Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wrapping up the Program - Part II

Following up on Part I, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite projects from the program. Some were things that I was a part of, while others came from classmates. I've mentioned some of these before, in previous blog posts.

The first was the summary presentation we gave for Leadership & Organizational Behavior (LOB) class. The 1st semester was an interesting transition for everyone in the class, not only readjusting ourselves to academia but also transitioning into a structure where teamwork and trust were critical factors in success. The focus of the presentation was supposed to be analysis of our personalities against LOB criteria, but what it turned into was a very revealing look into the personalities of our classmates. Their history, their fears, their hopes and dreams, and their ability to trust the people in the room with personal information. For most people in the class, it was the first opportunity we'd had in 3-4 months to really understand who we'd be going through the rest of the journey with. For me personally, I used it as an opportunity to try out a presentation style that I had seen a few times, but had never used before. It's a variation on something called Pecha Kucha, which we eventually used in the 4th semester for our final Leading Change presentation. When I gave the presentation, I think I made some people uncomfortable (less structured, less formal, limited analysis). I was trying to use the style to convey the pace at which my working environment (Internet Technology) moves, and I believe that came across to some extent. Regardless, it was my first attempt at using the MBA program as a vehicle to try new ideas which could be reused in my working world.
Our final Business & Global Economics (BGE) project involved a country/region and investment analysis in Emerging Markets. BGE was the 1st semester course that really taught me that I had much to learn about the complexities and inter-dependencies of the global economy We choose to analyze UAE, which at the time of our selection (Aug.2008) seemed like an exciting, vibrant new beacon of the global economy. Our analysis and recommendation highlighted many of the possibilities being created by the massive influx of petrodollars, but it also cautioned against a potential bubble. Having new eyes for UAE, it has been extremely interesting to watch the reports of the demise of Dubai in the early to mid part of 2009, and then the more recent reports of its resurgence towards the end of the year. I believe the stories of Dubai, and its ultimate success or failure are still to be written, with results being somewhat unknown for another 5-10 years.

Towards the end of our 2nd semester, our Managerial Accounting professor (Dr.Bern Beatty) asked Brian Healy (EVP, Kindermusik) to come speak with our class about how they implement Open Book Management. Not only was this an excellent look at how an entrepreneurial company was putting unique leadership styles to work, but it also began a business relationship with Mr.Healy that I hope to leverage for another start-up that I may launch in 2010.
Another 2nd semester project allowed Portia Mount and I to explore an element of Marketing that gets heavy coverage from the press, but is still not well understood my most of the business world or academia. We explored Social Media and Social Marketing in the context of the Obama Election campaign, but tried to constantly bring the context back to everyday business environments. It was an interesting culmination to our Strategic Marketing course, as each sub-team also created a final presentation that focused on an angle of Internet or Social Marketing. Since that presentation, I've actually had 5-6 companies approach me about training/educating their executive teams about Social Media/Marketing best practices and way they can engage with this new media.
The 3rd semester was all about International Business. We had the option to focus on China, Japan or South America (the India trip was canceled due to the Mumbai bombings). Eight of us choose to spend two weeks in Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Hong Kong. We chronically our journey on the China Blog. It's still difficult to put the magnitude of that trip into words, but needless to say it completely changed my views on my career and the 21st century.

To conclude our Entrepreneurship course, we were asked to focus on a new business model or idea. I decided to focus on Gracely Girl Designs, which is an online appearal business that I created with my wife in October 2009. The primary motivation for the business was to allow her a creative outlet to coincide with the raising of our children. But what we found in designing the business was an ability to operate almost entirely virtual and with a structure that was incredibly flexible. I presented this business as a model that could be adopted by classmates that wishes to stretch their entrepreneurial legs, but also maintain their existing jobs (at least for a while).
Our Management Practicum was focused around the theme of Environmental Sustainability, and how we could attack that problem in a way that found balance between environmental challenges and business challenges. Many of my classmates came up with incredible ideas (to be discussed in Part III), presenting ideas to start businesses that will have lasting impacts for thousands of people in the US, Latin America and India. Their work will go beyond business success and will thrive in the future successes of mankind. Our team took a technology focus, looking at ways to more efficiently deploy IT Data Centers, the 21st-century "bit" factories that will drive the output of electronic addictions. Considering that today's Data Centers consume 2-3% of all US electricity, with exponential growth expected as Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles become part of the US economy.

Looking back on the breadth of our projects, I'm still amazed at what can be learned in just 18 months. Not only did we develop domain-level expertise in many areas, but we created a framework of knowledge that will allow us to take on strategic challenges throughout the 21st century.

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