Wow, what an incredible two weeks ...I can already get a taste for what an amazing two years I’m in for. Coming in, I admittedly expected Orientation to be along the lines of the “mindless but fun” orientations I’ve encountered in the past, but MIT did a spectacular job of making sure whatever activities we were engaged in were purposeful, thought-provoking, and innovative …very much in line with the culture here.
The highlights of the past week for me were the team-building at Warren Center, the Beer Game (which, alas no, does not involve drinking beer), and Saturday’s Energy Sailing Regatta. Without boring everyone or revealing too much to future students, the Warren Center is an outdoor facility where we faced a number of challenging activities (such as building a raft out of minimal material, climbing a giant ladder-type structure, etc) in our core teams. A Core team is basically a team of 6-7 people which you work closely with during core classes on all your work – they usually try to make it as diverse as possible (in our team we have 7 countries and 7 industries represented!). The activities were challenging and really pushed us to consider how we could best operate as a team. My favorite activity was the giant ladder, since it not only pushed us to work effectively as a team, but also work with other teams in our section. I was proud that instead of focusing on maximizing points by always sending up the strongest guys, we early on made a group decision that ‘points were pointless’ and that we wanted to maximize fun and make sure every single person went up. We succeeded, and it was so exhilarating being part of a team where despite hardly knowing each other, everyone was so eager to help and make sure everyone succeeded.
The beer game which concluded the week was equally thought-provoking, but in a different way. It is basically a social experiment in the guise of a game, where in teams of 8 you act out the supply chain of a beer factory. The game was invented at MIT and has been played thousands of times around the world – and the results for every single team is always the same. In case you are curious you can google “MIT beer game Sterman” to read up on it, but one of the more disturbing aspects of the game is that by the end of the game team members are usually skeptical and distrusting of one another. It was definitely in stark contrast to the warm fuzzy feelings we felt at the Warren Center, and made us consider how certain ‘systems’ can lead to specific behaviors. Professor Sterman ended the session with photos from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and the Stanford Prison Experiment, and without having to say it we were all reminded of Nazi concentration camps – all situations in which regular people like you and me in a particular environment were capable of abominable actions. It is scary thinking how various environments everyday bring out behaviors in us over which we have little control, and an important lesson to us as future managers on how to go about creating environments which bring the best out of participants.
On a lighter note, yesterday was MIT’s annual Energy Sailing Regatta, co-hosted by Total and the MIT Energy Club. MIT has a great sailing culture, and our boat house offers free classes and free use of equipment to all students, so definitely something to make the most of! The day was a great way to meet people across MIT and Harvard interested in energy, discuss trends, and enjoy the beautiful Boston weather out on the waters. We also had a good Sloan turnout, and fellow Sloanies Jeff Feng, Dean Berlin, Tom Rose, Steve Yoshida and Anton Safronov all made it out. Total flew in from France and paid for everything including breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even gave us free polo shirts... I am slowly getting used to all the perks of being a student again J While I was too busy competing in the regatta to take photos, I “borrowed” these from the total-sailing website to give you a visual of what it’s like out on the water: