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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lessons from the famed first year at IIMA

People say(only partly joking) that IIM-Ahmedabad  should be renamed IIM-Academics or IIM-Assignments. As the first year classes wind to a close tomorrow, I can attest to the accuracy of both these acronyms. Coming from the CA curriculum, I thought that there could be no tougher academic curriculum in India, but IIM-A does come close(still does not beat the CA course in toughness). In the flood of cases, quizzes, projects, placement preparation, contests and(of course) studies, the first year just passed by. It seems just yesterday that I entered those famed red arches for the first time Time has passed and how!. So other than a host of concepts, procedures and techniques, what else have I taken away from the first year? The main things would be
  1. Read cases from the reverse:- I did this even before joining IIM-A, but here I've learned to place a premium on this habit. Given the heavy back loading of case exhibits/case facts(towards the end), one does get a better investment on time if reading from the end is done. In fact, even for research reports/consulting reports, this habit helps because I've noticed that the fine print, methodology, caveats etc(basically the valuable stuff) is again biased towards the end
  2. Maintain a calm perspective:- With the pace of things here, not every day will be favourable to you. It is counterproductive and useful to get depressed/panicked over things over which you have no control. For our batch, common examples were the mess quality, exchange criteria etc. Do not waste valuable time under the stress, specially on which you cannot control
  3. Politics does exist deal with it:- Whether it be the elections for the Student Advisory Council(SAC), study group formation, club selections etc, there are politics involved in some way or the other, specially for 'high value' clubs/posts. So instead of turning a Nelson's eye, grin and bear it, and use it to your advantage when necesssary
  4. It is not what you know, it is whom/whose you know:- For some people out there(you know who you are), academic assignments are more about 'replicating best practices' from top scoring assignments from past years, using 'Blackbooks' indiscriminately, seeking tips from seniors even for group projects etc. This practice while not illegal, does bend the academic integrity norms a bit. Luckily, a minuscle percentage of the student body indulges in these practices, for which they reap rewards in terms of higher grades. At some slight personal cost, I did manage to stay away from that.
  5. Group dynamics do matter:-The study group process here works that you can decide maximum 2/3rd of your study group members-the others will be allotted randomly, and most(but not all) are those who were not accepted by other groups. The challenge for the voluntary study group members is, motivating the randomly allocated members to work hard. And trust me, doing that is easier said than studying OB/HR subjects. Even work exp guys face problems here because unlike in the work place where there are formal sanctions to punish those slackers over whom you have no authority, there are no formal mechanisms here to punish free loaders. That said, social sanctions do matter but the thick skinned even ignore those
  6. The abstaining/indifferent junta make up the majority:- During one of the under graduate polls for class representatives, one of the candidates got less than 50% vote by show of hands, and so the other candidate was declared elected. It occurred to me later that the other voters may have been abstaining/indifferent-in which case the successful candidate is the one who is polled second!! Even at IIM-A, the response on email threads/certain class discussions/case analyses makes me feel the same way.
There's lot more to add but this is what I can think for the time being. 

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