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The HBS Game Show

Thank you to all those who expressed concern over the plight of my son and his quarter last week. The good news is that he is now slightly lighter and we are once again slightly richer. Well, we were until I went to Spangler the other day. As I was walking back sucking my Chupa Chup (a quarter really doesn’t buy much these days), I was struck once again by the sense of constructed Utopia that the HBS campus imparts. It has an almost Orwellian feel to it. (Do you like the way I continued the narrative from last week’s article and seamlessly introduced the topic for this week’s? Obviously my years of report writing were wasted.)

And that got me thinking. If HBS is on a fundraising drive at the moment then what better way to get money than to sell what HBS does best – that sense of unreality. And so the idea of the “HBS Reality TV Show” was born. The basic premise is that HBS sells the rights to a reality TV show based on the MBA process. I envisage the final program having facets of several other series of the same genre. Allow me to explain:

Survivor
First take your selection of aspiring capitalists and tell them that the hardest part of the task ahead of them is to be accepted into the illustrious Harvard Business School MBA program. Then watch as they all scurry around seeking referees who won’t blow them out of the water and crafting each individual word of their requisite essays. Once they’ve been accepted hit them with three cases a day and allow them only 4 hours sleep a night. Oh, how the audience will laugh! If you really want to “up the ante,” pop in an episode where the Internet connection collapses or Spangler runs out of coffee.

The Chair
This one I like in particular because it will be so simple to implement. All that is required is a heart beat sensor in the armrest of each seat in Aldrich (the alternative is to hold lectures on the treadmills in Shad).

When the person in the seat is cold-called their pulse is monitored for all to see. Did he read last night’s case? Did his study group pull a fast one on him? Can he bluff his way out? You can see the mounting tension as the color drains from his face…exquisite.

Who wants to marry a millionaire/millionairess?
Sorry, this one is a little below the belt but I have been hearing rumors….Maybe it needs a title change – “Who wants to marry someone who has a greater chance than most of becoming a millionaire sometime in the future if the global economy ever recovers?” Bit long winded? Either way, there is a subversive undercurrent of pent-up matchmaking on this campus that needs to be tapped for the voyeuristic pleasures of the greater public.

The Weakest Link
I don’t know if you ever got this one in the States but it basically involves a team of people who continuously vote off their most stupid team member. In HBS the weakest link could be set during study group sessions. Those who failed to fully appreciate the finer details of their case write-up would be declared “the weakest link” and expelled from the group until only one remains. He or she would then have the prize of having to do all the case studies by themselves. That could feed nicely back into a Survivor episode.

One little known New Zealand program
We had a one-off “reality” wonder in New Zealand about a year ago. It took a happily married couple and forbade them from touching each other – not even a pat on the hand. Now juxtapose the average spouse’s experience: partner is home more often (wasn’t that part of the bargain when we agreed you could do an MBA?) but like as not, is crouched in front of a computer swearing at TOM spreadsheets. You can’t disturb them. You must creep silently around. Even a conciliatory backrub distracts. Viewer entertainment is guaranteed as they watch relationships quake.

And so there you have it – a plan with no draw-backs. Apparently over 23 million viewers tuned in to watch the final of American Idol in September. Think of the advertising royalties alone – HBS could net millions. Of course, the flip side is no-one would ever believe it was real….

October 21, 2002
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