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Fishy Sushi

I attended the Open Day (Admits Weekend) for INSEAD a week ago. I’m not going to go into a breakdown of the day’s events and how it panned out; I’ll let the INSEAD marketing team do that. I will however share a story that one of the profs. shared with us during a session. This to me was probably the most important takeaway from the entire day. This story was related by the UDJ prof., Neil Bearden.

Neil was telling us how the previous night he had taken his gf out for a sushi dinner. It was her birthday and though he doesn’t like sushi, the gf was a big fan of it, and so like all good bfs before him, he sucked his stomach in and went for the dinner. He asked his gf to taste each sushi and let him know it’s “fishiness”-quotient before he sampled it. What he realized after a while is that the “fishiness”-quotient was getting exaggerated in his mind everytime the gf gave her honest opinion. Very soon he asked her to stop giving her opinions (which the gf took in a good manner) and decided to trial for himself the tribulations of the Land of the Rising Sun. He started enjoying his dinner more, and actually downed more sushis than he cares to admit now (the latest news is he’s now training to be a sushi chef in his spare-time)

The point about the story was herd-mentality (in case you missed it) and the power of suggestions. It must be a great social experiment to put highly accomplished individuals together, for a year or two, and see the dynamics. Since, each individual is as bright as the other, a form of herding happens, and the motivations of an individual get molded by the collective ideas of the group. There is safety in numbers. Have you ever seen a flock of seagulls fly-by? How come they are so coordinated? Besides the assumption that bird-brains are actually smarter than we think they are, the answer is very simple. The birds follow a simple evolutionary algorithm. The rule is to not touch each other while flying and let instinct guide the direction of flying.

B-school can become like that if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get into a herd and squawk like everyone else. Depending on the flavor of the month, consulting/ IB/ PE/ VC can rule the roost. It’s important to keep track of these herds and stay true to yourself. Easier said than done, but not impossible. I don’t know what the golden answer is,  but I suspect it involves praying a lot to Oprah (made harder by the fact that I’m not the greatest fan of Oprah and am actually looking forward to 2011 when she winds up that show).


6 Responses

  1. Hi Anju,

    I had sent emails to couple of current Insead students and no one has replied me as yet.
    I guess – the rigorous coursework at Insead takes a Toll. :)

    I had few questions and was wondering if you answer the same.

    This would really help :)

    • Assuming this comment is directed towards me, it would help if you refer to ME and not someone else. It’s a bit putting off and rude. Secondly, most students usually reply unless the answers are already easily available on the INSEAD website, etc. So, if you’ve done enough investigations and still have questions, I’ll be happy to take them, but not on the blog. Please mail me instead.


  2. Those pre-reading books are staring at me in a very threatening manner from my book shelf.
    Please tell me I am not the only one who has not read them yet?

  3. herd mentality. you have no idea…

    there’s an expression in my mother tongue that roughly translates, ‘for good company, you’d hang yourself’ – i guess the English equivalent is the jumping off the bridge aphorism.

    i keep thinking of that expression quite a bit here. and unlike seagulls, there’s also quite a bit of touching.

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