Let’s get Naked!
Let’s get naked! Yes, stripping off is my most important learning at my top-tier MBA so far. It’s the most valuable and genuine thing you can do with those around you. Bring everyone together and merely ask them to strip off and, well, get naked together!
Someday in the past, someone’s dream was to become a human rights activist, today (s)he’s a VP for HR – hiring and firing people for a living. Bohemian artists became engineers, athletes became investment bankers…many of us lost track of what really drives us and what we care about. The result is that set of unconscious drivers, uncommunicated agendas and priorities that we usually avoid or forget speaking about with those around us, which sometimes results in unnecessary frustrations and frictions. Those drivers eventually grow on us and simply become who we are. When we forget to communicate these, we miss giving others a chance to follow, understand and even coach us…and that’s exactly why we should expose ourselves and get naked.
INSEAD is well known for its diversity and it’s very hard to find two people with a lot in common more than a nationality or a list of spoken languages. In one of the very early classes, we paired up with people that we’ve never talked to before, people from different nationalities, ethnicities, professions, backgrounds…you name it. We were asked to present ourselves on three different layers. Starting with attributes that defined us but still, we didn’t really choose for ourselves; the “Givens”. Those consisted of names, nationalities, families, ages…plain simple facts. The second layer was a little bit deeper, elements that we consciously chose to define us; the “Chosen”. On that level, people started to talk about hobbies, studies, religion, career choices, partners and some life-defining moments. The third and last layer was the deepest; the “Core”. It was about who we really are; what drives us, what we believe in, what governs our actions, our strengths, weaknesses and our values.
This exercise was very simple, but the outcome wasn’t. Regardless of whatever was in the first or second layer, the third was the most humbling yet overwhelming. The connection was extremely intense and stretching! Speaking about worst fears, blind spots, and failures with complete strangers wasn’t easy, but it took us to the realisation of our vulnerabilities – where more often than not we have some of those in common. A similar exercise was repeated within study groups, carefully exposing vulnerabilities as well as agendas and general drivers – and again, it has made all the difference. It has transformed the group from a study group into a support group. And only because we were able to expose our vulnerabilities, each of us started navigating towards their individual goal through the group’s collective support. This has made this group experience one of the most developmental and nurturing in my MBA so far.
The learning from these exposures is that each of us has developed multiple layers and a complicated mix of behaviours that distort our core human vulnerabilities. Emotions, weaknesses, blind spots, biases…things that we find really difficult – if not impossible – to share with others. It’s only normal that we don’t speak about these aspects and, even worse, we develop defence mechanisms to hide them. We are all flawed, and most - if not all of us know our flaws. The intuitive easy way is to always hide these flaws, but, the magic happens when they’re exposed. When we don’t expose our vulnerabilities, we do not allow others to understand our motives and behaviours, and so we miss our chance to achieve more through the collective support of the team. This also leads us to misunderstand, miscommunicate, get frustrated and create unnecessary conflicts, stories and assumptions about others. The moment we take a pause to strip off these layers and expose our vulnerabilities, all of this disappears and all that remains is empathy, support and humane connections. So whether it’s work, study, sports, or any other form of relationship you get into…just get naked and thank me later!