Tag Archives: collaboration

A structured rant

2 Feb

About two month ago I attended my first Ignite session.  Well, it was loosely based on the Ignite concept, which is now a global event where hundreds of people in several cities pitch ideas to thousands of their neighbours.  We were doing it on a much smaller scale, getting together with about 50 classmates to share entrepreneurial ideas or concepts they were interested in working on as part of an entrepreneurship project this term.

One of the organizers suggested that a great idea might arise from something that you were passionate about, or better yet, that makes you mad. Something that just bugs you, and might for example, cause you to start a somewhat obscure WordPress blog, as an alternative to yelling at the radio!

Although I highly recommend the cathartic effect of blogging, it might be argued that doing something to pound on, um… I mean work on, the thing that makes you mad might be somewhat more rewarding.  And since I’ve been practicing structured approaches to problem solving, I thought it would be appropriate to make a list of some of those things that have really been getting on my nerves:

  1. Mis-pricing – blame it on my first brush with economics last term. As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! But it really bugs me that chronic mis-pricing of resources, and therefore the things those resources are used for, means that we have ended up not valuing things appropriately.  We need better ways of measuring those so-called “externalities” that traditional accounting systems have been unable to tackle.  We won’t have any incentive to manage resources differently until we are paying our way.
  2. Using old ways to solve new problems – enough of this! Doesn’t it make the tiniest bit of sense that new problems need new ways of thinking and responding? I am happy to acknowledge that there are lots of people in the world who get this. Sadly, it sometimes seems that only a few of them are actually in a position to do something about it.
  3. Climate change nay-sayers – I know, I know, I have a bias – but this is my list! Get off this bandwagon, seriously! Do you honestly believe that 7 billion people, and all the development that about a third of them are doing, will have no impact on our planet’s climate and ecosystems? Ever?

So these are my top three. It’s been really helpful to think about these things, particularly at this point in time, when I’m thinking about the rest of the MBA program still to come, and mapping out what I’d like to do post-MBA.

One final note. There is one more thing that made me mad (and not a little sad) as I’ve watched the ever-changing news coming out of the Middle East recently. I don’t know much about the history of the situations that have led to the events of the past several weeks, but it completely floored me to think that one young man thought his only option was to take himself out of the game by setting himself on fire on a street in Tunisia. It makes you wonder how many more people are on the brink of such desperation, whether in the Middle East, or somewhere much closer to home.

So, what makes you mad? More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

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Ready to change how we think

28 Sep

Going to business school is a personal decision, based on all kinds of things.  What you do now, what you’d like to do next, what new ideas you have, how interested in business you are, and a host of other factors that shape your thinking through the application and acceptance process.  Notwithstanding this very personal vision, many of the experiences my classmates and I have shared so far have been somewhat “broad strokes”, touching on the traditional areas and sectors that the “typical” business school student is likely to be interested in.

But what if you are not typical? Clearly we all like to think of ourselves as unique, and to some extent we all are. But equally, in a business school setting, there are going to be several people who delight in the idea of 12-hour work days as investment bankers, thrive on the excitement of the trading floor, and leap out of bed at the thought of complex financial modelling.  I’m not one of them, I’ve realised, but figuring out what I don’t want to do early on is a good thing, I think.

What I really want to do is change the way we think about stuff and the people and companies who make it, sell it, use it and deal with it when we’re done.  I’ve written about stuff as a consumer and as an owner, and realised since moving into a small student bedroom that living with less stuff is not only possible, but kind of peaceful.  I’ve been practising my “elevator pitch” to my classmates, and researching companies, organizations and people who already seem to be thinking about stuff differently.

Now, it’s early days on the research front, but I thought I’d share some cool things I’ve found so far.  Some of these may be familiar, while others may spark some new interest.

  1. Look to your right, over there in the side bar.  Click on The Story of Stuff and see with Annie has to say about things.
  2. Check out this blog post by Joel Makower, the founder of Greenbiz.com, and a “guru of green” I think has some neat things to say.  The book he recommends is now officially on my list.
  3. While you’re browsing through the blog roll, stop on by The Clean Bin Project, which chronicles the great things Jenny and Grant did and learned in living “waste free” for a year. I was lucky to meet these two about a week before they took off on a cross-Canada bike tour this summer, and they are doing something special.

So here’s what I’m ready to test through business school, and hopefully get some of the best brains I know (my classmates!) to think through this with me:

  • How do we make better stuff? The kind that’s good for the environment, and for people, and for the companies that make them?
  • Is a stuff vs. services conversation something we’re ready to have? And who should we have it with?
  • How much, and what kind of stuff, is “enough” in a finite world, a closed system with limits on all kinds of resources?

You probably have ideas about your stuff too. Let me know what you think – say it out loud.

So this is what diversity looks like

26 Sep

240 students, 48 countries of origin.  These were the stats for last year’s MBA class, and from the looks of it, our class is poised to match them.

Over the past few days, we’ve been accumulating in Oxford in ever-increasing numbers, from just about every part of the world.  This week, we spent an intensive 2 days together at a career “bootcamp” designed to introduce us to some of the possible career options post-MBA.  This was our first chance to meet a significant portion of the class, and it seemed that all we did was ask and answer the “four questions” – what is your name, where do you come from, what were you doing before the MBA, and what do you plan to do after the MBA.

The “where do you come from” answers are my favourite. So far I’ve met people from Belgium, Canada, Nigeria, United States, England, Scotland, Norway, Costa Rica, Spain, Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Chile and India.  And lots of us come from more than one place, having worked and lived and attended school in different countries from those where we were born.

What’s even more interesting is looking at our various backgrounds against the landscape of media coverage, political and popular opinion about who our countries’ “friends and enemies” are at any given point in time.  The backgrounds are extraordinarily diverse – the person who flew helicopters for the US military, the investment banker from Saudi Arabia, the clean-tech entrepreneur from India, the UN agency staffer most recently back from Africa.    We’ve been connecting online and in person, socialising and finding common interests, and already planning how to grow this energy into productive study groups, student clubs and other activities.

It’s tempting to wonder whether things will evolve over time into less aggregated groups, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. As one classmate said to me yesterday “When you get to know someone one-on-one, you can’t help but find the similarities between you.”  So far there are a few things that stand out that we all seem to have in common – we are excited about being here, we are determined to do well, and we are ready to change the world.

Oh, and we all like English pubs.

Crowdsourcing a dream

16 Jun

Sometimes, the thing we don’t say out loud enough is thank you. And here’s the thing, each of us probably has more to be thankful for than we realise, because there are very few things in life we do totally alone. Many businesses are discovering what people with good friends have always known – the crowd does better than the individual.

Take me, for example. Just over a year ago, a friend invited me to attend her Ph.D. graduation ceremony. I remember sitting in the auditorium, listening to all these people being recognized for their achievements. It was the first hint for me that I wanted to go back to school. Next I talked to another friend about her MBA experiences, and got some advice about program choices and schools. My uncle’s advice was simple – stop talking and go do it. Colleagues at work, friends and family read countless versions of my application essays, and helped keep me sane through 3 intense months of GMAT preparation. Family and friends found a place for me to stay when I flew from Vancouver to London for 4 days to interview with the University of Oxford’s Said Business School and the Cranfield School of Management. And everyone joined in the party when I was accepted at both!  The real story? There’s no way I could have done it without my “crowd”.

This September, I’ll take off for an intense year at Oxford, along with about 240 other students from all over the world. Already, we are connecting through the many social networks that abound, with folks weighing in from just about every time zone on the planet.  There’s talk of partnership opportunities, new ways of doing business, social entrepreneurship and generally tapping into our collective knowledge to change the world. This crowd is on the move!

So what can the crowd do for you? Are you pondering an idea and feel like some extra brain-power would help? Are you interested in participating in a crowd-driven solution? There are some great examples out there. Here’s an oldie but goodie – the National Audubon Society held their 110th “crowdsourced” bird count this past winter!  So get out there, join the crowd. Maybe we’ll work together on something.