Friday, August 06, 2010

'Brand' Personalities

The sheer spectrum of personalities you see at a B-School can never be satisfactorily classified. Nevertheless, attempts are made time and again. Like this one...

First we have the Jarheads. Fresh recruits directly shipped from colleges across the nation. Their world-view consists of dungeon-like hostel rooms, cafeteria hangouts, professorial wrath, alcohol orgies and mass bunks. Overjoyed by fate’s gift of 2 additional years of the afore-mentioned life, they care zilch about classes, stay strictly nocturnal and blissfully ignorant of the course contents. Summer leaves them with the bitter after taste of that distinctly corporate flavour called responsibility. And long after the 2 years vacation, they are still haunted by the ubiquitous 2x2 matrix, the quintessential B-School theme.

Then we have the Industry-Veterans, the victims of the GDP growth and IT revolutions. The innocents who got drafted into various warring factions like Accenture, Infosys etc only to become net disposable income statistics in the annually published Marketing Whitebook. Over time, they become loose bricks in the corporate wall and end up as another statistic in the Whitebook, Employee Attrition (to higher education). At B-Schools, the more nostalgic among them try to relive their jarhead-like era and rave about it to their still-corporate-collared friends. The more wizened among them engage in the eternal grade crusade to strengthen their heat shields against corporate re-entry.

After a while though these lines fade and new divisions emerge. One of these innumerable classifications is based on Classroom Participation or RG-giri. Relative Grading, by the way, is a noble concept introduced in B-Schools to enhance the mutual cut-throatness of future managers. Why not? After all, we will soon be in a position to destroy the world by engineering massive oil spills or financing 3rd world dictators and years of civil wars. Ahem... Sorry about the digression. Coming back to the topic at hand, armed with a year’s worth of experiences, this is an attempt to describe to the layman those unforgettable personality types that make peer learning and living such a joy in B-Schools:

The Morpheus Bhakt makes his presence felt by his mental absence. It goes thus. A few classes into the week you see his head constantly nodding in the classroom. It takes hours of speculation to realise that this is an outcome of semi-consciousness and not higher consciousness of business concepts. During attendance though, the bhakt is wide awake and in his infinite wisdom, dons multiple avatars of Roll Number 17, 42 as well as 56. Two years of this guided meditation keeps the Morpheus bhakt insulated against all forms of B-School learning and preserves his common sense for the journey into the real world.

At the other extreme is the OmniMBA who is fully capable of forcing his presence even into the subconscious of the most dedicated of Morpheus Bhakts. Forces beyond our ken have endowed this miraculous creature with the management practice gyaan of every successful corporation that ever sold soap, steel or sports cars. No doubt due to extensive reading of those Bibles written by Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch or Prahlad Kakkar. So be it accounting, market planning or organizational design, the OmniMBA relentlessly embellishes ppts with pictures and ‘additional facts’ from the internet and insists on going on with slide number 43 although it is 1.35PM and 80% of the class has zoned out. Moreover, he/she makes a terrible fuss during case discussions under the pretext of CP. Another reason to ban the evil practice of CP. Don’t get the OmniMBA wrong, though. The enthusiasm is very genuine. What is merely forgotten is that it was not HBR that Moses brought down Mount Sinai.

Months later, this great divide too is submerged by the end of 1st year which results in unprecedented levels of sloth across the personality spectrum on campus.

Some remain unchanged though. HBR reports of a secret memo circulated among the Fortune 500 in which it was published that MBAs would be utterly unproductive without the magical tool called FAFF. So the world agrees that Faff is a necessary evil. But what about the congenital and compulsive Faffer? Indeed, the only stereotype that stays true throughout an MBA is the Faff Champion. John Galt’s 32 page speech pales in comparison to a Faff Champion’s monologue. A layman would hear random unrelated English phrases mixed with generous amounts of B-School jargon depending on the quality of the faff. But the experienced ear would detect an expert faffer at work and irrespective of the situation, feel a sudden urge to say “Faff! Faff! Faff!”

If you cannot identify yourself with any of the above, do not fret. My coming posts will be dedicated to volunteers who allow me to dissect their personalities for the merriment of others. Now we come to the reluctant end of quite a long monologue. I could go on and on. But then, I don’t have the 0830 class tomorrow. What about you?