Being an MBA student is hard. There’s never enough time to read a quarter of the suggested materials; the accounting assignment is always last-minute and doesn’t balance; corporate finance is always confusing, and half your classmates appear to have interviews with management consulting firms.
On top of all that, at some point during your study, someone suggests it’s time to start planning your research project and linking up with a suitable company with which to consult. At which point, suddenly accounting and finance and all the other modules seem predictable, straightforward and, well, not quite so scary as the business research. With the project, you have to make choices; there are no past papers to practice on; and underneath it all lies the suspicion that there’s an entire new language to learn: philosophy, methodology, ontology, epistemology and so on.
From my MBA, I recall my second meeting with my project supervisor. I had found a book on research methods that explained all the different choices needed such as research project, philosophy and methodology through a massive onion-like diagram covered in words. I had written a short section explaining my approach, choosing one word from each layer of the onion diagram and feeling very proud of myself. Unfortunately, that second meeting served as an object lesson in confusion for me and frustration for my supervisor. I simply hadn’t understood that my choice of research philosophy did not have a ‘right’ answer, but should instead reflect my view of the world. And similarly, as the onion layers were peeled away, my first choice, in fact, should have dictated most of my subsequent choices, rather than my somewhat random approach.
Oh, and those classmates having management consulting interviews? They’re bluffing. Well, most of them anyway.