Columbia Team Failure: Don't Forget the "Team"!

Welcome to the new blog, where I will focus on common problems that applicants seem to be having.

Let’s get started.

This is the Columbia “Team Failure” essay for 2018-2019:

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 words)

Many people think this is a straightforward “Failure” essay, the kind which I describe here. However, the word “team” is intentional and should not be ignored.

The implications are clear: team failures are generally not the responsibility of just one person. They result from poor communication, antagonistic relationships, hidden agendas, clashing priorities, arrogance, misjudgments, failure to compromise, missing the big picture, lack of foresight, unrealistic deadlines, selfishness — the list of causes is varied and long.

In this essay, you must take responsibility for your own mistakes and contributions towards this failure, but you should also include a fair and objective reading of your teammates’ failings to show the adcom that you understand the poor group dynamics that lead to team breakdowns and ultimately to failures. Why? Because all your work at Columbia and every other MBA program will be done on teams, and if you can identify and analyze why a team fails, you should also be able to apply those lessons so that your future teams succeed, especially at Columbia.

For example, one of my clients experienced a long-simmering personality clash with his teammate. They bickered constantly over whose idea was better, and it happened again right before the project was due over a minor matter that ended up sinking the entire presentation, which was otherwise strong and complete. So, yes, my client was at fault, but so was his teammate. In your own essay, you should show your understanding of that “poisonous” dynamic, where it came from, and how you could have avoided or “cured” it with the right prevention or “antidote”.