What Happened to My Education?
A Graduating Student’s Final Request
My inspiration for this entry arose out of some personal disappointment and frustration during my Strategic Management class at the University this afternoon. The disappointment I am feeling is due to succumbing to fear and my resulting inability to speak what I was really thinking about in my class. Instead of going deeper with what I was really asking I backed off and I’m sure left the class with the impression that I had no idea what I was talking about; one of my fellow students finished me off by referring me to the textbook, saying “If you read chapter 3 you will be able to catch up to the class and it will fill you in on what you are asking about”. Kind of funny really – that was the exact opposite of my intentions.
My frustration stems from the feeling that I can’t seem to ignore any more. It is the feeling that my so called post secondary education has failed to deliver that which I thought it would. I had thought that by the time I had taken 55 courses, I would have at some point been involved in a few engaging, deep discussions that push us beyond what we are being taught; getting us to think critically and question the models we are being told are the “best” or “only way”. Now I am not placing all of the blame on the institution – it is equally the students’ fault in this regard, for in order to have such discussions, one would need participants. Instead, we have been trained to go to class, attempt to absorb ideas and facts presented to us, ultimately to regurgitate it into a report or on an exam. Don’t go outside the curriculum; we only have time to learn exactly what we will be tested on, nothing else. I could go on more with this topic and I realize there are always exceptions, not all courses are like this – I just find it unfortunate that I would like to think that I am in an environment that promotes and encourages questioning – and yet have it feel like the exact opposite.
Let me elaborate on what happened to me in class. My professor was covering the 5 external forces that influence a company’s strategy. They were listed as: competition, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of suppliers, threat of new entrants, and threat of substitutes. Now when I looked at these, a few words stuck out to me – competition, power, and threat (reflected in all 5). Something else that my professor mentioned was that when all or any of these are high, you are not in a secure, comfortable position – ultimately it is stressful if, for instance, threat of substitutes is high. My question was perceived as me needing clarification on what exactly they mean by these and how they work, however it was much broader than that. Here is what I really meant to direct a discussion toward.
The ultimate purpose of external forces (and the idea that competition is based off of) is that these various forms of competition lead toward higher quality products, lower prices, happier customers, better services, etc. Forces move something in a particular direction – I assume that the ideal direction is toward a “better” company/product/service (whatever better means to each person). Getting better is the direction we want to go, right? Well if these forces are directing companies to be better or more efficient, then wouldn’t we want such forces to be strong, resulting in maximum improvements and evolution? Does it make sense to have a vision for a positive direction we want to have a company go, and yet operate under a model that if such forces are acting upon said company, it results in a highly stressful environment? Can we not have the two ideas aligned?
I see this model for five external forces directing strategy to be making some broad assumptions and to be filtered through a very narrow lens of the world. What about cooperation, collaboration, and inspiration? Those can be external forces that promote positive change in a positive way that make people feel GOOD – where are they in any model?
I could go into this idea further through a multitude of different levels and plan on it in a proposed report that I want to talk to my professor about doing. For now, I just wanted to put into writing my frustration and make a commitment to myself to make the most out of my final university course. I can’t let this last class go by in the same “cram, spill, and forget” model that I have done in all of my other classes thus far. I need to make some sort of a statement and plan on proposing to my professor an individual project that I would be passionate about as an alternative to a group project that I slack off and don’t care about.