I was doing some reading for my operations management and innovation course. It was the basic stuff; creation of value, future of change and innovation- all very interesting and then I came upon something that hit home- as usual, I totally lost my train of thought- went on a mentally masturbative tangent with myself- and here I am writing about it.
Basically, the text explained that within organizations, survival implies knowing how to balance exploration and exploitation efforts. Either way, there are periods where organizations focus on either one or the other. The Greeks introduced the concept of “Enantiodromia,” also referred to as the Pendulum effect- indicating that systems often react disproportionately in search for different equilibriums. The key, as far as I can tell from what I read before I totally drifted, is finding a balance. Now, there’s a new concept.
Balance: Something I have struggled with my entire life.
I’ve always found that I have a problem with equilibrium. Not in my ears- but in my life. For me, there is very little grey- a lot of black, a lot of whites, but no gray. A lot of dark accompanied by a lot of light- very low lows and excessive highs. In some masochistic way, I kind of like it that way.
The way my daily life is structured is indicative of this masochistic behavior.
During the weeks, I sit in class struggling with alien concepts and I sit awake at night reading supporting material over and over until theories and models and engrained in my psyche.
I wake up at ungodly hours and trudge to classes, back aching from being weighed down by books and a computer with a hard drive filled with presentations, papers and excel spreadsheets. I go to the gym and spend hours sweating and suffering with highlighters in hand reading the cases that I will most definitely have to have down by the following morning. I eat like a freaking rabbit- no sugar, no carbs- only vegetables, fat free yogurt, fruit, nuts and all that other stuff I used to turn my nose up at until I realized that I am no longer a teenager with a metabolism working at the speed of light.
I work, I sweat, I suffer. But don't pity myself- because here comes the good part;
On the weekends, in my typical fashion- I close the books, I hide away the computer- I drop my oversized school bag at the door and thrust my oversized sunglasses onto my face. I do whatever the hell I want to do.
I travel. I spend my time in Italy strolling the piazzas amongst some of my favorite people in the world, I go to long dinners where all I hear is the clanking of wine glasses and Italian words and phrases dancing in my head like music. I celebrate life the best way I know how- spoiling myself with the indulgences- tangible, intangible- that I have become apt at seeking out. When I return to school on Mondays- after the Sunday evening “fear” has passed, I’m never fully satiated, but I never have any regrets- and that's the most important part.
With these dualities- seeing the light and feeling the dark- I’d like to believe that I have the ability to identify the two sides and pit them against one another- finding my own brand of “gray”- my own variety of “middle ground”- the only sort of equilibrium my mind is capable of accepting.
Therefore, as my thoughts floated away from innovation management strategic frameworks and the like, I had a few ideas about the exploration and exploitation efforts in my own life.
Of course, understanding the “international” aspects of an International MBA is a continual process. I am a strong advocate of the fact that the goods far outweigh the bads in this experience- but I’d be lying if I were to claim that it is all rainbows and butterflies. The “exploration” part that I love the most is exactly what I came here for- the opportunity to delve into diversity; understanding and learning from the differences in cultures, languages and experiences of a multinational student body and faculty. As my roommate once mentioned, “Doing an international MBA has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life regardless of whether my strategy implementation professor has an accent or not. At a top international business school, you have the privilege of learning from the best talent from around the world.” What tops that, right?
But then- as I mentioned- there are the pitfalls as well. There is no better way to say this than to quote my friend as she turned to me during one of our classes where our professor was explaining something I had a hard time following, and with raised eyebrows and a half-smirk ironically asked, “is he practicing his English on us?”
I had to laugh. But for 60,000 Euros- maybe I should cry. I mean, come on.
Then, my thoughts moved out of the exploration/exploitation argument- and I found myself focusing solely on one of the themes that underlies my existence- the good and the bad- and searching for the good within the bad- after all, as humans, sometimes that's what we have to do to pull ourselves through the calamities that underline our lives.
So on a lighter note- but not forgetting the biggest calamity that has touched everyone on this earth- the economic crisis, I don't think its necessary to highlight the “bad”:
It’s right in front of all of us. And for MBA students, the “bad” may even be a bit more saturated with questions with no concrete answers. Every single day someone wonders out loud a myriad of unknowns, such as; how will I pay off my loans? What will the job market look like when we graduate? Will my current skills be applicable? Will I ever find an internship? Will this investment really be worth it? And so on and so forth…
But then again, the crisis has presented at least one advantage:
Window shopping (the only shopping I’m doing lately) today clearly indicated that I cant afford to buy the new Gucci shoes that came out this season, regardless of how obsessed I am with them. However, this sad fact provides less of an opportunity to fall from 5 inches above ground and break an ankle. (Avoiding a fair amount of embarrassment as well). Speaking of, I think Jimmy, Muccia, Tom, all the Christian's, Giorgio, and gang forgot to read the FT this year- maybe someone should send the entire fashion industry a memo.
That's pretty much it for the day- back to operations reading…after all, I am at least attempting to do the balancing “thing” here.