6 Lessons from HKUST MBA’s RP/ELP Program

The first week before semester starts consist of our Residential Program (RP) and Experiential Learning Program (ELP). And all I can say is, we survived.

I think that RP truly meant to be RIP, while ELP meant HELP. 🙁

Here are some interesting tidbits about the program:

1) They group you in the worst group possible.

Seriously, if you guys clash, you’ll be sure that the school will assign you to the wrong group.

Tigers roared, peacocks cooed, koalas clung to their eucalyptuses, the owls talked and talked and talked and talked, and the chameleons pretty much stayed out of the way.

My group was very wrong from the beginning. We had personalities that ranged from ultra-dominant to the shy, communication skills that were result based and process based, and cultures that steered from all sides of the world.

And when you are put in a situation that gives you a strict time limit in solving a relatively general case, then chaos ensues.

It was a painful experience. I was honestly ready to quit the program by the first evening.

Why the hell do I have to deal with this sh*t when nobody ever treats me like this at (my former firm’s name)?!” I cried to Trader who was non sympathetic of my plight.

Don’t say that Bonita,” he replied. “You should never have that attitude that you are better than everyone else. You are now at an MBA program where everyone shares the same rank.”

Sigh, why the hell did I get into this?

Oh, and the answer became…

2) The best worst experience would be your best learning experience.

Look, life with my teammates were not a walk in the park. Quite the contrary. In fact, I joked one of my teammates would have stabbed me in a pencil because admittedly, I’ve been darn impossible to work with during our program.

Upon further reflection, I’ve realized that this was the point of our RP program: to have us work with people we would never have otherwise worked with, clash and then find a way on how to settle our differences.

A groupmate for example had to find a way to keep his message upfront and to the point.

Another groupmate had to learn how to speak up in order to be heart.

I myself had to learn how to listen and to respect other people’s opinions.

The fact that we are clashing is because we are different. And the lesson is not that we’re bad people or that it’s anybody’s fault.

The lesson was just that in the real world, we will be dealing with an even more diverse group of people who inexplicitly would be different from us. And if we don’t learn how to make peace during our MBA program then it would be even more hazardous for us in the long run!

3) Communication truly is key in solving personnel issues.

When you have an issue with someone, deal with the issue with a heart-t0-heart talk as soon as possible.

I am so glad that my groupmates has the open-mindedness to talk to each other about our issues multiple times before the issue escalated. I for one had been approached by two of my four groupmates to discuss what is wrong, and how we can improve our rapidly declining relationship.

Honesty and respect for the other were important in this process. My teammate explained it very well, “If I don’t care about you and our group, I wouldn’t give a damn.”

And that’s true: For the good of the group, we all had to work each other, and the crucial thing was to be honest, give constructive and impersonal feedback and keep your message up to three points, otherwise the other would merely forget.

Tensions abate quickly forward especially when the other feels that they are getting heart. People just want to be respected for our opinions and it’s so easy to forget that.

Fortunately, my groupmates had the tenacity and courage to approach our issues head on and I believe that we would be a better group for it.

5) Come up with a concrete solution.

Since I love to keep the meeting efficient and a few of my groupmates like to talk and talk and talk and bury us with the facts, we’ve come up with a concrete way on how we can do better going forward.

For example, since my problem was in listening, we instituted a two-minute solo talk per person at the beginning of the discussion so that the person knows that a) his/her opinions are being heard without us constantly interrupting, and b) the personal sharing is limited to a reasonably accepted timeframe.

Afterwards, we have to conquer problems together to accept consensus.

I once silly me had tried to solve the entire case together basically on the basis of my own ideas with disasterous results. Instead of a mere one-hour discussion, the work stretched to six more hours, finishing at freaking 3am.

It truly wasn’t worth it.

If I had merely respected my groupmates and we went through the problems one by one together, building consensus, I strongly believed that we would have finished a lot earlier.

6) And finally, respect your teammates’ competencies.

I think that a strong lesson that I’ve learned was that my classmates are not incompetent. They’re all reasonably successful achievers who are now in the same boat of I am because they had been outstanding in their life.

The easiest choice especially for an alpha woman like me is to grab the responsibility and run with the ball.

However, this is a no-no in a group/teamwork setting where everyone’s opinion count.

Just like the ELP program, the RP program teaches us to close our eyes and trust that our groupmates can really carry us through. And if you really pass on ownership of the project to others, magical things may and should happen.

That’s about it — haven’t really slept much the past couple of days.

No matter, Trader is coming by tomorrow. Yehey!

Anyway, hope everyone had a great evening.

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2 thoughts on “6 Lessons from HKUST MBA’s RP/ELP Program

  1. oh gawd, your post brings back memories. i was randomly surfing about the ust mba programme and stumbled upon this. i’m in the pt programme and glad to know that the torture was evenly spread haha.

    anyways, continue enjoying classes. i’m going back to sneakily working on fin 521 homework during work hours!

    1. You guys have it tougher!!! Work AND study. That’s why I quit my job (with a big ouch to the paycheck). Didn’t think I could do it. Jia you!

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