When the class dynamic works

In mid-July I ended by classes on Innovation within the International MBA at IE Business School. One of my groups very kindly presented me with an A4 size card with the two photographs you can see here, individually signed by the whole class, and accompanied by a bottle of a very nice Rioja Reserva.

I’ve been doing this for 25 years now. I work hard on my content, constantly renewing material, I try to keep up with what’s going on in the world, suggesting relevant discussion… content is extremely important, and even more so when it comes to teaching innovation: I have to apply it to what I do, and to constantly, well, innovate.

But from the moment my methodology becomes the foundations upon which my students build something, there is a key factor to success, a series of circumstances that, however you look at them, cannot be prepared.

When you have a group of people sitting in front of you aged between 26 and 34, most of them almost 30, all the result of a very careful selection process, with some five years work experience, and from 43 different countries around the world, there is nothing you can do to control the class dynamic. If you think you’re going to be some kind of magician who can wave a magic wand and make it all happen, you’re wrong. You’re just another ingredient in the mix.

Using your sensitivity and experience, you can learn to deal with the complexities of political correctness, avoid offending or bothering anybody, or at least if you do, and you will, at least make it clear it wasn’t your intention. You can even understand why some people from certain cultures tend to intervene less, largely as a result of the education system they have been through. But the chemistry of each group is unique and very special.

It depends on how your day is going, how they respond, how the first session goes and how you respond in the first sessions… the only thing you can do is the best you can do, and to start the ball rolling. Whether it actually rolls, gets bigger, or just grinds to a halt… no longer depends on you, or them, I would say. It depends on other factors that are impossible to anticipate or manage. That’s why, when a course goes really well, when you leave each session pleased with the ideas that have come up, when you learn and you see that your students understand that they have as much at stake — if not more — as you in the session going well, that you feel very pleased and think that you made the right choice in doing this.

Bayo Adesina, an incredibly creative US-Nigerian student, and one of those people that it is always a pleasure to meet, made this video:

So now you know why I have spent the last quarter of a century doing what I do…

(En español, aquí)