Posts Tagged ‘ leadership ’

Is this my Billion $ idea? Desh Deshpande @ TiE Launchpad

TiE Boston, part of TiE, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to entrepreneurship hosted Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande last week as part of TiE Launchpad.

TiE Launchpad is a program that I co-chair, dedicated to helping first time entrepreneurs make the journey from an idea to a venture. Through a series of 7 – 10 workshops, TiE Launchpad will help leaders transform promising business ideas and technologies into commercial ventures.

Check out the Billion $ Idea Top 50 Takeaways DESH DESHPANDE file … for a crowd-sourced collection of take-aways collated within 24 hours of the event.

What do you think? How have you transformed an idea into a business venture? What lessons learned are you willing to share? Go ahead, join the conversation …



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?



Startups … not bailouts

You can count on Thomas Friedman to write a punchy piece. In today’s New York Times article, he advocates that startups create more high quality jobs than bailouts of big car companies or road construction projects. Makes total sense. Of course, one could get into a Keynesian argument supporting higher government spending in toto. However, fact remains, that startups are the engines that create economic growth, prosperity and net new jobs. Think Google or Sun Friedman says.

Immigrant founders + free markets = Innovation.

I spend quite a bit of time in the Boston area startup community. Whether its a 15 year old in a TYE Startup competition from TiE-Boston or a first time entrepreneur, or a serial entrepreneuer, the optimism, energy and vision seems boundless. Everyone wants to change the world. One startup or venture at a time. There is no sense of self-pity or entitlement.

Yet, the single biggest roadblock is source of quality funds. I am not talking big numbers. I am talking $50K to $500K to take a shot at starting the next innovative venture. I am talking solid business models with working technology and passionate teams.  Yet they are caught in a bind … unable to access capital at costs and dilution-levels that can continue fueling their passion.

So, here are my …

3 obvious ideas:

a. First-time venture fund: If we can have a first-time homebuyer tax credit, why not a first-time entrepreneur fund? where the government sets aside $50000 per year for 2 years for each first-time founder of a startup. not as a bailout. but as investible angel capital from the government of the usa. why not? If Techstars or Y-Combinator can do it, why not the tax-funded entity called the GOTUS? $50K is enough to feed a family in most cities, while keeping the entrepreneur hungry enough to want to start a company.

b. Tax-cut for entrepreneurs: Why not? In addition to ‘increasing G’ why not ‘cut T’? Mix the left and right here. For the same 2 years, give the entrepreneurs a deep tax cut so that there is incentive and ability to reinvest for growth. Growth that can create real jobs that in turn pay taxes. Neat, eh?

c. Startup-competition: If the GOTUS can fund primary research in leading universities, why not have a true startup competition where funding can be allocated as advocated above? Mix funding with classical financing stage gates, to ensure that even this $50K is allocated based on real outcomes. No vanilla bailouts.

Why not? If innovation means truly socially disruptive practices, and these ideas are disruptive, then so be the spirit of innovation … thoughts? Comments?



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 … 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.



business value alignment … keeping it simple

i cant but help think about what the world might have looked like about 50 to 100 years ago.  before we had alphabet soups and tons of buzzwords.  when the world was a much simpler place.  yet a place that saw tremendous transformation. 

first commercial flight.  first radio broadcast.  why…. even first cup of instant coffee.  we went through so much change as a human race, yet were not bombarded with noise about the change.

organizations typically go through change all the time.  whether they acknowledge it or not, there is always an undercurrent of organization change and transformation.  some of course, are more pronounced or planned than others.

so, why do we generally approach this topic with a mix of trepidation and trite proclamations?  why do we start with the typical notion of “here is the change cycle… you go through denial, acceptance, … etc etc.”?

shouldnt the conversation really be about business value alignment?

in lieu of the 3 obviousideas, check out my interview on pmopodcast – the Business Value Alignment™ firm, linking Strategy | Organization | Execution

teachable moments … in technology leadership

the world of technology leadership is long overdue for its share of ‘teachable moments’.  i was going through some old trade rags and business mags that seemed to have escaped the eventual journey to the recycle bin … for about 7 or 8 years!  i was struck by how the topic of ‘business-IT’ alignment seems to have barely progressed in the last half decade or so.

the pain points, promises and pontifications on business-IT alignment have not seemed to change a lot.  indeed, that is depressing.

i would have hoped to see the dialog progress in some direction.  hopefully progressive, not regressive.  but status-quo is dangerous.   even disastrous.

3 obvious ideas:

a. from buzz to business-need: we need to step back from the din of new buzzwords and tech, and ask ourselves a fundamental questions: “what do we want to achieve with technology?” “what are we able to?” “what are we not able to?”

b. from cost to competency: we need cio’s to move away from a focus on cost-containment to one on organization competency-creation.  “what can we do with technology to enable business value creation?”

c. from staffing-for-operations to staffing-for-success: we also need cio’s to shift their staffing from a vertical domain-orientation to a horizontal competency-orientation.  while engineering and operations oriented teams will still be needed, we will need to see more artistic analysts and creative consultants within the cio organization.

what do you think?