Posts from our EMBA bloggers
After about 2 years attending an Executive MBA program at London, I felt like I needed to end it on a high note. Having completed almost all my electives, I wanted to achieve a threefold final purpose: 1. working again with a faculty I did enjoy learning from, 2. bringing something practical from LBS to my company and 3. deepening into a subject useful for my career path.
Finishing my Executive MBA, one of my concerns has been to look back on these two years and show my company that the time spent away from the office was worthwhile. Moreover, at this stage, enjoying a very interesting job, I wanted to be sure about what would be my next job and be able to provide HR department an accurate image of my expectations.
After some realignments done on my project’s outline with David MYATT, I worked closely with my colleagues at the office in order to use Strategy and Managerial Economics academic frameworks in our professional context. It lead to a double production: a) a thorough assessment report on Energy Efficiency markets my company is targetting, and b) a practical approach to figure out how profitable it is to break into some submarkets.
At some point, I smoothly met my three objectives. And it turned out to even go beyond my expectations. Indeed, this work not only offered me the opportunity to base discussion on tangible content about my next job, but people who read it also invited me to share my thoughts more regularly. That’s why I decided to launch a professional blog on Smart Energy Efficiency, in order to help SMEs sell Energy Efficiency solutions (http://smartenergyefficiency.eu/).
I haven’t chosen yet what will be my next job. All I know is that Independent Project elective has been for me the highpoint of this Executive program. It has simultaneously made my Executive MBA’s payback more tangible for my company, and shown what I want to do next very explicitly.
I have just come back from London where I attended one week long orientation for EMBA and I can’t tell you how happy I am.
I am not only happy with my decision of joining London Business School but also could see the enormous value LBS EMBA is going to add in my life in the next 20 months. I am ready for transformation, I told myself excitedly and I am proud to be part of LBS.
Looking back, few months down the line, it was beginning of September 2012 when I started my research of applying to top B school for EMBA. I started my research by creating a list of what I wanted from a school, apart from world class education and FT ranking of top 10. My list had few very important non negotiable criteria’s and few “good to have” criterias. I was looking for a school that could give me the most diverse classroom and international faculty as in the EMBA you not only learn from faculty but from your classmates too. The other things in my list were: more campus visits, a campus near India and once in a month study block. I also wanted the same MBA education and degree but in EMBA format.
I was also apprehensive about Middle East campuses of LBS and other schools but through my research I figured out that in LBS the faculty and education is the same in London and Dubai campus. By joining Dubai campus, I could do 3 core modules in London and a choice of doing electives (6 to in Dubai, London, Hong Kong University, or Columbia Business School. I chose London Business School because it had everything I was looking for and now after orientation week I can say that by joining EMBA and LBS I have taken the best decision of my life.
The first day of school is always special and I was really excited on my first day as an Executive MBA (EMBA) student at London Business School. Heavy snow greeted the London and Dubai EMBA class, who had come together for the first day of the orientation week on a cold Sunday in January. The weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the 130 students who had gathered in the Dining Hall for the welcome address – there was a buzz in the room with handshakes and enthusiastic introductions.
As the week progressed, I realised why London Business School was described as an ‘aah’ school by the Dean in his welcome address (‘aah’ being the standard reaction when you mention LBS as your alma mater!). You look around the class and every student is an Achiever– a mix of entrepreneurs, directors, VPs, project managers and students in various other leadership roles. I absolutely love the class debates where everyone has a different perspective on analysing a case study – viewpoints that are so different to mine that every lecture has been a great learning experience.
Another impression I have carried from the Orientation week is that the quality of teaching is absolutely fantastic – I really enjoyed the Leadership Skills course run by Dr. Margaret Ormiston and the Understanding General Management course run by Dr. Yiorgos Mylonadis. The teaching standards set in the first week are high and if all our professors are this good, then it will be a really enjoyable (and challenging!) 20 months.
Before the first term started we were already loaded with course information and list of required readings.
It became clear to me that the most important during the EMBA course will be the ability to navigate through this sea of available information and focus on the areas that are most relevant to me and my business.
The process that took place in my head while prioritizing my activities became a key learning experience of the EMBA programme so far – I had to define clear objectives for my professional aspirations in order to be able to successfully manage the priorities.
Of course, as most of the people, I couldn’t define the exact role or even the industry that I wanted to work in the future. It’s normal if you don’t know the answer to this question – during the EMBA programme you will receive sufficient support to help you concretize these goals.
Much more important is to use the preparation time to define your “own vision” for your professional life, the values you want to live your life, your inner “north pole”.
The sooner you have it the easier it will be for you to navigate through the EMBA programme and manage your life.
I have been at my new location in Philadelphia for a few weeks now. It has taken me some time to take in new impressions and rebuild those daily routines we don’t notice until we’re in a new environment and have to learn how to do them all over again: where is the supermarket, where do I get coffee and when does the gym open in the morning?
But I have come to the point where I feel I have settled in enough to start with some initial reflection. A new environment almost unavoidably makes you more curious not only about all the new things around you but also about how you relate to them and ultimately about yourself. And curiosity may be one of the best ways to reflect on new impressions and old habits in an open minded and positive way. You discover “just how much of “you” was based more on geographic location than anything else”, as Chelsea Fagan put it in her great article “What Happens When You Live Abroad” on Thought Catalog. And I don’t mean for that to sound negative, it’s just an interesting observation to make when you realize how much your environment reinforces certain behaviors and how little deliberate choice is involved in adopting them.
Reflection on its own though can be futile, which is exactly what tends to happen on a busy work day when we briefly remember that we really should do xyz more often only to forget it almost instantly and move on to the next urgent thought that grabs our attention. Therefore, I decided that changing some of my habits should be one of the main goals I set myself on this sabbatical. The mechanisms of habits have interested me for a while and an increasing amount of material is published that provides fascinating new insights: Charles Duhigg’s “The power of habits” or Tony Schwartz’s HBR blog post, where he describes them as “the only way to get important things done” are some of my favourites.
And one particular habit has been on my to do list for a while: I was invited to a talk about “Positive Leadership” by IE business school professor Lee Newman and to be honest, I was expecting the standard, bulky and impractical content that often results from academic research in leadership. But professor Newman’s talk contained an insightful combination of cognitive psychology, decision biases and practical advice. It’s a humbling experience when someone can demonstrate a whole range of shortcomings of your brain with a few experiments in about 15 minutes time. The talk concluded with the introduction of Mindfulness, a concept from psychology that I think is best described as “the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment.”
When I left the talk that evening about four months ago I had made the decision to try mindfulness myself. It’s certainly very different from any habit I previously adopted which makes this both challenging and exciting. I wouldn’t call myself very spiritual and certainly not very religious but my understanding so far is that mindfulness does not fit in either of these categories. Instead, it may be similar to Alain de Botton’s “Religion for Atheists” approach which suggests that “rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they’re packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies.”
I have decided that this is certainly worth trying and a great use for the additional time and freedom I have during my sabbatical. To keep myself motivated and anyone who is interested updated I will share my experiences here over the coming weeks. I will be using a book called Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman which takes you through an eight week introduction with practical exercises and background information.
This is it, the halfway point. My first elective course starts tomorrow and Wharton is coming up very soon in January. It’s amazing to look back and realise both how quickly the first year went by and how much has changed since we got together for our induction week. From now on my focus will be much more on specific subjects I choose, my exchange to Wharton and preparing for a life and career after the MBA.
Things seem to have fallen into place lately, seem to make a lot more sense. An absolute prerequisite for action, summed up nicely by the proverb “If you don’t know where you going, any way will take you there”. Much of my first year felt like that. And it was uneasy at times to allow myself to wander almost aimlessly and absorb new impressions. That seems completely opposed to the popular notion of a successful and determined individual and also in contrast to the expectations I had set for myself.
But once the MBA started I noticed quickly that these considerations had very little relevance in this stage of my life. The more I got to know the people in my class, the more I realised that generalisations and comparisons do not work any more the way they once did in undergraduate courses. Too individual had each of us become since then and too distinct were our goals and approaches for the MBA program. The sentiment of competing, comparing and averaging was no longer applicable and inspiring, discussing and diversifying provided much more value.
People join an MBA program for various different reasons: to get a promotion, to change their career, to get the letters behind their name, to enlarge their network, to broaden their knowledge or to work on their soft skills. And people move on from their MBAs in various different directions: to get that promotion they wanted, to start their own company, to work in a different sector or to get the role they always wanted. Allowing yourself the space and time it takes to find your own way through the MBA and onwards is difficult in an environment that can be distracting and overwhelming at times but is absolutely essential to getting the most out of your experience.
I won’t lie, it’s been tough. Running a growing PR business and maintaining two blogs (on B2B PR and social media) alongside an Executive MBA is a massive undertaking. Much bigger than I had anticipated in fact, and while the thought of it all being over in less than two weeks leaves most of my classmates heartbroken (if the comments on the Facebook group are to be believed) I can’t wait to close the door on the studying part of my MBA experience.
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not saying that it hasn’t been fabulous (it has exceeded my expectations in almost every way). I’m just looking forward to being able to focus on my business, my social life, and reading something that wasn’t published by Harvard Business Review. I also know that as a soon-to-be-alumna, my LBS experience has only just begun.
People keep asking me whether the EMBA was worth the money, which I find very difficult to answer. It’s certainly been transformational, both personally and professionally, but how do I quantify that in a way that business school applicants (who have just completed their GMAT and are obsessed with data) will understand? Unfortunately, I can’t reduce my LBS experience to numbers (at least not at this stage), but I’ll try to paint a picture of the value of the EMBA with words.
In a professional capacity, the EMBA has been brilliant. I’m more effective as a manager, more confident and commercially savvy as a consultant and more efficient as an entrepreneur. That’s not to say that every entrepreneur needs an MBA to succeed (I know loads who have done it without any degree at all), just that the MBA has helped me identify and put in place better, quicker and cheaper ways of doing things.
I now have an enormous international network of successful professionals in every industry that goes well beyond the 80 people in my stream. The alumni community is extraordinary, and I have already found that every time I meet an LBS graduate, there is an immediate connection and a willingness to help.
Personally, it’s been a rewarding journey too. The EMBA creates a perfect environment for forming lasting friendships and I know that I will remain in close contact with many of my classmates for life. Add to that the self esteem benefits associated with any type of learning, achievement or professional development and it is genuinely worthwhile.
Does this justify the £50k spend? Well, firstly, when you look at all the hours that go into getting an MBA, you quickly realise that the cost is a lot higher than the fees alone! Even so, my answer is yes, definitely. My business has more than doubled in size since I started, I have already won my first client through the alumni network, and I am generally more effective. When you consider that I haven’t even graduated yet, and I get to enjoy these benefits for the rest of my career, it’s hard to argue that the EMBA wasn’t money well spent.
Every EMBA’s experience is different, but, from talking to my classmates, there seems to be a common theme– it’s been without a doubt positive and valuable. So if you’re considering applying, I can’t tell you what to expect, but I can assure you that you will never look back!
2011 was a year of change for me – I finished my first year at LBS, changed my job, moved to a new apartment and got married. As I am embarking on my second year at LBS, I’ve started to reflect on the personal changes I’ve gone through, but also on all the “interesting times” through which our world seems to be going as well. This is quite a a substantial topic, of course, and I’ve been finding it hard to summarise all my thoughts in one ultimate conclusion. So I’ve decided to take it step by step.
I came across three pieces of content this week, which shaped my thoughts on the framework I might use for my reflections, as well as kicked off my thinking around the changing ways in which companies, from both the B2C and B2B sectors need to understand and engage with customers.
The amazing and very insightful presentation that gave me a framework to think about the “perfect storm” that is disrupting the business world today, and shaping the one of tomorrow can be seen here: http://www.slideshare.net/fredwilson/carlota-perez-talk-at.
Keeping this framework in mind, I came across two articles this week, which further shaped my thoughts on the challenges shaping the busines world today.
The first article was in the Wall Street Journal and looked at how retailers are trying to reach a “new” breed of consumers who cut back during the recession and have no plans to start spending again (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904563904576588964006576034.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLE_Video_Top). The other article, from Reuters, discussed the overwhelmingly growing volume of customer data on websites like Facebook and Twitter, and how marketing executives are finding it hard to realise its potential (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/11/socialmedia-ibm-idUSL5E7LA3JO20111011).
To me these articles mean the following:
- Companies need to be even more targeted in their marketing efforts as more and more segmentation will be needed to ensure that the rightly priced products are targeted at the appropriate customers
- Analysing unstructured data (i.e. data created and shared on sites like Twitter and YouTube, or e-mail) will be key to ensuring that companies understand the needs and expectations of all customers, as well as that they segment them more successfully
- The tech industry is entering an era of change where companies like HP, IBM, SAP, etc. should be looking for ways to quickly fit their offerings for purpose, learning from successes in the B2C sector and implementing them in the B2B one
I am sure there is much more to say on this topic, but for me the overall takeaway is the impending need for quick and deep changes within the corporate world for which some organisations may not be prepared. This definitely points to ”interesting times”, but also times of opportunity for those who are persistent and focused on the long-term.
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine – a quite intellectually intimidating individual pursuing a Ph.D. at Columbia – and I (definitely less intellectually intimidating) discussed what leadership will mean in 20 years from now (this is what happens when you pursue an MBA – you get ideas). I mean, imagine that it is the year 1992. A panel of business leaders is asked to predict what success will mean in the year 2011. Some will look at top trends and see a more ‘wired world’. Others will be convinced that mid-cap companies will vanish and multinational corporations and their global brands take their place. Nobody will predict 9/11, the rise of social media or the bursting of the housing bubble. Hence, any definition of success for 2030 should not depend on trends maintaining their constancy, but on the fact that the fundamentals of success are always the same.
What is success – and we go here beyond personal success – then in 2030? 2030 will be more successful than 2011 if – and only if – more people are able to create more value for improving the lives of more individuals while producing less waste. Waste is not used here in the ecological sense. Rather, it is used to include all forms of resources and capital that must be exchanged for success to appear. In other words, the real question is: What is the price of success and can it be bought more cheaply while at the same time including more people? Can we relieve the millions of factory workers so that they can acquire more dignity in work and life, ultimately contributing to a larger notion of success that includes a broader portion of the world population and our environment? The benchmark of success in 19 years will consequently be how much richer business can make the world without stripping it of its most precious assets: its natural resources and the aspirations of its young people.
To summarize: If we have more, if globalization expands its reach to provide more and more of us with contemporary standards of living, but if this comes at the cost of even more, then we will ultimately have less. Success in 2030 will not be – as it is today – an absolute number: the absolute increase in GDP, the absolute increase in ROI, the absolute number of new products bought and sold. It will be a relative number: will the price of more for more of us go up or down? Will we, in a nutshell, become more efficient in production of wealth – while not miscounting overlooking the intrinsic value of the sources of that wealth: the earth itself and the minds that are empowered to shape it.
What does this mean for businesses and their leaders? We are facing a paradigm shift in how companies interact with their environment and how they take care of their resources. Considering that this goes hand in hand with an internationalization of business as workforce and natural resources will cease to exist within borders, this will bring two concepts in its wake:
Business will create to an increasing extent the conditions that surround it. Business conditions are both shaping and shaped by the perception and priorities of the leaders of business. Researchers such as London Business School professor Lynda Gratton predicts that „(…) in a future increasingly defined by innovation, the capacity to combine and connect know-how, competencies and networks will be key.“ She believes that in the future the means by which individual value is created will shift from having generalist ability to having specialist ability and achieving serial mastery as general skills will be easily replacable. This means when thinking in terms of resource efficiency, that CEOs will have yet a greater need to bring together complex systems and human resources – a broad range of specialist forces – to be able to shape their surrounding conditions. The world will become more ambigious instead of less so. In addition, management will have to call more than ever on a moral compass to make the right decisions and keep business alive. Hence information collection and evaluation will be the top priority of management, along with the ability to work through frameworks and values in order to come to the right decisions that let business and the environment any business functions in prosper.
The second priority of management in 2030 need to be centered on restructuring the basic accounting principles of the firm: Look at financial and physical capital as merely one-half of the balance sheet. Prioritize instead equally human and natural capital to seek out methods to accurately quantify and pay for its true value. Currently, we are not doing this. We tax labor but subsidize construction of roads and usage of fossil-fuel based machines and cars. We can amortize the cost of manufacturing equipment, but we consider acquisition of implicit knowledge of workers as a cost of business. This does not produce relative increases in success – but absolute ones. It lets us produce more, but one with one caveat: We are losing valuable resources by not using them efficiently, thereby reducing the overall gains we and our children could make.
In summary, if there is to be a relative measure of success in 2030 then there must be fair and consistent methods of employing and measuring all forms of capital: financial, physical, natural and human, in order to use them efficiently. There must be a fair accounting of the relative efficiency and swapability of those forms, and we must have CEOs capable of driving this development.
As I am sure that by now any reader of this blog has fallen asleep, I will return to the several bottles of wine we demolished on that night. But in case you have some thoughts on this – looking forward to your input!