In the informal poll we did about a month ago on which school has the best MBA essay questions, we got this comment:
Haas just goes on and on about their culture. I mean its [sic] great that you have a good culture; but don’t make it your selling point. It gets irritating after a point.
In response, we offer this from an interview from the HBS Working Knowledge site. It’s with Anne Morriss, an HBS grad and entrepreneur who wrote a book with HBS prof Frances Frei about service organizations. Here’s the quote:
A culture exists to influence how people think, so their discretionary behavior will be consistent with the values of the organization. In services, almost all behavior is discretionary. You have the moving parts of human beings delivering services interacting with human beings as customers. Culture is the guiding force; it’s the difference between the positive experience you have when you interact with someone at Zappos’s call center and the experience you have at XYZ call center that makes you decide to take your business elsewhere. [emphasis added]
We would posit that you can apply that paragraph to the university environment as well – particularly the fast-paced, sometimes pressure-cooker setting of a top bschool program. Without naming it as such, the military guy touched on culture in his success story talking about school visits a couple months back. The military knows about culture, too, so we are inclined to take his word about how important it can be to success.
When you’re looking at the top bschools in the world, you gotta assume that they have the basics down – the right curriculum, leading-edge electives, top-notch professors, a proactive career services team. Beyond that, what else is there to compete on? It’s culture.
We sorta wonder if the BSer who wrote that comment had actually visited Haas and experienced what this “culture” thingamajig is all about… . Even more, we wonder why they bothered to apply if they don’t value what the school values. It’s sorta missing the point, isn’t it? Given how selective Haas is, and how much they emphasize this culture stuff, we’re going to go out on a limb and make a guess that they’re pretty good at weeding out the ones who don’t actually care about such things. It can be hard to fake it all the way through an application process.