Sunday, October 10, 2010

A few lessons...

Boo to strikes!
I gave up my Honda (aka Bailey) this July and no longer have a car.  Many people (obviously not from Texas) told me I would love public transportation.  The London Underground is one of the most advanced, clean, and extensive public transport systems in the world.  After two months using it, I would say it's good but definitely not as good as having your own car when you can come and go as you please.  Also, and this must be a European thing, but workers go on strike fairly regularly.  There have been two Underground strikes since I've been here and they reek HAVOC on the city. My classmates who have to travel using the bus or the tube have to plan hours in advance to get from point A to point B.  Everyone is late.  Workers are mainly striking to not lose their jobs. 

I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle a few years ago.  Next to Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is said to be the work of social commentary with the greatest impact.  The FDA was created in the U.S. after The Jungle was published.  Labor unions also gained clout.  I can empathize with their circumstances and understand where they are coming from.  However, bringing one of the largest cities in the world (as well as a global financial center) to a standstill doesn't really gain my sympathy. 

Mid Autumn Festival 2010
September 22 was Mid-Autumn Day in China.  Our Chinese colleagues in Stream B put together a special presentation for us after our Global Leadership Assessment for Managers (GLAM) session.  They explained to us the significance of the holiday.  It is observed each fall and is based on the Chinese calendar.  There is a full moon that evening, and it is tradition to eat a moon cake.  We each sampled one of these delicious moon cakes in class.  They are typically very sweet, and when you take a bite of one, you are supposed to be filled with warm thoughts to remember loved ones far away (represented by the moon).  Mid-Autumn Day was something I knew nothing about before.  But, I'm really glad our classmates taught us about it.  So many of us have traveled far away to be here, so it seemed very appropriate for us to all celebrate this together.  After the presentation, we all gave the presenters a forceful and long round of applause.  Because that's how we do it at LBS.

UGM lesson
Our first class in the MBA program is called Understanding General Management (UGM).  Our section was taught by Dr. Brandon Lee, and he is an amazing teacher!  UGM is Strategy-lite.  Basically, you learn that frames, values, processes, and commitments exist in organizations.  Brandon does a good job selecting the cases...I particularly liked the Honda, AmEx, and Body Shop cases.   However, the biggest takeaway from that class had nothing to do with a case.  Brandon made us write a letter from a headhunter describing our dream job and why we should accept it.  He then made us write the eulogy a friend would give sixty+ years from now.  In a weird way, I LOVED writing my eulogy.  Because in it, I talked about friends, family, and things that matter.   The point of this exercise was fairly obvious in that Brandon wanted us to take a more holistic view of what "success" is when we're just starting the MBA course.  He also asked us whether the two works seemed to "mesh" and logically reinforce each other.  Mine didn't.  And I was proud of it because my eulogy was mainly about a life of significance.   Brandon pushed back and asked us rhetorically if they didn't, should they?  And that's when it kind of hit me.  To work towards a distant ideal and sludge through the present is not the way it should be. 

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