Expect the Unexpected! Doing an MBA (part 2)

Of course the MBA journey is different for everybody.

And, of course, the key learnings are different for everybody.

On Saturday 21st April, at Henley’s MBA Open Day, I was part of the alumni panel. I was surprised how many of my fellow alumni mentioned that some of their key learnings were similar to my own.

The MBA is not just about tangible learnings such as setting up a successful strategy, programming processes, winding your way through workflow diagrams or – heaven forbid – fathoming finance!

The MBA is also about intangible learnings such as your own personal development. And that’s not a bad thing – your personal development acts like an umbrella for all of the tangible modules.

So, just like with the English weather: be prepared for the unexpected and bring your umbrella!

Some major eye-opening moments, and thus key learnings, during my MBA journey relate to the so-called “blind spots”. Trust me, seeing the blind spots has nothing to do with going to Specsavers…

Key learnings or the ‘aha’ effect

Key learning #1: Becoming unconsciously competent

I enjoyed learning that there was a difference in my own knowing that I had a skill, using that skill consciously, and ultimately using that skill like second nature (unconsciously). This is also called the hierarchy of competences.

During the MBA journey, not all of my ‘expert area’ assignments felt as easy to me as I had expected (e.g. International Business). Modules where I had no previous hands-on experience, however, produced not only the best marker feedback but were extremely fulfilling (e.g. Reputation & Responsibility / Relationship Marketing).

Therefore, I realised that I had – in some areas – mastered the level of unconscious competence, while in others I was still at the bottom of the competence ladder – the unconscious incompetent level. Room for improvement – a good thing!

Key learning #2: Listening vs talking

In our first workshop, we were asked to talk to other people. I took this too literally and did the talking, not the listening. Some of us (myself included), feel that if “you don’t tell first, someone else will” (cf. Edgar Schein, Humble Inquiry). Therefore, I jumped into telling mode, overenthusiastic and helpful, yet totally missing the point the other person might want to make, just like how a good Formula One racer wants to get that pole position (Ferrari fans, anyone?)

Which brings me to …

Key learning #3: Providing help vs making others dependent

The biggest eye opener was actually a comment from a fellow cohort member: “Weeeeeell, it’s great that you help others but ask yourself this: are you really helping them or are you actually making them become dependent on you?”

I had not expected to talk about unfathomable depths at all (and no, I’m not talking about finance here!).

Don’t worry – your MBA journey will not be a couch session with Sigmund Freud. There will still be enough spreadsheets, diagrams, TED talks, statistics, frameworks and models, assignments, exams and the big dissertation at the end.

However, you may – like me – come away with a clearer view of yourself and a new-found relationship with yourself and your skills and how you use them.

In my particular case, the following proverb sounds like the exact visualisation of my key learning #3, the helping:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Sooooo –  this obviously suggests that I help someone better if I teach them how to [insert chosen skill here] instead of giving them a [insert finished product here].

That is, alas, not very sustainable if you are a self-employed consultant like I am.

If I taught all my clients to “fish”, then they won’t need me in the future, right?

And that’s where I will save a report on how I took all of my above learnings to make the jump from theory to practice in the next and final part of this blog…

For now, I suggest you pack your brollies!