Friday, January 2, 2009

1st Semester Summary - LOB (Part II)

The final project for the LOB class was a self-analysis paper and presentation, in the context of the topics we studied throughout the class, along with an action plan to improve the areas we identified as weaknesses.   Everyone was given 15 minutes to convey not only their analysis, but also an aspect of their personality that the class may not be aware of, or what made them unique.   I talked about my presentation in earlier posts, so wanted to touch on a couple of other presentations that I thought were very interesting.  I'm hoping to explore some of these topics in more details in later blog posts (interviews, Q&As, video discussions), but I'm working out the details at this time.

Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) - One of my classmates runs an architectural firm, and is in the program to expand his business skills to augment his outstanding creative and engineering skills. His presentation highlighted some work that he started in 2004, based on the inspiration that he received from the book Cradle-to-Cradle, which explores the biomimetic approach to the design of systems.  To say that this was "work" is really underselling his efforts.  It really was a mission, or a crusade, to not only explore this area for his own work, but to encourage a worldwide audience to help drive this thinking forward and bring it into reality. What excited me about this presentation were two things:
  1. The opportunity to spend time exploring "Green" initiatives with someone that had been living and working in this space since before Al Gore invented Global Warming.  
  2. The opportunity to spend time exploring how he created a tribe around his initiative, and how that effort spiraled into results that far surpassed his wildest expectations.

When Family Calls - One of my classmates is one of those people that you just know are impressive before ever meeting them.  They just carry themselves in such a way that you know they are intelligent, confident and successful.  They never get rattled, they ask interesting questions, and you're constantly asking yourself how they always seem to get things right?  This classmate of mine presented an interesting aspect of their life, and a decision they must deal with that I suspect many of us have to address at some point in our lives.  That question is, "When is the right time to prioritize personal growth or desires over family needs and commitments?"   In my situation, it's the realization that I have an obligation to take care of family in North Carolina, and that (at least in the short-to-mid term) means that I will need to sacrifice opportunities that would require me to move my family outside the state.  In my classmates case, it's the decision between a more glamourous lifestyle and one that impacts a family legacy.  It's a decision that I'm glad I don't have to make, because the consequences of any decision are more impacting than anything I have to deal with today.   

One of the downsides of a non full-time program is that you don't always get the opportunity to get to know all your classmates, as we meet less frequently and much time is spent in group study.  I don't know this classmate very well, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to expand much upon this aspect in later posts.  But I have a year, so maybe that's something I should make a goal for 2009.

Selling the Big Idea to Management - The final presentation that I wanted to highlight was a classmate/teammate that told us a story of trying to sell a future-looking, industry-changing idea to his upper management several years ago.  He talked about the research and prototyping he had done to create a working model for demonstrations.  He talked about the late nights and weekends he spent teaching himself computer programing and working with potential technology partners to integrate his system.  He spoke passionately about his plan for selling his idea up through his management chain, getting buy-in along the way.  And then he told us about the stumbling block that so many of us have encountered as we try and sell a new idea to management.  This part hit particularly close to home, as I've spent years trying to figure out the formula (timing, competition, technology trends, management bias, sunk costs, "not-invented here" syndrome, etc.) for bringing new products to market, or changing market dynamics through a new model.  

My classmate and I have put this at the top of our priority lists for 2009, to share our stories, experiences, scars & scabs, and see if we can come up with some better guidelines for selling that killer idea.  This will definitely be something I write more about in 2009.

By only highlighting three presentations, I'm significantly short-selling my classmates experience and background.  I apologize for that.  I would have loved to write more about my Indian classmates that speak 5-10 languages (the variants from the states in India), or my classmate that fights fires for a hobby, or the classmate that started the program as an IT administrator and now has at least 3 business models ready to engage.  

As the old newspaper adage goes, there are a million stories in the big city.  I'm not sure we have that many in our MBA program, but there is plenty of experience for me to learn from and explore in 2009.  Hopefully many of them will join the conversation here.