One of my favorite classes this semester is Media Management, taught by AJ Miceli, director of the School of Communication and the Arts. Often seen as one of the most difficult classes in the communications department, it takes a look at the strategic and analytical nature of managers in an ever-changing field.
Naturally, as a student manager, I do my best to soak up every single nugget of wisdom that Miceli imparts. The class is broken up into groups, each of which attempts to find a solution for a case study that Miceli has developed. The group with the best solution gets the “A,” the second best gets the “B,” and so on. The rationale behind this is that the real world works the same way. If you’re a consulting firm and four others are vying for the same contract, it doesn’t just matter how well you do; it’s based on how the others do as well.
Naturally, as a competitor, I was intent on “winning” the first case study. I saw it as a competition, a way for my team to prove our superiority against the other groups. I honed in on the statistics, I developed a plan, I looked for other alternatives and proved them wrong. I knew that our group had this in the bag.
Our group went last, and as the presenter for the group I used what I thought were my strengths to hit the ball out of the park. I showed the brilliance of our analysis, the elegance of our design and the foolishness of the other groups for picking a different solution.
Miceli, at the end of each presentation, asked each group a series of questions about either their projections or how they would implement their solution. He did not ask me any questions at the end of the presentation. I took this to be good news! I had won! We had won!
I was so wrong.
Sure, the project was a competition. Yet, I had ignored the basic premises on which the case study were based. This was a business presentation, and Miceli treated it as such. When it came down to it, our statistics were good, but not great; my presentation was overly confident and a tad smug. I didn’t consider the audience when delivering the information of which I was so sure, and that was my downfall.
I really wanted that “A.” I don’t often really want good grades, but I really wanted that “A.” It’s hard to put that to writing, because it seems like an acceptance of failure, which is incorrect. I didn’t even fail, I just got a “B.” But I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “B” on an assignment that stung more than this.
Ultimately I’m upset with getting a “B.” But, I’m not even a little bit justified in anger. If anything, this only spurs me to want more, to achieve more and to prove that I can do better. Sure, our group put hours into that presentation, pouring over numbers and debating the finer points of our plan. But when it comes down to it, business is subjective and Miceli, with decades of experience, knew that more than anyone in the room.
It’s easy to get mad at professors for how they grade students, but we often forget about the lessons they teach us when we don’t get the grade we expect. I still remember that in sixth grade, I missed a question about the island of Sardinia and I can still tell you where it is on a map. Yet, I have no idea what other questions were asked.
Doing as you expected is easy. Too often, our culture succumbs to mediocrity and is okay with just “being alright.” “I can phone this in,” you may think.
Professors like Miceli give us something more than tidbits of information and anecdotes from their history: they impart life lessons that will be remembered the most when our fundamental beliefs are shaken.
The second case study of the semester has just been assigned, and I’m not giving up; I’m not going to forget the lesson that impacted me more than many final exams.