‘I don’t know’ why MBAs find it so hard to utter these three magic words! Maybe the system makes them feel that they are so superior to ‘lesser mortals’ that to admit that they don’t know something is akin to appearing naked in front of the world, or some such thing. Whoever said “Ignorance is Bliss” had apparently not run into an MBA.
You will seldom hear an MBA say ‘I don’t know’ in a b-school. It is just not done!! The phrase has been removed from the MBA’s dictionary, by some supernatural force which makes them crack CAT. The instructors at CAT Coaching institutes do their bit by saying grand things about how MBAs are supposed to be super-intelligent and all that crap.
The phenomena affects in stages, as one evolves through a b-school course. In the initial few months, one or two might commit the blasphemous act of uttering this phrase. But, a year into this course, and the average guy-next-door metamorphoses into a Mr. Know-it-all.
This ‘effect’ can be viewed best when a Prof asks a vague question in class. Something like ‘Who is the target market for your product?’ or ‘How much money will be required to increase market share?’ A normal person would have scratched his head, looked up and down, and admitted that he doesn’t know the answer.
The same guy, after a year into this course, would do the following [am giving it step-wise, as this is how MBAs think]:
Step 1: Pretend to think [or in his words ‘reflect’] on the question for precisely 47 seconds.
Step 2: He forgets the original question by this time, and hence ask the Prof, “Sir, could you please repeat the question?”
Step 3: Since the Prof is also an MBA and has forgotten the question, he will pose a new question which would appear disarmingly similar to the previous one.
Step 4: A student MBA has a stock of ‘universal terms’ – holistic view, synergy, customer orientation, positioning, strategic alternatives, cost benefit analysis [well… the list is long enuf to merit a separate post]. Our friend has scored 99.9 percentile in English section in CAT, and his only skill in life is to make up sentences using any number of vague terms.
Step 5: So, he makes up an answer which will make every wannabe CAT cracker proud – He says. “Sir, our target market for this product is the Young-at-Heart. These are people from the Veterans generations, who are Achievers according to the VALS framework. These people belong to the SEC A and can be termed sophisticated. But, to retain our competitive advantage, we will also position our product to appeal to the DINKS and Yuppies segments. Thus, we take a holistic view of the market, and aim to achieve a 30% increase in the mindshare of the customer. This will also gel with the long term vision of the company, without unduly weakening the short term prospects. We move on to the Porter’s Five Forces Framework to analyze the SWOT for the product... blah blah blah…”
Step 6: The Prof who cleverly bunked the session on ‘Listening Skills’ in his student days, has already diverted his attention to the cute gal in the front row, and since he can’t appear to be ignorant of these terms, applauds and says, “That’s a brilliant answer. But, could you throw some light on how do you propose to achieve top-of-the-mind recall?”
Step7: The MBA dude, formerly a C Programming engineer has fortunately learnt the ‘loop’ from his software days. [the ‘do while (Prof = ‘awake’ && Question = ‘Obscure’) wala program]. So, his mind buzzes, “Repeat Steps 1 through 5”.
Step 8: And so it goes on and on…
You will hear all the words that were ever dreamed up by any business strategist in the world, but, throughout this entire session, you will never hear the three magic words, “I don’t know.”
Will things ever change? Will there ever be some ‘content’ in an MBA’s answer? Will someone have the courage to stand up and say, “Stop this nonsense”?
I DON’T KNOW!!! (oops…)