The other week my employer was short staffed at a location that I read remotely for, so I volunteered to go read mammograms there for a week. By Friday I was sufficiently acclamated to the workflow that I had some time at lunch to exercise and decided to go for a walk. Behind the hospital was a trashed country road with beer cans, bottles, and plastic bags littering the roadside. After about 1/4 of a mile and being mindful of the surroundings of an abandoned home and a pair of purple Crocs by the side of the road, I passed a human skull in the brush about 25′ from the edge of the road. As a radiologist, seeing a skull is unremarkable, so it took about two steps further for the context to sink in, look back, and further observe the remaining skeleton spread among the brush.
I explained to the 911 operator what I had found but not that I was an expert. The responding officer walked over the dark spot in the earth where the soft tissues had melted into the ground, stepped on several ribs, and poked the skull with a pen stating, “That doesn’t look like a deer.” It was at that point I told him what I did for a living and assured him what we were looking at was human, naming all the bones in an attempt to establish credibility, as well as the covered vascular stent that was laying in the stained earth. After a moment of silence the officer said, “OK, I need to make some phone calls.”
It is likely that the body had been there for 6-9 months. While a tragic metaphor, how many people had walked by and not perceived what was so plainly sensed from the edge of the road? Who else had seen the purple Crocs and dismissed them as I first did as trash having fallen off the top of a car, not a pair of shoes belonging to a human laying in the brush. Does my advocation give me a heightened sense of seeing human body parts beyond what others perceive? My wife’s Rorschach cards suggest this is true and classify me as a homocidal sociopath, fortunately we have decided this test is not valid in a radiologist population.
Working on an MBA degree enhances professional mindfulness, effectively gaining a Sixth Sense. Similar to the movie and life as a radiologist, you begin to walk through life seeing death. But in an organizational context, you perceive the dying systems that surround you. This power, as with any power, occasionally becomes a burden as you have departed from your blind cohort and no longer walk among the blissfully ignorant such as that responding police officer.
You realize dying organizations fill your professional life and you see them every day. As in a scene from a zombie movie, you now have the tools to dispatch the parts of the organization that are rotten and no longer functional. Conversely, you can also heal those parts that can be salvaged. At times you are swarmed by people who do not have the same level of mindfulness and sometimes there is no communal ‘sense of urgency’ to move your organization forward. An MBA gives you the confidence to escape those situations.
At some point you become aware that an MBA is a giant misnomer, you are now a Master of Organizational Sustainability. Instead of chainsaw, crowbar, rifle, and katana; you have weapons of HR, Finance, Marketing, Behavior, Operations, Law, and Strategy to propel your organization forward. You also are a master in the judo moves needed to sidestep floundering committees with no structure or mission; those committees that literally used to suck the life out of you by wasting your precious time on this earth.
Yet in another sense, you are professionally reborn. A new dawn arises on your career with a refined vision of where you want to spend your professional time. You invest more time in a grapevine of like-minded, cross-disciplinary, functional individuals who know how to get stuff done. You understand that “Do Your Job” means being part of a winning team, the kind of dynasty that repeatedly surprises the competition. You find winning organizations or start your own in the quest to innovate. Supported by your new vision and mindful of your surroundings you step onto an new pathway, perhaps a pathway not yet traveled.