Monday, August 07, 2006

Why famous colleges of yester years will flourish for a long time

Mr Anirudh, one of the parent of an engineering student, was arguing that he has put his son in one of the best colleges, where teaching is done seriously. He was citing examples of a famous engineering college, where many students bunk classes because the teachers are not good enough. He was arguing that this 'famous' engineering college will soon 'vanish' because of its ill attention on the faculty, student teaching and so on.

Mr Anirudh was underestimating the importance of ‘stock’, virtuous cycle and contagion effect, the three concepts in non-linear thinking, because of which the famous engineering college will not only exist, but continue to flourish for many more years.

Stock of reputation is a stock which does not get erase easily. The famous engineering college will still be visited by the best of the companies for getting their fresh engineering students because the stock of reputation of this college will remain intact for a long time.

Morever, these companies will get the ‘best’ students because ‘best’ students will keep on joining the college. Why do best students join this college despite the information that college faculty is not so good? Bright students join because they know the engineers get the ‘jobs’ quickly after passing the degree exam. They therefore join this college because of job assurance.

Paradoxically, these bright students ‘somehow’ manage to fair well in the exams due to ‘contagion effect’. Bright students fare well because they remain in a group. In a group, they challenge each other, and therefore learn from each other. Because of the lack of good faculty, they compete less and collaborate more. Collaboration creates good learning for them. It is this same contagion effect, which is also called diamond effect by strategy guru Michael Porter that makes companies in a ‘cluster’ flourish than the companies in distant locations.

When companies therefore visit the campus of this college, they get ‘best’ students, despite the difficulties. Companies therefore return again next year because they get good students. Virtuous cycle is complete. Because of companies, bright students keep on preferring this famous college despite the difficulties. Virtuous cycle is reinforced.

When will this cycle break? What effect has to become more pronounced to break this virtuous cycle?

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