MBA Perception and Experience

Businessman with laptop looking out window

Most MBA aspirants, having taken the decision to acquire a post graduate degree in management, ask people who have an MBA degree to describe the course and the kind of learning imparted during the course tenure. Having done that, they turn to articles in magazines and entrance exam preparatory classes to get a better understanding of the course.

These inputs create a perception in their minds about the MBA course that they fervently desire to get into. However, the actual experience is far different from the perceptions.

River ahead
River Ahead

That is why, whenever any MBA aspirant asks me to describe what to expect, I do so with a caveat :- “The Map is not the Territory.”

To illustrate further, this sign means a river on a map.

We all will agree that the sign hardly compares to the grandeur of what a river actually is! In other words, no matter how much anyone describes how the course is structured, the actual experience of the course is far more intense with many facets to it. But having said that, here are a few points that come as close as possible to describing the actual experience, you will derive.

An MBA degree is designed to make you:

  1. A Seeker of Solutions

The course makes you a seeker of solutions from a person who simply states a problem. In other words, you stop saying things like “this can’t happen” and you actually say “is it possible that such a step can make it happen?” The course thus helps you to develop a radar to identify opportunities or rather actually transform every problem into an opportunity. Quoting Richard Bach, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

2.  Outcome Oriented

You constantly question whether you are going in the right direction. For example, you will question whether a particular action actually contributes to taking the task one step ahead or not. If it does you will accept the action, if not you will reject it. Thus, you develop efficiency on the jobs rather than working hard and toiling through an array of jobs.

3. Competitive

A competitive person is someone who always strives to better himself or herself. The benchmark could be some other person or it could be oneself. A competitive attitude is the attitude of betterment. Trace the history and growth of business leaders or managers you admire and try to learn and apply their success habits in your own life. Read as many positive uplifting books as possible. There is enough sobering reality around that will pull you down at every step that you will have to emerge from, time and again.

4. Embracer of Change

An MBA degree tries to show the student what nature is up to all the time. Nature keeps changing, evolving every second, every minute. It hardly remains still. Change is a sign of life. Only the dead don’t change. An MBA degree drills into its students that to survive and flourish they must change all the time. They must not maintain but update to keep pace, learn, unlearn, re-learn and keep their minds open to new things and experiences.

How does the MBA degree inculcate these four things in its students? It does so by making the entire course experiential rather than theoretical, for which it uses some of these technique:

  • Case Study Method: Real-life problem situations from the world of business are placed before the student and the student is expected to come up with a solution.
  • Role-Playing Games: Students are made to experience issues directly. For example, students are divided into groups and asked to build a tower with blocks in the fastest possible time. Such exercises develop in students an understanding of team and group dynamics.
  • Projective Techniques: Techniques, such as sentence completion, interpreting the meaning of pictures etc. are used to show students how the mind operates individually and also as part of a group.
  • Interactive Lectures: Students are asked to make presentations, which are then recorded through video shootings. These video tapes are then played back to show students flaws in the way they talk and their body language.
  • Guest lectures by Industry Professionals: Industry professionals are invited to talk about their experiences, the problems and challenges they have faced and how they overcome them.
  • Short Term Industry Training Programs: Summer or winter placements happen after the first year. Students spend two months in different business organisations actually experiencing organisational functioning. This is a big eye opener for most students.
  • Project work: Students are given many projects to work on which make them study the market in totality. It fosters insight into what they are getting into. The experiential method of teaching takes a student into the depth of an issue from knowledge to understanding. Thus the knowledge gained is used instinctively, somewhat like driving a car. When taking driving lessons, you are taught how to start a car, how to change gears, etc.. but when you become an accomplished driver, you don’t have to remember anything, you do things by habit, like reflex actions! That’s what the MBA experience does to you; it makes you instinctively apply what you have been taught, when you are actually working in the industry.

So if as an MBA aspirant, you are expecting theory and a course somewhat like the one you experienced while graduating, you are likely to get a huge shock at first! In fact, most new MBA students experience a feeling of not being in control or able to grasp what is going on. It takes some time to forget one’s graduation days and begin the new exciting journey into the MBA programme and then on into a grand career in management.

The ball’s in you court, you decide whether you work hard or work smart to reach your goal.