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Business School Deans Confess Their ‘Favorite’ Mistakes

For many people, a time comes in their lives to reconsider their career and re-analyze their plans for the future. Most often, the best way to do it is enrolling into a business school. It gives you a break from your job, new skills and knowledge and ample time to make a self-discovery journey.

Sally Blount and Her New Direction

However, it doesn’t always prove to be that easy. Sally Blount, Dean of Kellogg School (Northwestern University), considered entering a business school after two years in a consulting job. She viewed is as a logical follow-up to a budding career. Still, there was one problem – although it was conventional and ‘right’, Sally felt that it wasn’t her way. So she refused to enroll into an MBA program and found a management job at a small boutique. Her family was vocally against it, but Sally loved her job.

In her opinion, it gave her all the skills to run a business – from project management to HR. After three years, she found out that she was finally ready to pursue her education further. Sally obtained her Ph.D. at Kellogg, then became Dean of Stern School of Business (NYU). For her, the best launcher of her career was that three-year stint in a management job. Sometimes, even decisions that are perceived as bad by other people lead to great success.

Deans and Their Life-Changing Mistakes

When Jay Hartzell (McCombs School of Business) was in his first after-college job, he and his colleague spent time making jokes about their employer right in the office. Of course, their boss learned of it and gave them a talk. So Jay found out that views of people may differ.

Other deans shared similar mistakes that lead to great insights: Geoffrey Carrett (Wharton) stirred up a revolution in his company after a budget cut, Mark Taylor (Washington University) was unable to call it a day when trying to reanimate a failed project, Sri Zaheer (University of Minnesota) learned the hard way that speeches should be made with notes, as she fell into a stupor during her opening speech as a dean. Tiff Macklem (University of Toronto) spent a long time on research which proved to be pointless, and Johathan Levin (Stanford) messed up a billion-dollar investment.

In Poets and Quants research, these mistakes were referred to as ‘favorite’ – a funny word for a mistake, but knowing that they gave all the renowned deans valuable insights, it could be the most appropriate adjective.

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