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What the Dog Saw December 1, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in [Books] Ways of Thinking.
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I have been reading all the books by Malcolm Gladwell, and I saw many interesting things in his way of thinking.  As I was walking through the Cal bookstore before Thanksgiving, my eyes were caught at the white cover (his books always have white cover) of his newest book “What the Dog Saw, and other adventures”.   I immediately picked it up and went to the cashier.  Well, reputation really matters (to me, at least).

This book combines some of his previous works in The New Yorker.  He presents 19 interesting stories under 3 categories:  1) Obsessives, pioneers, and other varieties of minor genius, 2) Theories, predictions, and diagnoses, and 3) Personality, character, and intelligence.  The first part of the book talks about innovations and interesting stories behind them.  For example, he interviewed Ron Popeil, the inventor of various kitchen gadgets and one of the best salesmen of the century.  The second part of the book talks about various problems and general beliefs that people hold towards those problems, and then he presents some interesting twists by providing another angle that we can look at such problems.  The third part talks about characteristics of various types of people.  One interesting chapter in this part was “The Talent Myth” where he raised a question whether smart people are overrated.  He contrast Enron with Southwest that Enron hired a lot of smart MBAs while Southwest hires very few MBAs, and now Enron is in bankruptcy.  As an MBA student, I couldn’t help but be a little bit offended by his thought presented in this chapter.  However, in his chapter, he mentioned that Enron hired Wharton MBA… so I thought – well, too bad they didn’t hire Haas MBA or we may still have a company called Enron around =)

I still have not finished this book, but I’m sure there are a lot more interesting “adventures” waiting for me to discover.

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Why We Buy December 1, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in [Books] Leadership & Change.
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I picked this book because I am interested in marketing and thought that the book would give some interesting insights into the buying decision of consumers.  I finished the book within a day because it was a very easy-to-read, with a lot of interesting examples and stories.  In the end, I think this book really delivers what I hoped for as it presents many interesting observations about consumer behaviors and retailers’ reactions to those behaviors.  The book is really useful not only because there are many tips that retailers can apply to their businesses, but also because the method that the author used to understand the consumers can be very useful for all of us, the leader-to-be, in managing our future businesses.

The key concept of this book is what the author called “retailer 101” – store design, merchandising, and operations.  These three components are what make a store successful, and they are interdependent.  Retailers should consider all these three elements whenever they make any decisions about their store.  For example, while zoning is mainly about store design (how to arrange the store), it also affects merchandising (which products to sell, and where to put what), as well as the operations (what will happen to the flow of store operations, e.g. product flow, people flow, queuing, etc.).

The book also gave a lot of good examples.  For example, why apparel stores like the GAP, Abercrombie, or Old Navy display their clothes on the table instead of on the rack, which should be less troublesome as they don’t have to hire people to refold the clothes every time customers mess them up?  This is because they know that consumers love to be able to visualize the products, which is the first step in their decision making hierarchy.  If they are not able to see it, they won’t buy it.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book.  I would recommend it to everyone, especially those who are looking for a career in marketing.

Innovation as a Learning Process – My experience with Haas@Work September 23, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in Design Thinking.
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The reading on Innovation as a Learning Process made me reflect on my experience in joining Haas@Work program last spring. Haas@Work is a program that provides Haas MBAs an opportunity to work in teams to generate and implement innovations in actual companies. Past projects included working for leading companies like Cisco, Disney, Wells Fargo, etc. It is a great experiential learning opportunity and an essential element in achieving Haas’ main objective in developing Haas MBAs to “lead through innovation”.

The overall process lasted about a month, and it involved a series of workshops. In the first workshop, we were instructed in the process we would use in generating ideas and coming up with recommendations for the client. The process is called “Innovation Cycle”, and it is the same process described in the reading – Observations, Frameworks, Imperatives, and Solutions.

Due to limited time, however, the process was not explained much in detail and we jumped right into the actual practice. Therefore, I personally had very limited knowledge about the process, which made me question its effectiveness. Although in the end the process proved to be effective as our group eventually came up with decent recommendations and the client was very pleased with our deliverables, the initial doubt about the process decreased my morale a little bit. This is one of the areas where I felt that Haas@Work program could improve on by giving participants more knowledge about the process so we know how to apply it in the most effective way.

Also, the reading suggested that people with different learning styles would perform well in different steps. The knowledge of which type of learning style each team member has would be useful as it would help in the team formation, as well as help everyone to know where they stand in the team and how they can best contribute by leveraging what they do best. For me, I feel that I learn best through logical reasoning, or as called “assimilating style”. If I knew this before I joined the workshop, I would contribute more during the Frameworks step (Haas@Work calls this step “Insights”). Also, the team could be organized in such a way that people who are best at each step should lead the discussion in that step. This will allow the leader to guide the team by using more effective method in achieving the results of that step as he/she knows best how to perform that step.

After I read this article, I understood more about this so called Innovation Cycle and the reasoning behind each stage. I rethought through my experience in Haas@Work and more appreciated the well-structured process that the program used. With better understanding in the process, I can use the process more effectively to generate ideas and implement innovation creation in my future career.

Knowledge-based Economy and My India Experience September 23, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in As The Future Catches You.
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I should have read “As the Future Catches You” by Juan Enriquez before summer of 2009.

Back in March, I received an offer to join Infosys Technologies Limited for my summer internship. Infosys is a great company – it is one of the biggest companies in India with over 100,000 employees, the first Indian company to be listed on NASDAQ, and the most admired Indian company for 10 consecutive years. With all these credentials, I should be all excited and happy, right? Well, not exactly.

I came to do my MBA in the US with an initial hope to get a job here, with better compensation and better reputation. For me, the US is really the center of the economy and full of opportunity. India is never on my radar. This made me hesitate and contemplate whether I should take the offer, and wonder what I would get out of this internship.

My India experience changed my perception, and this book confirmed it.

One of the central themes in this book is that we are now in the age where service becomes the dominant source of economic wealth and that most value created within the service economy is knowledge-based. This makes “Knowledge” the most valuable resource, especially knowledge in science and technology. India and Infosys exemplifies this notion. India is the hub of IT talent – each year over 400,000 Indian IT graduates enter the job market. IT accounts for over 40% of the country’s GDP and Indian government heavily promotes IT education. Infosys also recognizes the importance of IT and knowledge creation and retention. It has the largest education center producing engineering graduates with the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from an American university. It has a dedicated department called Education & Research focusing solely on generating new knowledge and practicing and promoting Knowledge Management within the company.

With the right focus on knowledge in IT, India and Infosys have been growing tremendously over the last 10 years. It is forecasted that from 2007 to 2020, India’s GDP per capita will quadruple, and that the Indian GDP will surpass that of the US before 2050. India and China are becoming the new center of the world economy.

Understanding this concept and experiencing India widen my education and career focus. I now choose to take courses that help build soft skills and allow me to learn more about service industries, and also expand my career focus accordingly.

I’m glad I decided to go to India.

Slide:ology & my comfort zone September 23, 2009

Posted by Ornwassa Siamseranee in Slide:ology, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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As a business professional and an MBA student, I am very familiar with PowerPoint. Most of my business interaction involves PowerPoint, and my roles range from being a listener to a presenter, as well as everything in between, such as an editor of others’ presentation, a preparer of the presentation for others to deliver, and a presenter of a presentation prepared by others.

I have used PowerPoint since I was in college, which has now been over 8 years. Over the years, I have developed my own style in preparing the presentation based on adoption of some best practices I saw in others’ presentations. Being a career switcher from accounting to marketing, I am still attracted to details and organizations of things. So, my presentation normally contains a lot of boxes and frames, with moderate level of text. To add some interesting aspects to my presentation, I rely on color choices, images, and animations. My presentation often receives compliments for its neatness and its easiness to understand and follow. Therefore, during the last 4 years, I found myself using this same style over and over. My friends would recognize my slides and know that this is my style.

Reading through this book, Slide: Ology, last week, I found many interesting tips and techniques that I thought I could use in preparing my next slides. Two days later, I had to prepare presentation for a class. After working on it for a while, I reviewed my slides and just realized that it was still in “my style”. Although I recognized the usefulness of the book and made up my mind that I would apply the concepts, I still ended up with my same old slides.

Why is it so difficult to break out from what we used to do and what we are comfortable with? Is it just me, or does this happen to everybody else? Or the fact that I have established my own style means that I have passed the experimenting stage? What should I do to always keep my mindset in the experimenting stage?