Afb022Warning, philosophical rant coming up.

What do a New Ventures Development class and dealing with a London estate agent have in common? On the surface, not a lot. In my head however, everything. On the way back from last night’s NVD class, I went all philosophical about underestimation and optimism. I believe the big drivers of people are love and fear. But last night got me thinking about underestimating. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s a powerful force in this world. Think about it, when was the last time you underestimated the cost, time, or effort of a task? If people knew how much effort a marriage is, most of them might not get married. If you knew exactly how much effort and trouble starting up a new business is, there wouldn’t be a lot of start-ups (that is where the NVD class comes into this whole story, we got the lecture last night about all the things that can and will go wrong when starting up a new business). In essence, this goes for life too. If you knew exactly how much s**t would happen to you over a lifetime, we would all kill ourselves instantly, on the spot. But we don’t. Because like not knowing what really makes us happy (see research here) I am convinced people underestimate how much they underestimate and we forget about bad things and underestimate the effort, money or time something will take the next time we do it. And of course there are the good things in life that make it all worthwile ;-)

I have underestimated a lot of things in the past 2 years. How little time it would take to apply for an MBA. How easy it would be to find a rockin’ internship (I’m talking wonderful, knock-me-off-my-socks, not just any old internship, it was relatively easy finding one of those). How much money I would need for my MBA. How easy it is to deal with estate agents in London (don’t get me started). But somehow I’ve forgotten most of the hard bits, and remember the good things. So I’m looking forward to my knock-me-off-my-socks fulltime job search and moving into a new place later on this week. And underestimating how much I’m underestimating both tasks ;-)

/end of philosophical babble

One more box ticked off today: I’ve sorted out my Brand Management take home final. I actually liked doing the exam, it was an interesting exercise in what-would-you-do-if-you-were-the-brandmanager-for-this product. I remember another prof saying that the exam is the last opportunity he has to teach you something and in this case it worked.

Branding a nation

Images53One of the classes I’m taking this term at LBS is called ‘The Unstoppable Growth of Branding’ taught by branding-guru Wally Olins (see more about the book he wrote on brands here, I read it last year and it’s an interesting read). Today’s session is about branding nations, and that got me thinking. Growing up, I loved the US. Everything about it seemed magical and interesting. I loved the fifties, rock ‘n’ roll, Bruce Springsteen, Dirty Dancing, New York, the endless highways and Harley Davidson. But somehow I lost my admiration along the way. The US in my mind is no longer the idealised paradise. And I don’t remember when it changed or why. Did it happen because I actually went there and the dream is no longer a dream, but supported by reality since I travelled there? Or did the political situation have anything to do with it? Or is it just losing the innocence of childhood as you grow up and realise nothing is quite as real in your dreams? My perception of the US brand has definitely changed.

Another thought that is now floating around in my head is how perceptions of nations can linger, but also change quickly and can be very different for the inhabitants of the country and for people outside it. Case in point is my homecountry The Netherlands (for one thing we have a branding problem with Holland (which covers only part of The Netherlands) and The Netherlands (which is the whole country) but no one outside the NL knows). We are known outside the country for being liberal, tulips, everyone’s on drugs, dikes with kids sticking fingers in them and wooden clogs. And although there is some truth in most of that, that is completely different to how Dutch people themselves view their country. For one thing, the little boy with the finger in the dike? That’s an American invention!

For more information on branding the nation, check out this article (pdf) written by Wally Olins and this article on branding Poland (again pdf).

Stationary p**n

Icn5_bl_tr_1Oooooohhhhhh. I’ll admit it. I have an addiction. Well, actually I have a few. Besides books and chocolate and good food, I’m also completely and utterly addicted to stationary. I *love* stationary. My dealer in New York was Kate’s Paperie, in the UK I count on several independent stores and stores such as Paperchase. And now there’s the ultimate in stationary p**n (I am not writing the word out loud since my last forays in mentioning a class A drug and the Dutch capital on one page are leading to lots of hits from Google, disappointing people). And the ultimate is: Moleskine City Notebooks. They are DIY cityguides, which provide maps, blank pages for taking notes, and an archive. And yesterday I held one in my hands for the first time. Oh my word, they are a work of art. Now I’ve just got to decide which one I want to buy. I think I might try Berlin, since I would love to visit next. Moleskine have set up blogs, here’s the one for London.

Alright, enough with the drewling already. Time to get back to work. New Venture Development has started, and I’m excited about the team I’m working with and the idea we’re working on, it promises to be an interesting elective; the first lecture dealt with the difference between an idea and an opportunity, every opportunity is an idea, but not all ideas are necessarily opportunities and it’s very important to figure out which one you’re dealing with. Leading Teams and Organisations also started on Friday, and that promises to be interesting too, an interesting mirror on my behaviour as a manager (and possible leader? Although I feel presumptious calling myself one). The first Sundowners came and went (and was very enjoyable, it was great to see a lot of people again). And I am pleased to report that we have found a beautiful flat to live in, which we’ll be moving into on February 1st. So everything is slowly falling into place.

You know when they say

Afb0282nd year MBA students have it easier than 1st years? I dunno who they are, but they’re wrong. Two weeks into my second term as a 2nd year student and the workload is piling up so fast that I have no idea where it’s all coming from. Combine a blockweek of Brand Management, (which rocked, best course I’ve taken so far) which left very little room for much else last week, with meeting up with friends who I haven’t seen for a while (it’s sooooo good to be back!) with looking for a place to live (there are very few decent 3 bedrooms in London going around now, except for when you’ve got a big wad of cash to spend which we don’t) with regular classes (started this week) with job interviews (last week) with part-time job (starting this week) and you get the idea. It’s happening all over again: I’m busy and I love it. I forgot how nice it is to be busy ;-)

Brand Management was fabulous, I can recommend it highly to anyone (or as you say in marketer’s speak: I give it a high net promoter score), it’s very academically rigourous, but practical at the same time, delivered in a great and very entertaining way. I also heard last week that I’m allowed to audit a course that is proving interesting: The Unstoppable Growth of Branding, taught by brand guru Wally Olins. All in all, this is looking to be an interesting term!

You know you’re a lazy blogger when…

Afb016…my mum, who I’ve been staying with for the past 2 weeks, tells me she misses what I have to write ;-)
So this post is especially dedicated to my lovely parents, who have put up with me the past fortnight, jetlagged and all.

Tomorrow I’m off to London again, after some very nice R&R in the Netherlands, eating my mum’s fabulous cooking and spending some quality time (I hate those words… and what do they mean anyway? All the time in your life should be quality time!!) with family and friends. My first elective, Brand Management, will start on Monday morning and I’m very much looking forward to this course. Prof Mark Ritson teaches it (see more info on him on his own website) and his reputation is rock-star-professor, so a lot of people are taking this course. Most electives at LBS are held over the course of 10-week terms, but some are held as a block week, i.e. all class that are normally spread out over 10 weeks are given in 1 intense week.

Other courses I’ll be taking are Product Innovation (from the Marketing department), Leading Teams and Organisations (Organisational Behaviour; all the alumns I’ve asked all said they regretted not taking more ‘soft’ courses like this and I’m determined not to make the same mistake, plus this course sounds really interesting) and New Venture Development (entrepreneurship; this course will go well with the Understanding Entrepreneurial Management I took as an elective in the first year), all of which make my heart race a little faster (I clearly followed the ‘choose-what-you-love’ approach when I chose my electives) so you can expect excited reports from me over the course of the next 10 weeks.

I’ll also be working on my 2nd year project, which is one of the exit requirements at LBS. I’ve found one already, but am not sure what the blogging policy of my project company is, so for now it’ll be shrouded in secrecy and veils. But it is something again that I’m really excited about and that fits well with my interests.

I can’t believe there’s only 6 months left before graduation… one of my friends is now applying to b-schools and sometimes I wish I were still in his shoes (that reminds me: good luck everyone who’s applying in R2, and especially to my friend M). I don’t want to finish just yet, I love this whole MBA experience! However, there is a time and a place for everything and for now I am going to enjoy the rest of my LBS experience to the fullest!

[edit: My hometown is also the hometown and birthplace of Grolsch beer, and I can’t resist posting this cool ad for Grolsch, which has taken its inspiration from the red-paper-clip-trade-up-story: