This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
What I learned in Business School
I got my MBA in 1998. Jones School at Rice University. Took a lot of courses, but the most important things I learned are below.
1. Anyone can sue you. I was in Ed Williams' Entreprenuerial class. He gave some example of somthing one should avoid to reduce chances of being sued. I raised my hand and asked, "can someone actually sue you for that?". He smiled and said these words. "Anyone can sue you for anything. They may not have a case, they may be off their rocker, and they may lose, but they can still sue you."
2. Learn how to value a company. I credit two people for this nugget. Alumni Pete Melcher came and spoke at a President's lecture. David Ross, who taught the Finance Strat II course also told me this. Ask me why and I'll tell you why this is so important, even if you never buy a company.
3. The talent to reconginze talent is the best talent. One of my summer internships was with First Wave Marine. I worked for Frank Eakin (who eventually won the E&Y Entreprenuer Award). He bought a shipyard with zero experience in building ships and barges. But he surrounded himself with the right team who knew operations, sales, safety, etc. He also got rid of others who did not belong on his team.
4. Network, network, network. Maury Bronstein made friends with everyone during school and have kept up with many of them. He was not the class president nor the most obvious person who would get to know everyone -- he simply networked without prejudice. David Ross (see above) also gave me an interesting advice/benediction on the last day of class. He said, "When you graduate, you'll lose touch with many of your classmates. Then something interesting happens in about 10 years. You'll start to see your former classmates elevate to senior positions as they have worked their way through their organizations." Read: cast a wide net, you'll need to call on them.
5. Learn what people value. This is one of greatest lessons I've learned in life and I credit this to Pat Moore (ethical decisions in engineering), who after his retirement from Halliburton, taught through the Civil Engineering department at Rice. I can write much more on this, and will be happy to comment for those who ask.
6. Stakeholder analysis. This is not difficult, although practice helps. I think we learned this in Doug Schuler's government processes class.
7. Describe - Diagnose - Prescribe. The original framework from Steve Currall (organizational behavior) had 4 elements. Either I can't remember all four, or have been able to get away with this condensed version. It's a good way to "categorize" comments that people make. "My car won't start" is a description. "Maybe my battery is dead" is a diagnosis (and also a hypothesis). "I should get a jump" is a prescription. Too often in business, we make comments without articulating or understanding what is being said.
8. Systems Thinking. Peter Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline which made ST and Organizational Learning accessible. I credit Will Uecker (management accounting) for treating this topic in his class and inviting Monty Dolph (from Andersen at the time) to come speak on the topic. For me ST/OL has allowed me to ride down the learning curve in many organizational and management issues very quickly.
9. Ask smart questions. You will never know all the answers you'd like to know. Just be ready to respond to a question with a smart question. I learned this from fellow student Troy Genzer, while we were doing a difficult case together. We had to make a presentation and knew we would be grilled. Turns out that for the presentation, the professor (David Ross) had invited the actual executives from the company in question.
10. Inhale, hold, exhale. Before giving a presentation, conducting a tough interview, making a cold call. I may have the numbers wrong, but it goes something like this: Inhale slowly over 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. That's it! I learned this during a communications class, but not from the text or the instructot, but from a fellow student, Helen El-Mallakh. What I like about this is is based on physiology: it takes time for the oxygen exchange to happen in the lungs. It also forces you to slow down and reduces the chances of talking too fast. Just once does the trick for me. And it's based on science, and makes no attempts to cleanse your chi or aura.
If you work in Corporate America (or conduct business in many other countries for that matter), you quickly sense a "norm" or etiquette and behavior. The following are true stories -- some I have witnessed myself, others from reputable sources.
Please add your own...
1. I've heard of people "checking out" in meetings, but one meeting attender decided to make better use of her time during a facilitation I was conducting. I was writing something on the board when I heard a distinct "clip" sound of a nail clipper. Yes, one of the clients was clipping her nails. Mind you, she was being very careful to collect the clippings as to not "initrude" on others's space. She just kept on clipping until she was fininshed. What's next? A facial?
2. Meeting. Cell phone rings, person answers cell phone. He tries to be discreet and not get in the way of the meeting, so he pushes his chair back from the table. He ducks his head, as if that would make him less obtrusive to the meeting at hand. Soon, he is literally under the table conducting his cell phone conversation -- all we see is the empty chair moving and the one-sided conversation which we can still hear.
3. Working in Houston during summers is a contrast in temperature extremes as you go from the outside heat of 100 degrees to the freezing cold air-conditioned insides. Often times, the inside temperature is unbearably cold. One worker decided to "protest" against the cold by draping a blanket around herself everywhere she went in the building. Not a cardigan, sweater, college sweatshirt, or a jacket. A blanket that dragged on the ground.
4. Professional environment, project room with ~50 people. Around 4:45 PM every day, she takes out her keys and jiggle them as she says, "c'mon, five o'clock". Like the coaxing of some dice before a game of craps, we had to endure this every day.
According to http://www.kingdomality.com/, my profile is below. Who are you?
our distinct personality, The Black Knight, might be found in most of the thriving kingdoms of the time. Your overriding goal is to win. You approach each task or situation as a contest to be won strategically and efficiently. Because you can control your feelings, it is not unusual for you to charm, as well as successfully delegate tasks and responsibilities to the more emotional types. You are often concerned with what's in it for you. You seldom involve yourself in activities where you can not foresee a reward for your investment or effort. On the positive side, you can be analytically empathic and logically persuasive. On the negative side, you may be unemotionally manipulative as well as impulsive. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.
1. Open your mp3 player application.
2. Select the "shuffle" feature. "Shuffle" your selection.
3. Log the 1st 10 songs (artist/album) in the response to this post.
4. Do NOT skip over that embarrassing song that came up. You MUST list the 1st 10 songs. Only exception is if you have an artist or album that is repeated.
5. Log your 10 songs in your own blog and encourage others to play this game.
My 10 songs:
1. Recurring Dream / Crowded House / Afterglow
2. How Deep Is The Ocean / Diana Krall / Love Scenes
3. Kinder / David Garza / This Euphoria
4. Narcolepsy / Third Eye Blind / Third Eye Blind
5. Down By The Sea / Men At Work / Contraband - The Best of Men At Work
6. Moorea / Gipsy Kings / Gipsy Kings
7. Got To Get You Into My Life / The Beatles / Anthology
8. I Won't Stay Long / Sixpence None The Richer / Sixpence None The Richer
9. My baby / 8½ Souvenirs / Twisted Desire
10. Whatever Gets You On / Fastball / The Harsh Light Of Day
Some time ago, somebody asked me this question: "What are the last 5 CD's you purchased?". Not a hypothetical "what you you be playing at your party right now?" or "what's your favorites CD right now?". By revealing my actual CD purchases, I couldn't try to impress someone by giving a situation-specific, I know the cool secret CDs that no one knows about - type answer.
Unfortunately, I don't buy many CD's now. So here are the last 5 from memory, in reverse order, with more certainty in the last CD and working backwards.
1. Duran Duran, Astronuat. 80's wonder band returns with original members. I read a favorable review. Curiosity was also part of the reason why I got this. The 1st single seemed strong and melodic. I've only had a chance to listen to it through once. Not bad.
2. Judy Wu, Fiction in Disguise. This is a local artist, and a good friend of mine. Really talented songwriter who will be playing at The Vintage Bar this weekend. Rumor has it that I will open a few songs and provide some BGVs. Check out www.judy-wu.com.
3. Los Lonely Boys, Los Lonely Boys. Recommendations for this CD came from two different people. I will now buy any other CD that they recommend. One of the best CDs I've heard all year. Incredible talent, great vocals, great songs...
4. Tears for Fears, Everyobody Loves a Happy Ending. Saw them perform a track on GMA (or some other morning show), and thought "what a nice little Beatle-esque number..."
5. Nelly Furtado, Folklore. I caught a little interview on NPR and thought, "behind the MTV glitz and made-for-teens image, there's a talented artist in there with a nice sound."