Adversity: A Distinct B School Advantage

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When I was taking classes at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities Program, my professor Dr. Mike Haynie challenged my thinking. He had this knack for storytelling and he’s so insightful that he was recently awarded a Ted Talk. But on this day in class he let Aimee Mullins do the talking through a brief video. Mullins shared her story about how being typically thought of as disabled has given her a distinct competitive advantage. I’d argue it gave her the ability to think creatively. In her Ted Talk she asks children to give her suggestions on if she wanted to jump over a building, what sorts of legs would they build for her. Immediately the children took clues from nature like frogs and kangaroos. And what’s interesting to note is that those children were doing exactly what the folks at the Biomimicry Institute do on a daily basis—they were looking to nature to solve a problem. And what’s interesting to note is that not only were the children limitless in their thinking but they imagined a far greater outcome than just jumping over a building—they thought she could fly, too.

Professor Haynie brought to light the idea that innovation often comes from adversity, limitations and shortcomings. He made us think how we could look at the world around us and see problems that others found invisible and begin to brainstorm solutions that were previously undiscovered. As further illustration, Mullins said that she called for innovations—one might argue who are childlike in their thinking: curious, limitless and unhindered by others’ perceptions—to design new legs and make prothesis making an art form. Fashion designers made her boots, innovators created kangaroo like legs that allowed her to sprint faster than many people with two naturally created stems and others allowed her to vary her height based on the size shoe she wanted to wear that day and Mullins friends’ became jealous of her previously-thought-of-disability because it gave her the advantage of changing her height.

Professor Haynie made us think about how we too could solve problems as entrepreneurs, how we could change our thoughts to imagine the impossible, think of solutions to things that were once thought of as impossible and he demonstrated through Mullins that adversity is not what we think. It is not a setback but rather an opportunity uniquely to the person facing the obstacle to trek a path that was previously unexplored.

I’m not saying that Syracuse is the only B school to be touting ideas like these to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, but I can say with confidence that unless a college or university can challenge your thinking in this way that it is a waste of time and money. If B school doesn’t drastically alter the way you’ve been thinking, working and imagining the future than it has failed in it’s endeavor to educate you.

About the Author


Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.
Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.
She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

View her Google+ page here. 

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