The last day of the month means that we all have new seating assignments starting on Monday. During January I was between a German and a Brazilian. During February I was on the end of a row beside Victor, from Peru. He and I had a great time together and I will miss his witty commentary next month. As a show of support for each other we wore similar t-shirts to class today. He wore a red España Toros shirt while I wore a red Houston Texans (Thanks, Stacy!) shirt. Together we were Los Hermanos del Toro Rojo (The Last Unicorn, anyone?); pictures will be posted on FaceBook soon.
During our discussion of sustainability economics, Ralf made the point that Americans were very wasteful. He noted first that someone in the third world will generate, on average, 149 times his bodyweight in waste during the course of his life. A European will generate over 1,000 times his bodyweight. An American, on the other hand, will generate almost 4,000 times his bodyweight. Then he remarked, "And look at Bryan; Americans are getting bigger all the time." Little did he know that no higher compliment could be paid to a member of the UMC--AH!
We finished the day with a Lebanese dinner organized by Zina and Ziad, our two Lebanese classmates. Ziad, a former professional basketball player, has been incredibly gracious in helping me learn more about my Syrian/Lebanese heritage. The dinner was wonderful; everyone was there including students, partners, faculty, and staff. I'm just sad I had to take off so soon!
There is a lot to do this weekend in preparation for classes, career services, and our first hardcore integrated exercise next week. My plan is to start the preparation on a good night's sleep--a rare luxury around here.
In Entrepreneurship we have been studying cases of social entrepreneurs, startups that help people and/or the environment while still generating profits. In our presentation skills workshop, one group presented, received feedback, and then re-presented a new system for measuring the net social value added to society by businesses. In POM we have studied how one of the world's largest power companies was able to develop and implement a social responsibility plan with very little time and budgetary requirement. Tomorrow in Economics we will analyze the economics of trade, development, and sustainability.
It's great the way it all comes together from several different angles. Because this is a general management program it is important for us to understand how a key goal (in this case, social responsibility) can be accomplished by different business functions--individually or all together.
Furthermore it is gratifying to me personally that IMD emphasizes sustainability. As anyone who has read my first blog entry will know, sustainability is very important to me and I'm pleased that this program does more than pay it lip service. I can see on their faces that there is very genuine interest and inspiration in my classmates too. We are not here just to learn how to "get rich." We are here to learn how to be more effective at making the world a better place. It's a hell of a challenge, but it is worth it.
As a former HP executive, Corey has a great deal of industry experience to share, which he does by providing "management tips" in each of his lectures. I have found these very useful as they're a part of the curriculum that you can't read in any book. His greatest contribution today, though, has been quoting the Major General song from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance--"with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse!" It takes me back to 5th Grade, when I was the Pirate King in our class's production. No time to reminisce, though; the coffee break is over so it's back to business!
By the end of the night I had melted into my chair and was ready to roll home--unfortunately "home" is up a steep hill, so rolling was hard. This kind of sublime evening was very welcome before what promises to be a very intense week.
Many thanks to Daniel, a German classmate, who helped me with my smoke ring technique. Who cares about accounting? If I make it out of this program with improved ping pong skills and the ability to blow Gandalf-like smoke rings, I'll call it a success--an expensive, hard-earned success.
The show itself was just half of what made tonight so great. Several other IMD students and partners were there so part of the fun was just dressing up and going out for an evening of something different. As we sipped champagne during intermission we all agreed that we had made the right event choice tonight.
It was also a cool challenge to remove English completely from the operatic experience. The singing was in Italian while the supertitles were in French. It felt good just to go from one to the other, eliminating English from the equation for a few hours.
But enough about tonight; 9.5 hours of Finance starts early tomorrow morning so I'm off for now.
What made today really great, however, was world class ping pong! We had more time than usual to play today and there were few enough people that we could play singles instead of doubles. This allowed me to play several matches with Martin, Alex (both in my study group), and Paul, the staff ringer. My games with Martin were pretty evenly matched and a lot of fun. Alex, after he warmed up, showed off why China dominates in this sport. Standing 10 feet off the table he dug everything up and brought serious offense too. It was inspiring to watch. Although he beat me soundly, my level of play increased as I played him. The hard forehand smashes I wrote about in a previous post were coming several-per-match instead of a few-per-week; it felt great!
The icing on the cake was beating Paul, though. Three weeks ago he would destroy me every time; today I was able to pull out our last match in extra points. He's still going to beat me nine times out of 10, but winning once was a big step. I feel like Rocky. AH!
To commemorate this feeling, I must share a link sent to me by one of my buddies back in the States: The 9 Manliest Names in the World. Somehow “Bryan Guido Hassin” was left off the list so take these suggestions with a grain of salt. I’ll just assume I was #10—who knows why they only published the top 9?! Don't follow this link if you're easily offended by profanity. Do follow it if you ever had a conversation with me about how envious we were of a friend living on a street called Iron Master.
I must end this post here as there is much work to prepare for tomorrow and the weekend. After all, I'm sacrificing tomorrow night's productivity for the most manly of activities: going to the opera!
I sent out a feeler email to the rest of the class to see if anyone else was interested. It came as no surprise that I received several positive responses from interested parties and, in fact, some responses from students who already had tickets. What did come as a surprise, however, was this email from Lucy, an Australian student with a petroleum engineering background:
"argh - [can't make it. However] I'm in for Carmen in May - the last time I sat down and listened to it in its entirety was at about 3am working night-shift with a bunch of crazy Norwegian riggers off the north west coast of Africa . . ."
I love it. Reason # 8,264,921 to come to IMD: rubbing shoulders with people like Lucy.
Now I can't wait for Friday's performance. Then Saturday will be cigars and Scotch/Cognac/Port with students and alumni at the 5-star Beau-Rivage Palace. This may be the closest I come all year to the post-wine-dinner environment of the Petroleum Club of Houston. What better way to relax after 9.5 hours of Finance on Saturday? Fortunately the IMD Cigar Club is a standing tradition so there will be more opportunities to partake.
As I find lyrics distracting, I've been listening to a great deal of classical music while working. It's been mostly Beethoven so far with some other classical-era composers mixed in. It still never ceases to amaze me how Beethoven's music can take me through such a range of human emotion and mood: joy, sorrow, anger, tenderness, triumph, loss, chaos, serenity . . . Who would have thought that notes scribbled on paper by a crotchety, deaf, old German would inspire such feelings in people two hundred years later? Incredible!
Maury Peiperl is a piano buff and opens each of our Leading People in Organizations (LPO) classes with a musical passage that relates in some way to our lecture. I've identified two of the three pieces correctly so far, which isn't bad for someone whose only classical music education has been concert attendance. Credit the special women in my life for being my dates to the Symphony and for introducing me to classical music in the first place.
Whereas our Leadership class focuses on deep personal introspection, LPO is about leading and motivating teams, managing HR issues, and creating situations/environments conducive to peak group performance. Tomorrow is our first LPO session in a while. After our intense week of Industry & Company Analysis/Economics last week, I am eager to return to this softer side of our studies.
Although I took a lot of heat for it, I managed to be strong and extract myself pretty early. I was home before 11 and still accomplished several tasks before crashing early. It was a cold, clear night and the stars/moon were beautiful during the walk to my apartment. I'm glad I stuck to my decision. Now I'm well rested, ready for my workout, and measuring the progress of the sunrise against the mountains and lake outside.
Willpower - just like the 1968 song by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. I'm almost finished with 1970 now. Since 1967 (my last musical blog), we've seen the rise of Simon & Garfunkel, the Doors, Tommy James & the Shondells, Steppenwolf, Neal Diamond, Three Dog Night, and Creedence Clearwater Revival--what an exciting time for music. The ongoing prominence of groups like The Temptations continues to surprise me (They seem somehow out of place in this era.) but I'm certainly not complaining.
I have updated my February album with additional pics--enjoy!
I was planning to take a nice, slow jog but the cold air and rest must have envigorated me; I quickly found myself running at my fastest pace since my arrival. Two of my study group members (Martin and Sergei) and I go running together once a week, which is always a pleasure. However, I still find it beneficial to run by myself now and then. It's a great opportunity to get away from the IMD world for a little while and do some thinking.
Additionally, whenever I run on my own I finish with two steep, uphill sprints. These are followed by yelling "DRAGO!!!!!!" as I struggle to refill my lungs with the cold air--I know at least one of my readers will get that reference, AH!
Now I'm back at IMD for another day of presentation skills. Steffen, our Danish student, is throwing a party tonight, which I'm sure will be a lot of fun. The work is really piling up for the coming week, though, so I'll need to resist the temptation to linger. Still, after this morning's run, I'm pumped and energized.
My mobile phone all but died last night so I am in the market for a new one. Accordingly it may be a few days before I am taking pictures again. In the mean time, February's pictures thus far are here.
Happy [belated] Valentine's Day to all and thank you SO MUCH to those who sent me cards. I know it isn't cheap to send real mail across the Atlantic but the smiles your cards induced were priceless.
Although there were many great ones, my two favorites hands-down were:
Original Proverb: La fidélité en amour n'est que la paresse du désir.
English Translation: Fidelity in love is just the laziness of desire.
Original Proverb: Hosumalla ei tule kuin kusipäisiä lapsia.
English Translation: Rushing won't get you anything but stupid children.
Also awesome: today in Accounting we dissected Carlsberg, a huge beer conglomerate.
Objectively speaking, I was a little disappointed with it. First off, no such hookups existed. This may just be a difference between European and American clubs, but I suspect that it's not universal. If my Houstonian partner in crime (whose birthday it was yesterday--Happy birthday, Cox!) and I had been to a place several times, I think we would have established more relationships--as we did when we took St. Martin by storm.
The club featured three levels, each with a different style of music. The upstairs was purportedly 80s music. It turned out actually to be mostly 70s and 90s, without a great selection of either. When pressed for 80s staples, the DJ didn't even recognize most of the names (although that could have been affected by my French skills!). I miss The Handsomes. At least this floor DID have Top Gun playing in the background, although most people there didn't know the movie well enough to catch quote references. I miss my wing man.
The middle floor was salsa/latin, but we didn't spend any time on this floor. The bottom floor was supposed to be Top 40 and it was . . . from four years ago. By the time we made it down there, it was nearing time for my departure and hearing the same tired reggaeton beats over and over again (which, apparently, are the same songs they play there every Saturday night) reinforced my decision to go.
Griping aside, I had an awesome time. It was great to get out there and let loose for a few hours. Each time more members of our class showed up there was this great feeling of inclusion and excitement as we welcomed them to . . . somewhere that wasn't IMD! We had one classmate with a birthday and another with his wife's birthday so it was fun to celebrate with them. It's actually a good thing that the club didn't wow me. If they had been playing classic 80s and/or rock upstairs or good hip hop downstairs, I may have been caught up in my own energy and stayed way too long. Instead I extracted myself by ~1:15, got some reading done at home, and went to bed in preparation for a morning workout--which I'm off to now!
At the end of the day, three groups were selected randomly to present their arguments. For each group, one member was selected randomly to do the presentation to a panel of faculty members who played roles of actual decision makers/influencers in the case. Given the amount of time we had to prepare, any presentation was essentially an improvisation.
When we were first told about the presentation part of the assignment, my natural reaction was to hope that I was selected. After all, I love presenting to an audience; it's my element. Then, as I realized that I had gaping holes of knowledge about the accounting and marketing aspects of our group's proposal (We split up the work but didn't have time to regroup before the deadline.), I became a little more apprehensive about being selected.
Our group was the second of three selected to present; I was selected from my group to be the presenter--be careful what you wish for! The faculty decision makers' roles were intended to poke holes in whatever we presented, be interruptive at times, and generally stress the presenter out. I didn't know the supporting evidence for several aspects of our plan and hadn't even seen the powerpoint in its entirety, but hey, I didn't come here not to be challenged!
The faculty gave me a hard time, especially on the quantitative stuff, but it was a big rush to be up there. The class gave me a lot of support from the audience, which felt great. At the end of the day, my presentation was pretty BSy, and probably was especially underwhelming to Stewart, the Accounting prof. I spent a significant amount of time afterward thinking about what I would have/should have said and receiving explanations from my teammates about what our slides actually meant. However, I received numerous backslaps and congratulations from my classmates afterward so I think I held my own.
Regardless, it was a great experience and I can't wait to do it again. Afterward the class and the professors (out of character) met in the lobby for Brazilian (The case was set in Brazil.) caipirinhas before heading down to the dungeon for a long night of project work. What a day; I can't wait to do it again!
On another note, the Chinese students made a very gracious presentation for lunar new year and gave away Chinese gifts to all the students. Coming from a country where everyone seems to be leery about competition from China, I found their unsolicited offering to be right in line with the warm, generous culture I've come to know and expect from these students.
"Odkryt okna byla tvoja lucnaja idea sevodna." Excusing the probable misspellings, this translates to "Opening the window was the best idea you've had all day!"
So far our accounting education conjures up images of dusty old books and quill-written ledgers. As a software guy, that's a little hard to stomach. IMD is very clear that we are not here to learn to be accountants. We are here to learn to be better general managers--the best general managers--so the intent of this course is to educate us just enough to be dangerous.
Our major takeaways from this course have been centered around how to analyze balance sheets, income statements and cashflow statements to support investment decisions. I've had plenty of exposure to these reports before in a software context so it's interesting to see them applied to manufacturing, services organizations, etc. I'm also hoping to benefit from Stewart's knowledge of fine Scotch whiskey.
I'll leave you with a quote from Stewart: "You know you're due it so you have to accrue it!" Imagine it with a thick Scottish accent.
Happy Mardi Gras!
At least we're not the only ones. People are whistling in the hallways. One person starts then others join in. I whistled Daryl Hannah's solo from Kill Bill on my way back from the bathroom and I had at least three others join in.
We've split off into subgroups for the time being and both of my partners are sick. I will be strong of mind and fend off their viruses! :-)
What really made the discussion personal for me is that Ralf chose Janet as the name of a hypothetical WalMart customer in Arkansas. I have an Aunt Janet who lives in Arkansas and is probably a WalMart customer. Ralf usually chooses Frieda or Greta for hypotheitcal names so good on him for proposing an accurate Arkansan name!
Since much of today's class was devoted to discussion instead of lecture, there weren't too many Ralfisms. As always, though, there were a few:
- Let's bring it on, duuuuuude!
- At this stage in your career it's important that you show leadership . . . and hold hands.
- Coffee breaks are so 70s anyway.
- I'd rather eat myself instead of letting someone else eat me.
The soup du jour today was cauliflower. Off to Finance!
Interesting take-aways so far:
- Marketing is the art of differentiation.
- 2/3 of all transactions are business-to-business, so most marketing is business-oriented.
- Marketing permeates all aspects of a business and essentially gives the customer a "voice."
- "Excitement," performance, and basic factors influence customer satisfaction and fulfillment in radically different ways.
- Different customers value different factors; good marketers understand this differentiation and react to it.
- The difference between "product" and "brand" is essentially emotion.
- A brand reflects a company's values, its product's benefits, and its target's commonalities.
- Buyers can only process a few issues simultaneously so sometimes branding requires sacrifice of some positive qualities in order to focus on the few that are most important.
- Mass media advertising isn't cheap. In the US it costs about $.02 per customer reached and each customer must be reached at least three times before your message sinks in. It costs a lot more to reach more homogeneous, targeted audiences.
At R7 we always knew in the back of our minds that we "should do more marketing" but it's impressive now to see just how much we neglected. Marketing should drive your business, not be an afterthought.
It's also interesting to me how much genre overlap there was in the 50s and the 60s. I grew up listening to radio stations that just played oldies. Then my tastes evolved to classic rock so I listened to stations that played just classic rock. In my mind I always envisioned there being some definite time when rock & roll definitively ended and what we now call classic rock definitively began. In fact, though, classic rock was making inroads into popular culture while rock & roll was still going strong. I'm in 1968 right now and here is Cream right alongside the Temptations, the Doors right alongside the Supremes. It seems obvious but I had no idea. Here's to many more years of great music!
It has been a wonderful weekend of work, wine, and winter weather. When I woke up this morning to work on a Leadership paper, the crescent moon was bright over the snowy mountains, the stars were reflecting off the serene lake, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was positively surreal. Even if my camera could have captured it, no reproduction would have done it justice; it was like something you would see in a computer-generated 3D desktop wallpaper.
Here are a few pictures from my first month at IMD. Enjoy!
- Why are we going into such detail? BECAUSE IT'S GOOD FOR YOU!
- You're tired? Why? Because you're only sleeping four hours a day? That's just half of what you're supposed to have. There, problem solved.
- At IMD, many professors will call this element "people." In economics we call it what it really is: "labor."
- Cartels rely on facilitating devices, such as long-term contracts or implicit agreements to get around the prisoner's dilemma. It's a lot like marriage, actually.
- Where did this great new technology come from? GERMANY, of course!
- This is not some tra la la like marketing; there is only ONE right answer.
- Why do you need a toilet break? I don't need a toilet break, but that's fine because I'm a hero.
This afternoon's class is Marketing. Tra la la, here we come!