Blogalize

Afb0028One of the tendencies that I’m noticing in the US is how some people throw around -lize like it’s Sinterklaas candy. Verbalize and visualize I am used to, but it seems that every verb here can be -lized. Write-alize, threatenalize… I see a whole new class of words poppalizing up and wonder when they’ll materialize in the Oxford English Dictionary (or maybe they already have and I’m too old fashioned in my English and I should catch-up-alize).

Today I sat the last exam of 2006, Entrepreneurial Finance, which was probably also the hardest, since I missed a few classes and worked hard to catch up. And to be honest, mezzanine finance and leveraged buyouts and fulcrum securities don’t come naturally to me. But it’s done now and I’m a free woman again! Strangely enough exams are kinda cathartic, in a pseudo-sado-masochistic kinda way… It’s nice to have an official closure I suppose. Plus you never learn more than when prepping for an exam. And I’ve used my skills in lean-and-mean cribsheet making (I wonder how that will look on my CV) again, which was fun (yes, fun, I like making cribsheets)!

Big shout out to the R1 applicants (assuming that there are R1 applicants reading this), I know the decision is coming soon, hang in there, it’s tough having to wait, but it’s almost decision time! And for the R2s: good luck finishing the application!

[edit: thought about taking out the sado-masochistic, since I’ve been getting strange hits through Google, but didn’t. Type in cocaine and Amsterdam and I’m on the 4th page… And I’m the least likely source when it comes to either of those, let alone the combination!! Just realised that talking about this will probably boost my rankings again… rats. Doomed if I do, doomed if I don’t.]

Life’s a game

Images38No MBA graduates without knowing about game theory (if you want to brush up on your game theory, check out the Wikipedia entry). One of the first things you’re taught is about the Prisoner’s dilemma, which according to the same fabulous Wikipedia is a
"type of non-zero-sum game in which two players can "cooperate" with or "defect" (i.e. betray) the other player. In this game, as in all game theory, the only concern of each individual player ("prisoner") is maximizing his/her own payoff, without any concern for the other player’s payoff per se." However, if you participate, you maximise both your own and the other person’s pay-off.

Where is this going? Apart from being an interesting theory to think about in a theoretical way, it doesn’t come into its own until you work with it. And today, in Negotiations class, we did an exercise which dealt with a typical Prisoner’s Dilemma. We were split in groups, and had to go through different rounds of negotiations (so it became an iterative P-dilemma), without talking to the other party or even being in the same room with them. There are different outcomes per round depending on how much you offer in the negotiation which also depends on what the other party offers (in amount of $ you can make), and the idea is that if you cooperate, both parties end up with the highest amount of money at the end of all the rounds, higher than they make without cooperating. This is MBA101, we all get taught this in the first few months. However, of the 4 groups we were the only group that got it (and luckily for us, the other party we were negotiationg with, got it too)! Now, I don’t mean to beat my own drum (although this is MY blog ;-), but what I didn’t understand is why if people know this, and recognize the assignment as being a Prisoner’s Dilemma assignment (and I checked, they did), they would still get involved in sub-optimal solutions.

What I find most interesting is why this happens when we all know the theory. Because we’re all type A personalities as MBA students (or are we?)? Or do people’s egos get in the way (although you would think that winning the game would be more important than winning one specific round)? And why does that happen? Some of the other groups were trying to screw the other group they were negotiating with, and trying to outsmart them. Why is that? I don’t have the answers, although my guess is that ego and competitiveness might have something to do with it. Once more proves that Organisational Behaviour is one of the most important subjects to study in b-school, you can be taught other things, but if you can’t apply them in real world situations with real world people, they aren’t worth a lot. Soft skills rule!

[edit: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that about 70% of the people in this class have stated their concentration is in Finance, and that they want to work in Finance. Doesn’t know if that makes a difference.]

… en 1 melk

My_girlMy favourite course at Stern this term is called Advertising Management, taught by prof Green. He’s a very experienced ad-man, and is passionate about what he teaches, which make his classes fun, interesting and insightful. What I particularly love, is that he uses a clear framework to go through the course, so that everything you’re learning in individual lectures makes sense in the bigger picture. He runs through

  • ‘why should you advertise (should you advertise?)’,
  • ‘who are you advertising to’,
  • ‘where and when can you reach them’,
  • ‘what do we say to them’,
  • ‘how do we say it’ and finally
  • ‘how do we know how it worked?

The companion text is Jon Steel’s Truth, Lies and Advertising : The Art of Account Planning, which is written in an easy style with lots of humour, and most of all lots of insight into the function of planning. I can highly recommend it if you’re interested in advertising or marketing in general. (And he’s got a new book out, which is rumoured to be very good too, it’s on my to-read list).

Some more sources of information I’ve found really interesting with regards to advertising and marketing:
* David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising, irreverent look at someone who really knows his advertising stuff (any b-school library will have a copy of this book)
* Advertising Age magazine (in US, but have a good online version (which has just released it’s Marketing 50, the 50 best marketing ideas (in the US of course) of the past year, for the PDF, check this link)
* Russell Davies’ blog (one of my favourite reads on my RSS feeds). He’s a planner, and writes about planning, advertising and general cool stuff. Highly recommended.
* Wieden + Kennedy London’s blog, an candid look at what goes on inside an ad agency
* Brand Republic, UK magazine for marketers
* Adcritic.com, does what is says on the tin
* Fallon Planning Blog, from the bright minds at Fallon
And not exactly marketing or advertising, but very interesting
* Springwise, which is a trend-spotting blog, I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff on here, definitely worth a spot on your RSS feed list.

So, where does the milk come into this whole story? (the title to this post is the tagline to one of the Netherlands’ most succesful ad campaigns, promoting milk) In his book, Jon Steel mentions the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign in California which he worked on. And that got me thinking. We had a similar campaign to promote the consumption of milk in the late 80s and early 90s in the Netherlands. So thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I found the original ad (see below). To this day I can’t hear this song without thinking about this campaign!

[edit on Nov 17th: this came in on my RSS feeds today: Russell Davies has interviewed Jon Steel about his new book, you can find it here.]

What you can learn from watching an hour of Jerry Springer

Images37I’m normally not much of a daytime TV watcher (with the exception of Oprah, which I try and catch if I have the opportunity), for a number of reasons. First because I used to work during the day, second because I had no TV in the past year. But this morning, I had no classes, no pressing engagements and the lack of initiative to go out. So I bummed out on the couch and watched daytime TV. One and a half episode of Maury (never heard of him) and one whole episode of Jerry Springer (everyone’s heard of him). Hmmm. Now I remember why I didn’t like daytime TV much. It was horrible!! Worse than what I remembered, so terribly tacky.

But that was peanuts compared to the commercials! They were outrageous. In the space of 2 hours, I must have seen at least 45 minutes of commercials, promising cures to medical issues I didn’t even know I could have (dry eyes), advertising colleges that promise a career in law enforcement (meaning prison), financial companies that want to clear up my $25,000 credit card debt with just one phonecall (hmmm, maybe they can get rid of my student loan…) and the worst were the lawyer commercials. I can now so understand why lawyers are the bad guys in this country. The worst two commercials (and shameless) were the possibility to sue medical companies if your teenager has committed suicide whilst on ADHD drugs, or to sue a hospital if your baby is born with cerebral palsy. How shameless is that!

Maybe I’m just paying attention a bit more to commercials now that I’m taking Advertising Management…

Spent the weekend lazing about (with the exception of Saturday when I actually did some work at Stern). I took a city hike on Friday night, visiting the Rockefeller Center (they were laying the ice rink), the Apple Store (interesting, not very busy, I like the new Mac laptops), the Colliseum bookstore (rumoured to go out of business soon so I wanted to catch it before it closed) and last but not least: MoMa. Target sponsors Free Friday Nights, which means they waive the normal entrance fee. And I wasn’t the only one who had this luminous idea! It was crowded (I want to go again, but later at night, the open night is from 4 – 8pm), but I loved the space, and want to go back to have a closer look at the photographs. They have free audioguides included in the entrance fee, but you can also download the whole thing to your MP3 player (which I love).

Yesterday I wandered over to the Chelsea Market (15th street and 8th Avenue) which was blooming marvellous! I can highly recommend it to people who either like architecture or food, it’s the old home of the Oreo cookie and how houses foodshops/wholesalers. My favourites are Amy’s Bread, and the Italian shop (where they had 3 kilogram buckets of Nutella). On my way there I stopped in at Balducci’s (14th and 7th Avenue), which is a food hall extraordinaire, well worth a detour). No pics unfortunately, I forgot my camera and my phone.

Au… (Dutch for my back is aching)

Afb050 Next time I have a brilliant idea like this, someone slap me! I thought it would be very good (following the mens sana in corpora (corporo? My Latin ain’t what it used to be) sana paradigm) to sign up for a few exercise classes at Stern. The gym is free for all students to use, and the classes only cost a nominal fee. So after a considerable time spent poring over the veritable mountain of options available (ranging from belly dancing to golf and tennis to obscure forms of aerobics), I decided on yoga and a combination pass for 5 different classes, which will allow me to go to any of them at any of the times they’re run. Brilliant idea. Very good price too. It all sounded so good…. anw now I’m aching. Badly. Yesterday was yoga, which I instantly loved and couldn’t get enough off (although it was slightly frustrating not being good at something, but I figure I have to get used to that sooner rather than later), and today I decided to go to Pilates (which I’ve done before so I figure it couldn’t be that bad). And now I’m aching in places I didn’t even know I had muscles! That’ll teach me ;-)

SmallcoverSince the object of the healthy body was to house a healthy mind, I went to a lecture/discussion last week (with RsR) by Chris Anderson, writer of The Long Tail. It was held at the New York Public Library, which was a very grand setting, and the talk itself was very amusing and interesting. The premise is that with the advent of the internet, and less reliance on physical inventories, companies are selling more and more of the so called Long-Tail-products, or the non-hits. Availability of more products, and the ability to find those products (for instance with the help of recommendations) can make niches very profitable, and I thought the idea in the book were very interesting. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and iTunes were examples mentioned, and if you haven’t read the book yet, I can highly recommend putting it on your wishlist/christmas list, and checking out the blog in the meantime. It was a memorable occasion for me in another sense too: it was the first time I got a book signed. I own a few signed books, but I never had one signed myself (yes, I know, that’s kinda odd for a bookhistorian).

Other news from the New York front: I’ve finished my shadowing, typed up my shadowing observations, printed them, got them bound and found a friendly Fedex person to ship it to me. Pfiew. The shadowing itself was a great experience for me, but the report kinda odd. I mean, how much is there to say about a manager’s leadership style? Not 12 pages for me. But all in all, I was pretty happy with my experience.

Stern is starting to keep me busy too: my Entrepreneurial Finance has assignments (small ones, but still) to be handed in, I’ve missed a few Advertising Managment classes due to my shadowing so I’m trying to catch up and New Product Development started two weeks ago, and is proving very interesting (a bit of an extension of the innovation work I did over the summer), and a lot of reading. Talking about New Product Development, Miss M (my fellow LBS partner in crime here at Stern this term) and I went to the lunch and learn session with the brand manager of 100 Calorie Packs from Kraft. Very interesting idea, and I thought it was nice to hear the ‘real’ world example.

Chance meeting

Afb040_1Afb041Whoa… It’s been a while since I’ve put thoughts to paper (or this blog’s case fingers to keyboard), so time for some catching up, with lots of pictures this time and I’ll try and go down my list of pictures chronologically. Top left a treat for all my banker-friends in the MBA, pictures of Wall Street. We went there almost two weeks ago, to represent LBS at a Forte Foundation event which was held in Deutsche Bank, which was a blast, despite the organisation losing our boxes with leaflets!

Afb043To the left of this paragraph is one of the typical cubicles that in US office/schoolculture seem to be normal (this one is in our Graduate Reading Room). There are walls on three sides, and they are so high that you can’t see anything but walls. I’ve seen them in offices here as well. So the Dilbert cartoons are right… I always thought they were kinda exaggerated!

Afb045These are the birthday cakes that I bought to celebrate my birthday, they come from a place called Patissier on Union Square and were reasonably good. Shout out to FL, who’s birthday it is tomorrow, happy new year’s eve, sweetie!

Afb049This is a picture of the Nokia concept store, which just opened in New York. Because the US is not on the GSM network (and I reckon because you also pay to receive calls), the mobile phones here aren’t as advanced on the whole as in Europe. So I went to the store to get my fix, and check out in the flesh my favourite phone: the N93, which I would love to get once I get back to the UK (although if it were up to the sales staff I wouldn’t get it. The guy who helped me didn’t really help me and was very very snooty).

Dscf0010On the left the venue for the Washington MBA fair I attended last week, which was very good. The building (National Building Museum) was stunning, and light and airy, and the people very interesting. I tacked on two more days in Washington, and I enjoyed my time there (the National Gallery of Art goes in the top 3 of most beautiful museums), but I thought the city felt cold and empty and arrogant. Maybe I am becoming a New Yorker, at least for a little bit. I’ve heard that ‘real’ New Yorkers hate Washington, so I fit right in!

Afb052This photo is for JeffD (shout out to our correspondent in Japan!). At the Washington MBA fair Brandeis was right next to us! So I couldn’t NOT take a picture to show to JeffD. The strangest thing happened on the way to the fair (yes, this is what the title of this post was alluding to… and yes, I am saving the best for last). I was sitting in the train, minding my own business, reading up on my Advertising Management textbook as a stranger sat opposite me. We got chatting and he looked kinda familiar, but I couldn’t place him. It didn’t take us long though to figure out that we knew each other! It was Alex, who interviewed me for Wharton, and who’s a legend in the MBA blogosphere (now with Clear Admit)!! We had a nice chat on the way down, and obviously I had to blog about this ;-) !! Great to meet you Alex!

Ssssssh… strictly NDA

14375029_5d2c0ddba3Birthday came and went, and it was a blast! We had dinner in a nice Asian restaurant (although the service left a little to be desired, they tried to coax us into eating a two course meal and cocktails in a speed that would make the Guiness Book of Records… apparently this is very typical in New York) with a few friends, and then set off for drinks with the entire exchange student community at Stern (and some from Columbia). It was fab, and it took me a while to recover over the weekend.

On Sunday I went along to the Hilton (by the way, if all this sounds familiar, it’s because RsR beat me to it telling the story) to help the LBS admissions team out with an MBA fair. I love doing these (although I hated them when I was applying), I get to talk to so many interesting people, and the questions are so different over here from those in the UK. The biggest difference is that people kept on mentioning ‘international business’, and I couldn’t figure it out. No one I know at LBS ever says they want to do ‘international business’. And then it hit me. All business at LBS IS by definition international. But I guess that must be interesting if you live in a country where you can easily go days without hearing any news from outside the US (and I don’t mean to cause offense by saying that). 

Another thing I did on my birthday was start my shadowing project. Yes, I know that’s kinda late, but I was too busy trying to survive throughout my first year to really give it much thought. And then when I gave it thought, I wanted a really cool person. Luckily, a friend at School helped me out and put me in touch with my shadowee, and she’s everything I was looking for. She works in the online space (check), on the consultancy side (check), and is a very interesting person to observe and learn from, since she is not your typical cookie-cutter manager (check). Ticks all my boxes, and I am very happy with my shadowing project (but obviously, for Non Disclosure Agreement reasons, can’t reveal any more than this)(but I’m jumping up and down with luck that I found such a cool shadowee, although the location comes nowhere near the spectacular shadowing experience that Nick had). Three more days to go next week, and then a manic rush to finish the project and send it off before the October 2nd deadline.