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 »


Happy Birthday, Mutant Disco!

Mutant Disco 10!
Last night the Von Krahl theater in Tallinn hosted crowds from all over the past ten years to cheer for the tenth birthday of Mutant Disco.
As for many other good things in this category, we have to thank again late John Peel. By becoming a fan of Röövel Ööbik and giving them a lot of BBC One airtime in early nineties, he inevitably helped to build a strong network between the Estonian and UK music circles, with the now inseparable tandem of Raul Saaremets & Chris “Rythm Doctor” Long to start with.
MD has been so much more than another club event here. It has consistently exposed local and international top performances to the scene, shaping our tastes and values. Bringing guys like Bob Jones or Frankie Valentine or Basement Jaxx or Moodymann over to a tiny cold Northern European capital must have been extremely hard for Raul and Chris when they started, but hugely because of their pains of the early years, Estonia has become the vibrant alternative music and culture host it is now. There is a video interview with them available on how they got started (mostly in Estonian): part 1 and part 2.
Over the years, MD has innovated with not just music, but also with consistent branding, their web presence and active online community around md.com forums, creative flyers (first on paper, fully virtual these days), redefining Von Krahl from a theatre to happening, multifaceted event location, etc etc.
But most importantly, Mutant Disco has had an unprecedented effect on building a strong horizontal network inside a certain generation of our small country. Many in their student years gathering to Mutant Discos 10 years ago are now the who’s who stars of business, investment banking, government, law, technology, media and many others making things happen in arts – music, literature, visual arts, cinema, fashion. In the mixed nostalgic-euphoric vibe at the event yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder what extremely unique value has been created just because of the out of the box mindsets people end up with here. A successful attorney hanging out with music critics or a software developer with his best friends in experimental video think much differently than their colleagues stuck in narrow professional groups of their industry. The experience of belonging to the diverse group of mutants must have released ideas and energy in places we don’t even admit.
Respect, Raul & Chris, and happy birthday again!


Cash Hurts


NIN‘s Downward Spiral was probably the favorite album of mine in 1994.
So when Priidu forwarded me the Johnny Cash‘ version of Hurt above I had a little emotional shock wave. On one hand I can’t believe I’ve missed something this powerful made of a song that left a mark as it was originally. And on the other hand, if you see the video for the first time only today, post the passing of Cash a few years ago, you are entitled to even deeper layers of additional meanings and references from it as an epitaph.