Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thankful for Interesting Conversations

I graduate from London Business School on Friday July 13 (yes, I'm wondering why that ominous date was chosen).  The most common question I've gotten over the past two years is along the lines of "what are you doing afterwards?"  And there's a subtle but overemphasized presumption in all of this that business school is solely a means to an end.  Yes, it is a great way to transition careers, advance in your current discipline, start a new venture later, etc.   But, for me, the point was rarely (close to never) about the afterwards part because I saw it as a truly transformational life experience.  One of my former clients (a great guy who got his MBA from Stanford) said this to me way back, and it's proven right (even for the cynical ones in my class).  I learned frameworks, how to articulate points, appreciate diversity and differences, question everything, realize there can be multiple "right" answers based on frame of "right", etc.   I also believe I'll be a better leader, manager, wife, mother, patron, volunteer, advisor, and friend because of this experience.

I go into nostalgic mode often these days as I'm sad to see these amazing two years end.  I am SO thankful for this experience that it brings me close to tears, and I don't know what to do with all of this thankfulness.  Since I've fallen off the cliff in blogging lately, I'm going to use this blog to explore that.  There has to be a "so what" or logical next step for me given abundance of gratitude.  I can give back to LBS with my time and resources later on.  But, is that it?

Reason #1 to be thankful: Interesting conversations

I was invited to a dinner at the Dean's home this evening and Terry Neill was one of the guests of honor.  Mr. Neill graduated from LBS in the 3rd MBA (formerly MSc) class and went on to join Anderson Consulting where he helped build the company from 300 people to +200,000 plus as Chairman of Anderson/Accenture.   He is a GREAT guy, and we had an interesting, interactive discussion with him + 10 students.  Some of the stickier things that I learned:

-Stanford professor Ray Levitt once said people don't change for rational reasons but rather emotional reasons (love, fear, hate, worry, etc.).  I don't quite agree with it completely but do think people are more likely to change and do so more quickly if there is an emotional hook.  Ideally, the rational arguments are packaged nicely with the emotional messaging.   There are so many examples I can think of that back this up from my Class Gift 2012 campaign...

-Accenture has two projects that are each worth +$1 billion.  One is helping the US Dept. of Homeland Security setup their systems and the other is with an energy company.  (Aside...hope my taxpayer dollars are  being used wisely.)   We now have organizations willing to spend a BILLION dollars to change systems/technology but not willing to make similar investments in people.  And people are infinitisimally more complex that binary computers.   Think about it.

-Notre Dame legendary coach Lou Holtz was giving a speech to business leaders at Harvard Business School once, and he was asked "How do you motivate your players each Saturday?"  Holtz thought a second and then replied, "My job is to not demotivate them on game day."   He then drove home the point to the corporate executives in the audience by asking them how many of their employees are motivated on day 1 of the job and whether they are still motivated.  Most aren't, and company leaders are responsible for this loss in motivation.  And, Terry argued (and I agree) that lack of trust is a driving force in this.

-A question to ponder:  Is human behavior predictable?   Some say yes...doesn't a stadium of football fans go crazy in sync when a goal is scored?  At the same time, I can think of so many situations where people react to situations in different ways based on their background, motivations, etc.   There's validity in both these points, and I feel the truth is in the middle.  I think there are certain universal human reactions to events and generalizations on how different people (ex. nationalities) will react to situations and make decisions.  Good managers can identify these broad buckets of predictable behavior.  Great managers are able to take this understanding a step further and can understand/read people within these categories.

-Employees must understand the customer and know "why" they are important.  Terry brought up an example of an Accenture client engagement with McDonald's many years ago.  The average tenure of a burger flipper in NYC was 32 days.  (Whoa.)   Some forward thinking McDonald's managers knew they had to bring some meaning to the daily task of burger flipping, so they invested in educating these employees on the customers - who they are, the economics of the business, best practices, etc.  Eventually, average burger flipper tenure rose to 4.5 years.  People (and customers) don't care about what you do as a company, they care about the why.

-There are 15 million Jews in the world.  That number seems surprisingly low to me given how strong, pervasive, and influential they are globally.   All over, most Jews have rich traditions, generally consistent behaviors, much recognition, etc.  Jewishness transcends the small (national) borders of Israel better than any other religion.  This factoid came up as we were discussing this trend of people identifying more with lifestyles than nationalities...call them glomads ("global nomads").

I had no idea what this evening was going to entail.  I thought it was just drinks but then found out it was a formal dinner event.  It was a lovely evening, and I came home energized after the interesting conversation with such an accomplished, curious, diverse, and helpful group of people that I feel blessed to have in my personal community.

No comments:

Post a Comment