A Harvard class experiment

I teach a very fun class at Harvard these days, that brings together scientists, data folks, economists, philosophers, businesspeople and design gurus, to brainstorm problems of so-called social and economic inclusion. In a recent iteration of this class, I had about 80 students in class. Since, in a previous iteration of the class, others had suggested that we should push this attempt to get diverse perspectives to the limit, that is, why be restricted to the diversity within Harvard, notwithstanding the fact that the classroom was already very diverse (much more so than, say, a conventional class in physics or in the business school).

So, this time around, we opened up some sessions and exercises to the world at large, mostly folks from India and the Indian diaspora participated.

One exercise in particular was fun.  A company I helped found, Aspiring Minds, helped create an analytic human resource challenge, mimicking what the company does – that is, help mainstream companies and non-mainstream talent find each other, thereby addressing fast-growing companies’ talent access problem, and addressing the needs of students from non-prestigious locations and institutions, who are otherwise very qualified, to find great jobs.

Check this document put together by the folks at Aspiring Minds if you want a more detailed description of the exercise.

Anyway, the long and short is that, even though the top team that attempted the simulation challenge was from my class, in general, the class was outcompeted by the world at large.  In a sense this validates the founding hypothesis of Aspiring Minds, doesn’t it!?

Institutions like Harvard have a lot to teach the world, but we have a lot to learn from it as well, surely.



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