Here’s something they don’t tell you in the b-school literature:
An MBA education warps your mind.
Six months ago I thought like a journalist. I thought in terms of ledes and sources and motivations and background. I thought about column inches and word counts, photos and multimedia elements. I thought about how to tell a story, how to stay one step ahead of my competition and how to convince my colleagues to embrace the Internet.
Here are some things I didn’t think about:
– Why that spaghetti sauce is sitting at the end of the grocery aisle.
– Why I can get that candy bar at Costco but not at Harris Teeter.
– Why I can’t buy a single person’s sized ketchup any more.
Well, I think about that stuff now – all the time. I can’t watch TV, walk through a drug store or stand in line at Chipotle without seeing the business decisions and strategy behind each of them. The world was exactly the same, I was just seeing more of it. Exactly how much Darden has warped my mind became evident on three occasions.
Brain Warp #1: Chipotle is a model of operational efficiency
I’ve eaten more Chipotle in my first months of b-school than ever before in my life. But I knew my brain had been warped when I noticed the line workers. Light bulb moment: Chipotle is a model of operational efficiency! Pay attention the next time you’re waiting in line. Chipotle always has a lot of workers behind the counter and they’re all cross-trained to handle any spot in the line. But when they’re in that spot in line, they only do that one job. All the food products move straight down the line without any deviations. As a result, no matter how long the line is you only wait about five minutes to get your food.
Brain Warp #2: The Halloween Store has excellent inventory management
Credit for this one goes to my boyfriend, who took a spin around the seasonal Halloween store looking for a last-minute costume right before Oct. 31. He was dismayed to find nothing but a scrawny French maid outfit, a few rubber masks and a pitchfork.
But his warped mind didn’t just see empty shelves. It also saw a store that knows exactly how much product to order so that almost nothing is wasted. After all, how much are those Spiderman leotards and Sponge Bob Squarepants masks going to be worth after Halloween? Not much. An excellent inventory manager accurately predicts how much product she’ll need and isn’t left holding anything extra.
Brain Warp #3: NPV of a washer/dryer
My roommate Janine and I don’t have a washer/dryer in our apartment. Most of the time this doesn’t bother us but once in awhile, almost always on wash day, we ponder buying a unit so we can stop schlepping our dirty delicates to the communal laundry room and fishing for quarters.
At the beginning of our MBA experience, we asked ourselves, “Can we afford a washer/dryer?” But now, one semester in, we ask ourselves, “What’s the net present value on a washer/dryer? Will we really save $600 or more over the next two years? Will our increased energy costs really be lower than our pay-by-the-load costs?”
My, my, my how things have changed.