A Path To The Tipping Point

“You going to sign up for this ‘Tipping Point’ deal?” a friend asked me as we walked out of one of our Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) classes early in the quarter.

I replied, “I don’t know – I’m not clear what it is, exactly. A case competition? With alumni as judges? And you only receive materials the night beforehand? Sounds intense – and there’s already so much else to do this quarter.”

“I know man – but every second year who did it says it was one of the best parts of LEAD.”

My friend’s point sunk in, and I decided to sign up for The Tipping Point (or, TTP). That was how I found myself waiting in a Booth meeting room on an October morning, starting to sweat a bit. Even with the case materials in hand, I still had more questions than answers.

My teammate, Maria, and I had just put the finishing touches on our presentation. The presentation itself was crude – no laptops, no PowerPoint. And my drawing skills, which earned me low scores as a toddler, had apparently not improved in the intervening years. Our ideas, however, were strong: We had been tasked by the executives of Fine Wines Co. (our fictitious employer) to evaluate growth opportunities, and were set to present our options in a few minutes. Another Fine Wines Co. division (represented by other TTP participants) would present alternative options. The goal was to convince the Fine Wines Co. executives that Maria and I had found the best path forward. 

Around my third attempt to drink my already-empty coffee, our facilitator came to collect us for the presentation. We walked into the presentation room and I immediately spotted the table where we would sit with the executives to discuss. A table. Seated. Our “presentation” materials were out – perhaps a blessing in disguise.

As we settled in, the Fine Wines Co. executives introduced themselves, and we dove into a 20-minute adventure. Each side presented their options, making point and counter-point, all the while playing to each executives’ biases. In conversation we discovered a few surprising details; midstream corrections had to be made, compromises accommodated. Before we knew it, the debate was over. We had reached agreement in some areas, but not in others.

Feedback on our performance followed. The same “executives” reintroduced themselves with their real-world identities. They were real senior executives and successful Booth alumni – I was amazed they would give their morning so generously. These were Directors of multi-billion dollar PE funds, VPs of Fortune 100 corporations, entrepreneurs with multiple successful businesses. In short, they were not there for the free lunch. Their critiques were forthright, pointed, and inspiring. I walked out of The Tipping Point with more answers, often in areas where I hadn’t even known to ask questions. 

♦♦♦

What a learning opportunity! Some call it a capstone to Booth’s initial leadership development course. Looking back, I see The Tipping Point as a demonstration of the different reasons why I’m at Booth and not somewhere else. TTP is collaboration with other first years, tackling ambiguous problems. It is second year facilitators paying it forward. It’s an engaged alumni base, with over 100 of our most successful alumni giving their time to coach, critique, and improve the next generation. TTP is Booth’s opt-in culture in practice: where participants have dozens of amazing alternatives, they chose a path to TTP.

I’m glad I found my way to TTP – and if you find yourself starting at Booth next fall, I hope you do too.

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