How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Name:
Location: India

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The news this week

It's been a very busy week, which is unusual as it was only the second week of the term. But the load of assignments and classes was great. As our MSD professor said today, while handing out the second assignment: 'As one door closes, another one opens'. So another round of assignments is ready and waiting.

This is not to say that the term has been a drag. In fact, this is the most exciting time I've had since coming here. The subjects are of my own choosing, and so far, I am extremely happy with my selection. Attending classes is a far from unhappy experience. The breaks between classes also have been such as to encourage visits to the library :), so I have caught up on a lot of Harvard Business Reviews, McKinsey Quarterlys, Fortunes, and Economists.

The new batch of students has come in, and is undergoing induction. The only reason I have to grumble about this development is that the mess remains too full at most times, and waiting inordinately long for food makes me irritable :). There have been some changes in the subject structure for the new batch which might make it a bit more tough on them. Research Methodology no longer exists in the third term (an unwise move, in my opinion) and is replaced by two half-credit courses in Advanced Data Analysis and Strategic Mgmt-I. This will be one tough term for these people.

The monsoon has set in, and regular showers are now to be expected in the evening and during the night. The humidity has increased, and the insects are starting to proliferate, but the situation overall is still quite agreeable.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On class (non-)participation

My "contribution" to the class, in terms of airing my views on the topic of the day, is negligible. In consultant-speak, my voiceshare (the amount of time I speak divided by the total time anybody has spoken in class) tends to zero. I am a struggling player in the voice market. Or at least, that is the impression.

So, why is this so? To some extent, it is lethargy or a lack of confidence that prevents me from speaking. It may seem strange that if this were so, how did I make it into an IIM? But I did. Maybe, what is known in statistics as a Type-II error has been committed.

But it is not weaknesses alone that have contributed to this attitude. In the end, it is a conscious decision not to speak much. It will take two things to make me speak something in class: one, the ongoing discussion is very relevant to the subject and is meaningful, and two, I have something meaningful and important to contribute. In the absence of one or both of these, I will not speak. It's a matter of principle.

Quite a lot of the discussions in class (especially, but not only, in subjects like marketing and strategy) are problematic because of being one or more of the following: irrelevant, naive, unrealistic, not concrete, argumentative, repetitive, motivated purely from a desire to get valuable CP marks. I don't contribute to these discussions, and neither do I listen to them all the time, except for amusement's sake. And I am not assertive enough to restore sense to the discussion (or perhaps I am just selfish).

But a lot of times, I really do not have anything substantial to contribute. People say, "As a manager, you must have a view". I care two hoots for this statement. It is naive and unrealistic, and also not idealistic as it might seem at first. Someone told me today, "How can you not have anything to contribute? You are one of the most knowledgeable guys in class". That's a joke. I know what I know, which is precious little.

This principle will hurt me this year, as many subjects have a substantial percentage of marks allotted to CP. But unless the quality of CP is kept in mind while awarding marks (as it is in the admired US B-schools), this becomes a totally inappropriate performance measure. It just encourages a student to gain voiceshare, even though garbage is being aired.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Relief

After being baked for several scorching days in a searing heat wave, rain is providing relief here. I don't know if these showers are monsoon showers or pre-monsoon ones, but they have been quite regular for the last three nights. The humidity has shot up and that is keeping up the heat, but it is more benign compared to the hot winds (luu) that ruled the days earlier.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Booked

Although I just claimed that I am not feeling up to it, I will now manifest symptoms of being infected with the book meme virus (having been twice bitten), although I will not propagate it further. This is not a bad exercise in introspection, so here goes...

Number of books at home: My very rough guess would be 800 +- 200, i.e. anywhere from 600-1000. I have not counted a few hundred comics and magazines in this. A lot of these books were bought by my father or grandfather.

Last book I bought: Though I don't remember exactly, I think it is Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment'

Last book I read: Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'

Five books that mean a lot to me:
It is incredibly difficult for me to pick so few. Indeed as many sportsmen say, 'the best is yet to come'. But here's a selection:

'Surely you're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' - a very light, enjoyable look into the life of one of the greatest personalities who ever lived - Richard Feynman.

'The Story of Philosophy' by Will Durant - which gives a superbly coherent synopsis of the history of Western philosophy, from Socrates and Plato to John Dewey. This is an absolute must-read for anyone remotely interested in philosophy.

The Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle - detectives have come and detectives have gone, but none has quite matched Holmes - his personality, varied abilities, quirks and the people surrounding him, are all legendary. Conan Doyle's writing skills and plot variety are superb.

The Correspondence of Sardar Patel, 1945-1950 - around a dozen hefty volumes of correspondence of one of India's greatest leaders, bought by my grandfather. It not only gives one an inside look at the great man's character and style of working, but also the issues of that historic time for India. Obviously, some of the biggest names of the time figure prominently in these volumes.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda - although I have only started reading these, I am very sure that a patient reading will be greatly inspiring and uplifting. The power that flows from the confident words of this great man is incredible, and I can only wonder how his presence must have been.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

On B-school orientations

The MSD professor told us this interesting apocryphal story today - a take on the orientations that B-schools are known for:

In the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, known most for its two top-class institutions - Harvard and MIT - a person goes to a superstore and takes a shopping cart. A sign in the store says: "Not more than 20 items in a cart". But this man stuffs his cart and reaches the counter. The lady at the counter sees him and asks: "Are you from Harvard or MIT?" Amazed, the person asks: "It's Harvard, but how did you know?" Pointing at the sign, the lady replies: "Either you cannot read, which means you must be from MIT; or you cannot count, which means you must be from Harvard!" :)

The 'ka kha ga' of manufacturing

The professor who teaches us Manufacturing System Design told us of his invention a couple of days back. He said that when he studied engineering, they used a textbook by a Japanese author (Hitomi), who described Manufacturing with three K's. These K's were Japanese words,
which Hitomi himself translated into English as three D's - 'dirty, dangerous, and difficult'. The professor said that he tried a lot to translate this into an alliterative Hindi phrase, but the best he could come up with was the 'ka kha ga' of Manufacturing - 'kathin, khatarnaak, gandaa'. Trivial but interesting...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Back in hell

Hot winds and a blazing sun greeted me as I stepped out on the stairs from the plane which got me back for another three-quarters of an year to Lucknow today. The day temperature is 42 degrees C and it is scorching. Everything feels hot to the touch, including the bed and wooden furniture. Cold water from the cooler filled in a bottle turns warm and then undrinkably hot in the span of half an hour. The 'hell' nickname is appropriate, at least in terms of the climate. Later, in the winter months, 'hell' will freeze over. There is a need to get the 'hell' out of here (pun intended).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

End of summers

My summer internship ends today and I will leave Chennai tomorrow. The experience, as far as work is concerned, has been good, and as far as the city is concerned, has been mixed. All the same, it will certainly not be unpleasant to leave this place.