Photo of a smiling graduate at MIT's 2014 Commencement
For advice on how to handle a new MIT graduate like this happy senior, read MIT President L. Rafael Reif’s “frequently asked questions” list. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

At MIT’s 2014 Commencement, President L. Rafael Reif offered this advice to the new graduates: “hack the world, until you make the world a little more like MIT.”

But he also offered advice to the world on how to handle this new crop of scientists, engineers, scholars, inventors, and entrepreneurs. His advice took the form of an FAQ—frequently asked questions for their care and feeding. If you want to know how to discourage MIT graduates from working all night or how to make them stop purring, this FAQ is for you:

“Congratulations on your recent decision to hire, invest in, launch a start-up with, enroll, marry, date, or befriend your New MIT Graduate.

MIT Graduates are fairly exotic: Only around 130,000 of them exist in the wild. They vary widely in appearance, although over time, they do tend to acquire bright red jackets. But they all share certain powerful instincts.

Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about handling your New MIT Graduate, to achieve the best results.

QUESTION: My company has a very competitive culture. But my New MIT Graduate insists on building collaborative teams. What am I doing wrong?

ANSWER: There is no way to stop this team-building behavior. And be careful: it spreads! Monitor your entire company for symptoms of increased creativity and profits.

QUESTION: Is there any way to discourage my New MIT Graduate from working all night?

ANSWER: MIT Graduates are naturally nocturnal, especially when they are chasing a fresh idea. You can try locking your New MIT Graduate inside a frustrating bureaucracy; for a short time, this will stun them. But they will quickly escape, and return to quantum leaping.

QUESTION: I have a group of New MIT Graduates. I recently fed them a huge quantity of raw data and unleashed them on an extremely hard problem. Now, how do I make them stop purring?

ANSWER: Warning: Do not tell them the problem is impossible, or critically important to the future of humankind! That will only make the purring worse! If you cannot stand their appetite for tough, meaningful challenges, consider trading them for New Graduates from … some other institution.

QUESTION: I want my New MIT Graduates to perform at the peak of their abilities. What can I use to motivate them?

ANSWER: You can try money. That works, up to a point. But if you really want to see how high your New MIT Graduates can jump—give them an opportunity to change the world.”

Read President Reif’s full charge to the graduates at MIT News.

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