Archive for the ‘Free-riders’ Category

A toast to free-riding!

Posted: November 14, 2010 by Gurveen Bedi in Free-riders, IIM
Tags: , ,

I had written this post a few days back and then shelved it since I had thought that it is pointless as it wouldn’t change anything. But a recent experience of a friend who I found crying since her group members had left her alone to deal with a tough assignment, made me want to dedicate this special post to free-riders. Hence, I  got back to working on this post, in the hope that it may change some people who are in the first year and have just got a taste of the ‘freedom’ of free-riding.

In economics, free riders are defined as those who take more than their fair share of the benefits or do not shoulder their fair share of the costs of their use of a resource. Free-riders exist everywhere. The businessmen who evade taxes, the carpool partner who never gets her own car, the people who steal electricity by illegal connections and most relevant to IIMA, the student in the study group who absolutely refuses to contribute.

The free-rider phenomenon stems from the structure of working in groups. Whenever work or responsibility is assigned to a group of people, rather than individuals, the belief of every individual is that the work will get done easily. Hence, some individuals evade the work since they know that the same benefits will accrue to them whether they contribute or not. A solution would be to avoid the group structure, but in several cases, that is impossible. A number of tasks are such that a group structure is a necessity – for example, a nation’s defence, spend on public infrastructure etc.

Specifically, academics at IIM Ahmedabad are all about groups and group assignments, hence it is a system inherently infested with free-riders. This post is thus addressed to the free-riders of IIM Ahmedabad in an attempt to enlighten them and if nothing else, at least to make them squirm about in their places.

Dear free-rider,

First, let me start by wishing you a “Happy First Year” at IIMA. There is probably no other breed of students that enjoyed the first year of IIM Ahmedabad more than you did. While most of the students were burning the midnight oil to finish that irritating Marketing decision sheet or that nauseous BRM project, you were laughing at their predicament and enjoying late night movies and cards in the company of other beings of the same breed. You would come to the class every morning, that’s if you would, and scoff at the others who were worrying about whether they had got the last assignment right, or whether their group would be called to present that day. You never realised that this smirking would come back to hit you someday – you probably still don’t. And have no doubts about it, it will hit you, all in due course of time.

While several students who entered this MBA program fresh out of undergrad, found the discipline here a sudden jolt that shook them and in the process, made “ladies out of the girls” and “men out of the boys”; you found this a seamless transition. For you, post graduation became just another extension of undergrad life. You never understood the essence of an MBA at IIMA, that it is not just a degree, it is a way of living. The struggle for daily case analysis, the long-winded group discussions interspersed with juices and section mails, the goof-ups in class presentations, the last minute run to the printer before assignment submissions, the infighting for work distribution and even the gruelling work itself – all constitute what an MBA at IIMA is about. You have missed out on all of it; you have lost out on a life that thousands crave to experience.

Apart from the experience, you have missed out on learning an essential skill that IIMA teaches you – time-management. I remember our Program Head announcing in class in the first month, “You all are brilliant and we know that if we gave you enough time to spend on academics, you would all excel. That is why we don’t. We give you a time crunch so that you learn to prioritize and multi-task”. And learn we did. Whether it was tons of assignments, several presentations, multiple clubs’ work, eating out, having a life, we did it. We managed it all and we came out proud. You failed there, and failed miserably.  In a struggle to manage work and fun, you chose the easy way out. I am just waiting to see you deploy these finely developed time-management skills at your respective organizations next year. I wonder what choice you will make then.

Also, you forgot an important part of what constitutes an MBA – the network that is built here. In a few years, students of our batch would be employed across different industries in a variety of sectors. From a marketer at HUL to a consultant at Bain, from an investment banker at Goldman Sachs to an activist at some NGO, we will have it all – an expansive spread of people, an amazingly well-connected network. But the only way one can tap this network is by having had a good reputation in campus in terms of work ethics and ability. The work that one does here and the identity one forms here, doesn’t end with graduation. It defines the manner in which people remember you once you graduate and determines the amount of respect that you are able to generate. But, in the quest of low hanging fruits of poker nights and parties, you perhaps overlooked that aspect of an MBA. Honestly, I don’t blame you. If you couldn’t understand the essence of the academic program in the first place, forgetting the importance of creating a network at a B-school is but natural.

But the biggest irony of it all is that in spite of the self-destruction that you have subjected yourself to, you still have the guts to believe that you are smart. You still feel that you have gamed the academic system and come out unscathed and victorious. You feel you’ve won, you feel you’ve escaped.

Well, let me break the bad news to you buddy!!! The truth is that you are a loser…

You have lost the opportunity so bad, you have harmed your reputation so much, that nothing you will do can recover it. Forget about being the “smart one”, you’ve been the worst kind of fool since you never realised that you were being a fool.

And I, pity your foolishness.


A free-rider hating person