Observations: MBAs & Government

Sometimes I am reminded that there are a lot of observations & stories that I tell in real life that I haven’t shared on this blog.  This is one that I’ve mentioned in conversation three times this week, so I’m making an effort to actually write it out.

When I attend business school at Harvard, I took a couple of elective classes that were roughly equally populated by both MBA students and Government students.  Harvard is fairly unique in that it has both a world-class business school (technically, the oldest) and a world-class government school (Kennedy School of Government).

What I learned in these classes had less to do with the material, and more to do with the fundamental difference in mindset between the two types of students.

In every class, for every business case, the argument almost always broke down as follows:

The MBA Students:

Tell us what the rules of the game are, and we’ll tell you how to win the game.

The Government Students:

Tell us who you want to win the game, and we’ll tell you how to make the rules.

Needless to say, the conversations typically went nowhere.  The business students always felt it was unethical to either change the rules mid-stream, or to create an unlevel playing field.  The government students always felt it was unethical to set up rules that weren’t destined to generate the ideal outcome.

Let me know how many times you see echoes of this disconnect in both business &  political discussions.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: MBA Version

I forgot to mention it here, but last night I began a multi-day tour of a few business school events out on the East Coast.

I began by flying out on JetBlue on the red eye to be on a panel on Social Networking at the HBS Cyberposium 2007 event in Cambridge, MA. Despite only one hour sleep on the plane, and a cat-nap this morning, the event went off without a hitch. Lots of great questions from the audience, and it’s always a pleasure to explain to people the focus & vision behind LinkedIn. I was a bit surprised at the turn out – the panel before ours on IPOs seemed to only fill about 1/4 of the seats in the large auditorium. Our panel, however, packed the room to the point of people standing in the back. Great showing.

Here is the detail on the panel (from the CyberPosium 13 website):

Want to join my “Friend-Spaced-In” network? What good is social networking?

Friendster has come, and for the most part, gone. MySpace has evolved from being the hottest site for teenagers to becoming part of Rupert Murdoch´s global empire. New social networking sites focused on specific verticals pop up by the minute. Why is social networking important? What are its benefits? Additionally, social networking is catching fire all over the world. Are there any transferable lessons for global social networking entrepreneurs that will help them avoid irrelevance?

This is a quick snapshot of Spangler, which has the auditorium where I spoke today. This was the new, fancy student building on the HBS campus in 2001 when it opened.

This really surprised me – I’m not sure if it was a Turkey or a Turkey Vulture, but it was just sitting outside Spangler on a bench. I thought it was fake at first until I saw it move around.

Tomorrow is a travel day – I hop a train to Philadelphia for events at Villanova & Wharton on Monday & Tuesday. I’m so glad I don’t have to fight through the airport for that leg of the trip.

So in case you are wondering where I am, now you know. 🙂