Halfway There – And A Bunch Of Random Things I Learned in School

Untitled14 months ago, I started my MBA. Given that my program is 28 months long, that means I’ve reached the half-way point! *happy dance*

These past 14 months have really flown by – it seems like only yesterday we were starting this program! But at the same time, when I think about all the things I’ve done in these 14 months, it seems an eternity! In that time, we’ve finished the extremely intense core part of our program – including running a simulated business, creating a full-fledged business plan, covering dozens of subject areas – and started off on our post-core modules1. Of the 51 people in my class, we’ve had, by my count2, 4 babies (with one more on the way), and 6 engagements (and 2 weddings).

I’ve had this idea in my head that I should be blogging about all the many interesting things I’ve been learning in school – and sometimes I even jot ideas down in a draft blog posting. But I haven’t been doing it consistently and then I get this feeling like I can’t post the list because it will be incomplete! However, I’m coming to grips with the fact that this needn’t be a complete list in one blog posting and am considering it instead the first in many incomplete lists of random interesting things I’ve learned in school:

  • The importance of constructive conflict. I remember many moons ago when I took a course at McMaster in “Nursing and Healthcare Leadership & Management3, I read an article from Harvard Business Review about the importance of conflict. That article really stuck with me, as it changed the way I think about conflict, which I’d previously viewed as A Very Bad Thing. Without conflict, we get mediocrity. We get Groupthink and Yes Men and we don’t get the best of what the group can do. We’ve learned about this in our Organizational Behaviour course and I’ve seen it in my group work as well. Of course, too much conflict can be bad – as can conflict that isn’t about the work itself. But conflict allows us the opportunity to explore if decisions being made are the right ones, as opposed to just the first ones that are voiced (or the loudest).
  • Cash flow statements are really important when looking at a company’s financials. Before I started my MBA, I couldn’t tell a balance sheet from a income statement from a hole in the ground4. Now I can pick up a set of financial statements and have a reasonable idea what’s going on in that company. And the cash flow statement is one of the things that I’m sure to look at!
  • Fail early to succeed sooner. This was a saying I picked up from one of our profs about the importance of trying things out. Experimenting… and learning from those experiments… and applying the lessons you learned – that’s where you’ll get somewhere. Don’t be afraid to fail – be afraid of not learning.
  • People don’t buy a 1/4″ drill. They buy a 1/4″ hole. This was from our marketing class and it’s about knowing your audience. People generally don’t care about the features of a product (the 1/4″ drill bit), they care about the benefits that product will give them (the 1/4″ hole in the wall that they need to hang their picture). Think about what’s in it for them!
  • Everything is connected. This was a strong message that came across in the core part of our program. Every part of an organization affects every other part. Things that marketing does affects sales and operations and accounting and HR and all those things affect all the other things. You can’t make a change in one without considering what happens with the others.
  • Point of diminishing marginal returns. This is a phrase you’ll hear even in every day settings5. It’s basically about the fact that what you put in does not have usually continue to result in an equal amount of output over time – and you really should ask yourself if continuing the input is worth it. Studying is a perfect example. Perhaps your first few hours of studying will get you from scoring 0% on the exam up to 75% and then the next hour of studying will get you to an 80% and the hour after that to an 82% and the hour after that to an 83%. Is that last hour worth investing to get one extra %?

As I mentioned, I’ve learned tonnes more stuff than just the above – these are just things that I happened to jot down6. I’ll try to be more diligent about capturing my learnings over the next 14 months!

Speaking of which, while I’m very happy that my program is halfway done, I’m also thinking, “omg, I have to do the same amount of time that I’ve already put in all over again? That’s forever!!” So I think it’s time to pull up my inspirational photos of the signs that some lovely volunteers made and put up at the rink to help me and my teammates get through our 10-day long hockey game:

We are closer today

than we were yesterday


  1. So far I’ve done 3 and am partway through 3 more []
  2. I feel like maybe I’m forgetting some here []
  3. I had a work-study job in the School of Nursing and part of my work was doing admin stuff for the distance ed version of the course. The material looked so compelling that I enrolled in the course one summer out of sheer interest – I got university credits for them, but they didn’t apply towards my degree. Foreshadowing that I’d one day do an MBA, perhaps? []
  4. I also didn’t know a stock from a bond! []
  5. But usually misquoted as “point of diminishing returns.” []
  6. And I’m too tired at the moment to thing about more! []

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