Hail to the BHB

There are a lot of Big Honkin’ Binders on the Warwick MBA, but nothing seems to blunt the thrill of opening a new one. And I’ve just collected another one in prep for Term 3.

Creaking the fresh spine open for the first time offers near-orgasmic excitement. The immensity of readings and pre-readings, the case studies, the structure of tabs and sections and Assessment criteria. Term 3’s courses are shared with the part-time MBAs – taught in intensive one-week modules rather than spread over a term – but the binder metaphor thankfully remains as the guiding collective noun of each course, heavy and plasticky and beautiful.

These Big Honkin’ Binders are, of course, a major selling point for the Warwick MBA: they’re ‘giving us something’, weight and heft to the knowledge offered. Looking back at the BHBs from Terms 1 and 2, I’ve made each one mine: covered in Post-Its, notes in margins, filled-in boxes and printouts hole-punched and bound into context by my own hand. These binders are now part of me.

Just as a handwritten letter on 160g watermarked vellum means more than a text message, these binders are worthy containers for the riches of a top MBA, even if much of the course material and interaction happens in electronic form. And I’d bet that even when laptops have the same contrast, clarity, resolution and portability as a sheet of paper, these binders will still be around.

The mainstream life

Looking at my calendar for the next few days. I’ve got a set number of people to phone each day, various academic assignments to submit to the University, two proposals to write and five suit-and-tie meetings to attend.

How admirable. How conventional. How mainstream.

This whole year at Warwick has basically a single purpose: to push me into the mainstream. That widest streak of life where I’ve spent so little of mine.

Most professionals are by definition mainstream (I’m looking at the professional class here, of course.) Leave school, attend University, maybe a Masters before a job in finance, law, or consulting. Pair off, build up capital, have children, go into oblivion. That’s it. That’s the mainstream, and most people are happy there.

Compare this with what’s on my CV. Left school (in teens), bummed around North America, fell into copywriting as a way to avoid anything that felt like working for a living, somehow got good enough at it to be named ‘one of the world’s top 100 creatives’ and judge the One Show. A decade of that, then a few more years in London doing marketing plans for all sorts of companies, working my own hours and answerable to no-one. Yet somehow getting those companies better ROI than any big agency. That’s a long way from the mainstream.

Trouble is, the mainstream is also where the action is: living on the edge is great, but the jobs and projects that interest me now are happening in mainstream companies with mainstream people. If I’m to continue doing the stuff I like, I need to join a respectable business. And respectable businesses employ respectable people. Mainstream people.

That’s ultimately what the Warwick MBA is doing for me: putting a respectable mainstream face on my rather unusual background. As the madness of Term 2 finishes and I start talking to headhunters, it’s time to go mainstream.