Archive for the ‘ the kellogg experience ’ Category

Kellogg EMBA … more than a marketing program

What an energetic Kellogg EMBA reception at the Radius. It was nice to meet with prospects interested in the program. What amazes me is the energy you get when you get even a small group of Kellogg alums, students and prospects together in a room. Suzanne Whaller did a great job introducing the program and my colleagues from the alumni and current cohort added rich grist for the mill.

Someone asked a great question. “Kellogg is known for marketing, what are your strengths in other areas?”.

I think it is an ironic / intriguing / interesting question that Kellogg itself has been ‘branded’ the marketing school. As a student, I find the program to be focused on strategy with a clear C-Suite focus, with marketing being one of the functions that informs our body of study. While the school’s rich heritage and history might well be steeped in marketing, the coverage across other disciplines such as strategy, organizations and finance is truly excellent. The one area though that Kellogg does not focus on very strongly is technology and information systems, at least at the Executive MBA level.

I believe that the program prepares you to be a well-rounded ‘general manager’. Now dont get that to mean ‘a plain old generalist with no specialization’. Reality is that todays business needs and challenges dont come in neatly defined boxes. In order to lead in the complex ever-changing world we live in, one needs br0ad-based well developed intuition supported by strong skills across functions / disciplines. Kellogg provides just that.

Also, given that it has diversity in program-delivery, you are able to go beyond the case method to truly experience and imbibe the body of knowledge / practice through a wide variety of ways. Isn’t that how the real world works?

So, coming back to the question of the evening … yes, Kellogg has strong roots in marketing. But what do you say when I end up with 28 core courses and 4 electives?

Here’s my mix from Kellogg:

Core: Analytical Approach to Uncertainty, Operating Strategies for the General Manager, Teambuilding, Financial Reporting Systems, Leadership & Organizations, Marketing Management, Managerial Economics, Statistical Decision Analysis, Managerial Finance I, Managerial Finance II, Foundations of Strategy, Marketing Strategies, Accounting for Management Planning & Control, Consumer Insight & Marketing Strategy, Strategic Financial Management, Operations Management, Negotiation Strategies, Strategic Crisis Management, Macroeconomics, Economics of Competition, Creating and Managing Strategic Alliances, Management of Organizational Change, Law and the Corporate Manager, Corporate Governance, Ethics and Leadership.

Electives: Entrepreneurial Finance, Analytical Decision Modeling, Business Strategies in Asia Pacific (in Hong Kong!), Understanding Consumers (in Hong Kong).

Audits: Game Theory, Securities Analysis, Innovation Strategy & Management, Wall Street Hedge Funds & Private Equity.

How’s that mix? Oh, by the way, the program leads to a Masters in Business Administration, not an ‘Executive Masters’. Why not, with such a rich mix of coursework and an unbelievable cohort with rich experience/expertise. More on the cohort another day?



Kellogg EMBA … Meaning and Mechanics

I am often asked … how can you complete a Masters in Business Administration in two years while you are working? Is this is a part-time MBA? What gives, considering that typical MBA programs are two years of full time commitment?

Well I cant speak for all those non full time (FT) programs out there. But I am happy to comment on the world’s #1 Executive MBA program. You know which one I am talking about.

Like high octane fuel powering a premium sports car, the Kellogg EMBA is designed to help leaders build a strong intuition. An intuition which can hold the test of time and merely fueled by the fad of the day / minute.  As it is, the world of leadership is replete with theories, hypotheses, case studies and of course real results. In a world where business opportunities and problems dont come in neatly defined packages, you cannot afford to have a program that is tied to the buzzword of the moment. Nor can you gain value from building tactical skills that are highly context specific and limited in their transferable applicability.

Here is where the Kellogg EMBA truly excels. The entire program is focused on building a strong inherent intuition. Through a combination of case studies, lectures, quizzes, in-class tests and take-home tests, you tend to develop many layers of finely tuned capabilities. Almost like Baklava that is easier to describe as an end product rather than in its making, you can be sure that each student’s Kellogg journey itself is layered with his/her own experience interweaving with the take-aways from the program.

So, how do you actually build these layers? How do you get to test the new skills and developing intuition without the opportunity to experiment and experience them in a real sandbox?

Some have said that FT programs tend to focus on building analytical firepower, while Executive programs focus on building leadership intuition. I dont see them as necessarily mutually exclusive. However, there is a difference between the means and the end.

Clearly, the FT programs are designed for younger candidates and their grounding analytical firepower is designed to help them reach the heights of their chosen pursuits. On the other hand, the Executive programs are designed for those with more experience, that now seek to make a difference in their professional lives by rounding out their capabilities. While analytical grounding is still part of an Executive MBA, the key difference is the CEO perspective in most courses and discussions.

So, yes, you can in fact combine 2 years of rigorous coursework along with ‘real’ work … and come away with a top-ranked full-fledged MBA from a top-ranked school. There is no cutting corners here. Afterall, the real test of mettle lies in putting all those strategies, ideas and plans to test in the real sandbox … and what better way to test and perfect one’s capabilities to do so than doing it in real-time while at school?



Kellogg EMBA … Wall Street, Hedge Funds and Private Equity

Prof. David Stowell is the closest thing you can get to a rock star in a B-School. Why? Just Google his name and find out. Oh well, here goes… from Kellogg’s Website:

“Prior to joining Kellogg, Professor Stowell worked at JP Morgan as Managing Director and head of Midwest Investment Banking. He also previously worked at UBS Investment Bank as Managing Director and Co-Head of Equity Capital Markets, at Goldman Sachs as Vice President for Corporate Finance and at O’Connor Partners as Managing Director for Equity Derivatives.”

He covered a week of classes on Wall Street, Hedge Funds and Private Equity. What a week. Through classroom discussion and case work, we examined the many issues and implications that arise when these worlds intersect.

While much of classical strategy is rooted in economic theory and models, Prof. Wolcott demonstrated how competitive strategy can be shaped and challenged through financial engineering and activity. Or, even activism.

3 obvious ideas for you to ponder upon …

a) convergence between hedge funds, private equity and investment banking: be ready for the ongoing convergence between these domains. no doubt the global financial system underwent a true transformation in the last 24 months. coming out of it, you can only expect that these worlds will continue to evolve as markets, regulators and you/me figure out what to do about it.

b) financial engineering is here to stay: financial engineering will not go away. innovation is a much needed fuel for growth and dare say, survival. if we dont innovate, we atrophy. so while we might look back at CDO’s and the resultant global meltdown, lets not wish away the reality of innovation in financial engineering. unless we want to go back to the days of pure barter trade, our economic system is too complex and integrated to wish for simplistic solutions with minimal risk from innovation. question is, how can you look ahead to be part of the next wave of innovation?

c) operational engineering: true operational engineering and value-creation is expected to be a large area of focus for private equity firms. with capital invested in portfolio companies desperately seeking return / exit in a soft market, operating leadership is expected to be the next source of value creation. control positions, while important, wont be the defining dimension of success.

clearly, this would mean opportunities for MBA’s and more so senior level folks from Executive MBA programs such as Kellogg’s. Oh, and please, it is “Kellogg” not “Kelloggs” as in the cereal box on your breakfast table. That is one convergence thats not quite right.



Kellogg EMBA … Innovation Strategy and Management

Prof. Rob Wolcott is leading a very interesting and practical class on Innovation Strategy and Management, at the Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA elective week. The topic of innovation has been widely written about in the context of seed stage startups, a-la ‘garage ventures’ that were born in a moment of inspiration and nourished through the soul of committed entrepreneurship.

What makes Prof. Wolcott’s focus on innovation is his empirical evidence and conviction that true innovation potential and possibilities lie within large corporations. Yes, you read that right … and your latte was not spiked.

Think about it. Large companies are large for a reason. Something works. They have customers. They understand their needs. They are able to meet them. Question is, can they look around corners and beyond the horizon to create and meet the next generation of needs?

With a truly strategic focus (as you would expect from a B-School of this stature), yet grounded in empirical evidence, Prof. Wolcott’s class is one that can reframe mental models and create a sea of possibilities.

3 obvious ideas:

a) innovation as a process: think of the process of coming up with a new idea and going to market. look at your own middle management, and ask if they might inadvertently be coming in the way of innovation. ‘this is not in our budget’, ‘do we have a customer who needs this’. and other forms of blockers could come in your way.

b) hindsight bias: business history is replete with examples of large companies that failed to see an upstart innovation, or buyout a small startup that was poised to go big. the story of Google wont be repeated here. intelligence is a given in the rear view mirror. so, why dont you take yourself to the future, say 5 years out, see where you might be and look back to see how you got there. time travel, anyone?

c) worse, before better: Prof. Clayton Christenssen popularized the notion of disruptive innovation. things are worse before they are better. yet, how many times do we choose to ignore something that might be better in the long term, only because it ‘doesnt look like the way we do things’. lets see, how about your own hiring processes? so many firms are wedded to a regimental recruiting process that doesnt allow them to truly identify the next new generation or type of talent. why cant disruptive innovation apply where it matters most, i.e., managing your human capital?

ok, enough provocative thoughts for one day. what’s your innovation story? what worked? what can be done better?

btw – if you are in the Kellogg EMBA program, dont miss this class. Truly what Executives and others need today. The future is built today, and we work on it, one day at a time.



kellogg emba … wrapping up stats + econ

wow, how the semester has literally flown by us.  statistics and economics finals are over. 

prof. bob weber deserves a special recognition for coming into the class barely a week after surviving a heart attack.  that man does not stop working, does he?!

the statistics course was probably the most transformative experience with numbers.  prof. weber demonstrated how managers tend to make misguided decisions based on a suboptimal understanding of core statistical concepts.  interestingly, and unlike all the previous coursework i have done in statistics… this course focused on the managerial decision making aspects of statistics instead of the mechanical gyrations of producing ‘output’.

the kellogg executive mba program continues to be a pleasant and productive journey.  if you are looking for a truly integrated and in-depth emba program, look no further …


sai at obviousideas dot com

kellogg emba … a seamless tapestry

i continue to be amazed by the alignment between the kellogg emba courses.  we are currently studying finance, statistics and economics: the core analytical portion of the program.  turns out that a concept introduced in finance, is soon referenced in statistics … and later further in economics.  the hand-offs are so seamless and natural, it makes for a truly integrated learning experience.

the courses continue to be aligned towards the need of a general manager or business executive who needs to work with the solid intuition underlying these topics.  so, it turns out to be a real meaningful journey going beyond the mechanics, which are much easier to teach and learn (by rote!). 

prof. raviv’s model of introduing an intuition, demonstrating it through a ‘toy example’, highlighting a current industry perspective and finally handing over to the teaching assistant for the mechanics … is truly a remarkable one.

prof. weber and prof. vohra continue to bring the richest insights, what with the latter interlacing his commentary with british wit, shaken but not stirred.

3 obviousideas: the kellogg emba is for you if …

1. you want to get a solid foundation and intuition, through a combination of thought-provoking discussion, probing inquiry and off-line reading

2. you are comfortable learning the mechanics as you go along and are not looking purely for a mathematical experience

3. you enjoy learning through teams that will stay together for the duration of the program

quantitative kellogg

what a weekend!  a heavy weekend with finance, economics and statistics.   neat.

prof. raviv continues to strengthen our finance fundamentals through ‘toy problems’ and ‘real world stories’, ably supported by fascinating fritz, the teaching assistant that makes finance-in-excel look as easy as doodling on a piece of paper!  neat+.

prof. vohra started his economics class today.  his text has a shakespearan feel to it and in just one class he took the discussion to an entirely different level … and left us with homework due overnight!  EVC = (R – c) + p.  and the fun is just beginning.  consensus opinion is that this promises to be another intellectually stimulating class.  neat.

prof. weber is up tomorrow for more statistics.  he started two weeks ago with a philosophical question “why are we here?”… and in less than 15 minutes converted a deep philosophical question into core statistical concepts.  neat+.

the neat part about the program is the “just in time” introduction of concepts.  one classes introduces a concept … and the next professor references it within his / her discussion … to result in a seamless learning experience.  neat++.