Presidential Tweeting

The President of Republic of Estonia, Toomas Henrik Ilves has had a Twitter account, @IlvesToomas since May 2012. Not one of the first adopters among heads of states in the world, he has nevertheless taken quite a freeform and experimental approach to using this communications channel, with a rant in response to Nobelist Paul Krugman’s systematic bashing of Estonia’s austerity measures and poking fun at his aviation-enthusiastic colleague in the East creating some public controversy before. You can agree or disagree with him (and he often engages with responders), but having an elected figure step out of the expected frames is noteworthy in itself.

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Week 14: Confucius, Shrek, Devil’s Advocates and the Board

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 4, Autumn quarter

Covered in this issue:

  • How Confucius helps the Chinese to consume free MP3s
  • How a CEO is stuck between the Board and his team in a complex matrix of conflicting loyalties
  • How a side-effect of managing a few trillion dollars in your funds is the need to do a lot of board voting for your shares
  • How high-profile VCs can keep your loans in the bank and close your hires
  • How startups should tell their story the way seen in Shrek
  • How to make the devil’s advocate a resident part of participatory decision making culture
  • How citizens should break the government monopoly of environmental and pollution mapping

And here on to the full notes: Read the rest of this entry »


Toolkit for Quick’n’Dirty Country/Culture Research

Whenever you are planning to take your startup or a mature company to a new market, planning to export your products there or seeking to open a new office to plug into local talent pool, you always know it will somehow be different than back home. Some of this is quite intuitive, like guessing that the farther you go physically, culturally or linguistically, the larger the change in environment. An enormous amount of differences are more nuanced.

The smart thing to do, of course would be to turn to relevant locals and expats, anthropologists and culture researchers. Maybe even hire a dedicated consultants who have been there and done what you’ve about to. Yet, there is always some of the analysis you need to do yourself, either because you can’t afford the time or resources to get external help, or you just need to prepare before turning to them. As cultural differences are highly contextual, not all of them really matter for your case, but you need to do some thinking on what are the few things that really do, the least.

Years ago I ran a project to figure out where should Skype build our next engineering centre to support the needed hiring pace. We looked at 12 countries in mostly Central-Eastern Europe, drilled deeper on a final shortlist of four and settled on Prague, which has sine been a great part of the Skype product engineering family since and still growing. Despite of the successful outcome, it wouldn’t have hurt to have had a bit more structured understanding beforehand on how to compare all our options.

Hence the very compressed reference list below, of books, frameworks, country data sites and other notes. Meant not to excite any culture theory experts, but rather to provide a very quick’n’dirty toolkit for business people who need to think through an upcoming international move. Read the rest of this entry »


Week 13: Gangnam Style, Fired CEOs and Motivating People

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 3, Autumn quarter

The highlight of this week was of course the Friday our Sloan class owned the GSB courtyard with our little dance act. It took weeks of preparation, late nights and sweaty trainings for many to make Project Chai happen. It would have been too easy to be and remain sceptical of the entire venture from start, given how YouTube is overflowing with Gangnam style flash mobs, but the sensation of the entire class an many of our partners going through this was just amazing. (Mind you, this is not a high school, but perceptionally quite high competition and serious workload business school we’re talking about). Thank you, Herbert, Hans, Cherie, Tracee, Jonathan, Gitanjali and everyone else for pulling people through this.

(As a side remark, keeping this video online is a terrible experience – Youtube is blocking some mobile viewers, Vimeo did a full takedown for a while of our mobile friendly version of this video… We’re trying to talk directly to music rights owners now, but how on Earth are flash mob videos usually distributed?)

On academic side, covered in this issue:

  • Why not drink Diet Coke in Las Vegas?
  • How some penny-pinching retail operations can grow bigger (and more profitable) than most countries.
  • How to fire a CEO.
  • How GAAP accounting discretion in used and abused in public company financial reporting.
  • How charisma can be broken into components and trained.
  • Why reward people with stuff as opposed to money?
  • Why would you still want to correlate the size of codebase to the value of software IP, despite of obvious pitfalls?

And here on to the full notes: Read the rest of this entry »


Week 12: Discounting the Future, SEC Investigations and Visiting Founders

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 2, Autumn quarter

Covered in this issue:

  • Rational decision making. Why and by how much discount the future?
  • In search for a strategic fit – those sweet moments when stars actually align for a while. Resulting competitive advantage that holds due to the complexity of interdependencies. Cases: CapitalOne (data driven mass-personalisation) and Lincoln Electric (super productive manufacturing).
  • Real-Life Ethics: Guest Michael Marks on being bullied by huge OEMs while Flextronics CEO. And should a SEC-inestigated company throw an innocent CFO over board to settle? Role of the board in backing the CEO.
  • Guest selling their story: Smule co-founders Jeff Smith & Ge Wang. Andrew Mason of Groupon.
  • Peer-organized public company valuation training.
  • Analysis of a persuasive argument: 1 man turning 11 jurors around in the 12 Angry Men movie. The case of Silicon Valley’s most effective networker.
  • Cash flow reporting. And intangible assets, especially software.

And here on to the full notes: Read the rest of this entry »


Week 11: Instant Gratification, In and Out of Orgs and Biases

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 1, Autumn quarter

The gearshift to the fall quarter was quite a big one. Going from 13 to 19 units (full schedule here) means days starting at 8am and running straight to 5pm two days a week, leaving slightly more time for prep reading and writing on others. We have been assigned to new study groups (mostly for Strategy, where we need to pick a company and country none of us are familiar with and devise the plans for their entry to that market) and generally get to hang much less with other Sloans due to differing elective schedules.

Pardon for the longest notes yet below. I guess I should become more selective as the courseload goes up? Or maybe not, if the filter remains “write down interesting stuff and aha moments only”… If there is any comfort – there are videos, again.

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