At Chicago Booth, we teach you HOW to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.
This famous powerpoint Booth question unnerves many folks…
Imagine it’s the 18th hole, and Tiger Woods is at the tee box. Imagine he has a TWENTY STROKE LEAD on the number 2 guy. Victory is a lock. But let’s also imagine that he has a chance to set a COURSE RECORD if he can somehow drive the green and put it in for eagle.
Now, sure, he can put his Driver away and take out his 3-Wood and hit a nice safe drive down the middle. But… wouldn’t you want to see him GO FOR IT? Why the hell not? If he blasts the thing and it sails into the water, it at least tells us that this guy was going for glory. There’s something noble in taking advantage of an opportunity.
And, at the risk of sounding harsh, there’s something cowardly about having an opportunity… and NOT taking advantage of it.
You are Tiger Woods in this scenario and have been given 4 blank pages to DO something with. Please for the love of god don’t hit a clean, safe shot down the middle. Go for the green.
What does it say about someone who has an opportunity, and doesn’t seize it?
Okay, so hopefully we’re clear—you GO for it. These are blank white pages… DO SOMETHING with them.
“But I’m not creative!”
Everyone’s creative. Some of us just need a little permission to unleash the BEAST inside.
You don’t need amazing powerpoint skills. You don’t need to hire a graphics whiz. What you need is a smart concept. Doesn’t need to be creative for creative sake. Don’t overthink it. Just be… smart. You can be smart in one of two ways:
Content or Structure.
You may have an incredible story that is absolutely atypical; how do you know if you have an amazing story? Easy. Tell it to someone. If their jaw drops, and they keep asking you questions to find out more, chances are you have a very cool story. But to be honest, 98% of us don’t have truly unique stories. We all think we do, but we don’t. They may be cool in SOME ways, but they are likely not jaw-drop-inducing. Clinging to a raft while fleeing Cuba and building a clinic to help refugees with only $17 in hand is the start to a very cool story. Losing your parents at age 7 and taking a bus to a foreign city, finding yourself a foster home, learning a new language by yourself, and starting your first successful business enterprise (that continues today) at age 12? That’s a cool story.
The rest of us, like I said, won’t have that. But if you do… there is less pressure on you to do something interesting with the LOOK of your presentation. Doesn’t mean you should just list 5 bulletpoints on each blank white page. There is still room to tell this story in an interesting way, utilizing visuals, metaphor, thematic motifs, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the point here is that the “take home coolness” will be the story itself.
This will be the challenge for most folks. You have a pretty cool story, but not a mind-blowing one. Exhale. Breathe easy… because there is an equally amazing option for you folks. You can communicate something spectacular about who you are… through the WAY you tell your story. If you can get creative and do something surprising in the way to unravel aspects of your life, then it can say something equally impressive about what you’re all about.
“Great, but once again… I’m not creative!”
Yeah you are. You just need to find your “club.” The club that’s gonna help you drive the ball as fas as possible. For Tiger, it’s his trusty driver. He knows that club inside/out. What’s yours?
Well, a good place to start is what it is you DO. If you’re a medical tech guy, maybe you tell your story over a serious of clever X-Rays. Or anatomy drawings. An outline of a body with lines pointing to various parts corresponding to different, cool functions. Hands – used for typing code, beating people at darts at the office party, and strumming sweet sweet chords on the guitar as I serenade my fiancee. Eyes – used for spotting trends in data, identifying trustworthiness in potential partners, etc etc. You get the idea. You can have fun with it, but it’s your milieu, so… OWN it.
You’re in real estate development. Maybe you tee up blueprints for the world greatest building. With each section or wing representing a different aspect of your life/career.
You’re in consulting, maybe your slides are… Tarot cards, predicting things for other people, helping them see the way. But it’s about you. Billions and billions of different ways to be creative.
But start with what you know. Have a unifying theme though. Even if the 4 slides are unrelated, there’s always a way to unify them. There’s a difference between actual chaos and planned chaos. Planned chaos can be extremely fun (wedding planning, late-late night spur of the moment plans, etc.). But when it’s unplanned and actually unwiedly, it never succeeds.
Start with what you’re great at. And build ideas from there. You can make a statement about what you’re good at by turning it into the “vehicle” for your PPT format. But do NOT squander the opportunity by throwing bulletpoints on the white pages. That guy’s not gonna go very far.
More to say on this, but this is a good starting point for those who are stuck.