The salt tablet
In one of the team-building exercises, we were given a scenario in which the airplane you were on crashed in the middle of the desert. There were about a dozen items available on the site that might help you survive. Task: rank the objects in the order of importance for your survival. I don’t recall all items, but I think they included a bottle of alcoholic spirits, a pistol, a broken pair of glasses, salt tablets, a plastic sheet, a compass, a lighter, etc. We split into groups of four for the task. In my group were a garrulous British-Indian man and another garrulous Italian biologist. There was someone else I can’t remember, but whoever it was, they took up much less space than the two big voices.
One of the items the Italian biologist ranked high on was the salt tablet. I thought, “isn’t that like drinking seawater in a shipwreck?” But having had as wrecked self-confidence as the crashed airplane, I could only feebly ask them, “why would you need the salt tablets?” The British-Indian man responded, “because human body needs salt!” And the Italian biologist nodded hard.
In the correct answer revealed later, some of the top items were the broken glasses (to make fire with the lenses) and the plastic sheet (to collect water from the vaporized air under it.) The salt tablet was, of course, at the bottom and was NOT supposed to be taken under such conditions.
The director who oversaw the exercise commented that in one of the groups, a female student who was a scientist opposed the group majority on putting the salt tablet on top of the list but was not heard. The director said the purpose of the exercise was to listen to others and their different opinions. It wasn’t just my group that loud voices took over the decision-making process. I regretted not opposing the big mouths, but how could you do that when someone was so sure and confident or had proven expertise?
The curse of loud-voice followed me around throughout the year. After all, MBAs are the future leaders of global businesses, so confidence and convictions were essential character traits. They might advance in the business world and tell people to take the salt tablets in the dessert. Or the kool-aid?