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Six Words

How can a school or program stand out in a crowded field?

November 15, 2015

I spoke at the GMAC Asia Pacific Conference in Manila earlier this month about how business schools can stand out from the crowd. With nearly 17,000 schools worldwide offering business degrees, it’s more important than ever for each school to articulate to prospective students what’s unique and valuable about that school – and then to communicate it in such a way that the school’s personality, or “secret sauce,” comes through.

As part of my presentation on Positioning Your Programs in a Complex World, I asked each person to introduce himself or herself to everyone else at their table in a new way. And, just as I tell my students that it is harder to write a short paper than a long paper, I told the conference attendees that it’s harder and much more interesting to tell a story – any story – in very few words. Their job was to tell their story, their introduction, in just six words.

I’ve started using Six-Word Memoirs as a fun, creative (and somewhat addictive) way for having people introduce themselves to others. The idea came through an exercise created by Smith Magazine and popularized by the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure Writers. This exercise gets some phenomenally interesting introductions – some hilarious, others poignant, and some quite revealing.

Here are some examples from the book:

Cadavers played an unexpectedly large part.  (Mary Roachd)

Well, I thought it was funny (Stephen Colbert)

Arty dad, rocker mom, crazy childhood. (Summer Pierre)

Many risky mistakes, very few regrets (Richard Schnedi)

Six kids; life stranger than fiction (Deborah Carson)

Revenge is living well, without you. (Joyce Carol Oates)

Learning disability, MIT.  Never give up.  (Joe Keselman)

Wife: one; Degrees: two; Arrests: seven.  (Patrick J. Sauer)

Should have used condom that time. (Rob Bigelow)

EDITOR. Get it? (Kate Hamill)

After introducing themselves to each other with a Six-Word Memoir, they introduced their school using the same technique. While it sounds difficult (and it can be) and as if there would be a lot of similarity among responses (there wasn’t), it took some times, as well as some laughter and counting on fingers, for each person to convey their school’s unique personality in just six words.

Can you describe (or better yet, market) your school or program in six words? If so, post it in the comments section or send it to me and, if I get enough of them, I’ll publish them in a future post.


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