One of the most humble characters I have known. Excellent person all around. Learn more about Myron Scholes here.
Learn more about Thomas Friedman here.
Learn more about Binyamin Applebaum here.
Learn more about Herbert Allison here.
Do you know why he is called the Turnaround Kid? Look here.
Today I met Larry Leibowitz the COO of the NYSE. His efforts to bring the NYSE up to speed and to beat NASDAQ is amazing. Full disclosure, Etelos is listed on NASDAQ - he grilled me a bit but about that
Interesting twist, Larry is the older brother of none other than The Daily Show's John Stewart.
That's part of the magic of NYSE. There is a floor to physically be in.
They are doing great things, if only people paid attention.
Learn more about it here.
Here is more about Ong Peng Tsin.
Learn more about his story at Inter Inside Program - Anatomy of a brand campaign.
This story has it all...billions lost, private investigators digging through trash, affairs, and ends with a fleeing CEO and victory for the good guys. Amazing.
Just met Mr. Kevin Warsh, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Just met Mr. George P. Shultz. The former US secretary of state, among other positions he has held.
Today I met Mr. Chuck Armstrong, president of the Seattle Mariners.
This has been out for a while now, but I really liked how Buffet explains how a trade imbalance is hurting us big time.
An excellent tale of Outsourcing meets Comparative Advantage. Many slash-n-outsource execs just apply outsourcing blindly and forget the most basic principals of economics. While many things can and should be outsourced, this doesn't apply to everything. There are many critical parts of an operation that are best served by keeping them in-house. Here is what happened in the Boeing 787 project:
Boeing was forced to compensate, support or buy out the partners it brought in to share the cost of the new jet's development, and now bears the brunt of additional costs due to the delays.
Some Wall Street analysts estimate those added costs at between $12 billion and $18 billion, on top of the $5 billion Boeing originally planned to invest.
In a classic Dilbert's Salary Theorem move, those who knew less made the decision.
And yet, at least one senior technical engineer within Boeing predicted the outcome of the extensive outsourcing strategy with remarkable foresight a decade ago.
Hart-Smith, who had worked for Douglas Aircraft and joined Boeing when it merged in 1997 with McDonnell Douglas, was one of the elite engineers designated within the company as Senior Technical Fellows.
Hart-Smith argued that it was wrong to use that financial measure as a gauge of performance and that outsourcing would only slash profits and hollow out the company.
Read the full article at The Seattle Times.
This is a funny oldie, but it still bares repeating.
I originally saw it here.
Nigel doesn't really go into details in this TED talk, but he does say something interesting:
“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet screaming desperation. Where they work long hard hours. At jobs they hate. To enable them to buy things they don't need. To impress people they don't like.
It is my contention that going to work on a Friday in jeans and t-shirt isn't really getting to the nub of the issue.”
My opinion is if I want to attain a work-life balance, then it would only be fair that my employees deserve the same. It makes sense really yet, as Nigel states, corporations are designed to suck as much energy out of you for their commercial benefit. That is essentially a short-sighted view of investing in human-beings. In economic terms, this is known as the increasing marginal opportunity cost.
I did it. Actually, I did it over 3 months ago. I called Comcast and canceled my CableTV. I wasn't watching any of the stupid junk they had. But I was paying a monthly increasing fee. My Comcast bill would grow a few dollars every month. I was being scammed. I decided to cut the cable and go cold turkey. I didn't know what shows I would be able to get over the air and on the Internet. But I just couldn't continue the insanity.
I kept their Internet service. I must admit, their Internet is the best I can find in my area. And it is very reliable. So what's my current setup? Over-the-air HDTV, AppleTV, and Netflix.
The free over-the-air HDTV carried virtually all the shows I was paying for, but for free (The Office, Community, Outsourced, etc…). My son found an excellent channel we didn't know about called Qubo.I used to have to filter the shows he could watch on Comcast's zombie-maker line up. But Qubo is just clean educational programming. That and PBS Kids is more than enough entertainment for my son. This content was of much higher quality yet it was absolutely free.
When I decided to get an AppleTV, I was sure I wasn't going to use it to rent or buy shows or movies from them. It was purely for an excellent easy to use interface to watch online content like CNet TV, The Economist, TED, and NY Times Video to name a few.Then came Netflix and boy was that an excellent experience. Yes, I got to watch as many movies as I wanted for a mere $10 a month. But Netflix is not just about movies. It is a good example of the Long Tail statistical property. I found amazing shows like Fawlty Towers and other hidden gems. Stuff that would never justify shelf space, or schedule airtime, on those usual zombie-maker channels.
So I got to save a bit more than $100 a month AND I got to significantly improve my TV content's quality. I have one thing to say to CableTV. Snippety snip.
Citi's comment on US economic vulnerabilities concludes that high food prices have virtually no impact on the US economy. So while the rest of the world is up in arms fighting over the increasing price of food, we here in the US are essentially immune to that problem. We depend on relatively very little real food. Most of what we consider food-as we all know-is heavily processed stuff. Here is how Citi put it:
“For the U.S., vulnerability to a food price “shock” is very low, reflecting a low
share of disposable income. Importantly, food prices in the U.S. (and some
other developed countries) are also exceptionally stable, reflecting the very
high processing and marketing share of costs, and low “raw commodity”
Yes, you read that right. Our food has so little raw commodity content that when the cost of raw commodities fluctuates it means virtually nothing to our food prices. In fact, they are exceptionally "stable".
A better word that comes to mind now is independent; as in, our food prices are independent of the cost of raw commodities (real food). That would better explain our economic immunity to real food price fluctuations. We are not eating real food!
“What happens when you submit an application to the most selective business school in the U.S.?
Stanford’s admission department is headed by Derek Bolton, who got his Stanford MBA in 1998 (Bolton, by the way, applied in round three and actually got through the screen.) He heads up a group of about 15 full-time staffers and a handful of additional readers who come on when applications hit their peak level in the fall and early winter. Bolton’s staff handled a record number of applications for the Class of 2011: 7,536 applications for just 385 spots, a fairly dramatic rise from the 4,868 who applied for admission three years earlier. The end result was that only 6.5% of those who applied received an offer of admission.”
The article quoted above goes through essentially what I've been telling others who are trying to get into b-school. Here are some excerpts from a long reply I wrote when I was asked if I did anything special on my application:
No nothing special. And if there is one thing I would stress upon you it would be to not obsess on doing anything special. I went to a Harvard information session and the attendees were trying to figure out a strategic angle to use when writing their essays. Harvard alums were also saying that it took them months of painful agony to write their essays. The Harvard rep replied that if you try to get into their heads then you will fail. So don't do it. Do not go for a "special" elaborate essay. They will see right through it.
I did a quick glance over some websites that advertise their best way to write your essay and what you should and should not say. I must say I did not pay any attention to any of that stuff... I simply answered the questions asked concisely and without much theatrics or strategies. The questions are pretty straight forward and require very little creativity. You are applying to a business school, write like a business person. The basic rules of an essay will do.
Mentally focus on what they are asking, have a one paragraph introduction, and then tell the story of the answer and conclude it. Do not miss anything they asked for. For example, they usually ask you to talk about two major accomplishments at work and why you consider them to be major. Don't forget the part in the end that explains why you think they are major.
The way I looked at it was, if I read my essay as an investor who was being asked to invest $100K of my money in a person, would that essay convince me?
...Don't try to make things up. Just be yourself and be honest. Everyone goes through the same struggles at work. Your task is to do some self-reflection and describe how you've grown during that time. Be formal and have a calm tone. If you try to make it artificially special they will see right through it. They read thousands of these essays every year. They know all the tricks. I know you know what I'm talking about...Do the right thing. And if it does not work, then it wasn't the right school for you anyway.
On studying for the GMAT:
Dabral Review's videos. They are free, to the point, and very well done. You might also avail yourself of Dabral's tuition servires.My advise on studying for the GMAT is to use prep material like Veritas (or any other you like) very early before you sit with the official GMAT guide. For me, Veritas covered things in much more detail and defined the scope of what's in and what's not. Then when you are done with that material move on to the official GMAT guide. I would suggest
Another excellent free and amazing resource is Khan Academy. The videos are pretty good. Do not go into the exam without reviewing the official guide. Veritas was good, but the style of the actual GMAT test is very close to the official guide and nothing else.
I'm not affiliated with any of these recommendations. I just think they are excellent.
I designed it to run on iOS devices just by loading it and keeping it open. Just one file, HTML and JS. You can modify it if you like. Enjoy.
All I can say is, GO COUGS!
I ordered a book from Amazon (yes, Amazon fulfillment) on January 30th. Since I'm an Amazon Prime subscriber, I was told I could have it here by the 2nd. But today (Feb 3rd) I am informed that it just shipped. And here is my tracking information:
Early in my career, I realized that the idea of working in an office seemed strange. I knew people went to offices and sat there working on something all day. The thing that I noticed over and over was that offices never struck me as focal points of productivity. You can walk into the average office today and point out a dozen activities that seem like an absolute waste of resources. If you ask the people running those offices, you would get the impression that the last thing they wanted to hear was inefficiency. So how come offices seemed like massive sink holes for productivity?
The first drain is scheduling. In most cases, a workplace is really nothing more than a physical location that drains money. It becomes a black hole of resource consumption. It is expensive to open an office, so you need to produce more, so you hire more, so you get a bigger office, so you produce more, and you hire more, and so on. People expend energy every day to get there. They waste time and incur costs getting ready and travel to and from that workplace. And they all have to do it at the same time. Synchronizing alone eats up more resources. Then when they are there, they are all there at the same time. Essentially clogging up the office environment.
In Operations Management, this would be called a deliberate bottleneck. The office as we know it today is a system that seems to be designed to deliberately make us much less productive (like the Qwerty keyboard layout, see the Dvorak layout). The current notion of a workplace seems to have been blindly copied from the production factory model. When producing physical items, synchronizing, scheduling, and capacity planning are essential to increase productivity. But while we view our offices and office workers as factories, we never apply the same concepts that we learned from our experience while running factories.
In his book The Goal, Eliyahu Goldratt attempts to explain this efficiency concept through a fictional character who tries to save a factory from being shut down. The main point of the book is to uncover the false belief that productivity can be measured through the rate of consumption of resources to produce items. In fact, productivity should be measured by what he calls Throughput. And Throughput is the rate at which a system generates money through sales.
So how does this apply to our typical office? The typical manager throws resources all in a big jumble on a daily basis and attempts to extract productivity out of it. True productivity comes when the office is producing the most value with the least resources. Yet the typical office experience chomps off at least three hours out of every workers day during the commute alone. Not to mention lunch hour, work chatter, interruptions, mindless meetings, and shoulder tapping. The office is the slowest and least efficient operating facility in most companies. The most valuable and most creative workers in a company would all tell you that they are most productive anywhere but the office. Isn't that just swell?
In this TED presentation, Jason Fried does a better job visualizing what's wrong with what we call the office life. The popularity of "The Office" show is in large measure the result of many of us identifying that nonsensical experience. In the US and in other knowledge worker societies where production has shifted strongly into the services industry, the typical office today is as productive as a zoo. And indeed, it is not hard to find that sentiment coming from the typical office worker.
The Internet has ushered in the age of telecommuting. Some of the most productive people I have worked with for years have been people I have never met in person. And I relied on them to do the most complex and critical tasks in my company. Still, to many managers today, the idea of telecommuting is abhorrent and almost vile. They subscribe to the factory slave mentality. If they can't see the worker working, then how do they know work is being done? Their answer is always to ask for more resources. More money for a big office with office furniture and office equipment. More money for office assistants and administrators. More money for maintenance, utilities, Internet, entertainment, and cheesy activities. They will cite the need for face-time and give it so much weight you would think the office is really a social club. Not to mention personal conflict issues and the potential risk of office environment litigation. Yet the real valuable of converting inventory into sales (Throughput) is almost undoubtedly completely independent of all of this malarky. This erroneous view is mentally limited and probably the main catalyst of inefficiency.
If the goal of a company is to create value, then productivity is the most important measure to focus on. Thinking that forcing the physical time and location of a worker guarantees the most productivity is juvenile. Yet it is common practice even today. Whether a worker is here or there does not matter. What matters most is Throughput. If the work is being done on time and on spec it does not matter where it was done. The important thing is that more and more of it gets done. Yet many managers are still stuck in that assembly line of exhausted workers cracking a whip and trying to squeeze out more from a broken system. You will always here "we need more resources" and when you add more, you get less.
It is simple, office time does not translate into productivity. Only Throughput does.
A couple of weeks ago I was watching this video of Vinton Cerf talking about the soon-to-come shortage of IP addresses (see timestamp 3:30).
Well, this morning I read the headline Internet Runs Out Of Addresses As Devices Grow.
Right on time. Let's see how much dancing Comcast and the other US providers will do before they do the right thing.
Ulysses S. Grant was Abraham Lincoln's tenth general to head the Union Army. The president was frustrated with each of the previous generals but he noticed Grant's trail of success and decided to put him in charge. Grant was a winning bet for Lincoln.
The tech industry today is analogous. Tech warriors battle it out on the market-share landscape. From the moment you open your browser or use any internet service you are transported into the battlefield. Bombarded with all sorts of methods and tools to pull you into some company's slice of the market share pie. Thus it becomes clear that finding and retaining good generals is essential to winning.
HR practices in a company essentially make or destroy a company. Before Google offered any public stock it made headlines because of its extreme attention to employee qualifications. Is that a 100% guarantee that a company will succeed? Of course not. But it does make sense and greatly improves the odds for the company. The questions then becomes how to find the Grants out there.
It took Lincoln 10 tries. He had to use a brute force algorithm to find his general. He went through them one after the other until he had enough information to suggest that Grant was the man. It all boiled down to his track record. When he was criticized for choosing Grant, Lincoln simply said "I can't spare this man. He fights".
I find it amusing these days to hear that company X hired a hot shot from company Y with no real tangible track record of any kind. It is the same misguided attitude we experienced in the first tech bubble but now there is a social-networking twist to it. Could you imagine a CEO saying "I can't spare this person, S/He is popular on Twitter for some reason".
A big part of embarking on the graduate b-school saga is the GMAT-Graduate Management Admission Test. I don't think I have ever been as stressed as I was when I was preparing for this test. It was everything I thought about day and night for at least three months. Understandably so, most top schools require it. The only exception is MIT. They have their own reasoning and I do agree with it. The GMAT is culturally biased towards the US. This is most pronounced in the verbal section of the test. Requiring thorough knowledge of American idioms seems a bit off especially when a school is trying to build an internationally diverse set of cohorts.
One thing that really bugged me about many fellow GMAT takers was their attitude towards the GMAT itself. Many-though not all of course-treated it as an annoying requirement that returned no value. I totally disagree with that. Preparing for the GMAT is a solid business learning experience in and of itself. If the GMAT preparation process is not taken seriously, earning a graduate school degree will be reduced to a feeble exercise in mediocrity.
I had an acronym for my target list of graduate schools; HSBC. No, not the bank. That stood for Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley/Columbia. I guess I also have to mention MIT as well even though they don't really fit in that nice acronym. But they were definitely on my list as well. The Sloan program is offered by only three schools in the world. MIT, London School of Business, and Stanford GSB.
Going through the ivy graduate school experience I met various people. Each with their own trajectory towards a goal of some sort. The common theme right before the application deadlines was having a first choice school and a list of backups. My first choice was Stanford so when I got the phone call that I was in I was extremely happy. I didn't have to worry about my backups. It does feel awkward to consider those schools as backups. They are excellent schools in their own right. But my heart was set of Stanford (the Sloan program specifically) so I am extremely pleased.