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Open Your Mind

Posted by Debasri on 13 September 2007

Slave to my worldview, I went for the first of my series of back - to - back UGM classes. The first case we read was the Honda (A) case – written by consultants in pin-stripe suits, people like you and me - out of business school and interestingly far removed from the place where the ‘action was’. Throughout the first hour, I kept wondering why we were not using Michael Porter’s competition model to ‘solve’ the case. It’s classical conditioning – if there is a case, it has to be solved; and solved by fitting it, somehow into some arcane framework that someone somewhere has developed. By the time my frustration reached a crescendo, the professor handed us another case, Honda (B) and I attacked the case with hope, ‘this one we will solve’. I am not sure that the discussion fitted into the classical definition* of ‘solve a case’. To belabour the scene and the situation a bit more, in the post lunch session, we dissected the Apple case – again, discussion but no concrete solution (please refer my definition of 'solve a case' below).

We didn’t quite ‘solve’ any of the cases in a traditional sense, but I got some very key insights into not only how general managers work through the interrelation of four key elements - values, frames, commitments and processes. A little bit of thought convinced me that everyday life may also be influenced significantly (if I may be allowed to flaunt my newly acquired business statistics knowledge, at a 5% level of significance or 95% level of confidence) by the interplay of these forces. Without becoming too philosophical or pedantic, I’d like to share my personal experience with frames.

What is a frame? It is our worldview; it is reality as we see it, its reality as we believe it. The frame is a double edged sword – it can facilitate what we make of ourselves, but at the same time it shuts us from absorbing new experiences and prevents us from growing – intellectually and more importantly, as human beings. For example, a couple of days back, I believed that a case that is usually taught in business schools (mostly across the Atlantic) to teach strategy (read how to apply models) cannot be used to understand something quite as subtle as ‘what goes on inside a manager’s head’ – that was my frame, constraining me from new experiences. I believed that cases are meant to be dissected with such rapidity and by fitting them into one of the many available frameworks that the consulting companies would just have to roll out the red carpet (and hopefully the dough) for me.

I am still new around here and haven’t figured out much about how the ‘general manager’s mind’ framework works or even how to approach dissecting a case. But I am now aware that there are processes in my head that are, without my knowing, stymieing my growth. And it has made me question some of the frames within which I operate.

So, if you think that business school is only about textbooks, networking and getting the million dollar job, you should probably take a step back and analyse the frames within which you are operating.

All I’d say is, if you choose to come to business school, just open your mind.

* The classical definition of ‘solve a case’ is to fit it into some framework or model and take full advantage of what is called the 'hindsight bias'.

P.S. Thanks Professor BL for opening my mind.

Comments

Loved your post! You've already learned a valuable lesson, I think. Frameworks do not define the human mind, they only provide a starting point for our thinking. Every company is a living entity with an emotional culture and growth curve of its own. So, any framework you learn in your case studies will only serve a jumping off point for your understanding of what makes a certain company tick (or tock, as the case may be). The best consultants don't use cookie cutter solutions because they know one-size-fits-all does not work. And that's what makes consulting so interesting. Getting to know the personalities of the companies as well as of those who run them/work there. An infinite number of possibilities in that combination. There will be things common to all the case studies you'll be given. A professor who can teach you how to take into account the human factors will be of great value to you. Humans defy models (voice of experience talking) but when you can read their patterns, the consulting will come easily to you. Best success wishes for you!

Linda M. Lopeke

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