MBA 2013 — never lose the why

Monday marked the beginning of Orientation and the MBA school year for almost 140 MBA 2013s. The programme for the first day comprised a welcome session by the new Director of the MBA, Simon Learmount, introduction sessions within the two streams and a welcome reception for new students, partners and their children.

As the Head of Admissions, the first day is always a strange day for me. It marks the end of a journey that started more than a year before when we held our first open days to recruit the new class. During that time, my team has met many prospective candidates, organised webinars, and addressed their queries regarding the admission and enrollment process. Now it is time to step back and refocus on recruiting the new class while the Programme, Careers and Projects teams work more closely with MBA 2013.

By sheer coincidence, today, I came across an illustration by Hugh MacLeod that he calls Never Lose the Why. He draws inspiration from Simon Sinek’s TedX talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Sinek argues that great leaders and companies (eg Martin Luther King, Apple) do not communicate by saying what they do, how they do it and why they do it. Instead, they inspire action by starting with the why, moving to the how, and the what they do will come naturally. His belief is that people do not buy into features and benefits, they buy into ideas which come from a leader or organisation’s purpose.

This got me thinking about my advice to MBA2012 when I spoke to them this time last year. I told them to think about why they were here in Cambridge. I pitched the talk towards the fact that everyone of them was in that lecture theatre because someone in Cambridge had spotted some potential, but also had taken a risk on them because no one had submitted a perfect application. And I encouraged them to remember this point when, during the course of their MBA, they face episodes, when they could be consumed by self-doubt, or frustrations with their fellow classmates. Always remember that they are not perfect but look for the potential that someone in Cambridge had spotted in them.

Looking at Hugh MacLeod’s illustration and listening to Sinek’s TedX talk, I now think I should have emphasised the Why and asked our students, “Why are you here?”, “Why do you do what you do?” ” Why should anyone care?” Definitely some ideas for future questions for our admissions process.

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2 Responses to MBA 2013 — never lose the why

  1. Thanks so much Conrad for your inspiring post. I have asked myself the same “why” question and luckily the answer has never changed since the moment I have decided to apply for Cambridge MBA. I can clearly vision what I can achieve from the program and where I will land after graduation.

    However would like to find out if the motivation will remain the same throughout the transforming one year? What should we do if it changes as the course helps us broaden our horisons?

    • Yuxuan

      Firstly, thanks for attending the info session in Singapore yesterday.

      It is always a difficult call when people change their minds during the MBA. On the one hand, it can be terribly exciting to see new opportunities and strike out on a new path. On the other hand, it can be terrifying and lonely because your friends and family might not understand your decisions. I hope that the MBA will give our students the courage to make the right decision for themselves, even if it means a period of “suffering”, eg taki longer to make a career switch, or slogging on a new business idea.