Wednesday, November 21


Typical MBA class outline:

  • Professor has a few frameworks that he likes to use. Builds course content around them. There's a lot of overlap between courses.
  • In order to make the learning "real," assigns massive group project, which usually entails:
    • Professor selects group members.
    • Professor chooses target company that he's interested in.
    • Project is worth large proportion of grade.
    • Final deliverable is a presentation, slide deck, and written report.
  • Professor presents frameworks during the initial stages of course, then assigns later sessions for "one-on-one" meetings to vet project.
This type of outline works really well for students who:
  • Haven't learned many business frameworks.
  • Enjoy group work.
  • Have few opportunities to apply what they learn into their day-to-day lives.
  • Are passionate about learning about target company.
  • Have tons of time to work on projects.
  • Care about grades.
I don't.

Over the course of the semester I've attended all my classes, learned concepts and frameworks, applied them in my own business and personal projects, and spent most of my time building knowledge and networks. Which means I'm weeks behind on homework that, in most cases, feels like a complete chore. Can I explain the concept of a bowling alley from Inside the Tornado, talk about product positioning, or identify the pieces of nailing the pain in creating a new venture? Definitely. I use them all the time in real life. But, for whatever reason, real life doesn't count.

One of my biggest issues with modern educational philosophies is the strictness that teachers impose on their assessment strategies. Drill any teacher, and they will eventually admit that their assessment of student is wholly inadequate and subjective. But ask them to create personally individualized assessments, or to allow their students that leeway, and they'll push back with vigor. "Students aren't motivated to learn." "This is what the system requires." "You have to incentivize X for students to actually do it." "Students don't have the tools to take ownership of their own learning." At this point, I've stopped asking.

And in the same breath we talk about how improperly incentivizing activities that should be intrinsically motivated decreases both enjoyment and performance.

I love the MBA. I'm learning great things and interfacing with amazing people. But can't I decide for myself what's worth learning? And how to apply it in my life? I'm going to have to do it anyway, because that's the ultimate goal of learning, right? With so much piled on my plate, I find I'm doing homework at the expense of learning and other far more important aspects of my life. Having group meetings at the same cost. Maybe having my own business, being passionate about my own education, and other factors in my life make me unique. Maybe not. But I feel like if I had the time to do it right, and support from a professor in my own projects... instead of ones that are assigned from the outside... I'd learn far more than what I do by just going through the motions of classwork and quizzes.

That feels better. I have to get back to my homework.


  1. "we talk about how improperly incentivizing activities that should be intrinsically motivated decreases both enjoyment and performance."

    I'd be interested to read studies that make this claim. Have the references?

    1. Here's a review article that has most of them cited within the text - pages 4-6 specifically. Instrinsic and
      Extrinsic Motivation (Columbia University)


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