Jimmy Buffett isn't the only music to which I've been listening; my march through the American pop charts continues and I just finished 1983. Although the number one song was by the Police (Boooooooo!), close on its heels were "Billie Jean," "Flashdance," "Down Under," "Beat It," and "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Not bad! Other 80s staples are sprinkled throughout the top 100: "Come On Eileen," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Electric Avenue," "Africa," "Mr. Roboto," "Sexual Healing," "Safety Dance," "Rock the Casbah," and many others.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is song number 93: Far From Over by . . . FRANK STALLONE!!! Fear not, Roger Clinton; if Sly's brother can make it, so can you! In the words of Norm Macdonald on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, ""The most popular toy of 1996: 'Tickle Me Elmo'. And the least popular toy of 1996, you guessed it: 'Tickle Me Frank Stallone'."


I Think I'm Allergic To Accounting

Today's weather was just about perfect: 60-65 degrees F and not a cloud in the sky. It was just the type of day that reminds me of sipping Brunello all afternoon on some beautiful terrazza in Florence. For that matter, it was just the type of day that motivates me to sip wine all afternoon on some beautiful terrazza. Unfortunately I was indoors all day studying Accounting and Finance. Final exams for our first module are next week and those are the two subjects for which A. I have the least background and B. there are definite, non-BSable, right and wrong answers.
The self restraint has taken its toll; my forehead is breaking out. Conclusion: I am allergic to accounting!

I actually tried to begin studying for Accounting on Friday by participating in a review session. Stewart would have none of it, though, and ordered those of us who had decent grades in the class to leave. He didn't have a grades list with him so he didn't know who was technically supposed to be there and who was prohibited. Interestingly, when Stewart asked who had a certain grade or higher, some of the students with decent grades remained silent so they could stay for the session. It will be interesting in August when, as a class representing 44 nationalities, we are tasked with agreeing upon a universal code of ethics. I wonder where disobeying direct orders from professors will come out. For me, it was clear. For others, it clearly was not.

Staying in today wasn't all bad, though; I opened up my windows and was still able to enjoy the day. Once I finished studying for Accounting, I even rewarded myself by heading outside for some exercise--pictures are on FaceBook. Mozart's piano concerti and symphonies kept me company while I was studying but, in honor of his upcoming Houston concert, Jimmy Buffett was the soundtrack to my walk outside.

And speaking of Jimmy Buffett, I'll close with some select lyrics from "If It All Falls Down," off of his 1986 album, Floridays. It seems like an appropriate song for IMD as it addresses his hard studying and struggle to choose the right career:

Never wanted to be
A part of history
I have my days in the sun
A beach bum, a man for all sea sides

Guidance counselor said
Your scores are anti-heroic
Computer recommends
Hard-drinking calypso poet

Studied life at sea
Studied life in bars
Never passed my S.A.T.'s
So I thought I'd study extra hard
We had plenty of doctors
We had plenty of lawyers
We had people to make us things
We had people to sell us those things
We didn't have enough room for those things
We built lots of self storage
Calypso poet shortage
Calypso poet shortage

That last verse even include some supply chain theory--so appropriate! This partial song quote is dedicated to another American IMD student, Matt. He is the captain of IMD's sailing team for the upcoming MBA Tournament and he has taken a very Buffett-esque approach by making it the IMD drinking team. Jimmy would be proud!


IMD Information Sessions

For my readers who are considering an MBA in their futures, I am pleased to announce that IMD will be holding information sessions around the world over the next two months. If you would like to learn more about the school, the participants, the program, the application process, Lausanne, or anything else, I strongly encourage you to go. Especially because the IMD MBA is so unique relative to other programs, discussion with real, live people may help you understand more about the IMD experience than just reading about it online.

The full schedule and RSVP forms are on the IMD website but following is a summary of info session locations and times.

Johannesburg - 31 March, 16:00 - 20:00

Singapore - 22 May, 19:00 - 21:00

Zurich - 22 April, 18:30 - 21:00
Munich - 28 April, 19:00 - 21:00
Köln - 29 April, 18:30 - 21:00
The Hague - 8 May, 18:45 - 21:00
Paris - 19 May, 19:30 - 21:00

Houston - 23 April, 18:45 - 20:30
Chicago - 26 April, 10:30 - 12:00
Washington DC - 28 April, 18:45 - 20:30
Toronto - 29 April, 18:45 - 20:30
San Francisco - 30 April, 18:00 - 20:30

Note that Houston is on the schedule for the first time. There are two possible explanations for this: 1. They are so impressed with me that they just had to go back to Houston to find more candidates like me. 2. They are so unimpressed with me that they just had to go back to Houston to assure themselves that I'm not the best Houston had to offer! Or perhaps it is because, despite no marketing efforts in Houston, there has been at least one Houstonian participant each year.

Especially to my Houston readers, I would appreciate your help in letting others know about the event. Those interested in an MBA, international business, and/or intense leadership development will probably be the most interested. Nathalie in the admissions office will be conducting the session; she's really nice so show her some Texas hospitality!


Happy Easter!

After an incredible dinner in Lausanne to start off the Easter vacation, Day 1 in Lugano was excellent and we're now embarking on Day 2. Pictures of the journey so far are in my FaceBook album. I wish everyone peace, love, and deviled eggs on this Easter Sunday!


I'm Hungry Like the Wolf

A major objective of our Leadership stream is to understand better the role our subconscious minds play in everything we do. One tool we use is dream analysis since the content of dreams is subconscious. I have been keeping a dream log for the past two months, waking up in the middle of the night, fumbling around for the pen and then scribbling in the dark whatever I can remember from the dream I was just having.

I can't remember last night's dream but apparently I tried to document it as my bedside notepad was not empty when I woke up this morning. What articulate words did I jot down to provide enlightening analysis of the deep, sophisticated inner workings of my mind?

"There are hunters and gatherers.
I am a hunter."

Thanks, sleepy Bryan, that's very helpful.

All I can do is leave you with a related quote from one of my favorite movies about hunters, Predator. During a pivotal scene in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's character decides to go on the offensive, he taunts his predator-turned-prey as follows:


There, just as intelligible as my dreams.

Early 80s

My American popular musical Odyssey has arrived in the early 80s and I couldn't be more pleased. Why? Two words: Air Supply. I still remember how vehemently I disagreed with my mom as she tried to convince me that they were two male vocalists. I listened to their songs over and over again--how was at least one of them not a woman?? Anne Murray had at least two octaves of lower range on them. I was pretty young at the time and I guess I had a lot to learn about women . . . some things never change!

Around the house I was left to my own musical devices, listening to tapes I had made of records on my dad's juke box (a lot of Elvis, Beatles, Platters, and other Oldies). It was on road trips where Mom exposed me to more contemporary music. I still fondly remember stretching out in the back seat of our car and listening to Air Supply, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Neil Diamond, and Lionel Richie for hours at a time until we reached our destination. As you can tell, Mom was a fan of the soft rock. However, our musical selection was dependent on our destination. Whenever we were headed to the beach, it was Jimmy Buffett all the way!

I've made it through 1982 so far and following are the early 80s highlights (and lowlights) for me, in roughly chronological order:

The emergence of Air Supply
The emergence of Blondie
Way too much Olivia Newton-John
Michael Jackson goes solo and is on the cusp of truly breaking out
Kenny Loggins's solo career finally achieves success
Kenny Rogers hits his stride
The emergence of Billy Joel
The Rolling Stones just keep on rolling
Lionel Richie goes solo
Sheena Easton briefly captivates the nation
So does Christopher Cross
So does Toto
So does the Alan Parsons Project
So does Men At Work
All of the Beatles continue to produce solo hits--until John Lennon's assassination
Eric Clapton kicks his heroine habit and ramps up his productivity
Barry Manilow just won't go away
Neither will ELO
The emergence of Pat Benetar
The emergence of The Cars
The emergence of Journey
The emergence of the Police - not a big fan
Lots of movie theme hits, e.g. Eye of the Tiger, 9-to-5, For Your Eyes Only

Actually, if there is one early 80s emerging band that is more nostalgically important to me than Air Supply, it is Huey Lewis & The News. The first tape of popular music I ever bought was their 1986 album, Fore! In 1982 they had just entered the scene with Do You Believe in Love (and, to a lesser extent, Workin' for a Livin') and were poised to dominate with their subsequent Sports and Fore! albums.

It's warming up a little outisde and the snow is turning to rain. I'm off to wade through it toward the gym before what will surely be a wonderful weekend in Lugano.

The Rite of Spring

As I mentioned last weekend, spring is in the air here in Lausanne. Or at least it was. Today, the first full day of spring, is cold and foggy with wet snow and high winds. That's no problem for me, though, as I'm planning to spend most of the day indoors anyway.

We have today and Saturday off from classes so I am working right now on my group's LPO paper on "Authenticity in Leadership." It is very in vogue to talk about authenticity as a given "must have" in Western leadership right now. However, some of my international colleagues have mixed feelings about it. In China, for example, where leaders have a more stoic style, authenticity could be seen as a weakness. This makes for a very interesting topic that we are analyzing from from three different perspectives: research in the popular press, our own LPO coursework, and our multicultural group members' experiences. There may be no hard and fast leadership rules (e.g., "A leader is this." or "A leader does that."), which is exactly why I came to IMD. My leadership experience has been in leading small (< 500 people), mostly homogenous organizations and I want to be aware of what issues are at play in larger, more diverse ones.


Peanut Butter

Hold the presses! Stop what you're doing right now and pay very close attention as I have a very urgent message for each and every one of you. I have just been informed that March is National Peanut Butter Month. I love peanut butter but have yet to find any of the real stuff here in Switzerland. So please, especially those of you fortunate enough to have access to a steady supply, take a moment to pause and give thanks for the many wonders and joys the peanut brings to our lives every day.

That is all.


Missed Opportunities

In Friday's POM class, Corey focused on knowledge brokering--how to find solutions to problems instead of solving them. As part of the lecture, he walked us through his own knowledge brokering experience at HP, which led to the invention of several products. One of these products was the HP Universal Notebook Expansion Base, which I happen to have in my apartment and on which I am typing right now. As many of my readers know, I have a very personal attachment to my computer hardware, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized that Corey held the patent to one of my favorite computer accessories. I did not contain my excitement well in class and was made fun of by my American and Danish colleagues for being a brown-noser--but then I suppose I can't really argue with that.

If I am a brown-noser, though, I am not a very good one as I missed a serious opportunity that day. Our morning marketing case was about the International Children's Heart Foundation. Its founder, Dr. Novick, flew all the way in from Memphis, TN to speak with us about his life's work and his difficulties in branding/promoting it. The class responded by providing him with insightful marketing ideas and a check for $1,500. The way the $ is going (On Friday it slipped below the Swiss Franc for the first time!), though, he'd better spend it fast!

Our afternoon POM case was about NASCAR's efforts to cut pit stop times in half by using knowledge brokering. Suggestions made by last year's class are already being employed and this year we came up with several ideas that had not been tried before too. Perhaps IMD should change its MBA slogan from "90 Exceptional People Who Will Shape the Future of Business" to "90 Exceptional People from 44 Countries Who Will Shape the Future of Entertainment for Millions of Americans Who Still Wear Jeans Shorts."

It wasn't until Saturday that I realized what an opportunity I had missed. Our classes were about a doctor from Memphis and a NASCAR pit crew. I have with me here in Lausanne a Red Hot & Blue t-shirt that says "MEMPHIS" on the front and "PIT CREW" on the back. Never again will I have the opportunity to wear that shirt and have it be so incredibly appropriate. I missed my chance. I lose at life.

Oh well, speaking of pit crews, Saturday was Beer Bike at Rice--the first Beer Bike I've missed in a decade! Lovett's theme this year, 300 Proof, would have been particularly fun to celebrate, but I was there in my traditional role of pit crew captain in spirit. EOL RRF!

On an unrelated note, the Class of 2009 began interviewing this week. There was a group on Tuesday and another on Friday. IMD is not like some schools where the hard part is getting in and then it's smooth sailing afterward. However, getting in is so rigorous a process that you at least have an accurate idea of what you'll be getting yourself into if accepted! Good luck to all of you applicants out there and don't hesitate to send me any questions you have about the IMD experience.

Oh What a Day

Yesterday was one of those days that made all of us glad we chose a program in Lausanne. It was around 60 degrees F, sunny, and absolutely beautiful. The flowers were blooming, the birds were chirping, and it truly felt like spring. I went for a run along the lake but had to keep stopping to take pictures, one of which I added in my FaceBook album. I wasn't the only one with that idea and it was great to see everyone else out running, walking, roller blading, sitting, picnicing, and otherwise enjoying the weather.

I've thought before that if there were one thing Lausanne could do to endear itself to me more, it would be to seem more Tolkienesque. Yesterday it checked that off its list. As the hot sun bore down directly on the cold water of the lake, mist rose from the surface, creating a transluscent shimmer between me and the mountains on the other side. It made me want to do the Misty Mountain Hop so I listened to Led Zeppelin IV during my run--not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Today it is raining and I've been inside working all day, which gives me plenty of time to ponder my birthday next week. I can't believe I'll be 29--another year closer to the big 3-0! So far every year of my life has been better than the previous, so I have high expecations for this one. Interestingly, this is the first time in my life that my birthday has fallen on Easter Sunday. The last time it happened was 1913--a little before my time--and, not withstanding some miracle of medicine, it won't happen again in my lifetime. I suppose I'll have to savor it!


Another One Bites the Dust

Not only was it the #65 song of 1981, but Queen's Another One Bites the Dust is appropriate for today as well. No, not because of its driving bass line or its well timed injections of Brian May "Red Special" guitar riffs; rather because today we sadly bade adieu to our Leading People in Organizations course. Technically we still have a group paper to write and a final exam to take, so it isn't "over" per se, but gone are the case studies of extreme management methodologies, engaging lectures, and musical tie-ins to course themes.

When I decided to come to IMD, LPO was essentially what I had in mind, academically speaking. My leadership development prior to 2008 had been exclusively learning by doing, and I certainly learned a lot leading football (American) teams, university organizations, volunteer groups, and software companies. However, I was just doing what seemed to work and who was to say that that was optimal? Could it scale to larger organizations? Could it transfer to other industries? Would it work with multinational teams?

I thought it was probably naive to think that there were universal "best practices" in management but I at least wanted to study what others had done--in a variety of contexts--to augment my arsenal of leadership "tools" for the future. That is exactly what I found in LPO: systematic analysis of people-centric managment challenges in contexts as varied as European orchestras, New York investment banks, and Chinese manufacturers.

Maury, our professor--or perhaps "maestro" is a more appropriate term--brought much more to our lectures than just case studies and discussion leading; he also brought culture and class. This was driven home as he concluded our final session by reading us a poem, The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This left us in a pensive, reflective mood, which we combatted by surprising him with a gag parting gift: a toy keyboard! Although it is probably useless to him, hopefully he will at least take the meaning that we all thoroughly enjoyed his performance and many of us are hoping for an encore during electives.


Finance meets Motown

Canadian professor Jim Ellert is our other Finance professor. Apparently he has a penchant for Motown music. We're on break right now between sessions on dividend policy and he is showing us old videos from the Apollo Theater in Harlem to pick up our energy levels. Awesome.


Thank goodness for the 80s!

The mid-70s were a low point for American popular music. This period marked the exit of folk and rock and roll while disco and harder rock had yet to hit their respective strides. In the vacuum between there was . . . a bunch of generic-sounding R&B and soft rock, bleh. Seriously, if I hear any more Barry Manilow I may strangle someone. And Paul McCartney, your knighthood should be stripped for besmirching your reputation as you did with Wings. The Eagles, anyone who has seen The Big Lebowski knows how I feel about them.

Don't get me wrong; there was definitely some great music being made; it just wasn't all that popular--according to Billboard, at least. This is perplexing because it's not as if America's taste took a sabbatical. Look at the Academy Award's for Best Picture during that period: The Godfather, The Sting, The Godfather II, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rocky, Annie Hall (should have been Star Wars, of course, but Annie Hall was still a great choice) . . . not exactly a shabby line-up. Oh well, at least this period saw the rise of Queen.

Around 1978 things started picking back up. Disco really found itself and began churning out the iconic songs we still associate with it today. New rock bands began popping out of the woodwork. And hey, Grease; you can't beat that. 1979 continued the momentum and the stage was set for the fabulous music of the 80s. What could explain this resurgence of musical quality? Let's see, was there anything important that happened around this timeframe? Hmm. Oh, hey, that's right, I was born! I'm not drawing any conclusions--just throwing it out there . . .

Hassin 2 - Virus 0

For the second time this year I felt the beginning of a cold coming on. Unfortunately this time it was on Tuesday, just before our Integrated Exercise was to begin on Thursday. Given that the coming days would be intense and sleepless, I knew I needed to beat this thing or the IE would go badly for me and my group. Tuesday and Wednesday nights I made sure to sleep at least seven hours. I also drank plenty of fluids and stocked up on immunosupportive foods. As it did earlier this year, my immune system came through. Although I did become a little stuffy one day, I didn't experience any major symptoms and my performance was never impaired. Strong like bull!

The IE was something. So as not to spoil any of the surprises for next year's class I won't go into much detail but the basic premise was that on Thursday each group was given a challenging business problem to solve in 48 hours. We had to address accounting, finance, marketing, operations, and other areas in our solutions. Each group presented its solution on Saturday to a random pair of critical faculty members.

It was intense. Channeling seven exhausted people from different countries and with different professional backgrounds to solve such a broad problem in such a short amount of time was a real challenge. Tensions were high in our group but I was pleased with the quality of our deliverable. The faculty found several holes in our ideas (I would have been disappointed if they hadn't!) which will help drive our approach to solving such problems in the future.

After presenting and defending our plan, I surprised our group with a bottle of champagne I had squirreled away for this express purpose. We popped it open (Who says 10 AM is too early for champagne??) and spent several hours debriefing our performance, process, and group dynamics. The discussion was heated at times but I think we all learned from it. These learnings can't be captured in a textbook and are one of the key reasons I came to IMD, where such discussions are not only encouraged but required in many cases.

Saturday night I went out for dinner and drinks with my fellow students and we did an admirable job of keeping school discussion off the table. It was nice just to kick back and connect with each other on a personal level. The drinks didn't hurt either.

I updated my FaceBook album with some pics from the IE as well as a ping pong tournament ad featuring yours truly. Now it's time to do some real work: my taxes!


It's Snowing!!!!

As it has been so sunny and warm the past few weeks, you can imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to . . . SNOW! As is my usual routine, I opened my curtains to see how the mountains looked as the sun began peeking up over the horizon. However, there was no sun and there were no mountains. Instead there was limited visibility and a lot of white stuff flying around. Having lived in Houston for the past 10 years, I had almost forgotten what it looked like, but there was no mistaking it; it was snowing.

Although the sun eventually made a foreceful appearance, preventing any snow from really sticking, the flurries were beautiful and lasted well into the afternoon. While I would have preferred to take the opportunity to practice eXtreme Ping Pong, IMD's class schedule had plenty to offer as well. Last week's end of Industry and Company Analysis / Economics gave way to a new class, which started today: Innovation and Product Design. Taught by American professor David Robertson, this course is all about innovation at every level of an organization: product, process, business model, etc. Its goals are two-fold: 1. to teach us how to innovate ourselves, and 2. to teach us how to manage innovation and create a corporate culture that fosters creativity. Our first class was very interesting and focused on individual class members' experiences in innovation/design. We won't meet again for a while but come April we will begin competing in a school-wide innovation competition--fun!

This afternoon featured an interesting Finance class. Instead of sitting in the amphitheater trying to absorb formula after formula, we took part in a team-based exercise. Half of our study groups were companies seeking debt financing while the other half were banks looking to lend. Each bank was set up with a company and was given a time limit to reach a deal that worked well for both parties. If no such deal was reached, companies could go to the market and see if other banks would offer them more favorable terms.

My group (bbb7) was paired with our nextdoor neighbors (Magic 8), who were prepared, reasonable, and committed to finding a mutually agreeable deal. Although our ultimate loan package was a little unorthodox, both parties were happy with the terms by the end of the day. We celebrated together with shots of Slovakian liqueur and headed home to rest up before tomorrow's Integrative Exercise.

Pictures of both snow and deal celebration are in my March FaceBook album.


I am a Tug of Warrior!

As predicted, the mighty Rice Owls have retaken the national #4 ranking on their path to an inevitable #1 seed and College World Series championship. In honor of this ascent, I hereby devote my second consecutive post to sports. This time, instead of focusing on NCAA sports, I am focusing on the annual MBA Tournament, a multi-sport competition between European MBA schools. As we are the the smallest program by far, IMD is to the MBAT as Rice is to the NCAA. Hence, I expect no less from IMD than total victory.

I will be coaching the three volleyball events (indoor 6s, beach 2s, and beach 4s) and the tug of war. Recruiting for volleyball was no problem but the tug of war required some extra effort. Following is an excerpt from the email I sent to our class:

"In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that this won’t be a cake walk recreational event. Other teams with larger student pools from which to choose will likely be bigger and stronger than our team. But I’ve never lost in Tug of War and I don’t intend to start this May.

We will tug smarter, not harder, than our opposition. We will destroy them through use of the IMD secret double palm rope technique. We will fortify ourselves every day with bananas, apples, and glorious, glorious desserts. Well, weekdays at least. We will fortify ourselves with [fighting] spirits as well. We will unleash a furious rope tuggery the likes of which the MBAT has never seen and will never see again. We will rain down victory after victory upon our opponents until they beg for our sweet, terrible mercy. The futility of their struggle will sustain us as the fly sustains the spider.

This is not for the faint of heart, but join me and together we will attain the highest glory in the history of the universe . . . MBAT Tug of War Champions."

It had the desired effect. We now have more than enough for a team. Some select responses:

From Bevan, New Zealander:

"My Lord and Master.
I will tug with the fury of a thousand sheep.
With feet rooted like the mighty Kauri tree.
With hair flowing in the vigorous breeze like a B-movie actor.
Oh, I will tug like my very Economics grade depends on it."

From Memed, Turk:

"Convinced! I’m in, sign me up!
Ask the French why they have a saying in French “Fort comme un Turc”
I’m ready to unleash some Ottoman explosive fury that Euros seem to have forgotten a bit too quick.
Anybody got some face paint? "

This sounds like too much fun. Now if only we didn't have all this work to distract us from training!


Rice Baseball Rules!

After dropping two to nationally ranked, perennial powerhouse Long Beach State, Rice baseball has won five in a row and is back on track. While I am always excited for Rice to make a trip to the College World Series (six times in the last nine years) those who know me are aware that I hold our team accountable to a slightly different metric of success: how many times we beat UT each year! Last night our boys did exactly that with a 10-4 trouncing of the Longhorns at Minute Maid Park. Coming into the game UT was ranked #4 while Rice had slipped to #6; I'll hope to see those rankings reversed when the new poll results are released on Monday.

As a former Rice student-athlete myself, obviously I'm biased in supporting Rice, and it's certainly easy to hop on the band wagon and support a team that wins most of its games every year. However, I will argue that there are a few things that truly do set Rice apart. First and foremost is the quality of our student-athletes. Having roomed with one of Rice's best pitchers of all time my freshman year (4-1-3), I have witnessed first hand the well rounded, intelligent, high-caliber individuals Rice puts on its roster.

Second, Rice baseball is an inspirational story. 15 years ago, we had nothing; we were a no-name program in the middle of a region already crowded with talent (UT, UH, A&M, Baylor, LSU, etc.). As the smallest school in the NCAA, we would never have athletic funding pouring in from alumni and supporters. Then came head coach Wayne Graham, who propeled us to the national scene with incredible recruiting and a winning vision. It has been amazing to watch Rice move from an off-the-radar team to a Cinderella story to a David that is always counted among the Goliaths of college baseball.

It will be tough this year to be so far away from the action--especially as I follow Rice's CWS progress from our Discovery Trip in Tanzania. However, it will take much more than several hours time difference and several thousand miles to prevent me from supporting the Owls. To Rice Be True!