Mature ticket-punchers are more "adult" or specialized in their interests; Tend to do OK academically but socially they subsist outside the mainstream (they ask less and add less).

This is part of a larger "Archetype map" diagram that divides MBA students into 4 groups based on two axes:

  • "Identify with the dominant culture" vs. "Identify with a microculture"
  • "Academic Pragmatist" vs. "Academic Purist"

Those who "identify with the dominant culture" are divided into "Mainstream MBAs" (pragmatist) and "Happy Wanderers" (purist). Those who "identify with a microculture" are divided into "Mature Ticket-Punchers" (pragmatist) and "Map-Makers" (purist). (

  • Mainstream MBAs are focused on why they're here and what they want; The most likely to be satisfied with the status quo.

  • Happy Wanderers tend to find their niche in the Darden community but may struggle to get placed in internships/jobs.

  • Map-Makers are challenged to find community (must make their own maps); Have broader expectations and more diverse needs; Least likely to be satisfied at Darden

Here is the Google Books link to the book where I found this idiom: Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie

  • 2
    Can you provide the context? That link doesn't work for me. Ticket-puncher is not an idiom that I know of; it's a mundane job. Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 15:55
  • It divided MBA students into 4 groups: -Mainstream MBAs -Mature Ticket-Punchers -Happy Wanderers -Map-Makers Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 16:04
  • I uploaded a photo of the quadrant. Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 16:07
  • 2
    The problem is that "getting your ticket punched" and other idioms around the word "punched" has a number of different meanings in a number of different contexts, from the literal (the conductor punches your ticket) to physical analogy (getting punched in the face) to analogies to the conductor scenario (touring the sights in a region and "checking off" each one mechanically) to situations where someone only participates in some activity to get a checkmark. And probably a half-dozen more known only to those under 30.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


What they mean, in that book, by "ticket-puncher" is clearer in another sentence from that book.

The "mature ticket-punchers" entered Darden focused on a particular career

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers. p. 71

That means they are only in school because a degree is required for the job. They are here to get their ticket punched.

That's what they mean by the label. However, the grid is constructed from asking two questions:

Academically, are you a pragmatist or a purist?

Do you identify with the dominate culture or some micro culture?

So people who are academically pragmatic and counter culture are being judged to just be ticket-punchers. They aren't here for cultural experience or pure academic pursuits. They just want a job.

The book's logic is a bit exclusionary. It could be that there are more than 3 possible reasons someone goes to school. They've eliminated two and just assume your reason must be the third. This only holds up if you insist all other reasons fall under these three somehow. But that's what you have to do if you want to draw these clever little two question diagrams.

In a broader context, that is, outside of this book, this literally means someone who gets their ticket punched. A practice used in everything from train travel to verify you are a paying customer, not someone reusing an old ticket, to earning you a free sandwich after having bought ten of them, as proven with ten punches in your ticket (a promotional gimmick that always made me wonder how expensive hole punches could possibly be).

While that is the root literal meaning it has grown into several others:

punch one's ticket

  1. Do or achieve something that enables one to progress to the next step: Krueger punched her ticket to the Championships by taking eighth at the NCAA South Regionals

  2. US informal Deliberately undertake particular assignments that are likely to lead to promotion at work.

    • (In sports) ensure one’s progress to a further contest or tournament: in scoring 13 points, they punched their ticket to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville

Example sentences:

Last Sunday, the Terrapins punched their ticket to an eleventh straight NCAA tournament with an uninspiring, painful to watch victory over a mediocre University of Virginia team.

He had punched his ticket as a climbing Sherpa, but the next challenge was to make his mark on Everest.

Johannesburg kept his record perfect and punched his ticket for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile later this month.

oxforddictionaries.com: punch one's ticket

get one's ticket punched

get one's ticket punched Sl. to die; to be killed. (Literally, to be cancelled.) Poor Chuck got his ticket punched while he was waiting for a bus. Watch out there, or you'll get your ticket punched.

dictionary.com: get one's ticket punched


This phrase is most commonly used in the military, especially the US Army. It refers to careerists (especially field-grade officers in the combat branch) who pass through a succession of schools, peacetime command assignments and combat command assignments. During the Viet Nam conflict, a zealous ticket-puncher would volunteer for jump school (parachute training), language school (Vietnamese), and a command & staff college assignment, then a command slot with a heliborne unit (7th Air Cavalry) or other high-profile unit. It was important to get one's ticket punched in a Viet Nam command assignment to earn the VN campaign ribbon and perhaps even a Silver Star decoration.

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