Someone recently told me that 20 years from now, it won’t be the lessons we’ve learned in classes like accounting and economics that we remember from our MBAs, but rather that the memories will come from the connections we make with our classmates and the moments of fun and excitement that we experience together. But that’s not really accurate. These aren’t two separate things. The knowledge we’re gaining in the classroom is constantly being reinforced and built upon and shaped by the people we’re gaining it with. Every single one of us brings a unique combination of experiences, talents, and skills that influence the group and allow us to see the world in new ways, or to discover an insight that would have remained hidden, or to accomplish a goal we couldn’t have reached on our own.
Never was this more clear than in Edmonton this weekend at the MBA Games. 35 of us traveled to Alberta to represent the Beedie School of Business in academic, athletic, and spirit competitions. We went up against the best and brightest of 18 other business schools in Canada, and not only did we hold our own, we learned some valuable lessons in the process.
Our academic teams did the school proud with excellent results. Our marketing team was able to combine their considerable skills and and backgrounds to build a presentation that carried them into the semi-finals. Our strategy team took the lessons of professors like Craig Emby, Mark Moore, and Leyland Pitt, as well as their own personal insights and skills, and channeled them all into a presentation that earned them fourth place. Finally, the strong finish of our operations simulation team demonstrated that how we use information is just as important as the information itself.
In ultimate frisbee we earned a hard-fought third place, despite facing teams with far more experience and training, and in the process learned important lessons about having trust in our teammates and the power of sheer determination. Likewise, we had strong showings in volleyball and dodgeball, proving that leadership and teamwork is every bit as important as finance and marketing. These might seem like small insights; they’re not. An MBA is more than a pile of formulas and concepts, and learning to work together to get a frisbee across a line while a determined group of people are doing their best to stop you is every bit as legitimate as learning to read a balance sheet, and it can’t be taught in a classroom.
In fact for me, the most impressive performance of the whole weekend was how well we acquitted ourselves in the spirit category. When you spend your days looking at numbers and case studies and formulas, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of how important people are to accomplishing anything. And we have the best people. We were always the loudest; we were always the biggest; and we were always the brightest. I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say how intimidating we were to compete against, because our cheering section was relentless.
And I can’t tell you how important it is to know your people are behind you when you’re trying to find the strength to jump just a little higher for the frisbee, or you’re trying to calm your nerves before presenting to a panel of judges. Anyone can make lip dub videos and learn dance moves and order some t-shirts, though we did all of those things better than anyone. The real test of a team is seeing who shows up to cheer their teammates on at the end of an exhausting day, when they could be napping or shopping. The real test of a team is whether we get angry when someone fumbles a ball or whether we cheer twice as hard. The real test of a team is whether pressure brings them together or drives them apart. I met a ton of people this weekend. They were all smart, welcoming, good people. But they weren’t my people. I know I’m not alone when I say that the biggest lesson of the weekend was confirming that I made the right choice when I chose SFU.