Harvard Business School and Olin College couldn’t be more different, yet they complement each other extremely well. While choosing to attend Olin will always be the best decision I ever made, after spending a year at business school, HBS is a close second.
Olin taught me to build great products and solutions through its emphasis on design thinking. I learned to focus on the user, identify latent needs, and accordingly design unique value propositions. HBS focuses on taking products to market and scaling enterprises to manage the growth. After studying hundreds of cases – on both failure and success – I have built some intuition around critical factors to consider at various stages of a company’s growth based on the market conditions.
At Olin, I discovered the value of zooming out, and designing a complex solution for multiple stakeholders simultaneously to increase the chance of buy-in and success by adding value for everyone. HBS makes me zoom out 100x further and consider the macroeconomics of all situations – including analyzing country level budgets and strategies to understand the risks of investing in certain economies. I think much more holistically now, and along paradigms that I never knew even existed, let alone considered.
At Olin, we openly disagree and debate various issues in the dining hall. We learn to consider multiple perspectives, but are rarely exposed enough to different ideologies. Compared to the rest of the world, we are fairly homogenous in our thinking and share similar values. At HBS, I not only experienced true diversity but learned to genuinely value these different perspectives. My first year, I had all my classes with Section H: a randomly assigned group of 90 students from over 30 countries, spanning multiple industries. Over the year, I grew to respect each and every one of my section mates, and as they repeatedly shared their opinions, I learned to actually listen to them instead of only hearing them.
On the surface, HBS seems like a direct conflict of the Olin pedagogies. Olin focuses entirely on doing and learning, and there is very little active reflection or analysis that isn’t rooted in projects or direct learnings. HBS is strongly case-method based, where we talk about hypothetical actions we would take, with no real repercussion of taking a difficult stance. However, it is important to realize that similarly to Olin, the majority of the discussion is rooted in real-world experiences – as you listen to section mates, you realize that people’s perspectives are very strongly influenced by their own experiences, and this brings a compelling first-hand narrative to the cases.
And of course, there is always spiral learning!