“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” – Russell Crowe, the Gladiator.
One of the most interesting things about being part of the case study based method of learning is being able to put yourself in a business situation three times a day, make a C-suite decision, and convince 60 other CEO classmates of the same. After almost a few hundred cases old by now, I realized how close this experience is to that of being a gladiator!
It’s not surprising how even the seating arrangement of the classroom enables this to happen. Having studied all my life in a classroom with endless rows and columns of benches all facing the blackboard and the lecturer, I found the amphitheater style setup in class, intriguing. I always thought that amphitheaters were for gladiators and performance art. Little did I know that each day at Darden was like delivering your best performance at being a gladiator!
When you walk into class with a recommendation for the protagonist of the case, backed with your in depth analysis, you feel like you have it all figured out. Of course barring the days you don’t have in depth enough analysis. And there will be some days when you don’t have any analysis despite hours of trying, only a vague instinct of what you should do. If you get “cold called” for your recommendation, you know that you have to walk into the center with everything you have got. It all comes down to “perform or perish.”
Most days your classmates are gruesome wild animals trying to tear you to pieces. It’s after all not a performance for the professor. He has seen numerous performances and can tell a good one from a lousy one. It’s all for your “classmates” a.k.a. “the wild beasts”, the rest of the gladiators and the audience. Your success as a gladiator is defined by how well you can convince others about your recommendation, standing tall in the end despite all the bruises, punches and low blows. Satisfying the audience, destroying the wild beasts, and taking on the rest of the gladiators with skill and precision.
Will there be days you will be battered in the middle? Will there be times you will limp, bleed, and lay sore with the wounds? Of course! They don’t call it a case study classroom for nothing. It’s not too far from the real world when you have to make tough decisions as a manager every single day. A case study class is true training ground for that.
Having said that, you can be rest assured that at Darden, unlike a gladiator, if you fail once, everything is not lost. You can always rise from the ashes like a phoenix and fight another day. And a gladiator who rises form the ground despite all his/her bruises, will entertain the audience more than the one who doesn’t rise up at all.