Jullien Gordon on Why Groupthink Limits MBA Student Potential

In Chapter 9 of 14 of his 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, motivation teacher and Stanford MBA Jullien Gordon shares why groupthink limits so many MBA career plans. During his MBA, Gordon was stunned to see a group of extremely talented and passionate classmates focus on a limited set of career options, namely brand marketing, management consulting, investment banking, private equity and venture capital. Gordon implores MBA students to focus first on applying their passions toward solving the biggest problems rather than making the most money. Gordon references a young Bill Gates and how that problem solving - getting a computer in every home - translated to later career philanthropic efforts. Gordon holds an MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University and a BA from UCLA.


Erik Michielsen:  How does group think limit MBA student potential and why is this a problem worth solving?

Jullien Gordon:  Oh my goodness! So, I wrote this blog post recently called “A Letter to an MBA” and it came after sitting at a panel at Columbia Business School and just realizing – and I went to Stanford and when you think about the admission rates there. These are literally the most talented – some of the most talented people in the entire world – 350 of the most talented people, and it just makes no sense to me how 350 of the most talented people can all want to be the same five things.  They all want to consultants, bankers, private equity marketers, whatever.  And it just makes no sense to me. 

Instead of thinking of the career paths based on the recruiters that come to campus and what makes the most money, really what MBAs should be thinking about is ‘What is the biggest problem I can solve in the world?’  When you look at Bill Gates, that was the question he asked himself. “How do I get a computer in every single home?”  And what Bill Gates has done is, instead of – he really is a problem solver, technology was the one avenue that he explored his purpose but at his core he’s a problem solver.  Now, he’s taking his problem solving ability and taking it to Malaria, education equalities and other health issues in the developing world because at the core he’s a problem solver. So, if MBAs thought of their career paths in the sense of “What is the biggest problem that I can solve in the world?” then I think that could transform the world in general.