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Archive for February, 2013

Now that there is nothing material that I can do to the thesis – it just has to do its own work for a bit – I have been noticing how my thoughts explore areas of more practical application of some of the concepts, ideas and conclusions it contains.

One of these is the question as to why reflection in Personal Development should be more, not less, important as we get older.

If it is true, as Jung believed, that the purpose of the second half of life is to make sense of the first, well then that could be one explanation. And then it occurred to me that a function of the difference between decisions made lower in an organisation (typically) and those made much higher up is connected to reversibility. If organisations follow the same organismic logic of complex living systems, biologies, ecologies and so forth (that is, systems where there are complex circuits of flows of information), then this would make sense. At the bottom, it may be more than inadvisable to make decisions that result in irreversible changes, it may be impossible (i.e. the structure of the organisation will forbid it). At the top, reversible changes may be possible, but would be redundant and energy inefficient (or would be indistinguishable to lower level, adaptive changes).

In Batesonian terms this lower level decision-making is analogous to somatic change, which is like, for example, the body’s ability to regulate and adapt skin tone in reaction to sunlight, or its breathing in acclimatisation to altitude. These are changes, but the not of a parameter at a higher level. At higher, or senior levels, permanent change is much more difficult and much riskier because it could represent a loss of flexibility at a lower level. Like a lot of these meandering thoughts, I am sure it needs development, but it does feel like a significant idea.

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Handing the PhD in

 

That’s the instruction I usually have to give to others at the end of their Henley MBA exam, but today it’s something I have to tell myself (at least for a while) as I have just handed in my PhD Thesis to the Registrar at the University of Lancaster. Done. Dusted.

And what an odd feeling it is.

I am proud of the achievement, and thankful that I had time to make the thousands of small edits and still meet my own personal deadline of the end of February. Now I have to focus on being ready to defend my thesis to a panel of examiners in a viva examination in a few months The fact of the viva is both petrifying and  galvanising – something to occupy the mind, certainly. However, not feeling the need to sit in front of a screen for hours and hours a day with notes, papers and books trying to draft and craft a text is, well, weird.

I might even read a book for the fun of it (I brought two with me up to Lancaster – a Penguin paperback of science fiction short stories, and R G Collingwood’s autobiography. The latter title is cheating a bit, of course.)

Oh, but, you know, this feels good!!!

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I did not think there would be a part three to this series of postings. I thought the strange case of the “MBA Winner” web site was more or less closed last year with the second instalment. And yet…. it lives on with the posting yesterday of a rather intriguing comment from someone called “Matt”, which I reproduce below (first verbatim, then with some notes and responses).

***Note: Since first posting this Part Three, I have heard from Matt, and he makes the fair point that I replied online here before he had replied to me. In his message Matt confirms that he was a student at Henley, and that he experienced poor tutor support, poor enough for him to seek additional support with MBA Winner. Matt says, however, that he received tutoring only and his work was his own. Matt goes on politely to take me to task with my comments on his comment, so to speak, which I have to take on the chin. I think it fair, therefore, to amend them below in line with what I know. I have asked Matt if he will share more of what happened, and what he believes went wrong, as I genuinely believe that the Business School should (where appropriate and within reasonable limits) make help available on the MBA.

But first, a recap.

A year ago I received an unsolicited email from a company selling “advice” to MBA students. Most of what they were selling was getting someone to write assignments on your behalf. I responded and entered into a short and not altogether un-bizarre correspondence with the company concerned. The exchange fuelled two blog posts, which you can see by clicking:

here (for part 1)

and

here (for part 2)

And I figured that was that. Now the Part 2 posting has attracted the comment below:

    “I have used MBA Winner myself as an MBA Student and I can tell you that I really got great help when I needed them.

     Chris Dalton does not like the idea of students experiencing frustration and having to meet tutors who are not really bothered to help. Business Schools like Henley charge an awful lot of money for the services they provide. Is the cost representative of the service that you offer Mr Dalton? From my experience with Henley Business School this is so far from the truth! The institution is the big cheater and you try to protect it. Who is cheating whom?

     I was going through severe illness and I was not getting any understanding from my institution. The tutors from MBA Winner really assisted me and helped me and I am grateful for this. I would advice that you consider the unethical side of your own educational business practices where money means more than the student. You are ready to point out how plagiarism is when someone writes someone else’s assignment. However when it comes to your failure to provide a good service as a business school your argument shifts to how there is staff that could help….. !! Yeah…. OK.

   Matt”

(This was what I wrote first:) Naturally, I was a bit concerned at first. Was Matt a Henley MBA student? Had we treated him poorly? Had his assignments been written for him?!?!  I wrote to Matt via the email address that comes attached when someone comments on the blog.  No reply, yet. (Reply now received, hence these parenthetical amendments)

And then I looked more closely at the comment. Here’s my annotated version:

 “I have used MBA Winner myself as an MBA Student and I can tell you that I really got great help when I needed them.

(OK, what could one object to here? It doesn’t say what “help” meant. Paid tutor support, presumably. It sounds like the other teasing testimonials on the MBA Winner web site. Everything, and nothing.)(with the added info, there does appear to be a back-story)

Chris Dalton does not like the idea of students experiencing frustration and having to meet tutors who are not really bothered to help.

(I call upon the readers of this blog to adjudicate on this one. Where did I say that? And, does Matt mean I don’t like the idea of tutors not bothering? Surely I’d be nuts to like the idea of tutors not bothering. And, there are frustrations that students on a good MBA should feel, as well as others that they shouldn’t. Which sort Matt means comes out later…)(think I still stand by much of this. I am very concerned if a tutor will not help. That should not happen. But, give me details…!)

Business Schools like Henley charge an awful lot of money for the services they provide. Is the cost representative of the service that you offer Mr Dalton? From my experience with Henley Business School this is so far from the truth! The institution is the big cheater and you try to protect it. Who is cheating whom?

(Matt, what experience with HBS are you referring to? You don’t appear on our database. Now, I don’t know if the cost of the Henley MBA is representative of the service that we offer, but I do think our students will not be shy in letting us know when this is the case. In my experience with Henley, when this happens – and it sometimes does – I hope that we take them seriously and act to correct the situation. The basic accusation here is that Business Schools are there to take your money and not provide you with a service. This theme repeats itself numerous times on http://www.mbawinner.com , where the payment is for a service that is delivered. The only slight problem with this is that the service in question is you submitting work that is not your own for a university degree. That is the herd of elephants sitting somewhat impatiently on the other side of the room.)  (notwithstanding Matt’s statement that he did not get tutors to write for him, I am happy to hold to my position on this, at least regarding the school where I work. I’m sure there are sausage-factory MBAs with anonymous interaction and arrogant, stand-offish faculty… I just don’t think MBA Winner represents the answer. Still, it’s healthy to air the debate, I think)

I was going through severe illness and I was not getting any understanding from my institution. The tutors from MBA Winner really assisted me and helped me and I am grateful for this. I would advice that you consider the unethical side of your own educational business practices where money means more than the student. You are ready to point out how plagiarism is when someone writes someone else’s assignment. However when it comes to your failure to provide a good service as a business school your argument shifts to how there is staff that could help….. !! Yeah…. OK.

(I’m very sorry to hear that you were not well, Matt. At Henley, when a student doing the MBA encounters a serious illness, problem or reason that they can’t study, they receive advice and assistance and may suspend their studies until they are better or the issue is resolved. I suspect that you may have chosen the wrong institution in the first place. The answer is not to aim low and cheapen yourself by paying someone to write your MBA for you, it is to aim higher and find one that expects more. Or, if the Higher Education sector leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, focus on gaining experience as a manager in the real world instead. No-one can fake that for you.) (given the institution in question is apparently Henley, then I would want to know more details…)

Matt”

(Dear Matt, you may, for all I know, be a real person, and your comment may be heartfelt, your experience bitter. But I’m not convinced. Sorry.)(dear Matt, you are a real person, so apologies for the snooty tone of this. As a serious educator and, I hope, a professional, I believe that if there is a problem, then the Business School needs to put its house in order)

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