To be honest, I didn’t expect MBA life to be so “full”. First off, there are about 24 hours of lectures to attend every week in the current term.
The lecture per se is not at all overwhelming, but when it is coupled with daily pre-class case preparation, group discussions, seemingly never-ending assignments, course projects, club activities, volunteer services, inter-school competitions, companies’ recruitment talks, CV writing and internship applications, life can be quite challenging. Imagine you go all the way to the Alps expecting a pleasurable skiing experience, but are instead greeted by avalanches every time you hit the track.
As a result, stress is a natural product, particularly for those who are not used to a high-intensity work environment or do not have business-related work experience. It’s not unusual to see peoples’ faces turning more and more pale through the day. Admittedly, it is important for business schools to train students to cope with stress and to work under pressure. After all, business schools seek to groom future leaders who very much live their working days with “avalanches”. I am, however, more concerned how the omnipresent time constraint will affect the quality of our thought process and ensuing judgment.
Given the pressing time line on almost everything we need to do, do MBA students actually have reasonably sufficient time to process information, to reflect on our own and to form a meaningful opinion or judgment? Companies seem to attach a high value to the capability of making quick decisions without having full information. To them, this skill is known as being comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, which is truly important in a constantly evolving and changing world.
My worry is that not having enough time to think may very well give rise to two kinds of risky behaviours: downright gambling on one end of the spectrum and acting like lemmings on the other. Further, because of the existing bias in favour of quick decision-makers, certain talents which do not fall in that group may be disadvantaged. For instance, Susan Cain in her bestseller Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking demonstrates that introverts tend to take a longer time to think things out because they intrinsically believe that an insightful opinion or a considered judgment is worth more than non-stop babbling or a hit-and-run tactic.
Lastly, because of the shorter time frame given to respond, people are more or less bound to miss certain paramount considerations which have far-reaching impacts, such as the long-term effect of the decisions made by them and the impact on the stakeholders.
Being comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity is important in a fast-changing world but one should not be so comfortable that he or she ignores the surrounding uncertainty and ambiguity. In my opinion, keeping a conscious mind is more important than acting fast. In other words, if we make a decision in a split second, that is because we can, not simply because we want to or have to.