Darden Diaries 6: Class contribution – the ultimate potluck!

All our words are but the crumbs that fall from the feast of the mind. – Khalil Gibran

I am not sure Khalid would still say this after sitting in on a case study class at Darden. More often than not, students seem to be presenting the sumptuous feast of recommendations, analysis, data and the structured next steps for the protagonist of the case. Which brings me to those who often feel like they are not providing enough for the most part, except for maybe only a chip, an appetizer or a salad at the most. There will always be those who present the turkey in all its stuffed glory, and those who provide the corn on the cob with melting butter on top. There will be those who will never disappoint out you with their creamy quiche and layered lasagna. Then there will be those with unknown exotic world cuisines. The ones who bring the drinks are the ones who never seem to bother about eating in the first place. There will also be those who choke on their mashed potatoes and sauce. But my favorite are the ones who give away the dessert in the end with the cherry on top!

If you haven’t yet figured out what I am talking about, fear not. It’s not the thanksgiving dinner. I am talking about class participation and the variety of ways that constitute it. When you first hear that you need to be an active participant in the case study classroom, you think to yourself, “How difficult can it be? All one needs to do is talk in class.” But soon enough you realize that no one really cares for chips at a meal. People want the meat and tasty juices that come with it. No wonder all professors put a disclaimer out there. We don’t care for participation, its “contribution” that we are after.

Once you know that it is class “contribution” and “not mere participation”, you ought to be more cautious. People are hungry, famished and are expecting a feast aka stimulating debate/discussion, and you need to be careful as to what you bring to the table. Unless you have something substantial to contribute to the discussion or debate, you are better off self-selecting the words you say in class. Each word can cost you a fortune. What you say in class is who you are in a real business situation. The classroom is as they say a simulated environment for you to practice your verbal convincing skills for the big bad world out there.

Which brings me to the million dollar question. Do you need to bring food every day? Not really, but ensure that when you do bring a dish, it’s truly food for thought. You need not always be the one with the best dish. You definitely can’t always be the one with the tastiest dish either. But you definitely don’t want to be the one who only brings chips to every party and event! The next time you think about raising your hand for seconds, think twice. All you might get to eat, are your words. Bon appetite! 

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