The Duality of Knowledge

Examinations. I have never met anyone who actually enjoyed exams.

Of course there are people that are good at them and there are also people who may prefer an exam over a group assignment however, all things considered, examinations have the ability to ruin your otherwise perfect day. And no one wants that.

Take for example our Block 1 and 2 examination period which culminated last week. Some people felt they did well, most people thought they had failed and a few people were hysterical. As I referred to last post, the Cass MBA isn’t a sit back and just enjoy the ride kind of road-trip. You must apply yourself. You must work until you understand it, not until you just know it. You can either be in the driving seat or riding shotgun – but never a back seat passenger!

Thankfully, and for the moment at least, our examinations are over. We can relax a little and prepare for Blocks 3 and 4. There is no doubt we will be challenged again soon enough, but that is the point obviously.

The biggest difference I feel between an MBA exam and any examinations I have completed in the past, either as an undergraduate or as a high-school student, is that in an MBA exam more often the questions are designed in a way so that a single and definitive answer doesn’t exist to the problem posed. It is our comprehension and approach that is being tested not our recollection of the basic facts. The Cass approach aims to separate the people who can simply regurgitate slabs of text and those who actually comprehend the theories and apply them in an increasingly wider context in an ever-evolving business and social world. This is only a good thing.

The other day, David Bowie passed away. That of course you already knew. What you may also have known is that he was a reasonably visionary guy and, if you had sifted through the endless number of fan tributes currently circulating social media, as many have, you may have come across this video of David Bowie and Jeremy Paxman from 1999. If you have seen this before than I would certainly encourage you to re-watch it now and if you haven’t seen it, then the advice is largely the same – watch it now. (If for no other reason that the remainder of this blog won’t make any sense to you. Thanks.)

So, once you look past the fact Jeremy Paxman hasn’t really changed (whether this is a good or a bad thing I’m not really sure yet) you will see that Mr Bowie really gets it. Stay with me here, but this video is exactly what our MBA exams are about! (I’ll admit there is a small risk that it may simply be the 3rd coffee of the day talking now but I will explain.)

Two things stand out to me. First of all, the stark difference between Bowie’s and Paxman’s understanding of the internet (from about 6:40min) and secondly, the wider implications of Bowie’s attitude of the ‘grey in the middle’ (from 9:10min). I’ll leave you to take whatever you want out of the rest of the interview however I will elaborate on the first point further.

Fortunately for us, Paxman pressed Bowie deeper on his view of the internet and as a result we get a fantastic example of the difference between thorough comprehension and simple recollection. Bowie may not have foreseen all that was to come with the Internet however there is no doubt he understood the significance of the arrival of the internet and the tremendous opportunities that would present themselves to those that embraced it, not only for his line of work in music but also to the much larger and wider world. Very impressive.

I would presume that any past, present or future Cass MBA student would draw obvious parallels with this particular example and the Cass MBA approach. For me it is the importance of deeper comprehension rather than merely focussing on the obvious yes/no and black/white type answers. As Bowie puts it, the time of singular answers to singular questions is over. Luckily, life is about the greyness – the three, four and five different points of view.

Difference in opinions is what makes life interesting, unpredictable, challenging and exciting. Difference is also why an MBA is more important now than it has ever been – as long as your business school understands that too.

In Bowie’s case, perhaps  it was his flamboyant youth consisting of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” that helped elevate him to see the world from a rather enlightened perspective.  For the rest of us however, there is a particular MBA designed to help you reach your ‘psychedelic’ state instead.



Sam Cook, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

Choose your Business School based on how hard YOU will work for it

First of all, let me be upfront about one thing. Hard work matters.

I will explain. Earlier this week when thinking about my first ‘blog’ I harbored grand visions. Visions where thousands of followers would log on to read and share my clearly inspiring posts covering politics, education and culture. The reality is, that after three months of a full-time Cass MBA I realise there are at least two things wrong with this image. First, that perhaps my writing isn’t as interesting as I thought it was, and second, that successful internet bloggers put in hours upon hours of work a day to earn their keep. I mean, check out this guy!


Clearly, I have a long way to go, and don’t expect me to buy a selfie stick. If my very short time in MBA studies had taught me only one thing it would be that talent alone will not bring you success. Hard work, and a lot of it, is what will get you to the top. Quite simply, I haven’t yet put in anywhere near enough work into this blogging. For now, my audience will be only the very eager few who are currently putting in enormous amounts of research into Business Schools and have probably stumbled across this article by mistake. And that works for me, as you are the ones who understand hard work already.

And so it is with that realisation that I begin this entry to you now. It is the end of Block II and we have just finished our second ‘Integration Week’. The pace of the course is relentless. Cass run a 12-month full time MBA which really moves. It is just over 3 months since I began my studies and already we have covered the basics of Accounting, Economics, Investment, Strategy and Analytics. As well as completing a week long leadership course at Royal Military College Sandhurst, extensive public speaking and personal development workshops, and several networking opportunities with industry and faculty. Having said all of that however, I am writing to you from an apartment in Paris while on a short ‘study break’. Life is tough. (Of course, the pain au chocolat taste even sweeter knowing I have earned them.)

Integration Week #2

This was initially going to be an entire post in itself, but I soon realised that I would never be able to capture the energy, spirit and tension of the week that was. I will leave you with a few notes however. Integration Week will leave you mentally and physically exhausted. Even typing about it makes my eye twitch uncontrollably.

But despite the late nights, heated debates, terrible instant coffee and countless hours trying to master business theory I can hardly begin to express how rewarding it is to work together with a motivated team of individuals and deliver something that we are truly proud of. It is the lessons learned during times like this that will forever be with me, long after I have graduated from Cass. Lessons that unfortunately do not reveal themselves through reading an MBA syllabus or looking up FT rankings.

Another reminder that the real lessons in life lie far beyond the text book. But you already know that. So just keep working harder than everyone else.

Sam Cook, Full-time MBA 2015, Cass Business School

Now, let me share with you some photos from Integration Week

It is fair to say its a week of mixed emotions!


During Integration Week

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After Integration Week. Nothing more to say really.


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