May I make a suggestion to all first-years (and even reflective second-years) who are seeking yet another practical application of SOM’s famous first-year curriculum: step back for a moment from the pharma companies, car manufacturers, and social enterprises found in the cases and textbooks. To increase the “return on investment” for your SOM education, be sure to apply the lessons of the curriculum to yourself, to ensure that you can successfully navigate your remaining years (or months) at business school and beyond. By this point you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. How can the lessons of my business school classes be applied to a person? Consider the following opportunities:
Competitor – what are your competitive advantages, as a person? What are the unique skills and attributes (or combinations thereof) that allow you to add unique value to teams and organizations? Where in the marketplace are your strengths most value-added, and how can you position yourself best leverage those strengths?
Sourcing & Managing Funds – you have limited capital (a.k.a., “time and energy”), and more positive-NPV projects (i.e., clubs, speakers, coursework, exercise, relationships, reflection on the purpose of your life, etc.) than you could possibly have time/energy to invest in. So, you have to choose. Will you take whichever projects come along first, or will you make the difficult choice to say “no” to some so that you can take on “higher-NPV” projects that come along later?
Innovator – are you applying the key takeaway of this class, “try and fail early and often”? The cost of failure in business school is unbelievably low, so it’s a great opportunity to move outside your comfort zone to sample things you had never before considered incorporating into your life – career sectors, organizational roles, leadership styles, academic subjects, leisure activities, or even ways of relating with our diverse student body. What should you be trying while at business school, and what kinds of fears, stigmas, influences, or mindless habits might be stifling innovation in your life?
Customer – who are your customers, and are you adding the value they expect? Will anyone in your team of four ask you next year to be on a team with them? Would your professors or consulting project clients recommend you for a full-time job of your dreams? Is your most important customer – perhaps your significant other – on-board with your strategic direction? Not everyone should be your customer – trying to please everyone is a recipe for disaster – but are you being intentional about who you are serving?
So, either the lessons of the core curriculum are indeed applicable to the individual budding business leader, or I need to find some better sources of personal wisdom!