Sunday, September 22, 2013

the things we choose to see

One of the things everyone's told me about is how interesting Barcelona is to walk around in. And seeing's how wandering is really what I love to do, it's been a fantastic few weeks here. Been really getting to know a few neighbourhoods, particularly El Born and the Gothic Quarter. The middle photos - the carvings on the walls of the building depict a local saint who was beatified in 1806 and ascended to sainthood in 1909.

Which got me thinking.

To the Roman Catholics, becoming a saint is, well, the ultimate affirmation of the strength of your faith? A process that takes not only a lifetime to reach, but a hundred, if not hundreds more years afterwards. By no means do I aspire to anything resembling sainthood, but in the (much) shorter term, how will we look upon our time in this program, and how will we be looked upon? Nineteen months isn't all that long, and after an intense week of orientation, that point has been securely hammered into everyone's mind. Sure, academics is so crucial, but everything from this point forward has to be done with career management in mind. No more fooling around, no more time to let things fall where they may. Everything's for real now, and we're all playing for keeps.

Just one more thought, because it's late, and I want to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow to get some work done so I can go out. We had a few sessions on leadership during orientation, and one of the discussions revolved around Orpheus, a chamber music orchestra without a conductor. Flipping the classical model on its head, Orpheus operates with equal contribution from all its members about the interpretation and execution of its repertoire. An incredibly fascinating group to examine and discuss. The only problem is that it was being discussed by business school students.

The straight and true - the discussion left me a little weary about what to expect. When you take something so unique as what Orpheus is doing - a pure study of music - and turn it all into business jargon (defining roles, flat structure, accountability), you strip away all purpose, all beauty. What are we talking about then? Sure, Orpheus is a great business case, which is why we're studying it, but shouldn't there be room for the true meaning of why they're doing it? We can't lose sight of the fact that the motivation that's the reason for their success is a true love and talent for music, not some adherence to a leadership model (as successful as it's been for them). Stripping everything down to efficiencies and role-defining kills why we're doing this.

We were told that IESE values a humanist approach to business. In all we do, we have to maintain a humanity. As one of the presenters said, the day it doesn't hurt anymore to fire someone is the day that you've lost your humanity. So I'm determined, as I officially begin my MBA in a few days, to retain a sense of romance and nuance in all that's to come, to not be lost in trying to talk business, but to remain true to what I am and what I love. That's how I want to look back on my time here, and to be looked upon.  


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