The “Invisible Curriculum” – Lesson One: “STALK MENTORS!”

Blog, My Journey

Today’s post is inspired by: The Invisible B-School Curriculum by Warren Bennis (Published in Bloomberg Businessweek on June 25, 2012)

In this article, leadership and management guru Warren Bennis shares his experience on being a mentee and a mentor. He shares about how he tells his students to “stalk mentors!”.  He speaks about mentoring within the context of his belief that there are 2 curricula in an MBA program, the formal one offered by the program, and an informal one which he refers to as the “invisible” curriculum.  He argues that this “invisible curriculum”, which includes finding mentors, is equally important to the formal curriculum.

When I went back to get my masters, my “invisible curriculum” took place over 50 cups of coffee with classmates whose comments intrigued me.  They would share their stories, warts and all.  People from all walks of life – from teachers, peace corps graduates to generals,  political figures, and CEOs.  This invisible curriculum is one that I continued after I graduated, and one that sparked the idea behind this project.  Of those I have had the honor of meeting, I have found a handful of mentors.

But the main reason why I wish to share this is to pass on wisdom that Bennis shares – to “stalk mentors!”  Although I am not typically someone who is naturally inclined to bother my mentors for my own gain, I feel compelled to take Bennis’ advice.  And I hope to be able to do the same for others in the future.

I encourage you to do the same.

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Leadership Redefined: The story of Dr. V

Links To Stories

Today, I share with you the following article: The Perfect Vision of Dr. V by Harriet Rubin (Fast Company)

Earlier this year, a friend sent me a copy of the above article.  And I am happy to now share it with you.

It’s about an Ophthalmologist in India whose story moves me every time I read it.  He may have passed away in 2006, but he is very much living proof of a life that I trust will challenge your conventional notions of what it looks like to lead, to live, and to be successful.

At the age of 58, Dr. V. opened a network of eye hospitals that has since served 32 million people, the majority of whom cannot afford his services.  Some facts taken from this article that give you an idea of why his model has been the focus of numerous case studies:

  • The free patients, whose medical services (including food and room) are covered entirely by the hospital, have a separate building. Paying customers are charged 50 rupees (about $1) per consultation and have their choice of accommodations: “A-class” rooms ($3 per day), which are private; “B-class” rooms ($1.50 per day), in which a toilet is shared; or “C-class” rooms ($1 per day), essentially a mat on the floor. Paying customers choose between surgery with stitches ($110) and surgery without stitches ($120).
  • There is no qualification for the free hospital.
  •  Aravind’s surgeons are so productive that the hospital has a gross margin of 40%, despite the fact that 70% of the patients pay nothing or close to nothing, and that the hospital does not depend on donations. Dr. V. has done it by constantly cutting costs, increasing efficiency, and building his market.
  • It costs Aravind about $10 to conduct a cataract operation. It costs hospitals in the United States about $1,650 to perform the same operation. Aravind keeps costs minimal by putting two or more patients in an operating room at the same time. Hospitals in the United States don’t allow more than one patient at a time in a surgery, but Aravind hasn’t experienced any problems with infections. Aravind’s doctors have created equipment that allows a surgeon to perform one 10- to 20-minute operation, then swivel around to work on the next patient — who is already in the room, prepped, ready, and waiting. Post-op patients are wheeled out, and new patients are wheeled in

I could not be more grateful to Harriet for doing an excellent job of capturing why he is very much living proof.  What he is living proof of for you, may not be the same for you, but my guess is our reasons won’t be so different.  Here are some other highlights of the values and principles that were the drivers behind his tremendous success in realizing his vision:

  • “For Dr. V., leadership begins with the pursuit of self-knowledge and a vision bigger than any that can fit in the prospectus of a single corporation. All his life, Dr. V. has resisted smallness. Yet there is nothing egotistic about him. He asks himself, “How can my work make me a better human being and make a better world?” That question is at the heart of the mystery of leadership. And to answer it is to seek perfection.”
  • “He came to believe that man has not reached the highest level of evolution, but that evolution will continue for several more stages until a higher intelligence is created. ‘Even the body has to be more perfect so that a new creature will result,’ says Dr. V.”
  • “I ask Dr. V. a simple question designed to get him to talk about his unique vision: ‘What are your gifts?’ I ask him. Dr. V. replies, ‘People thank me for giving them sight.’ This is no error of translation, no slipup of English. Dr. V. considers his gifts to be the things that he has given others, not what he possesses.”
  • “Part of Aravind’s service package includes love, courage, and total care. ‘You identify with the people with whom or for whom you work,” says Dr. V. “It is not out of sympathy that you want to help. The sufferer is part of you.'”
  • “‘Consultants talk of ‘the poor,’ ‘ he says. ‘No one at Aravind does. ‘The poor’ is a vulgar term. Would you call Christ a poor man? To think of certain people as ‘the poor’ puts you in a superior position, blinds you to the ways in which you are poor — and in the West there are many such ways: emotionally and spiritually, for example. You have comforts in America, but you are afraid of each other.'”