Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Condi and Ann - Learning from Practitioners

I was unsure as to whether I can ask one of the most senior executives of HP how it felt not to be nominated as CEO. I was also unsure as to whether I can ask whether recognition and admiration by others has been one of the driving forces in her career. I was also unsure if I can ask about sacrificing family for career.

I asked and Ann Livermore answered. Ann has taught my "Managerial Skills" class and just had lunch with me and four other classmates. She was amazingly open and offered advice to everyone of us. She was also honest about her feelings and emotions. Something very few executives that I have met so far have been. It is amazing that I can have lunch with someone like that if I feel like it. And I am sure that if I had a follow-up question, she would reply my email within 2 hours.

My Next Class
Will be taught by Prof. Condoleeza Rice and therefore by one of the most powerful women on earth. We will talk about the rise of India and China, about foreign politics and about developing economies. On Friday we will discuss sanctioning Iran for their nuclear activities. And she will give her insights how it was negotiating with the leaders of the world. It is amazing to see everyone reading more thoroughly than usual, taking notes and showing up to class five minutes early. Yes, we only have Condi twice this year and yes, she will probably not know by name afterwards. But I will get to sit in the first row and feel immensely privileged.

Both things remind me how great my life is right now. I don't know when I will ever have the chance to be amongst 400 great people, being taught by superstars from academia, business and politics in an environment that does everything to bring the best out of me. It reminds me how little I should care about that consulting mixer where I have to make a good impression or that follow-up email to the engineering student I met yesterday or that Ethics case that I find so boring and don't want to read. Everything will work out, I will have enough money and I can grow as a person.

What better can there be?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ice Cream Sandwiches and Valuing Your Life

A title that might have raised some eyebrows. This blog has basically two sides. A humorous and a serious side. Let's go with the funny part first

Ice-Cream Sandwiches
Yep, two cookies and a scoop of ice-cream in the middle. Its like wrapping a hotdog in bacon (ok, Americans do that), or deep frying butter (well, Americans also do that). Anyway... It's a pretty cool thing and something I haven't really seen before. I came across this ground-breaking Silicon Valleyesqe invention during an Ice Cream tasting with a bunch of friends in Palo Alto. Due to the fact that there really aren't that many entertainment options we brought ten different toppings (nuts, white chocolate, dark chocolate, marshmallows, gummibears, crackers, etc etc) and tasted ice cream at three different places. Interestingly we didn't even try all the ice cream places in Palo Alto with this. Luckily, we were patient enough to wait in line 30 minutes to get into CREAM. Since Americans like things on the extreme side this is the place-to-be where you can get almond-spiced-vanilla ice cream in a macadamia-nut-brittle-and-white-chocolate cookie. All super organic of course!

I am worth more than your stupid, uneducated grandparents!
In my Business Ethics class our professor made us think through a case study about a company selling one-room heaters in California. Those heaters are dangerous to operate and can cause casualties if no additional safety measures are installed. Those measures are costly to install and the company is evaluating as to whether it makes sense to include the additional safety mechanisms or to risk law suits by people that might get injured or even killed.

Some people might now already object that it is unethical to put a value on a person's life. Up to this point one can argue that we do that all the time and quite often even to ourselves. When you drink and ride your bike you are putting a value on your live and on the probability of hitting a car compared to the inconvenience of waiting for a taxi.

In the heater example, if you with you and your company are targeting an upscale market with financial resources, you are more likely to instal safety measures than when you are targeting a low-income markets. Why is that? Well, if your customer has money he or his family is more likely to (successfully) sue you, so the additional safety measures you would include have to be more expensive than when you target low-income customers that will not be able to sue you in case of an accident.

To sum it up: Rich, educated and young people will get higher quality products than old, poor and uneducated people because the live of the rich executive's son is worth much more than of the life of a simple nurse's mother.

I do not want to judge this thinking, but hope to provide some food for thought for some of you.

And to finish off with another good thing: Stanford just bear Oregon in Football.

Cheers + bis bald,