IBD Conference – It All Ends!

On Friday, my IBD experience officially came to an end. My team finished the diorama and displayed it proudly at the International House for the 1st year students to see.

I mentioned in the last post that completing the poster felt like engaging in 2nd grade arts and crafts. However, the poster turned out quite nice. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to find out after the conference that the IBD program coordinators chose our poster to keep on hand as an example to next year’s class of “what to do.” Other teams’ posters were destroyed after the conference. Such a waste of money.

Last year, the IBD teams presented their posters in a large banquet hall. There was a lot of room to maneuver. This year, the program managers relocated us to a smaller room despite the fact that we had more people and more posters than before. The result was a very cramped showroom with hardly an inch to maneuver.

Since I arrived at the I-House early, I was able to grab an easel near the projector. The benefit of this was we had more breathing room around our poster. Nobody likes to be a fire hazard.

The ballroom was used for lunch and final presentations instead. Everyone crowded into the room after voting on our favorite posters. We listened to a keynote speech from Amit Sinha, a Haas 2004 alum and current SAP employee. He talked about challenging the status quo and used a story about monkeys in a cage to illustrate his point.

In the 1950s, there was an unethical experiment performed in which researchers dangled bananas near a cage of monkeys. Whenever a monkey reached for a banana, the researchers blasted the cage with a hose. After a while, the cold and drenched monkeys learned not to reach for the bananas, ever.

The researchers decided to introduce a new monkey who had never been sprayed with the hose into the cage. When the new monkey reached for the bananas, the others stopped him so as not to be sprayed by the hose. The researchers slowly swapped out the hosed monkeys with new monkeys until the cage was filled completely with monkeys who had never been sprayed. None of the monkeys reached for the bananas.

I guess the moral of the story is that culture is learned through time and should be constantly challenged. Many organizations have practices and processes that are simply archaic. Instead of blindly following instructions, employees should not be afraid to do things different. The analogy isn’t perfect. After all, asking a monkey to grab a banana is like asking an employee to do something that has a 100% chance of failure. But you get the point.

After the keynote, four IBD teams were chosen to present on stage. One of the teams was an all-woman taskforce sent to Saudi Arabia to create a curriculum for a women’s college. Another team went to Laos to create a crocodile exhibit and lived for three weeks in perpetual sweat. The winning team went to a group of EWMBAs (Evening and Weekend MBAs) who spent two weeks in Uganda trying to deliver portable, solar-powered, briefcase-sized light generators to hospitals and help reduce the mortality rate of expecting mothers.

My team did not get chosen to present. As I alluded to earlier, people like sexy projects with a humanitarian focus. My team helped a giant corporation in Korea market mobile apps. It’s a far cry from saving babies in Uganda. However, SK Planet, the company we worked with, is doing very well. They actually implemented our suggestions and are sponsoring the San Francisco Fashion Week with a cool fashion/social app called StyleTag.

We didn’t save any AIDS orphans. But we still made an impact. Check it out!

In the end, IBD was a wonderfully unique experience that I’ll never forget. Next year, the entire program is being revamped from the ground up. So in some ways, we’ll be the last class to experience IBD in its current incarnation.

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