How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Location: India

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On class (non-)participation

My "contribution" to the class, in terms of airing my views on the topic of the day, is negligible. In consultant-speak, my voiceshare (the amount of time I speak divided by the total time anybody has spoken in class) tends to zero. I am a struggling player in the voice market. Or at least, that is the impression.

So, why is this so? To some extent, it is lethargy or a lack of confidence that prevents me from speaking. It may seem strange that if this were so, how did I make it into an IIM? But I did. Maybe, what is known in statistics as a Type-II error has been committed.

But it is not weaknesses alone that have contributed to this attitude. In the end, it is a conscious decision not to speak much. It will take two things to make me speak something in class: one, the ongoing discussion is very relevant to the subject and is meaningful, and two, I have something meaningful and important to contribute. In the absence of one or both of these, I will not speak. It's a matter of principle.

Quite a lot of the discussions in class (especially, but not only, in subjects like marketing and strategy) are problematic because of being one or more of the following: irrelevant, naive, unrealistic, not concrete, argumentative, repetitive, motivated purely from a desire to get valuable CP marks. I don't contribute to these discussions, and neither do I listen to them all the time, except for amusement's sake. And I am not assertive enough to restore sense to the discussion (or perhaps I am just selfish).

But a lot of times, I really do not have anything substantial to contribute. People say, "As a manager, you must have a view". I care two hoots for this statement. It is naive and unrealistic, and also not idealistic as it might seem at first. Someone told me today, "How can you not have anything to contribute? You are one of the most knowledgeable guys in class". That's a joke. I know what I know, which is precious little.

This principle will hurt me this year, as many subjects have a substantial percentage of marks allotted to CP. But unless the quality of CP is kept in mind while awarding marks (as it is in the admired US B-schools), this becomes a totally inappropriate performance measure. It just encourages a student to gain voiceshare, even though garbage is being aired.


Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Let me add the third of your reasons for non-participation:

3. The prof should be worth it....

I shall never forget that moment in Bansal's lecture in FM-2.....

And yes, I completely agree with you overall. Specially when you speak of the sheer idiocy of forcing someone to have a view. I find it better and wiser to refrain from offering comment on topics where my knowledge is insufficient to form a view......which with me, of course, happens altogether too often ;-)

2:09 PM  

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