Michael McVey took shots at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business today with Scott McLeod laying down cover fire. I think I understand why. I also think they’re pointing their weapons in the wrong direction.
UC is doing right:
To enable prospective full-time MBA students to present a more complete picture of their candidacy, applicants to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, one of the top business schools in the world, will now submit up to four slides about themselves with their application, the school announced. [emph. added]
McVey is bummed:
As a method of gauging [sic] the creative energy of an applicant to your program, making a four-slide presentation might be a good start. However, when you evaluate this creativity based upon two dimensional screen captures devoid of the very creative energy you sought to assess, you might as well have students submit their test scores and forego the technology charade.
The future-of-learning crowd trades stories of Luddite administrators and timid tech coordinators like baseball cards. This makes it easy to see UC as technologically and creatively primitive but by leaping (perhaps instinctively) to that conclusion, McLeod and McVey miss what UC grasps.
That is: constraints are not the enemy of creativity. More often than not, constraints breed creativity.
In his post, McVey puts a premium on videos and full-figured PowerPoint presentations where “images interact with music.” But handing a student iMovie, Audacity, and Keynote and saying, give me something that represents you, will only reveal what a student can do given (nearly) unlimited technology and (nearly) unlimited time. The result is rarely revealing or pretty.
You want to know how someone thinks, how someone solves problems, how someone reacts to challenge, you want to gauge someone’s creativity, you need to establish constraints.
You establish a deadline, a page maximum, you strike the personal pronoun “I” from your essays, you give a student five sounds she has to integrate into her podcast, you draw your cartoons exclusively in ballpoint pen on the backs of business cards. “I would’ve written a shorter post but I didn’t have the time.” Etc.
The movie The Five Obstructions has Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier tasking his friend Jørgen Leth with remaking a film under five separate constraints. At one point Leth fails to satisfy a constraint and in punishment, Von Trier has him remake the film however he wants.
Freedom from constraints doesn’t guarantee creativity, as McLeod and McVey suggest. Oftentimes, it’s hell.
Some constraints are irritating and arbitrary (illustrate your personal educational history in macramé) but UC’s are positively inspired.
PowerPoint was born and corrupted in the boardroom. These kids will be delivering presentations their entire career. A longer presentation with all the fixin’s seems more appropriate to McVey but business communication demands brevity and concision.
Four standalone slides? That’s ingenious.
Maybe McLeod and McVey think the connection was accidental but UC’s press release indicates a lot of foresight. Moreover, if UC gives this admission criterion sufficient weight and if other colleges follow UC’s lead, they’ll catch ’em young and the rest of us will see the death of Death by PowerPoint within our lifetimes.
Form meets content meets a social good. Credit where credit’s due, fellas.