Surviving your MBA

I want to ask you a question. You don’t have to answer me, just yourself. But first, I must tell you a story before asking my question at the end.

Three MBA students are studying together. We’ll call them Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna (and say upfront that any resemblance to people you may know is purely coincidental). This is how their conversation goes …

Arjuna: I want to ace the exam tomorrow. There are people coming to recruit next week and I want to say that I had the highest grades.

Bhima: You always have the highest grades, but you still won’t get the job. Recruiters don’t look for the best student, my friend.

Arjuna: Who do recruiters look for then?

Bhima: People who can get things done. Exams are just a small part of that. It’s people like me, who play sports, organize events, and participate in community activities who demonstrate what it takes to be a good leader.

Arjuna: Even if it means that you don’t understand the basics of management? Even if it means that you can’t read a balance sheet? Companies are not stupid. They value strong fundamentals.

Bhima: You can learn how to read a balance sheet by seeing a video on the Internet and by reading a textbook. It’s no big deal. Classes and exams are not where you actually learn things.

Arjuna: Be as you wish, my friend. I have spent good money for my education here and I intent to learn as much as I can from the classes, from the great faculty here, and from classmates like Yudhisthira. Which reminds me, why are you so quiet today?

Yudhisthira: I am thinking.

Bhima: He is always thinking. When is he actually going to do anything?

Arjuna: Bhima has a point. What are you going to do during your MBA?

Yudhisthira: I was thinking of becoming a better person …

[No one says anything for a while.]

Bhima: You can be a better person by doing social work, joining a religious order, even by working in hospitals and schools. Do you really think a MBA program will help you?

Yudhisthira: It should. The world of business can get complicated. Companies can lie in order to sell their products, officials can demand bribes for getting things approved, customers can refuse to pay for what they buy, so on, so forth. If I can learn how to function honourably in a world like that, I will end up being a better person.

Arjuna: The ethical side of business troubles you?

Yudhisthira: Even our own behaviour sometimes troubles me. We copy from each other during exams, we plagiarize reports from the Internet, and we take credit for work that is not ours. It’s all quite disturbing.

Arjuna: We are doing what it takes to succeed – here and in the real world. Our courses are hard and we need all the help we can get.

Bhima: The important thing is that we are learning how to compete. As you yourself said, we will live in a world that is not entirely fair. As we work and play, we abide by the rules we see around us, not a vision of perfection.

Yudhisthira: Sadly, I agree. But it still does not stop me from aspiring towards honest business, just society, and a better environment for all. How to do all that is what I want to learn in my MBA. This is a brave new world with new technology and a new dawn for Indian opportunity. We must change and so I must change.

Bhima: Be my guest. I am proud to call you my friend and will gladly live in your world. But today, I must spread my wings, get new experiences, and have fun along the way.

Arjuna: I have to get back to work. Tomorrow’s exam is going to be difficult …

[All are quiet.]

It’s me again with the question I promised. Who do you want to be – Yudhisthira, as he improves himself personally; Bhima, as he improves his personality; or Arjuna, as he proves his personal capabilities?

How will you survive your MBA?

abhinanda sarkar

Dr. Abhinanda Sarkar

Associate Dean and Director of Research

MYRA School of Business

December 24, 2014