2% of credits finished! (The first week is over)...
Posted by Nick on 07 September 2008
Well, the first week of my London Business School MBA is over. We are finished with Understanding General Management (someone in the class calculated that that means we are finished with 2% of our total credits) and I will soon be finished with Business Statistics. I really wish I had opted out of statistics (or sadistics as my Grandfather called it from his days at Wharton) because, though things are worded in the form of business problems, once you distill out the data, the stuff we are learning is very basic for anyone who has studied engineering. I suppose the only thing I am getting out of the class are some new tricks on Excel which I didn't know about; new tricks that I am sure will come in great handy over the next few years.
When not in class, I've been spending time with my classmates. Activities have included drinking at The Windsor, drinking at The Volunteer, drinking at The Hobgoblin, drinking at the school's own MBAr, or going down to Picadilly Circus to go... you guessed it... drinking. Again, keeping in mind that in the MBA student world, drinking together is an important part of the course and is thus referred to as networking.
My first class, Understanding General Management, was quite interesting. The course was only a week long because it followed the block format which some classes are offered in here. Basically, by taking a class from 9am-5pm, we can finish the whole class in as little as 3 days. This of course wouldn't work (I don't think) for something like Finance 2, but for a course like UGM, its just fine. We started UGM with a case study on Honda. In the b-school world, its probably once of most famous of all cases. We were assigned to read 'Honda (A)' which paints a very rosy picture of how Sochiro Honda and his cohort Takeo Fujisawa conquered the American motorcycle market in the mid-1970's. By the time class discussions began, most of us ignorant students were of the mindset that Honda was a 'superman' in terms. They had entered the US marketplace with such skill, foresight, and wisdom that clearly, as we are all aspiring future managers, we should emulated their overall strategy. After the discussion died down a little, the Honda (B) case study was handed out to us and we were given the chance to read it. Boy, did it paint a different picture of Honda. Wisdom was replaced with recklessness, strategy was replaced with shear luck. Most of the class enjoyed this image of Honda much more; it painted the founders of the company as men; men with flaws, and in a sense showed us that regular people can accomplish great things. Another purpose of the dual-case study was to teach us that we should not always believe everything we read in case studies; the bias or intention of the author determines how the final article portrays a company, not reality. In truth, I expect that the read Honda and Fujisawa lay somewhere between Honda (A) and Honda (B), but I guess we'll never know.
During the course, we also studying Apple vs. IBM, American Express, People Express (a discount airline that went bankrupt in the '80s), and the Body Shop. The People Express day was probably the most interesting. We broke out into our study groups to run an Airline Management Simulation program on the computer. Each team controlled general management matrices such as % revenues to spend on marketing, number of new hires, etc. and the aim was to get the highest stock price after 9 years of operation. After our first try, we were allowed to sit and reformulate our strategy. In the end, the winning team received a magnum of champagne, which was promptly imbibed in class. See, us MBA students even network during classes. Well, that's it for now. I have more drinking networking to go and do. Haha, actually no, I'm kidding... its only 10 in the morning. I have to go and finish writing up my study group's recommendations for a fictional Chinese food restaurant called Red Dragon. For Business Statistics we had to advise the restaurant on a policy to offer a 10 pound (still can't figure out how to type pounds sterling on my US keyboard) certificate to customers in a 10 mile radius when their orders were late, and what time limit to place on that guarantee. Actually a pretty fun exercise, so I guess I am getting something out of Sadistics Statistics after all.