Snow Patrol, Irrational decisions and Studying in Grenoble

October and it is already snowing in Grenoble! 

This weekend there were some 20 cms  (8 in.) of snow in Grenoble. In October! This is almost unheard of though you won’t hear those in the skiing industry complaining. This may also be good news for international students coming here soon on a study abroad program. In fact, just this week we finished the recruitment process for next semester.

Back in February I did a survey of international students   to see of the prospect of doing some skiing was important in choosing to study in Grenoble. Nearly 50% of them said that is was very important. Is this a rational decision for future managers to make?

After a sudden drop in the temperature and a day of snow Grenoble has become white even before it has going through the golden tones of autumn. This is good news for a place that is proud of its status as a former Olympic City. Colleagues are now already talking of the upcoming ski season. This normally happens in the run up to Christmas. This year we haven’t even got to Hallowe’en yet.

In February I did a quite survey with the international students to see how important the skiing resorts were when they choose Grenoble as a study abroad destination. Choosing a business school has a high financial and opportunity cost today. It is also very important for the future career of young graduates. It would be logical to assume then that only things such as rankings, accreditations, quality of courses and the efficiency of the career service would be the only conditions on students’ minds. Not a bit of it.

45% of the students replied that the prospect of a few weekends skiing or snowboarding had an influence on their choice in coming to Grenoble.

At first sight this would seem rather illogical or short sighted to say the least. Classic economist theory tells us that human beings should make decisions that have a positive long term effect on their well-being. Of course, we all know that not to be true. Even a 10 year old can work out that staying up late will leave him in a bad state the next day for school. That won’t stop him negotiating with his parents every night when bedtime comes around. Everyone who smokes knows that it causes cancer. That doesn’t seem to deter millions of people from doing it though. And of course, anyone who has ever fallen in love knows that there is a lot of irrational stuff going on. If your partner ever asks you why you chose her/him one answer you definitely DON’T want to give is:

“Well, I wrote down a list of 10 potential candidates and you got the highest overall score for beauty, intelligence, humour, future earning ability etc. Actually, you’re not very attractive, but I decided that the other criteria compensated for this.”

It would certainly be a logical answer, though you may find yourself having to go back to the list rather quickly to find a replacement.

On the beauty of being irrational

Irrational or short term choices are discussed in two excellent books by Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality. The basic theme is that we often sacrifice long term gain for short term benefit. (Smoking is a prime example here.) What is great about the books is that apart from being really fun to read, Mr. Ariely doesn’t moralise. He just gives the results of various experiments that he has done.

Irrational students

Professors may hope that students will leave their university with fond memories of their courses on finance and marketing, but we know instinctively that the extra curricular activities are far more memorable for them. And that includes weekends on the ski slopes. (One assumes that skiing is not the only reason that the students come and study here. If it was then the Everest School of Management would have put us all out of business by now.)

Teaching the not so rational can even be good for professors. After all, who really wants to teach a class full of future Dr. Spocks? For sure, they would be easy to control, but there wouldn’t be any of those wonderful stories that students can make up when they don’t get their assignments in on time!

Acting on feeling   

Human beings don’t always make rational decisions. Sometimes then, we act on the basis of feeling alone.  However young or old we are, there may be times when we do things on impulse. But making irrational decisions is precisely what makes us human. They are often the moments when it feels great to be alive.

Let’s hope then, those skiers enjoy their time on the slopes, before getting back to the warmth of the classroom and the realities of the real world.

Grenoble  Studying in Grenoble  Business School  Grenoble EM  International Affairs   Higher Education   ESC Grenoble   Strategy  Blog  Global Ed   Graduate Business School    Mark Thomas

See also:

James Madison University: Leaves of Change

“Have you ever noticed that the only time we pay attention to the weather is when it is changing?”

Seven Facts about Studying: The A-B-C of your Brain

Student Achievement Program: “The same rule holds when you memorize information for a test. Trust that your brain will reason its way to the right answer by connecting the dots. Understand that all that information is not stored in one place in your brain – it really, physically is not. Rather, information is scattered acros your cortex, much like the stars are scattered across the universe.”

UK student Leanne Dickinson on living and studying in France

Textbooks and Passports: “In France, says Leanne, “there is a lot of contact time and note-taking.” The university system “seems to tie you a lot more”. This contrasts with the British system.”

Niché Bragahi: How my studies in France encouraged me to pursue a career in teaching

Textbooks and Passports: “Studying abroad, according to Niché, “is about going out of your comfort zone, discovering new things, developing your linguistic skills”



Peter Lorange Kai Peters

Is innovation becoming less and less effective in business schools?

On MBA programme pricing French Management Schools: Stop apologizing!


A fun book that show why humans don’t always behave in a rational manner. An excellent history of finance. Easy to read and lots of interesting examples. Learn about The IKEA Effect, The Baby Jessica Effect and why large bonuses make CEOs less effective.


Filed under Business Schools, Careers, Education, Europe, Exchange study programs, France, Higher Education, International studies, Internships, Management, Strategy, Study Abroad, Travel

2 responses to “Snow Patrol, Irrational decisions and Studying in Grenoble

  1. Pingback: French Management Schools: Stop apologizing! | GlobalEd

  2. Pingback: Photo of the week : Grenoble EM on the NASDAQ | GlobalEd

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