Five years (due to a one-year break), hundred chocolate bars, a dozen bottles of single malt whisky and, probably, a thousand hours of work (dividing hours by bottles is not recommended) put me now in the cosy position to express thoughts on the past MBA experience (2008-2013). Though I never was the student I (now) wanted to be and I often played the smart-reluctant guy game, there were many lessons to be drawn from, my top below:
Cultural differences: I have this theory that we (i.e. the Romanian guys) are more combative than the other students, not necessarily in the right manner. It might be related to the continuous struggle we are having to survive and satisfy Maslow’s bottom needs in his pyramid. When there’s nothing insured by default we’ll always be more ferocious to obtain it and this, translated in our behaviour, makes us more aggressive and, unfortunately, more narcisistic-egocentrists. And this is not conceivable in our day-to-day environment, it’ll came up only when facing different cultures. I’ve figured it out at the first residential school in Dublin when a nice tutor (Richard) made me feel like crap explaining why a simple “You’re wrong” I said was as rude as futile.
There’s no wrong answer: In the traditional Romanian educational system (hope it changed meanwhile) any wrong answer was a reason for embarrassment, therefore communication and peer-learning were down to ground. It has smthg. to do with the above bullet, but I leave the subject to the psychologists. Hence, we were always on guard, what happens if the teacher will ask me directly? It never happened, but because of my worries I always triple-checked my thoughts before verbalising, although I knew that a correct answer will enrich the topic, while a wrong answer will give the tutor the opportunity to explain why I misjudged and what is the right approach.
Understanding the role of theory in real life: Same year I started the MBA I launched an e-commerce business that grew to couple of millions euro revenue in 4 years. I’ve always made my case-studies on this business and I constantly discovered new ideas though I never really applied one of the theories in practice. I’m not saying this is impossible, it’s just less probable. But the real kickoff is that while acknowledging theory you’ll be setting yourself a frame through which understanding the strategy and the direction of the business become clearer. It will never be like in theory, but theory will always be a tremendous screening tool when making decisions.
Emphasising the reflective thinking: I let this one at the end because it has impacted me the most latter years. This is not a binary action, you either reflect or not, because we are all reflecting on experiences in our lives. At the age of 3 I placed my hand on my mom’s glowing oven and since then I’ve learned my lesson, but this didn’t make me reflective. I just kept trying to avoid ovens. So, if it’s not binary then it is a continuous process and the dark-side is that you’ll never get to the end of it. Reckoning with the idea of thoughtfulness, here discussing about managerial issues, this I consider my deepest achievement from this MBA. I now have a better understanding of the environment, stakeholders or contingencies that might appear. And surprisingly the process is not time consuming.
Briefly, cause this is a blog post not an academic work, these are my most important acknowledgements during my MBA along, of course, with hundreds of theories I hope I will use someday. Of course there are some downsides too, both to the principle of MBA education and the Open University MBA, but this is a subject of another post.