Not my brightest moment

So that wasn't my brightest moment today I have to admit. I was part of
the alumni panel at  MBA2010 today, where we had the graveyard slot
(i.e. after lunch, when everone dozes off), and the other 4 panelists
saved the day. Thank God. Because I wasn't on a roll at all. I blame it
on the gazillion little fires I was putting out at work today, which I
always do, that's part of my job, but today we had a few really hot
ones, combined with having a complete office refurb and desks being
replaced. The hunt was on for a working phone, a socket to plug laptop
into, and praying that the builders are not using a drill the moment
one of my clients calls and that the internet wasn't going to go down
the moment I had send out email. All of the day until 2pm was spent
running around like a headless chicken on steroids, so by the time I
got to Lords, I was beat. And  I definitely wasn't in top form. If you
were there, and listening, I apologise. I like to think that Im normally a tad more amusing
and entertaining. I suppose everyone has their off-days. Nevertheless,
I hope it was helpful. And entertaining. But if you read this, you
probably knew what I was going to say anywa

What every MBA2010 should know

*warning, if you're an MBA2010, this will spoil whatever it is that I'll say during Orientation. You can stop reading now and read it after Wednesday if you want to be surprised.*

So last year I wrote this post on what advice I would give the incoming class, and since I've been asked to be part of the alumni panel at MBA2010 Orientation this week, I thought it prudent to check out what I'd written last year. And you know what? It's good stuff, which I know is tooting my own horn (although most of the advice comes from a group of people, not just me). But useful. So I'll copy the whole thing down here again, as much as a reminder to myself about what I want to say at Orientation as advice for the incoming class.

From last year's post (original here):

"My list:
* Remember what you came here to do. I
wrote down what I thought I wanted to get out of my time at LBS, and
promised I'd try and fit as many things as I could in, and would only
do things that I'd love doing and got excited about. It is easy getting
sidetracked with everything that's going on, and that goes in
particular for jobs. I've been to Milkround presentations where I had
no business going to, just because I felt I should go to them. Just
because everyone else jumps into the river, doesn't mean you have to
also. Or something like this. You get my drift.
* Put learning before grades.
LBS is a grade-non-disclosure school which means no one except for you
will ever see your grades. Take advantage of this. Stretch yourself. I
took electives which I otherwise never would have taken. An internship
that was unpaid but was invaluable in figuring out what I wanted to do
next. Learning sometimes doesn't correlate with grades (and good
internships don't always correlate with earning lots of money), some of
my classes where I got the worst grades I learned the most from.
Always, always put learning before grades.
* Give back. I
believe in 'what goes around, comes around'; if you can help someone
else, do. It's good karma. If you are less altruistically inclined,
remember this: it will come back to you in spades, but not in ways you
can imagine now. If you trip someone up, they will remember and who
knows, they might just give a negative recommendation to their friends
who works for company X that you are just dying to work for.

I have since thought of a few more:
* Have fun and lighten up a
little. Life's not that serious. Neither is an MBA. Work hard, but also
leave plenty of time to enjoy the good things in life
* Go outside
your comfort zone in terms of friends. If you come to LBS, there will
be around 60 other nationalities with you. And people from professional
backgrounds you had no idea even existed. Don't stick with what you
know. Or who you know. Venture out, get to know different cultures and

I asked a few of my fellow alumni, and they came up with this (thanks to H, M and J and yes, the list is censored a bit):

* The best stuff happens outside of class
*  If you have never lived in England before, read Kate Fox's Watching the English. It will make life a lot easier
*  If you are single, this is probably the last chance you will have to meet large numbers of people of the opposite sex. [Natasja's edit: especially if you're female I would think, the male/female ratio is 75/25]
Only nerds, gifted individuals and private equity wannabes want to be
on dean's list. Nobody likes a wannabe. Everyone loves a nerd.
* Decide on your grading philosophy today.
* Try to focus on learning. Not grades. Learn to build your intuition, not memorize formulas.
Don't stare at the female professors. They will notice and they will
remember (Natasja's edit: huh? Ehm. I don't personally have any
experience with this, but will take my friend's word for this)
* There are good cheap eats in London. You just have to find them. Asking helps.
* There is life beyond Marylebone Road (aka the Bubble). Not just at night and in clubs. Explore.
* Get involved in clubs.  This extends your network and allows you to apply the skills you are learning.
Accept that the only way to make lots of money is to have no life. 
Work-life balance mean fine tuning budget/expenditure balance.
* London is the world's most expensive city.  Accept it now and stop whinging about it.
Understand that this is an opportunity to learn about yourself and
consider your next steps. you have another forty working years after
graduation to work. Don't fill your first year with too many electives
as you will change your mind after your summer internship in any case.
This is not your home and yes it is overcast here most the time – we
all already know that, you're not telling us anything we don't know
yet. Take advantage of the free museums, concerts, cheap arts and drama."

Oh, and if you're going to London Business School (must remember to be on brand and not say LBS all the time), you'll be seeing loads of this:


Changing the rules of the game

Without really realising it, I've become stuck in a bit of a rut. A blogging rut. The normal pattern for me for this blog is for a topic to hit me, me finding time to sit down for 10 minutes or so and hash out a post, find an image in my Flickr account which has some relation to the story (and sometimes the only relation is that I shot the image and wrote the post), and press 'save'. The careful observer notices the complete lack of spelling check, yes I blatantly do not spellcheck. Take that English professors from my undergrad. The whole thing doesn't sound like much work. And it isn't. But with the advent of Twitter, and especially Tumblr, my blogging habits but most of all my attention span, are starting to change. Having to sit down and find an image with a post all of a sudden seems a bit of a burden, as does waiting for a coherent and topical set of thoughts to materialise in my head. I want instant. Now, now, now. Instant gratification. But I'm not sure if this blog lends itself to that. So what I'll do is experiment a bit for a while here. Not all posts will be long as per usual, or have an image attached. Apologies for any upcoming randomness and conciseness. 

London Business School newsflash

I don't think I talk
a lot on the blog about London Business School anymore (trying to be on
brand and not say LBS but I know I can't keep it up; you know what,
everywhere I say LBS, pretend I say London Business School). Which is a
bit odd, since my bond with LBS is still quite strong. My housemate was
one of my classmates, most of my friends in London are ex-LBS (working
a little bit to tip that balance to include more 'normal' people, not
that I don't like my MBA friends, but it's good to have a mix), I help
organise a regular drinks-catch-up do for my class, answer questions
and chat to applicants and students and help out with events that
require alumni every now and then.

Two pieces of news came in this week which cement my connection
with LBS that little more. First up, I’ll be
part of an alumni panel at MBA2010 orientation, which I hope will be a
hoot. Loved doing it last year, although I’m never quite sure if the
advice I dole out is the kind of stuff people want to hear. Anyway, if
you’re reading this and you’re 2010, come up and say hi, it would be
nice to meet you.

Second piece of news is that I got elected to the IAB, the School’s
International Alumni Board, kinda like a think tank made up of alumni.
Every alumn can stand, and so I did. And got in as did 3 other 2007s (hurray, go Jackson, Jasdpee and Vinay!) and a bunch of alumns who I don't know yet but look forward to meeting. Thanks to everyone who
voted for me, ever so nice. Now I hope I can live up to the votes of

I don’t understand

There’s a million things I don’t understand. Like why single bachelors of the male variety (aren’t all bachelors male otherwise they’d be called bachelorettes? I think they are, but just to clarify I’ve put the ‘male’ bit in) always have black leather sofas and giant flatscreen TVs in their homes. Or why people like pineapple. Or why we just can’t all get along. And more in that vain.

But lately what I’ve not been understanding at all is why there is such a thing as digital advertising agencies. In particular why there is a need for a specific agency that does digital stuff. Surely, digital isn’t just another channel on the block, it’s a new way of thinking, of figuring out how to interact with the audience or customers or whatever they’re called nowadays. Of communicating. I don’t understand the need for the separation of the different channels in different agencies. I’m also looking at it from a business and outsider’s perspective. Why would I, if I were a brand manager, have different agencies for different channels? Wouldn’t I just want to talk to a bunch of people who understand my painstakingly hard work on crafting and living a brand, and help me communicate that message in effective and clever ways? I’m pretty sure people on the receiving end (aka consumers/customers/audience) don’t give a hoot which channel the message comes through, they most likely are not waiting for your message anway (subject for a whole new post). Whether that’s through a viral on Youtube, a print ad in the free London Paper or by organising a festival in a park on a sunny day with lots of music and ice-cream. Hell, it could be through a song, or a book, or a iPhone application, or by word of mouth. Or Twitter, reverse grafitti or by sponsoring an art show. As long as it’s done in the way that’s most appropriate for the brand, by people who know what they’re doing from a strategic, creative and technical point of view*, why would I want to have specific agencies? That feels like you’re deciding what channel the message is going to go out on, before knowing how you’re going to say it and whether that’s the most appropriate.

So I’m not getting it, this whole integrated versus specialist agencies thing. From an outsider’s perspective, it strikes me as being decidedly odd, and very old-fashioned. Time for the agency of the future, a new model. Anyone want to start one with me?

* so that’s the reason I can see for the original existence of specific digital agencies: you definitely need technical know-how to do this kind of stuff. But surely that’s a historical thing, not a reason for the continued existence of different agencies.

[blogpost sparked by a combination of Tom Fishburne’s excellent drawing on silos and Russell Davies column in Campaign of July 25th which I can’t seem to be able to track down on the Brandrepublic website.]