by Caleb Ellis
While formal schooling inevitably has an end, an education does not. Learning, practicing, and growing are all parts of our intellectual socialization. Gaining knowledge allows us to be better at our day jobs, more interesting at dinner parties, and, in many ways, better people.
Duke in Silicon Valley certainly did that. I can confidently say that I know more than I did a month ago, and that that knowledge will help me when I join the workforce, and perhaps more quickly, when I next attend a dinner party. Yet, our final class with Professor Christensen had much more to do with the kind of people we’re capable of being, rather than the capability of the people we’ll become.
Before speaking more broadly, Professor Christensen asked us to identify how some of the models we studied in class could be applied to our personal lives. Tools such as emergent and deliberate strategies or modularity and interdependence were designed for the business world, yet asking us to apply them to our own lives was hardly a mandate to “treat yourself like a business.”
Rather, it represented one of those rare moments in which you could see your education enabling you to become a better person. Every day, people wake up wishing they were healthier, happier, or more passionate about what they’re doing, and answering those questions is tough. What Professor Christensen was able to articulate so clearly was that the process of asking and struggling with those questions themselves is what ultimately culminates in an answer.
Professor Christensen wasn’t the first person to tell me that the little things matter, or that life only gets more complicated over time. However, his lecture was the first time I recognized someone who not only grappled those considerations, but identified and altered the processes they could control to reach the outcome they wanted.
Making an acquisition or launching a new product requires you to call on the skills and knowledge you possess to make an informed decision. The same thing goes for life, and in more ways than I think any of the participants could have expected, Duke in Silicon Valley brought that to the forefront.
For the past month, we’ve had a unique opportunity to enhance our education through study and experience. We’ve chewed over case studies, launched inquisitions at corporate panels, and worked tirelessly to wrap our heads around disruptive innovation. It’s been an incredible opportunity to grow as students and, almost unbelievably, soon-to be employees. More surprisingly, however, has been the incredible opportunity to grow as people. The program offered us no shortage of role models, from our Professor Matt Christensen, to our advisors Kimberly Jenkins and Amy Unell, to the speakers and companies who graciously shared their time with us. Ultimately, this program testifies to their success in partnering education with life, and, more specifically, their success in passing it on to nineteen aspiring students.