Friday, April 1, 2011

Both sides of the coin

Perhaps the corollary to taking a risk for the fun and/or the learning is that success is often met with anger and suspicion.  Human nature lives on both sides of the coin.

The team that took the big risk yesterday reaped a big win.  The first email from a student on another team arrived 30 minutes after the simulation results were posted; that email simply requested a meeting about "some simulation questions."  The next email arrived before noon and contained accusations of "unethical practices."  The correspondents are on the same team and they have concerns...about their grade, mostly, and any negative impact as a result of a competing team's success.

The phrase that concerns me the most is this one: "this jump in success is not realistic in a simulation (or the real business environment)."  Oh, but the success is realistic.  A team or a company can take an enormous risk, combining some hard-won knowledge, a bit of courage, and what can only be called luck.  There will be criticism from stockholders, customers, and employees when it goes badly.  There will be accusations from competitors when it goes well.

It will be interesting to see which students analyze this success in order to learn and emulate...and which respond with anger and suspicion.  Student frustration yields another teaching opportunity, just as soon as cooler heads prevail.


  1. Interesting isn't it how such a positive result with the potential to benefit a majority in part through the creativity which gave rise to it can breed such negative emotions in often a very vocal minority which usually provides no benefit to anyone? Though I guess it could be argued that negative emotions can be less destructive than constructive if they can at least be acknowledged and put into a step in a direction, any direction, instead of nurturing stagnation.

    We humans, especially in an academic setting whether it be grade school or graduate school, seem to be quite adept at comparing external results achieved by others to our own internal motivations and less than successes. Somehow we forget that it takes less energy to learn and to emulate, to be grateful for being shown an alternate way of reaching a result than it does to react from a place of fear and suspicion and question another's contributions to what is ultimately a process in which we all participate.

    What story will your students tell in a different place and time? How will they remember their classmates successes and less than successes? As importantly how will they choose to build upon their own perception of what is realistic and unrealistic? How will this generation of business folk nurture improbabilities into possibilities and possibilities into probabilities without being willing to take risks creatively, without the ability to look beyond the black and white of the tried and true into the increasingly dynamic realm of gray?

    Human nature may indeed live on both sides of the coin. Human nature also seems to live more comfortably in the realm of improbabilities and probabilities; human spirit however seems to strive and I would suggest even thrive in making impossibilities possible.

  2. One of my frequent observations is that we judge others on behavior and self on intention, which you captured nicely in the reminder that we 'seem to be quite adept at comparing external results achieved by others to our own internal motivations.'

    Making possibilities possible is what keeps teachers teaching, I think.


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