “modern hero”, who goes on a difficult journey, to come back, fulfilled, transformed and (hopefully) matured.
I’m still struggling with that one as well, more from a personal point of view. When I first read everything there was to be found on the INSEAD website, the part about how “this will change your life forever” made me swallow a few times. I was (and still am) a bit afraid what the effects of INSEAD will be on P, and consequently on our live together. “Change” is not my favourite word in the dictionary, but it is becoming the keyword of this year…and the ones to come!

1 comment:

DTLF said...

This was one of the best reads of the year, from one of the best professors I've ever, and probably ever will, have the pleasure of learning under.

Ask P for the case that goes with the reading. It's all true. All of it.