© 2010 Aaron Atkinson

Business 101

As you progress in your education or in your profession, your peers tend to get smarter and the competition for grades and accolades tends to get stiffer. Or at least this was the case with my MBA. In a class of 50, only 8 of us came directly from our undergraduate studies. Lucky for me, one of my closest friends from Graceland, Tim, was also one of those 8. Our classmates were PhDs, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Furthermore they were cultured having grown up in China, India, Korea, and in my case Canada. It was no secret that we were experientially outmatched.

It took me a challenging semester of the worst grades of my life to figure out that I needed to change my strategy. I wasn’t going to win on intelligence, experience or hard work – the things I’d relied upon to succeed at Graceland. My classmates were all bright, 40 year-olds who could survive on four hours sleep and a case of Red Bull. And since I don’t drink Red Bull, I was falling behind the eight ball.

It was at this point that we did a case study employing a SWOT Analysis to help analyze and solve a business problem. The light bulb went on when I realized that I was like the company we were studying, I had a business problem. That night I did a SWOT on myself. Aforementioned weaknesses noted, I thought about my strengths – creativity, communicative ability, leadership, humor, a comparatively high tolerance for risk. From that day forward I didn’t try to match my counterparts on their strengths, but instead I used my aptitudes to articulate, communicate and accelerate past the rest of the pack. It’s funny how an analogy comparing a business merger to reproductive conception can lighten a stodgy classroom.

This picture was taken the day we graduated. We’d successfully SWOTted the MBA fly.

One Comment

  1. Peter
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 2:30 am | #

    That “cultured” comment in the same sentence as “growing up in Canada” sentence is funny stuff. Keep it up!

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