Wednesday, July 23, 2014

They Eat Humans at McKinsey

Some of the comments I got when making the choice about which consulting firm to join over the summer actually went into that direction. Consultants at Bain are best friends and party a lot. People at McKinsey are socially awkward and don't have friends. People at BCG are maybe a bit boring, fairly nerdy, but generally capable of human interaction.

After more than a month at The Firm I have to say that I haven't yet eaten human flesh or had someone take a healthy bite off my bicep. I have actually had some decent conversations with people that have had human contact before, showed signs of warmth and even offered help. I even drank alcohol with them. So I would say it is like a lot of things: pretty fun when you actually do it.

I want to make this article about simplifications. Why is it that we call people from McKinsey social outcasts and why do we think that people at Google are fun? I think its heuristic, its a mental short-cut to make sense of something that is really difficult to comprehend. Things such as corporate culture exist, yet they are very difficult to express and therefore often oversimplified. In order to make difficult things understandable we generalize, use strong language and examples. And it very often serves a purpose. At the same time it might lead one into the wrong direction if this is the only argument one has when making a decision.

When I thought about joining McKinsey I knew about the sometimes rather negative stereotypes. Other things were really drawing me towards the company such as the strong footprint in Africa, the size and brand recognition and the fact that many great friends at Stanford have actually worked there. Only looking at this one mental shortcut datapoint might have led to me making a different decision. I actually think some of those data points are positives for me. I felt that I was getting honest answers from McKinsey recruiting staff when I asked about the people working there. I was told that not everyone is cool and helpful, but once you've been there for a while you know who to work with and who to avoid. I prefer that over being told that everyone will be my new best friend.

Anyways. To conclude the blog post about which consulting firm to choose (which is a massive first world problem and I am hesitant to actually call it a problem) I'd like to quote a great person from Stanford.

"Tim, consulting firms are like red wine. People have strong opinions and talk a lot about the differences. But you will see that in the end, during the blind tasting, it all tastes the same and no one can tell the difference".

Cheers + bis bald,