Friday, November 20, 2009

Here Without You

Continuing from yesterday's theme of storytelling and hitting the "WOW" moment, here's a slightly older clip that I've always enjoyed a lot.

The notion of storytelling is something that almost all of my courses here have emphasized, in one way or another. In Information Management, storytelling was presented as a way of managing and transmitting knowledge within an organization. In Accounting, we're encouraged to look beyond simple ratios and piece together the entire story of a company's performance from the various bits of financial data available. Marketing is all about the customer engagement story, and even Quantitative Methods... ok, I'd really be stretching it on that one. Still, it's a concept that has taken me a while to see, especially in terms of combining the discrete disciplines that we're being taught to get a better idea of the larger "story".

Storytelling is also something I picked up on Wednesday from Richard Sells, the Chief Innovation Officer of Electrolux who presented the story of the rise and challenges of Electrolux, where its been and where it is going. He was talking to us in the context of a customer insight project we're doing for Marketing, and one of the key points he emphasized to us during the presentation was the need to connect with our audience. In this case, the audience consisted of people who'd be affected by the move to a national "Smart Grid". We needed to look at both macro trends, as well as observing and talking to our audience to get a sense of what they needed, what they're priorities were. In reflecting on our group's presentation, I feel we could have done a better job of building the framework of a story within which to present our 'insights.' Granted, it was only a 3 minute presentation, but we should be able to improve for the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The "WOW" moment

I came across a brilliant talk today (thanks Yoshi) on digital footprints and the Web's Secret Stories. I believe everyone needs to see this talk, and play around with the tools mentioned in it.

Its very rare to come across something that, as soon as I see it, makes me go "Wow, that was incredible." An idea so new, so interesting, and yet so intuitive that it inspires and energizes me. A product, service, or technology that I want to actively talk about and share with other people (as I've already done with this on Facebook and Twitter, and am now blogging about). I guess in a way, its the rarity of the event that makes it special.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walking the Unseen Trail, Owning a Beer Company

After slogging through some Marketing and Econ readings for this week, I decided to take a break and catch up on a few of the blogs I follow. I came across a great article on Brazen Careerist (a community I highly recommend), which made me realize that one of the barriers I face in updating my blog regularly is trying to come up with topics that others might find interesting. Reading David's comments made me think back on why I started this blog, what the Unseen Trail means to me.

This is one of my favourite pictures, and somehow seems to capture the essence of what I mean by the Unseen Trail. A shaft of light illuminates a distant, unknown goal, but the way there isn't clear. Reaching that goal will be arduous and complicated, yet ultimately rewarding.

At this point in my MBA, I've reached a level where I've finally become comfortable with the current level of ambiguity I'm facing over my post-MBA plans. I've forced myself to do more research, and learnt a bit more about my options. I've also started to find areas of business that I enjoy and want to focus on, as well as ways of pushing myself further in those fields. The trail ahead is still hidden, but the journey is becoming a bit easier.

Moving away from philosophical musings, here's another amusing read I came across. It basically talks about how two ad agencies enable random people to collectively own Pabst Brewing Company. The idea is really pushing the boundaries of crowd sourcing and social media, something I've been studying and researching seriously for some time now. It also raises some interesting possibilities for companies to generate financing from alternative sources, or for non-profits for that matter (think Kiva for example).

Are You Ready?

Interesting video promotion the continuing relevance of social media for business.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Integration Week - Thoughts

Readers of the Unseen Trail will have noticed that there has been a significant hiatus by the author. The short answer explaining this would be: Its an MBA! Or as one of my friends on the course said "Dude, how do you even have time to blog?" The long answer would be that in the last three weeks, I finished off Block 1, completed Integration Week (more in a bit) and took a week off to recuperate... I mean, review. Yeah, that's it. Anyways, now that the grind has started again, I thought I'd take some time to recap those manic few weeks.

Week 4 of Block 1 pretty much flew by - see previous post for a relatively accurate description thereof.

Integration Week was a very different story. The aim is to "Integrate the three disciplines together" through a series of time-constrained exercises. However, for me Integration Week was more about learning to work together as teams, being able to divide up tasks quickly and then later integrate individual work into the group report / presentation. Over and over. Throughout the week we were focusing on analysing a single company, through the three different lenses of Accounting, Quantative Methods, and Information Management. Monday we had four hours to prepare a presentation with an accounting focus; while those four hours sped away, it seemed like a huge luxury later in the week since we only had two hours to prep on Tuesday and Wednesday. Each day we also had to give a 5 minute presentation along with our written report, which was another good takeaway from the week overall. It really gave people who are not comfortable presenting opportunities to get comfortable with the process, as well as enough situations for everyone to participate. We also started moving away from "Death By PowerPoint" by using different presentation techniques such as a News Interview.

Thursday flipped up the game again. In the morning we spent an hour or so making collages about how to integrate information. To be honest, I didn't see the point of this particular exercise, but then again, I haven't been much for collages at any point. The second half of the day was given over to making a two minute commercial on a topic none of us had seen before. We had five hours to decide on a message, a style, storyboard, shoot, and edit. Got off to a slightly slow start, but once we hit our stride we really managed to get it together. I don't think we left ourselves enough time to edit, so the finished product was a little rough, but we were all pretty happy with the result.

On a side note, we didn't finish in the top 5 videos shown that day, but a lot of people told us later that they really enjoyed our video, and that we were robbed. Ahhh, artistic genius is often appreciated by the masses but rejected by the critics. After the judging, the entire class (along with a few professors) went out for drinks to a local pub, and proceeded to drink perhaps a little more than they should have. Overall though, it was a great evening, incredibly relaxing after the hectic week / month, and a great way to unwind, and share experiences and thoughts.

So, to kind of wrap up, what did I think of the first Block of my Cass MBA? Good in parts, frustrating in parts, and challenging in parts. I think the course overall was perhaps a little slow to get up and running, but I can understand that is more to ease people in a bit and get them used to what is expected. I'm looking forward to the increased challenge in Block 2, stay tuned for more updates.