20 November 2019

A day in Casa Chiaravalle: how birdcages and dustbins may change the way you work with people

Author: Marianna Trimarchi, International Full Time MBA student

“Why on earth is there a drill in your hands?” The comments to my Instagram story, showing a happy me holding a real drill, were hiding curiosity blended with shock: this was not what you would expect to be doing in an MBA program – and people were indeed asking for an explanation. Let me give you some context. It was a sunny Saturday in Casa Chiaravalle and 62 MBA candidates coming from 24 countries were gathering at the gates of the biggest asset confiscated from the mafia in Lombardy – now turned into a welcome centre – for the as yet unknown program of the day: an outdoor activity.

Classes had started just a few days earlier and getting to know everyone had been nearly impossible. So the promise of a get-together aimed at easing the connection through a day entirely dedicated to networking and team-building looked exciting. A room had been arranged with the purpose of grouping people randomly. Personally, I was seated with five classmates of whom I had previously talked to only one. I would never have expected that after a couple of hours, I would be looking at those same people with completely different eyes.

Thanks to a facilitator, on the first part of the day – dedicated to a structured form of socialization eased by simple exercises – we were asked to share our thoughts, sometimes involving more intimate or delicate aspects of our lives, to work in groups or in couples on specific activities, to mix with the other teams looking for companions who had not been in our inner circle, and to open up about the ups and downs, successes and failures, challenges and hopes that characterized our past experience and those related to the MBA.

On the second part of the day our work moved outdoors and was more active and practical in scope: we had to build birdcages and dustbins out of pre-cut wooden pieces that would be used by the community of Casa Chiaravalle. And now you can see how the drill comes in. What you can’t imagine, is how impactful this activity was for the within-across group dynamics. In fact, at first we were instructed to compete against each other to build the greatest number of assets, pushing each team towards internal organization and a division of labour. But after the lunch break, the objective was changed into finishing the assembly of all the pieces, no matter about the teams, changing the architecture of the game into a networked, communicative, goal-oriented holistic organization aimed at looking in the same direction and serving the same purpose.

I personally believe that this enriching experience will be a starting point to build upon for the coming weeks, as coursework, assignments and a huge workload will at times seem overwhelming. As far as I am concerned, I know for sure that between me and the new companions I have connected with there will be a spark when we cross paths, a mutual understanding based on the deep bond we have formed by sticking together in Casa Chiaravalle. And this, believe me, is going to be of so much support for us all!

20 November 2019

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