The great business thinker Milton Friedman once said “the business of business is business”. Perhaps at the time this was true but I must admit that this idea has never sat comfortably with me. In fact, I positively disagree with it – with a passion. Business, businesspeople and business education have the most phenomenal power to impact positive change in the world. Business school equips students with skills and knowledge to act as global citizens, charged to support those less fortunate. In my opinion, “the business of business is responsibility”. I refer to responsibility in all its facets. Responsibility to drive stakeholder value, to ensure good customer experience, to protect consumer rights and to deal responsibly with both employees and clients. But the responsibility of good business extends further – to use our skills and experience to support those in society that require assistance; whether this be through giving time, financial assistance or guidance. CEO of cloud computing giant SalesForce, Mark Benioff, devised the 1:1:1 model of integrated corporate philanthropy. The model is a commitment to contribute 1% of equity, 1% of employee hours and 1% of product back to the community it serves and has now been adopted by over 700 companies worldwide. During my Silicon Valley GIFT with LBS, I was privileged to see the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in South San Francisco; a world-class medical facility that not only treats thousands of sick children each year but is committed to improving children’s health worldwide. The project is a testament to Benioff’s commitment to philanthropy, CSR and the ‘business of responsibility’.
As a business school student from a non-profit background, creating impact has always been of the utmost importance to me. Following my time with the LBS in California, I took the opportunity to connect with a NY-based child health charitable foundation. Together with a team of counsellors and medical personnel, we brought 50 children suffering from cancer to Orlando for a week of fun and respite. Many of these children have interrupted intense chemotherapy sessions and prolonged hospital stays (think 6months plus), at the approval of their physicians, to spend a few days relaxing on rollercoasters and eating ice-cream in Florida’s winter sun. Most of these children are bald, many are wheelchair-bound and several are constantly wired to medical machinery and monitors. Imagine, therefore, people’s surprise as they watched us scream our way through roller-coaster rides and dance alongside characters at the Disney parades. Days were spent zooming around The Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld and the Universal Studio Parks. Nights were spent sleepless – administering drugs, prepping gastric tubes and dealing with medical complications. Armed with open-access trips to ToysRUs, skip-the-queue passes at all amusement parks and fireworks displays galore, the trip of a lifetime was had by all and unbridled happiness permeated the entire experience. Although fun and laughter hasn’t yet been scientifically-proven to cure cancer, there is no doubt that all the kids returned home with a fresh hope, renewed smiles and greater strength to battle and overcome their challenges. Many of our kids are already back in hospitals across the US undergoing treatment – I wish them all well and a New Year filled with only much happiness and good health!
The London Business School is committed to “changing the way the world does business” and an integral facet of this pledge is to positively impact society. LBS’ trifecta: The Volunteers Club, Net Impact Club and Impact Consulting Club offer some of our best talent to the community; giving guidance, time and resources to support local non-profits and social enterprises. It is something about which our school community is incredibly proud and for many students, involvement in these clubs is the start of a lifelong pursuit in driving impact from operations to the boardroom, and a commitment to solving communal and global challenges. LBS is a school committed to holistic business education – an institution that creates leaders who solve problems using their minds as well as their hearts.
Wishing all our readers – students, potential students, alums and supporters – a very happy and successful 2017!
Silicon Valley – the name has engendered legendary status in recent decades as the global hub for innovation and technology. And our week in the Valley certainly didn’t disappoint! I was very fortunate to be selected to attend the Global Immersion Field Trip based out of San Francisco and the stellar line-up of big tech companies, start-ups and venture capital firms, carefully allocated into a jam-packed schedule, kept us busy from dawn until dusk. Highlights of the trip included a presentation at Andreessen Horowitz by partner Todd Ludwack, an ex-exec of eBay. A16Z (as it is known in the industry) is a VC powerhouse based in Menlo Park, with successful exits in household brands such as Skype, Groupon and Instagram to name just a few. Ludwack shared with us frameworks with which to analyse digital platform propositions and investments (the likes of Uber and AirBnB) as well as some lessons-learned from his time at the VC house. In particular, he led an interesting discussion on first and second order effects when it comes to making investments – not only predicting outcomes as the business expands across markets but predicting secondary consequences of these changes that may have knock-on effects in new markets or sectors. Contrastingly, a small-group presentation at SoftTech VC led to fascinating insights into a firm that invests in very early stage ventures – when an entrepreneur may be armed with justa dream and a prototype – and whose expertise has led to some of the greatest edtech, platforms and wearable successes to emerge from the Bay Area (think FitBit, EventBrite and Twitter).
Later in the week, we had the ‘inverse experience’ through visits to several start-ups, a great opportunity to see the entrepreneurial space from a different perspective. We were treated to passionate presentations by entrepreneurs and co-founders from promising ventures such as DoubleDutch (a firm revolutionising live engagement marketing) from people that have grown a vision and personally tackled problems across the whole gamut of organisational functions.
Another fantastic visit included a tour and panel discussion at Pinterest. Everything you hear about working life in the Valley – the funky office space, the sushi chef slicing uramaki in the centre of the workspace, bicycles covered in flowers hanging from the ceiling, an endless mountain of muffins and cakes overflowing in open-plan kitchens filled with employees animatedly schmoozing in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. As soon as we walked into the office, our cohort was ‘Pinterested’ – challenging staff to ping-pong and table football games in the lobby. But when we finally got down to business, the managers we met knew their business analytics backwards – from potential opportunities for growth using existing profit drivers right down to what would be trending in the coming season for middle-agedmales in Tokyo.
Singularity University is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really a university but a
think-tank and it doesn’t really focus on one technology but rather how many different emerging technologies can be leveraged and interfaced in order to drive growth and solve global challenges. A presentation by ardent futurist Darlene Damm opened our minds to new research in areas that will transform the way we live in the coming years – artificial intelligence and machine learning, bioengineering and regenerative medicine, big data and augmented reality were just a few of the topics touched upon during our workshop. The focus at Singularity is on “exponential tech” – technologies whose adoption and development can have skyrocketing impact in all industries across all markets. A hands-on session also gave us the opportunity to see some of these new technologies in action – from having a chat with a cognitive robot to running around with Virtual Reality goggles, fully immersed in another dimension. One of the great take-homes for me from SU was a new way of thinking about technology application. As a non-gamer I was excited to see that research was underway to use VR headsets in the provision of palliative care and pain management for burns victims and other trauma patients. SU encourages students and professionals to ask the big questions. They don’t claim to have all the answers but they promote great vision, ‘moonshot thinking’ and alternative ways to think about, apply and leverage new technologies to impact meaningful change in the world.
No visit to Silicon Valley would be complete without a visit to Apple HQ or the Googleplex. At Apple we had the opportunity to meet two senior product managers and following several presentations had the opportunity to ask some of life’s most pertinent questions – why did Apple choose to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7? What’s the thinking behind the TouchBar on the new Macbook Pro? Why doesn’t Apple expand its portfolio of products? These questions may seem trivial but what lies behind them is masses of market research carefully formulated into intricate strategy applied to product design. The outcome is one of the world’s most beloved brands that plans the user experience right down to the carefully-engineered iPhone box that builds a one-second anticipation when lifting the lid for the first time. As someone with a non-profit background in the health space, I was particularly excited to hear from a lead at Apple’s Accessibility team. Apple are constantly trying to add new features or extras to their products to ensure that they are functional for all members of society. This goes far beyond adjusting font size for the visually impaired and ranges from ‘AssistiveTouch’ head-movement-controlled touchpads for people suffering with cerebral palsy to syncing devices with hearing aids to enable better quality conversations for those with partial deafness. Thankfully many never have the need to enter Settings>General>Accessibility on our iPhones but take a look at the impressive plethora of adaptations Apple works on to ensure accessibility and quality user experience for all users regardless of capability.
The Googleplex has a mythical status in the professional world. Ball-ponds at work. Croissant buffets lining the corridors. Self-driving cars whizzing around the parking lot, darting in between parked Google Maps vehicles with their iconic rooftop cameras. All this may be true. But this is not what stood out for me at Google. Several months ago I read Schmidt and Rosenberg’s “How Google Works” – a fantastic read for anyone with a keen interest in organisational behaviour and a passion for understanding how the world’s source of knowledge operates. The take-home message from the book was that Google is all about people and the culture they foster amongst their employees. This could not have been seen more clearly than on our visit to Mountain View at the Google HQ. We had the chance to chat with several LBS alums that are working out there in a range of roles from product management to business strategy. What came across most strongly was their love for Google and the freedom they have to pursue new opportunities and ‘self-actualise’ (in Maslow OB terminology). Googlers, as they are known, strive to maintain an entrepreneurial outlook in the face of global operations; a tremendous feat. They do this by giving their employees autonomy to be creative, to innovate and to follow their passions. The result of such policies (including 20% Time – the commandment for all Googlers to spend a fifth of their time in the pursuit of innovative projects – that according to employees results in working 120% of the time!) are some world-changing products including Gmail. Much food for thought to be gleaned from our time at the Googleplex in hiring talented people and allowing their enthusiasm and self-motivation to shine.
Visits to Electronic Arts (the world renowned EA gaming company), the beautiful Stanford University and their Design School, Autodesk and Shop.co among others topped off an incredible week but it would be remiss not to make special mention of the LBS alum community in the Bay Area. It was fantastic for our cohort to meet the incredible populations of LBSers and our supporters based out in the San Francisco area. One of the major plugs of our school is the global network of contacts as alumni forge their international professional careers. Indebted to the school for the education, life skills and opportunities afforded to us, it is really wonderful to meet LBSers from across the professional spectrum who offer advice, guidance, time, friendship and professional support. The large networking evening was particularly lively and enjoyable and was a great opportunity to link with those in the finance, consulting, technology and start-up spaces – united by our common love and gratitude to the London Business School. A big thank you to the Admin team – in particular Kelly and Fiona – for making such a wonderful, busy and exciting trip possible!
Having just finished exams it now seems an appropriate time to sit down and pen my next LBS blog post. Since I wrote my last piece at the end of October, things have been extremely busy. If you’ve never been to graduate business school, it’s hard to imagine what I really mean – so I’ll try, if I may, to paint a visual image. Imagine listening to the CEO of Kraft-Heinz Europe, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, explain the intricacies of their regional strategy and the challenges of expansion and market segmentation. Imagine presenting a project on data analytics in front of your peers and professors, outlining a financial model that links box office revenues to casts and budgets through a series of statistical tools and analyses. Imagine providing consulting and advisory services to an international charity that provides world-class surgery to children with congenital heart defects from the developing world. Imagine sitting in five hours of back-to-back lectures in financial accounting; picking apart Tesla’s financial statements to uncover some of the issues within their business. Imagine attending a panel discussion from six consultants from leading firms discussing future trends in the world of digital healthcare followed immediately by an event by McKinsey on Digital Transformation.
Now imagine, that all the above events, occurred in one day. This was one day in the week following my previous blog post.
I therefore can’t possibly begin to describe by sheer exhaustion nor talk about every insightful lecture, inspiring speaker or interesting experience I have had as the winter term draws to a close. There have definitely been several highlights: Attending a presentation by Fernando Fischmann, CEO and Founder of Crystal Lagoons was certainly a most interesting discussion. Fischmann, a biochemist by training, has created a technology in which to sink artificial lagoons with crystal clear water to provide lakes for recreation in resorts, public parks and residential developments throughout the world. In only a few years Fernando has created an intricate global monitoring system for his pools and generated billions of dollars in revenue from projects across Latin America and the Middle East. With ambitious plans for expansion and a vision to transform the renewable energy sector using his technologies, Crystal Lagoons is certainly an enterprise that makes any business-savvy student or budding entrepreneur sit up and pay attention.
The LBS Healthcare Conference at the Royal Society of Physicians this year featured a stellar line-up of pharmaceutical and biotech celebrities. Jane Griffiths, Chairman of Janssen EMEA (J&J’s pharma division) opened this year’s discussion on precision medicine and the future of personalised healthcare. Panel discussions followed, chaired by charismatic LBS professor Nicos Savva with particularly insightful perspectives from Roy Katso (Director of GSK Innovation) and LBS super-alum Chris Meier (BCG). Jackie Hunter, CEO of Benevolent Bio, passionately delivered on applications of machine learning in healthcare whilst Dr Junaid Bajwa (MSD UK) adjusted the lens of the discussion to focus on systems and providers of healthcare and the potential impact of personalised delivery. A great opportunity to hear the trends and updates currently underway in the world of bioprocessing and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all.
Other highlights over the past few weeks have included a lively debate by a panel of Israeli Venture Capitalists who collectively have backed some of the biggest names to have come out of the Start-Up Nation in recent years including Waze, SodaStream and Checkpoint. Representatives from Dalberg Consulting and their private equity arm D.Capital presented thought-provoking case studies on the challenges of social impact investment. From supporting a Kenyan microfinance business, to designing a democratic election system for the Congo and driving agricultural development in Benin, the world of social impact investing and consulting is fraught with unique challenges in addition to the usual array of obstacles. As one of the leading players in the sector, Dalberg is working to drive change as well as profitability in a diverse range of areas across this hostile environment. When contrasted with a fascinating presentation by the Attorney General from the Hong Kong Embassy on trade and investment opportunities on the island-powerhouse you can begin to construct a mental image of the kind of holistic business education that life at the LBS has to offer. All this is quite aside from hours and hours of lectures in Finance and Organisational Behaviour and the endless exams and assignments.
But all that is on-hold for now as I write this from a coffee shop in the trendy Fisherman’s Wharf neighbourhood in San Francisco. I have just begun a Global Immersion Field Trip for a select group of students to visit the global innovation hub of Silicon Valley. This week’s whistle-stop adventure will take us from projects at Stanford to presentations at Apple. From the heart of the Googleplex to the brains of Andreessen Horowitz. As I watch the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge, dawn is only just breaking on what is sure to be an exciting week ahead.
Where to even start? It’s been a whirlwind first 6 weeks at the London Business School! From meeting an incredibly diverse cohort at Orientation to an away-day building rafts in Gilwell Park. From a plethora of soft-skill sessions including public speaking, networking and social media courses to the real academic nuts and bolts of finance, accounting and data analytics – my experience at the LBS so far can be described as nothing other than jam-packed excitement. Coming from a background in Biochemical Engineering, it has been an incredible opportunity for me to dive deep into the world of business.
This total immersion has come in a variety of formats that have collectively given me a really holistic view of the business world. I keep up to date by skimming the FT and WSJ on a daily basis, spend time browsing through articles in the Harvard Business Review and McKinsey Insights and even having a look at specialist journals for pharma and biotech where my passion for business really lies.
But all this pales in comparison to the business exposure I have gained from my first few weeks at LBS. From MBA and alumni mentors to club events, I have met so many people on very different paths with exciting stories to tell. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Bloomsbury Publishing – the publisher of the Harry Potter series, next week I look forward to hearing the inventor of the global Invisalign orthodontic phenomena talk about his strategy to entrepreneurial success.
The diversity of backgrounds is what makes life at LBS so exciting and it’s then that you begin to realise that the name of the game is very much ‘networking’. More than the world-class faculty, the beautiful Regent’s Park campus, the prestigious business school, the rigorous academics and the abundance of clubs and events, the real magic of LBS lies in its people. The diversity of its student body, the cultivation of a global alumni network and the culture of relationship-building is what makes the LBS experience truly unique. The MiM has only just begun but already a life-changing transformation is underway.
Today I confirmed my place on the Silicon Valley Global Immersion Field Trip, an academic and professional excursion in December to San Francisco to learn from the innovators at Stanford, the tech geniuses of Google and Facebook and the VCs that hunt down ‘the next big thing. But between now and December, there’s still the Healthcare Conference, the IMPACTathon, company presentations, Diwali Party, Sundowners galore, recruitment evenings, exams and interviews. Life here is hectic but there’s no doubt in my mind, the LBS has a lot more in store for me…