B-Schools : Bridging the Gaps

I chanced upon an insightful essay in Business Standard today. In it, a 1988 alumnus of IIM (A) and now Senior General Manager (ICICI Bank) – Madhabi Puri Bach – has put forth her views on what is missing in today’s business schools. They seemed to echo my own thoughts on the subject.

I chanced upon an insightful essay in Business Standard today. In it, a 1988 alumnus of IIM (A) and now Senior General Manager (ICICI Bank) – Madhabi Puri Bach – has put forth her views on what is missing in today’s business schools.

They seemed to echo my own thoughts on the subject; a subject I feel quite strongly about :

 

Gap 1 : The gap between Theory and Practice

 

 

While some institutes practice the "case study" methodology designed to build just this capability, the exercise tends to stop at the strategic level instead of exposing students to practical issues and tasks that need to be done at the day-to-day level. Allocating more time to guest lectures by industry practitioners and making two years of work experience mandatory are two ways to address this problem.

 

 

Gap 2 : The gap between Thinking and Doing

 

 

Most institutions tend to value high-quality thinking way above high-quality "doing" – a mindset that is perhaps responsible for more failures in the corporate world than any other single factor. Longer summer internships and informal sessions with alumni on their experiences should help considerably to change this.

 

 

Gap 3 : The gap between Functional and Organizational skills

 

 

Somehow, courses like Organizational Behaviour are treated as "fillers" and people who take them are not taken seriously, when the truth is that "people management" and working with teams is perhaps the most important skillset required in a manager.

 

 

Gap 4 : The gap between Short-Term and Long-Term thinking

 

 

Most classroom learning tends to focus on ideal long-term solutions, but managers need to learn how to effectively manage the short-term while simultaneously building for the long-term.

 

 

Gap 5 : The gap between Simple and Complex

 

 

What helps to make an effective manager is often simple things, not complex ones. Basic skills like familiarity with office software, effective communication, time management, etc. can go a long way in improving productivity for all concerned.

 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Network Effect

A recent story in Fortune describes an interesting trend : The increasing popularity of social-networking websites. Many of us are familiar with the concept of Six Degrees of Freedom, but it is always seen as a nice-to-know phenomenon, and not much more. As it turns out, people are now beginning to put such websites to interesting uses.

A recent story in Fortune describes an interesting trend : The increasing popularity of social-networking websites.

…this summer (Joichi) Ito joined a website called Linkedin, one of about 15 so-called social-networking companies or sites formed in the past year. These businesses, all part of the hottest online trend, act as intricate friendship flow charts, showing who is friends or partners with whom. The best-known site, called Friendster, launched in May and is already hosting almost two million users, most of whom–unlike the businesspeople using Linkedin–are looking for dates, love, or sex.

In the free-ranging world of the Internet, the ties created by social-networking sites have people excited. Some are calling it a social revolution… Today’s social networks typically give you access to friends of friends out to four degrees of separation. Everybody you meet on such a site is thus connected to you by a traceable network of acquaintance.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of Six Degrees of Freedom, but it is always seen as a nice-to-know phenomenon, and not much more. As it turns out, people are now beginning to put such websites to interesting uses :

In San Francisco, where unemployment is rampant and social networking is nearly an obsession for just about everyone under 35, it seems everybody looking for a job is using sites like Friendster, Linkedin, Tribe.net, or Ryze… The phenomenon may be seen as offering people tools analogous to the most powerful ones being used in business… And if the best jobs come through connections, what better way to find work than through a giant online social network?

And it’s not just jobs, a freelancing friend tells me that he found a number of interesting people with his kind of interests in the one (Ryze) meeting he attended, and some prospective clients too! According to him, Ryze is one social network that is quite active in Bombay and has a number of members from India.

I figure, the way my networking skills are, it wouldn’t hurt to use some Technology to augment my network. So I’ll probably sign up on one of these sites before the day ends.

But what is most fascinating for me is the whole concept of taking the Internet to another level altogether. As the Fortune story says :

There may be a new kind of Internet emerging–one more about connecting people to people than people to websites.

100% Microsoft Free

This is the first blog post I am writing on a 100% Microsoft Free computer ! I now use Redhat 9.0 instead of Windows, Evolution instead of Outlook, OpenOffice instead of MS Office, GEdit instead of Notepad… and whole host of other open-source goodies.

This is the first blog post I am writing on a 100% Microsoft Free computer !

I have had an installation of Linux on my home PC for several years now. It started with RedHat 5.0 and, as each year went by, I upgraded to newer and more user-friendly versions of the software. But Linux was always installed in addition to Windows, and the default OS remained Windows.

I never thought the day would come (so soon) that I would completely wipe out all traces of Microsoft on my machine (that too my office machine!), and use only Linux for all my work !

Linux *has* come a long way from the days when you had to know Unix commands to get by. Everything is now GUI-based, and looks as good (if not better) that the popular Windows XP. Plus, if you are a power user, you always have the option of launching a “console” to type-away commands.

Installation was also a breeze with all my hardware automatically recognized. The only thing that took a while to configure was access to the Windows Network of PCs on the office LAN. That too, because I had never configured Linux on a network, before.

I am happy to report that, as of today, every thing works !

I now use Redhat 9.0 instead of Windows, Evolution instead of Outlook, OpenOffice instead of MS Office, GEdit instead of Notepad… and whole host of other open-source goodies. Even the blogging tool I use to publish content on my website – MovableType – is open source.

Open Source rocks !!!

1st Oct 2003, Editor’s Note :

The experiment at work lasted 10 days in all. Eventually, it was decided that we retain Windows as the OS but use other open-source alternatives like OpenOffice (for Windows).

Main reasons for not continuing with RedHat : Too slow on the hardware (yes, even compared to Windows!), and a learning curve required for all employees to switch to a new platform.

Looks like I will have to wait a few years to change to Linux completely 🙁

An Economist from Berkeley

I have been following the blog of an Indian-born Economist from Berekeley who goes by the name of Atanu Dey. Naturally, when I read that he’s coming to India, I wrote to him telling him that I would love to meet him some time. As it turns out, last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with him!

I have been following the blog of an Indian-born Economist from Berekeley who goes by the name of Atanu Dey :

 

Atanu Dey suffers from a rather severe form of attention deficit disorder. After his bachelors in mechanical engineering, he moved to computer science and received a master’s degree. Product marketing at HP in the Silicon Valley kept him occupied briefly for six years. Then he traveled in India, US, and Europe for five years before realising that he knew nothing about economics. So he studied economics at the University of California at Berkeley and received his PhD for his thesis on the Indian telecommunications sector.

His critique of the New Telecom Policy 1999 is worth a read, even though his thesis will only appeal to hardcore economists and is guaranteed to distress socialistic Indian policy makers. Playing hookey while at UC Berkeley, he slummed at a junior university called Stanford as a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow 2001-02. Rumor has it that there he actually developed a model which he calls "Rural Infrastructure and Services Commmons (RISC)" that promises to bring about the economic tranformation of rural India. Someone asked him to demonstrate that claim and so he is off in India trying to implement the RISC model, leaving behind a lot of very relieved people in California where he spent nearly two decades.

In his spare time (about 90% of his total time) he listens to classical music, practices Vipassana meditation, reads physics, gives lectures on Buddhism, maintains a sporadic blog, and occassionally makes sense. He plans to become a philosopher when he grows up. He would also like all to know that he is a published poet.

 

Naturally, when I read that he’s coming to India, I wrote to him telling him that I would love to meet him some time. As it turns out, last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with him!

It was a great experience. We discussed all kinds of things from life in the US and his RISC theory to Physics and Economics. It is such a pleasure to converse with someone who is well-read, well-informed, well-travelled, and just … interesting.

If you don’t know any one interesting, find someone. If you do, give him/her a call. Life’s too short to let such opportunities pass.

Open Course Ware

Some days ago, Wired published a story on MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative : Every lecture, every handout, every quiz. All online. For free. Meet the global geeks getting an MIT education, open source-style.

Some days ago, Wired published a story on MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative :

Every lecture, every handout, every quiz. All online. For free. Meet the global geeks getting an MIT education, open source-style.

When MIT announced to the world in April 2001 that it would be posting the content of some 2,000 classes on the Web, it hoped the program – dubbed OpenCourseWare – would spur a worldwide movement among educators to share knowledge and improve teaching methods. No institution of higher learning had ever proposed anything as revolutionary, or as daunting. MIT would make everything, from video lectures and class notes to tests and course outlines, available to any joker with a browser.

The academic world was shocked by MIT’s audacity – and skeptical of the experiment. At a time when most enterprises were racing to profit from the Internet and universities were peddling every conceivable variant of distance learning, here was the pinnacle of technology and science education ready to give it away. Not the degrees, which now cost about $41,000 a year, but the content. No registration required.

Soon foundation money was gushing in to support the initiative. MIT earned the distinction as the only university forward-thinking enough to open-source itself. To test the concept, the university posted 50 courses last year. In September, as students arrive on the Cambridge campus for the start of school, MIT will officially launch OpenCourseWare with 500 courses… The school expects to add the remaining 1,500 courses over the next three years. If the pilot program is any indication, students from Nepal to Nebraska will be diving into the material.

The obvious question : What is MIT thinking?!

Like many other universities, MIT had ambitions for making money in the distance-learning business. It called in a consultant to scope out the terrain, and in 2000, Booz Allen Hamilton reported that MIT had missed the wave. That’s when a group of faculty members and administrators – Hal Abelson, Steven Lerman, Toby Woll and Dick Yue – hit upon the idea of posting all courses online, free and available to all.

MIT administrators and professors are quick to note that the Web is no substitute for the experience of learning in a top-tier academic setting. “OpenCourseWare is a snapshot of the way a particular subject in a particular discipline was taught at one period in time at MIT,” says project director Margulies. “It isn’t an MIT education.”

I don’t know about you, but I think the “snapshot of how a particular subject was taught” should be good enough for a lot of folks out there.

You can find all the information you want on the MIT’s OpenCourseWare site. According to the official word : “People are free to use, modify, translate, and distribute OpenCourseWare as long as they don’t try to make a buck from it.”

Here’s to the Open Source movement !