I was in IIM Calcutta recently for a residential training program. It was quite an experience. The best part of this program being residential is that the classes are in the same building where you put up. So, you aren’t spending any time commuting. You are also spending whatever free time you’ve left (which isn’t much considering the classes go on from morning till late evenings) at the campus. The campus is quite scenic and full of lakes.
That’s pretty much all that I will talk about the IIM Calcutta campus. Feel free to check out my thoughts on Kolkata in my travelogue.
During my stay there I got to know that IIM Calcutta, just like every other grandeur university, has something known as an International Students Exchange Program.
What is this program all about? To put it simply, for usually one term, IIM students visit an international university that has a tie-up with IIM. Also, students of the said international university may visit the IIM in return.
What do they do on their visit? They get the opportunity to have exposure to other culture, gel with the native students and be taught by professors from the other side of the globe.
But why? Great question! One of the answers to this is to gain a global perspective (read: kill your prejudices).
Its very easy to have preconceived notions about USA based on what you may have heard, read or seen in the media. However, it could be totally opposite and an eye-opening experience when you actually visit the US. You may realize that your favorite TV series portrays a totally different view of the country. It is thus extremely important to keep your prejudices aside, be exposed to the people, culture, language and life before making a decision that has anything to do with you, your team, employees or business in the US.
This is also the reason why so many companies out there promote diversity. Parliaments want to have representatives from all parts of the country. A certain percentage of women are compulsory in so many workplaces. Diversity encourages creativity. It offers solutions that a homogeneous group may never come up with.
“All of this sounds great. International Students Exchange program must be awesome!”
Alas! This is easier said than done. Actually, the international students seldom get any opportunity to gel with the native scholars. I never found any of these foreign students speaking to anyone other than their own group. I also got to know that this is a known issue and that there are ‘plans’ to improve the scenario. What those plans are and when would they be implemented is anyone’s guess.
This reminded me of something known as the Law of Familiarity. The study goes on to explain how a group of students at a summer camp were given tees of 3 different colors – Red, Blue and Green. No further information was provided. The researchers observed that for all the activities the students went ahead and aligned themselves in three different groups on their own. The groups were (not surprisingly) Red, Blue and Green!
Leave the International Students Exchange Program aside, if you happen to visit a foreign country you will observe how Indians, more often than not, have Indian friends. This could actually get much more granular. People from Andhra living abroad will be most comfortable with fellow Andhra folks.
When taking a decision, keeping prejudices out of the door is important. Even more important is ensuring that the people involved in decision making aren’t wearing the same colored tee.