Friday, November 28, 2003

Pfff. Just wrote 10 pages about the development of Bolivia (and how one of the most prosperous colonies of Latin America fell to the bottom of the pak) and about the problems (and potential solutions) of the privatization of the pension funds, in such a poor country. First draft of my final Latam paper. (my group partner writes the other half on gas exports to the US and Mexico, via the fiercest perceived rival, Chile, as a political liability in the country, resulting in the ousting of the former president and on the highly unpopular US-led coca eradication program, providing little viable alternative to the peasants that it leaves without a living)

Various sources included World Bank data, OECD reports and studies across various Latam countries, pension fund managers comparision (marketing) data, Bolivia's central government text of law, various articles and newspapers. A very time consuming business this.

I am quite amazed at the possibility to write about the intricacy of such a complicated financial system, about the various incentives programs that could be put in place, about the effects of certain reforms AND understand what I was writing.

Maybe I am turning into a finance gorilla.

National Week Vote was cast today. Alea Jacta Est. Tomorrow night is Winter Ball.

Will also select my electives, finish off first draft of OB paper, my contribution to the next Finance case and kick off PoM revisions. All this in the coming two days.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

My last opinion about Latam class - if was interesting because it gave me a macroeconomics view of the developing world, and this was largely due to the quality of the participants. Apart from that, it is a lot of reading for not a whole lot that we use in class.

Today's class was interesting, as a senior economist from the Interamerica Development Bank (heardquartered in Washington, European Offices in Paris) came to talk about the prospects for the regions vis-a-vis Foreign Direct Investment, and shared some data with us)

Next week, we will finish off the class with drinks at the professor's home. A typical Latin tradition apparently.

On another note, the presentations for the National Weeks were very funny. We must vote for 9 weeks out of 13.

So long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Academic socialism:
you have two cows. the government take them and put them in a barn with
everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. the government
give you as much milk as you need.
Creativity in Marketing.
Professor had shown a Volvo commercial depicting the safety attribute of these cars. The spot featured a few children seating around a table drawing.
First boy says: “my father loves me so much that he bought be a baseball cap”
Second boy argues over with an even longer list of things that his father bought and son on until we reach a little girl
-“my father loves me so much that he bought a Volvo”

In the same vein, a group who had to present a marketing plan around the Digital Angel product offering (making GPS based located, with bio-sensors, and in the case targeting Alzheimer patients who get lost), the group made a commercial spot. The film featured the students, dressed up as elderly men, sitting around a table, drinking and playing cards. One of the students was acting as a child (now an adult). Or the Volvo spot transposed years later.
-“my son loves me so much that he bought me a nice holiday in Hawaii”
and everyone builds on with even nicer offering…
The last man to speak says
“my son loves me so much that he bought me a Digital Angel locator”

This class is just like going to the movies at a theater that’d feature only an infinite strings of ads. You sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
We have decided to reposition the quests for profit in our OB Essay. We qualify this as an objective for firms - but not as their role in society.

In turn, we look at various dimensions (functional, human, social, educational, financial, economical) and various scales: local, national and internationalv(with the difficulty to enforce trade agreements, rules of law, etc...). We also intend to run a comparision between countries where the government and the other actors are society are more or less doing their job and countries where there are not strong rule of law, institutions and financial markets.

Since I am writing this essays with an Italian partner, I am getting a lot of pizzas these days.
It is good to know that there are honest people on this planet.

Went to Paris for a very nice dinner with other INSEAD folks at Le Refuge, near Gare de Lyon, a very artsy and cozy place. One of our Italian friends forgot her purse in the restaurant. By the time she realizes the loss, we are just out a restaurant/jazz club nearby, the China Club and Le Refuge has closed. We leave a message, prompting the owner of the restaurant to call us back. Wallet is restituted the following day.

Forgot my wallet on a train seat. A local ran after me with my wallet in his hand. I only suffered minor embarrassment as he was shouting out loud that I was jeopardizing my wealth on public transports.

Using the famous Jack Welch’s principle of Proudly Found Elsewhere


Do you think communication would be so much more simple if everyone in
the world spoke English?? Let's face it -- English is a crazy
language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither
apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in
England or French Fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while
sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find
that quicksand can work slowly. And why is it that writers write but
fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the
plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? and why
do you pronounce Quay like Key but not cough like dough?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that
you comb through the annals of history but not a single annal? If you
have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what
do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If
vegetarians eat vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? What human
organ was used to design church organs?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an
asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a
play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have
noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on
parkways? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a
wise man and a wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be
opposite, while quite a few and quite a lot are alike? How can the
weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the other day?
Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are
absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? And
where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would
ACTUALLY hurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your
house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by
filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the
creativity of the human race (which of course, isn't a race at all).
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the
lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch,
I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it

This week is the National Week campaign - people will select the second half of the year themes.
Here is the choice

Africa Week
Basing their campaign around diversity, interest, truly international school, arts and craft

American Week
I quote: Vote For American Week...because international support means a lot to us...

Australia/New Zealand Week

Belgian Week
Small is good

British & Irish Week
Loads of undressed good looking rugby and football players

Chinese Week
Loads of food

Eastern Europe Reloaded Week
Dracula style presentation

French Week
Organized Beaujolais Nouveau event

Greek-Turkish Week
Loads of food

Iberian Week
campaign stated that US supported them. People replied that they weren't quite sure whether the US would know where Iberia was.

Italian Week
Loads of good looking, impeccably dressed people eating nice coffee and good food.

Latin American Week
Salsa, Samba, Tequila

Scandinavian Week

Nationalities are putting up booths over lunch today in the bar, will give presentations tomorrow and will ask for a final vote on Friday.
A great source of information about countries
Or do a search on "Country_Name at a glance" and select the World Bank pdf profile.

Anyone with relevant info on the privatization of pensions in Bolivia and on the coca eradication program - feel free to point me in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Just back from a dinner in town with my group members. Despite the heavy workload, we have decided to take the time to meet before the end of P2, as some of us are going to Singapore and some of us are staying in Fonty.

We had such an enjoyable time. Given that we started off as an allegory of the D-Day, with everyone shooting at everyone else, this is great progress.

We have become much more open to everyone else, much more trustful, much more relaxed, which allows us to distribute the work better, hence be more efficient. On the other hand, several members as noticed that the standard for preparation has gone down. We don't need to impress anyone anymore. Still time to reverse the trend and respect better everyone's time.

I am back to campus to finish off my day's work, probably another couple of hours. It is 11.45pm. The library just closed. Everyone is moving to the cubicles. The campus is still buzzing with zombie life, rapacious hands hammering nervously on keyboards, voracious eyes devoring books and papers. Absent eyes poking into the darkness, through the side windows.

On the one hand, I feel that I have grown into someone who questions everything, who cannot be satisfied with halk-baked notions, who feel that any problem has a solution - the only thing left to do being to find it - , who taylors the process to better fit aspirations and needs and who could take on the world.
On the other hand, I feel guided, like a primary school pupil - walking hand in hand with the administration, being given very specific and mechanical tasks, working in a very specific mould, a clone to hundreds of other MBA students, all chained., all exhausted, and all marching with their heads down towards Exam Week - The Ultimate Milestone.

I think that I need a coffee.

On a happy note, I found a TGV train ticket to cross the entire country North to South for 25 Euros around the Christmas period. I love this place.
Heard in class today:

- so what worries you? - Managerial Accounting Professor to student
- well, I am worried about what you are worried about - student to professor
- Ok, but I am not worried about you worrying about my worrying - professor to student

This is called Death Spiral.
Work is taking its toll again.
Juggling between group work in Finance and Strategy, pair work in OB2 and Latin America, both for final papers. Struggling to also find the time to go to extra tutorials offered, and to go through all these practice problems...
For me like for half the promotion, looks like most of this material is not revision at all...

On top of all of this, we are supposed to research our electives for next period. I will be in Singapore so I should be sending emails to Januaries there and get their feedback. Takes so much time...I have so little time.

We are all tired...Some of us are wondering why we are doing all this and putting ourselves voluntary through this program. Some of us are wondering how the school managed to persuade them to even fork out large amounts of money for this!

Like in P1, although I am very busy and have not managed to get more than 5 to 6 hours sleep every day, this exam fever seems to completely escape me. I don't think that I got vaccinated prior to coming to INSEAD as the workload is definitely greater than everything else that I have experienced in life - but somehow, someday, things will come to a close. Working to influence the outcome is good. Understanding that the world will keep turning regardless of the outcome helps too.

Must go. I still have 24857 things to finish off tonight.
you have two cows. the local lord takes some of the milk and you have to pay a
tax for the right of using his grass to feed them.
EDF – Efficient Delivery Folks

On Sunday 7.30pm, our electricity system ceases to function. All fuses seem to operate. No incoming electricity. Main switch is in working position.
On Sunday 7.43pm, a phone call is extended from a cell phone to a local electrician.
On Sunday 8.15pm, a local electrician arrives at the premise of the accident. Electrician checks all my switches, all in order. There is no power entering the house. He diagnoses an Electricite de France problem.
We call EDF and hear a melodious mermaid-like voice asking us to leave our calling details. We leave a cell phone number – note that we have not got a landline.
EDF calls back 4.3 min later and promises to send someone over.
EDF operator arrives at the premises 25 min later. Network is up but there is no power entering the house.
Following trail of lost signal, EDF digs out buried switch box that landlord has never mentioned to us, lest we conducted a hassle free lifestyle. 27 min after final EDF call, the power is switched back on.

Actually, after the EU directive of 1996 to liberalize the energy industry, EDF seems to have organize itself in a very efficient power house. Fortunately for them, the French market is not open to anyone else, so they have in practice a natural monopoly there, loads of over capacity coming from the French nuclear plants (producing about 80% of the country’s electricity) and they are exporting to neighboring countries. Probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest energy company in the world (US companies are all smaller players as the economic landscape there is much more fragmented). Contrary to France Telecom though, looks like they turned an elephant into a gazelle. A lot might have to do with political clout, a lot with the necessity to start showing growth (with France entirely covered, it would have been difficult to grow any further in that market).

Only downside…an ethical and environmental one. Nuclear power creates a lot of nuclear waste which tends to end off the West Coast of Africa – as countries get paid for the privilege to hold this liability.
In our Latin America class, we looked at direct foreign investment from two perspectives:

A country’s perspective: how can countries attract multinationals? Especially small markets, which must target globally oriented sectors, in need for fast response time from institutions. Especially markets with low cost of labor, how can they balance this with low education levels and still remain an attractive environment to companies? How can labor and tax laws influence company’s selection? How does the rule of law, corruption levels and trust factors affect business? How can the efficiency of their infrastructure impede or favor a country? For instance, how a reliable electrical grid could play in favor of Costa Rica but against India in attracting large production plants? Or how can the 500 000 engineers graduating each year from Chinese universities present an enormous untapped educated workforce to further fuel the growth of the country, vs Brazil where only a small number of middle to upper class people reach this level of education? How can being small and efficient and customer oriented as a country contributed to attracting direct foreign investment compared to slow administrative government, such as the EU…
Why is France revamping its tax incentives to offer better deals to foreign executives? Has the country realized that to be a global force on the world market, utilizing brains brought with the national way of thinking would not be enough?

From a company’s perspective, tax holidays on profits and inputs, lower cost, good education levels, good infrastructure to support production, imports and exports, efficient decision making at governmental level, and free capital flows, flexible labor laws, non-unionized workers seem to play a larger role than political or economical stability and efficient financial markets – if we look at companies’ choice to establish operations in Israel, Malaysia or Mexico.

There was a time when many companies were bending in front of governments to obtain favors. Now is a time when companies make more than the GDP of entire countries, when expenses related to the set up of a new operation in a country represent what the firm can earn in a month, or a couple of weeks in another market. Now is a time when the weight of large corporations in a country’s balance sheet, in terms of direct and indirect job created, tax contributions, GDP contribution, growth factor for universities, boost for the infrastructure and incentives for research clusters, strong underlying of financial market trading has become extremely important to a country’s economy. Governments are forced to make concessions – or see business move elsewhere (Toyota choice to settle somewhere else than in the UK, despite very flexible labor laws, because it was not part of the Euro zone, Intel choice not to pick Chile, because the government was inflexible)

Power today lies in economics. Of scale.

Monday, November 24, 2003

I am starting to work on my OB Essay: “What is the role of the firm in society?”
Do I believe that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits? Our Finance professor has argued that the focus on maximizing shareholder’s value, achieved by selected projects and ventures generating the highest positive Net Present Value does two things
- it maximizes the wealth at societal level, by minimizing waste of resources
- it coordinates the efforts of million of firms scattered around the globe with no links between each other, into one unique direction.
Can I not find situation in which such pursuit would directly conflict with my religious, moral and spiritual values?
What role did banks selling Argentinean bonds as the most secure investment to clients play in the fall of Argentina in 2001? What kind of sane system can play with the life and savings of millions of individuals in the hope of creating short term profits?
Does this portray correctly the weight of companies on an economical national balance, the power it confers to the country in question, the negotiating power of big firms over small government and the responsibility that come with it. Does this illustrate enough the interlinks between society at large (its health system, its environmental rules, its education choices, its tax contexts, its dependence on firms’ production, its financial institutions) and firms (its employment level, its reach in the value chain, its financial choices, its contribution to the GDP…)

Is this a living example of the definition of nascent intellectual capacity: the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in one single mind, and not go mad?
I just feel overwhelmed.
A survey company decided to do a world survey on a very important issue. The question was the following:
”What is your opinion on lack of food in the rest of the world?”

The survey was a total disaster as the question was not properly formulated. Too many words were ambiguous:

In Africa, people did not know what food was.
In Western Europe, people did not know what lacking something meant
In Eastern Europe, people did not know what an opinion was.
In the United States, people did not know what the rest of the world was.
We still have not got a phone line. A France Telecom operator has come. Veni Vindi but not Vinci.

He first tried to find out whether the line was active or not by causing the other end of the line to ring. What we did not know at the time was that the line was connected to the neighbor’s. The neighbor’s building is used by a company previously owned by our landlord. The proprietor had a relay installed in his house, for any incoming call. So whenever this operator interrogated the line, he was activating the phone bell on the secretary desk, who would find no one to converse with when picking up the handset.

After a nebulous visit to the house’s most disgusting basement tunnels in search of the phone line’s intricate arms, the operator surfaced in the secretary office of the company next door, who was by that time, sufficiently annoyed by a ring-no response pattern that any phone-related query guaranteed a banging door.
The fact that some secret underground path could open up access to someone else’s office was not the most disturbing factor in this affair. It was impossible for France Telecom to establish a phone line through someone else’s property. In the event of maintenance need, France Telecom would not be able to intervene unless the company building was open. Worse. These people could just tap into our line.
This possibility was not even discussed as the secretary politely indicated the most direct way to the outside world to our phone operator in distress, establishing a clear no-return policy.

The operator then proceeded to locate the head of line, allegedly located in a pole by the gate of the house. There was no such pole. FT phones home, complaining about a mismatch between his historical data and reality, arguing that no one should change the terrain on him. After a 1.5km walk on the main road, the operator locates the head of the line and reports back to the office the updated information.

*Someone* must dig a trench from the head of the line to our house before France Telecom can install a line. A salesperson will contact us.

Three weeks are gone.
The sales person calls and leaves a message.
I call back the next day at 4.15pm. The salesperson has left the office for the day.
I call back one week after. The salesperson is on holiday. His secretary takes my call and agrees to call the landlord to get his authorization. The landlord swears on the head of his ancestors that he has not been contacted by the most efficient proof of the inefficiencies caused by monopoly power. The landlord promises to contact France Telecom.

No further news.

Initial request and purchase of phone: September 6th
Last call made: November 17th
November 20th: receive call from granddaughter of landlady indicating that landlady will call. 30 seconds later, Landlady called and indicates that all we need to do is contact France Telecom, give her old number and that the old line will naturally come back to life.

Is France just not a customer oriented business environment? Is it just that the government privatization efforts is just pushing inefficient elephants into the marketplace? Or is it that our household represents the least profitable customer for France Telecom and they are desperately trying to be rid of us.
Had the most delicious weekend.
Started off with a visit to the INSEAD bar for a relaxed time with section friends. Spotted a video link with the Singapore campus bar, which displayed a static image of empty tables for an hour or so.
Moved onto a local ethnic restaurant. Good food and good company.
Efficient studious Saturday. Lots of sighs when looked at the Singapore flight prices.
Mild Sunday reaching its apogee with an impromptu Mozart trio at a friend’s house – at a house that was SO French, even by French standards. Had not played in a while.

Also we have a new landlady!!! 

I am getting ready to attack this week with renewed energy.

Program of the week:
- Continue practice problems in Finance
- Tackle practice problems in Managerial Accounting and Process Operations Management
- Write Latam final paper
- OB Essay
- Strategy Case Write Up
- Continuous case and class preparation

- Call France Telecom
- Call Landlord to enquire about plumber
- Book Singapore flight, accommodation
- Call Paris DJ for house party

Leisure – all optional of course…
- National Drinks on Monday night
- Executive MBAs Vs Basic MBAs VolleyBall Match on Tue/thur night
- Section Random Dinners on Wednesday night
- Find out what to wear for Winter Ball

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Interesting - I was reading Lucky's blog (see link on side column) - and I realized the Lucky has read the same book as the one that enlightened my summer: "An Essay About Blindness", word for word translation. I guess that the English translation is simply Blindness. Jose Sarammago was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1998.
In fact, I wrote an essay about this book in my third language exam at INSEAD.

This book depicts what happened to a society when a heavily contagious blindness, with no apparent cause and no known cure, strikes. It draws some of the same conclusions as Zimbardo conducting his prison experiment at Stanford in the 70s: people's primal behavior springs out of a transposition of context.

In Sarammago's book, all characters are unamed. This anonymous description of their psychological dimensions creates an even more powerful allegory for the various societal functions. Society facing a nameless invisible enemy is scared. It does not know how to fight back. Original bases for power are challenged.

Interestingly in the book, one character, the wife of the first eye doctor hit by this blindness, does not fall victim to the evil disease, creating a distortion in power balance.

People are put in quarantine, marginalized, yet society does not have the courage to eliminate what has now become a threat. In this dark prison, the "patients" re-invent rules and priorities. Fights for power, fights for food, fights for sex take over rationality. Even the "Love is blind" concept is demonstrated with this extremely well written, extremely powerful, extremely clear and crude essay.

An army general advocating the use of force based on the inferiority and lack of utility of the victims commit suicides when he discovers that he has lost his sight - young people, remember societies which might recommend a social structure which does not take care of its non-contributors (elderly, disabled, unemployed). Everyone can become a marginal citizen.

Society falls increasingly into chaos as pilots become blinds and cause major crashes, as infrastructure becomes useless, as power plant operators cannot control energy levels, as retailers cannot get their supply of foods.
Society loses its last hope as the last researcher becomes blind before having identified the source of the disease.

Can the world be saved? How? By whom or by what?
Book available in libraries, bookshop and online retailers in multiple languages.

Thank you Lucky
The keywords for the Managerial Accounting exam are Death Spiral and Proportionality.
And don’t wear your badge on the train to Paris the day you decide to miss class.

My To Do List
- book flight to Singapore
- arrange accommodation in Singapore
- find somehow someone who'd be willing to take on all my house liabilities
- write up first drat OB Essay
- write up first draft Latin America Essay
- do the hundreds of Finance problems that I have left behind to focus on case studies this week
- find something to wear for the Winter Ball
- figure out where the problems in PoM and MAC are posted so that I can give it a go
- phone France Telecom for our landline
- figure out why plumber has not contacted us
- catch up with my reading pack
- find cheapest arrangement to send off belongings to Singapore
- select electives for next period
- start discussing entrepreneurship with faculty
- try Beaujolais nouveau
- find a non offensive sex toy for tonight's Climax Party at Fleury. Someone suggested that a mobile phone qualified because of vibrating feature
- review srategy case write up for next week's submit date
- find a job?
2001 Business Week article:
“Welcome to the new consumer apartheid. Those long lines and frustrating telephone trees aren’t always the result of companies simply not caring abut pleasing the customer anymore. Increasingly, companies have made a deliberate decision to give some people skimpy service because that’s all their business is worth. Call it the dark side of the technology boom, where marketers can amass a mountain of data that gives them an almost Orwellian view of each buyer. Consumers have become commodities to pamper, squeeze or toss away.”

Inequalities existed before – rich versus poor, sons of kings vs sons of carpenters, aristocrat and landowners Vs landworkers. The ability to segment and segregate consumers have increased and become institutionalized in the pursuit of profits, creating strange situations: people who pay their credit card bill in full at the end of each month are among the least profitable customers for credit card companies which rely a lot of late fees. So middle income customers receive less and less service for their business or can be enticed into greater purchases resulting in prohibitive cash payment to induce a default, and late fees…
Heard on the train. From the most famous Finnish person at INSEAD:

- During its first two years of existence, INSEAD campus was in the Chateau of Fontainebleau, causing a stir at the head Office of the French ministry of culture. How could a private school claim any rights over the use of such beautiful premises?

- “Actually, the population from Scandinavia is similar to the population of Hungary and other Southern countries. We all come from Asia. I guess that there were some intelligent people who traveled South, and some stupid people who went North, like the Fins.”
Heard in class and faithfully reported:
Strategy professor talking about wheelchair customers of Quickie, a company targetting young people interested in sports, who found themselves recently disabled:

- “so Quickie creates a pull market: when their customers walk into the store, they point at a wheelchair and they say – that’s the one that I want”
- “It is all about impulse buying, when you walk around the store, you locate a Quickie and you walk out with it under your arm”.

Last OB Class was about managing across cultures. Every working group had to come up with one myth about their nationality and two insights about how to manage successfully in their country. We looked at the US, France, the UK, Portugal, Ireland, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Peru, Singapore, Hong Kong, Romania, Mainland China, Japan, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italian…Advice came straight from the source!

This class was so interesting that the effort of writing all this down left me with a very sore hand…

Some extracts:
- “ People think that Germans do not have a sense of humor. That’s wrong. I am serious about that”
- “They are many ways that lead to Rome. Germans would take the straightest”
-“In Daimler- Chrysler, Chrysler is silent”

- “There seems to be this myth about Irish drinking Guiness. This is very wrong. We also drink Whisky, 6X, Vodka, etc…”

- “The English have a special sense of directness. For instance, “that’s very interesting” really means “thanks for nothing, let’s move on””

- “Everyone thinks that the Italians are on this planet only to enjoy life: they like eating well, drinking well, partying well, and wearing nice clothes. Do not underestimate them”
-"In Italy, family, meaning friends, family, personal contacts, is very important. It is reminiscent from the days of regional break up in Italy and dominace of large families. It is important to have a Father in Italy."

- “In Japan, do not force people to say “no”. The word no and different are the same. So in general people formulate sentences to avoid embarrassment and allow for a positive answer to a negative point. For instance, a rhetorical “do you agree?” which would be answered by a no is transformed into a rhetorical “do you disagree?”, which would be answered by a yes.”
- “In Japan, we don’t want to lose face. If you make me lose face, even though your business makes a lot of sense to me, I’ll let you down, lose a lot of money but save my honor. There is even this spot in Japan for people who have an office near the window: they get paid, even promoted just to sit by a window and watch the traffic below”

- “There is this myth that the Dutch are on drugs, this is totally wrong. Take me for instance I have never smoked”

- “It is true that Peru’s most well known export is Cocaine. This is wrong though, we have loads of other exports”
- “There is myths that Lebanese people are very good businesspeople and that you never know what they really think. Well, this is not just a myth.”

- “All of this cult-like bullshit about corporate core values and message will definitely not work in Romania. After over 50 years of communist indoctrination, we run away from any emulation of an ideal”

- “There is a myth that Portugal used to be only about fish and agriculture. Things have changed, we left the fish to the Spanish and we have become good engineers. What we lack now are good MBAs”
-“Everyone believes that the French are great lovers. Well, the Portuguese are much better”

- “There is this myth that Israeli are rude, especially with foreigners. We are direct, cut the crap type people”

- “In France, people have high social values. A firm’s role in society is just not to make shareholders rich. And for women, it is 3 kisses in the South, 2 in Lyon and 4 in Paris”

- “There is this myth about Switzerland being a boring country. How can a country with three different cultures and languages ever be boring?”

- “everyone believes that Austria is backward looking and xenophobic. You have to understand that there is only one big city in this Alpine country, Vienna. This city was once at the head of a huge and powerful empire of which nothing remains. Austrian love their history. So I guess that it is true that we are backward looking. Now whenever I read the Financial Times and find an article about Austria, I immediately look up Jorg Haider’s name. I guess that since he was elected, the country’s also a little right-wing oriented. Never mind…”

- “everyone believes that the Chinese market is made of totally inefficient state-owned companies exploiting low wage workers in order to make it in the world market. False. Most of these companies have gone under and in the past 10 years, the government has strengthen financial markets to allow for the development of fast moving companies, employing a highly educated highly motivated workforce.”

- “Apparently, Thailand is very well-known for the proliferation of prostitution. To be honest, when I look at the Fontainebleau forest, I am not sure that we have such a clear competitive advantage”

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Murphy's Law
The one day you miss class (agreed with your professors because securing a job is a very important matter and is not taken lightly at INSEAD), is the one day that the Dean of the MBA program sits next to you on the train to Paris...
Question 1: "aren't you one of my MBAs?"
Question 2: "don't you have any classes today?"
Today I am off to Paris-Nord Villepin exibition center for a real-world bath at a trade show. I will be missing three classes (one that I am auditing) - I have asked fellow students to help me catch up with the material.

P2 is one busy period. One course has been added. All courses have truncated their class outline but have added more reading and homework to make up for it. We must polish our CVs for the CV Book, do a lot more group work (and if you are still not very efficient with your super diverse group, you might find this a little painful timewise), we must spend time dissecting the elective list for P3, arrange everything for a possible campus exchange, crank up the networking activities. I don't remember when I last had a full night's sleep...

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Some of the higlights of Japanese Week:
- Sushi Dinner
- Japanese Tea Ceremony
- Sake degustation
- Kendo demonstration by "Samurai"
- Movie Night (Hayao MIYAZAKI is one of the greatest animators and directors in Japan. The entertaining plots, compelling characters and breathtaking animation in his films have earned him international renown from critics as well as public recognition within Japan. Disney's commitment to introduce the films to the rest of the world will let more people appreciate the high-quality works Miyazaki has given us.
- Presentation from Nissan
- some dance machine, Play Station 2 competition
- usual big big party on Friday night.

Last week, there was also a presentation about Careers in Private Equity for those interested (often by CMS and linked to students with experience in the field). This week: how to get to work for international organizations, such as the World Bank.

On Thursday, a Beaujolais nouveau afternoon, with cheese tasting, organized by the French.
On Saturday, party at Fleury.

This is just a non-exhaustive list of some of the things that are happening at INSEAD this week.

My programme looks much more like
- group meeting for strategy case
- Finance problems
- team sports training
- trade show attendance to meet potential future employer and get a good feel for what's happening in the field
- OB presentation
- Managerial Accounting problem
- Dinner with friends
- Some of this Japanese stuff
- World Bank presentation
- Finding a replacement for our cleaning lady
- Chasing the plumber
- Phoning France Telecom about our landline request, dated Sept 6th.
We have not recovered the use of our bathroom.

Apparently, plumbers cannot do work before providing us with a written quote, according to French law. After many an attempt to align our busy timetables, the man comes to the house to evaluate the effort involved.
The man leaves indicating that we should hear from him shortly. Two weeks later, we have not heard from him.

We call the man and face an answering machine, requesting us to leave a message.
The man calls back one week later. He was ill. He can come but only in the middle of our exam week, three weeks down the road. We cannot go to another plumber unless the landlord agrees to it as he is footing the bill. We settle on the first week of P2 for an intervention. In the meantime, we are hoping for rain.

The plumber does not come.
We call again. The plumber was ill. Actually, he does not have a quote because it was one of his employees who was supposed to send us the quote but he did not do it and now none of them remembers what has to be done as no record was kept.

The plumber will come with the landlady who is paying a visit.

The plumber comes to the house only to realize that he cannot actually perform the work before a tile man artistically revamps the tiled wall of the bathroom. The tile expert is due to come on the following Monday. The landlord calls over the weekend to let us know.
One of my housemates is away for the weekend and will return only late on Sunday night. He and his girlfriend are not aware of the plumber conspiracy.

Monday morning. My housemate’s girlfriend is enjoying a lazy morning and walks to the basement to use the only available shower in the house, loosely wrapped in a towel.
When she walks back up, she hears a male voice in the bathroom. Thinking that it might be one of us, she is not in the least worried and leisurely wanders back into her bedroom, smaybe inging "I wanna be loved by you".

A minute goes by before she realizes that the male voice is expressing itself in French, ruling out most of the regular occupants of the house. She rushes back into her bedroom to swap her towel for more decent attire, and then knocks timidly at the bathroom door.
The tile expert, disturbed in his brain-absorbing task, looks up and greets in perfect slang the lady in satin. After a few minutes of lost explanation time in French, she signals to the man that she’d like him to leave a message, so that we can figure out what he’s trying to say. The man leaves the room as well as no traceable mark of his work, extirpates his thoughts from the emotional numbness in which the boring sights of the light pink tiles had pushed him and beings to craft out his essay.

We come home to find an abstract calligraphic piece of art. The message reads: “I have come. Signed: Mr T. Tile Expert”.

We do not know if we can use the bathroom or not. The landlord is unreachable. The plumber is ill. It is not raining.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Heard in class and faithfully reported

"You are mixed up with the wrong type of crowd" - Process and Operation Management professor
I got it all wrong. Despite a perfect British accent, our Corporate Finance teacher is Dutch. Humble apologies to everyone who was constructing a geographical mapping of my P2 professors. After correction, please note: Dutch, American, Indian, Romanian and Spanish.

Today's Finance class was very interesting. We talked about some of the possible conflicts that arise between bond holders and shareholders, especially under increasing default risk.

This is exemplified by Chapter 11 in the US. If a company defaults on its debt, in the US, management can decide to file for Chapter 7 (liquidation) or Chapter 11 (restructuring). In the event of liquidation, shareholders have only a residual claim on the assets of the firm. After huge payments made to lawyers, government in the form of tax payment, employees, suppliers and debt holders, not much is left for shareholders...If management acts in the interest of shareholders, whom they represent, chances are that they opt for Chapter 11 – if the restructuring does not work, well, it will always be time to file for Chapter 7. People argue that Chapter 11 keeps afloat firms that would otherwise continue to be insolvent and should be closed down. Such filing helps firm re-organize as firms typically benefit from a reduction of their debt load and delays in interest payments. These mechanisms distort the financial picture facing the company.

The example of Eastern Airlines in the US is quite telling.
At the time the company filed for bankruptcy, it faced claims against its assets worth some $3.1bn. It was valued at around $3.7bn. In the event of liquidation, it could fulfill its obligation in full but the shareholders would get close to nothing. So the company filed for Chapter 11. Its first proposal of a turnaround plan was turned down. The second proposal faced the same fate. Ditto for the third proposal until enough cash was spent to bring the value of the firm down to $0.3bn. Each time, management had a choice to liquidate or restructure. By the time, the firm finally filed for Chapter 7, so much value had been destroyed that the original obligations could not be met.

In contrast, in Germany, when a company files for bankruptcy, management is ousted and replaced by trustees. Since everyone is getting very nervous about the ability to turnaround a firm under the burden of heavy labor laws, 99% of the firms filing will opt for liquidation.

On this happy note, I wish you a fantastic evening!

This week is Japanese Week, filled with kimono sushis, camera-armed kendo fighters and humble salutes. I really love the National Weeks at INSEAD – a time of self-deprecating humor, when nationals mock their stereotypes. I am sure that eveyone will remember the Penalty Session against the MBA Dean Pekka (Finland) during Dutch Week, the Belly Dancing competition hosted by the Sultan during Arab Week and the Beer Drinking at OktoberFest!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I have fantabulous news: Singapore is ON!

The final of the Rugby World Cup proves to be interesting. Will we see history revisited, with the convicts obtaining revenge over their former wardens? Or will we see the implacable logic of an old claim over a lost empire?
Of The Importance of Trust
It is customary to hear people say that ethics do not pay – or at least, not always.
Turn to Latin America, a region plagued with recursive financial crisis, high level of corruption, obscure rule of law, questionable safety and business-politics interplays. Low trust levels dissuade foreign investors and customers, push capital to Guiness Book records and contribute to maintaining this spiral of crisis flight
In contrast, observe Japan, where honor plays a large role and strongly backs a trustful society – a country where some senior executives do not see the need the sign a contract to materialize their obligations toward a firm. High trust levels contribute to the inception of a solid economy.

Be dependable.
The 2-hour Lunch Tradition

Of the many clichés associated with France, the long lunch tradition has remained a suspicious mystery in the rest of the world. Awkwardly swallowing a greasy sandwich at their desk, vaguely overlooking wide-distribution emails while dictating the contents of an urgent letter in-between two gulps, anglo-saxon businesspeople just do not understand why the French take so long to drink a glass of wine and finish off a plate of foie gras. Repositioning French meals around their social role as an incubator for debates and exchange of ideas might help. The French often like to question the established order, undo societal models, re-invent philosophical doctrines over a glass of Bordeaux.
Sitting at a table with a French, an Italian, an Indian, a Turkish, a Russian and an Australian participant, after a banal review of everyone’s country of residence, I entered the predictable digression around socio-economics and political issues – to what extent should Germany practice socialism; what are the flaws of the American public system; how could an uncontrolled liberalization based on a corrupt banking system induce a financial crisis in Russia; How can India tackle the urgency of feeding 4 million people starving to death, while creating an industry cluster to assure the country’s future. The ferocious velocity with which arguments were fired around the table was only matched by the depth of their truth. When I carelessly looked down at my wristwatch, I noticed that two hours had elapsed. Two hours of intense cultural debate around some of the key issues and differences in our modern world. Two hours of intellectual delight. Two hours of lunch in progress…
Here it is just another day at school…

Friday, November 14, 2003

Heard in class and faithfully reported

"People's drinking habits follow the following pattern: they go from pure (water, milk, fruit juices) to bad (tea, coffee, soft drinks) to evil (white spirits, beer, wine) toward the end of their life. - Marketing Professor
- Surely, if it is distilled, it's got to be pure - Marketing Student

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Closing on CV Book Deadline, resumes are flying all over the place across cubicles. Most of my day was spent working on CV-related stuff. Come to think of it, most of yesterday too.

I have reviewed 15 other CVs. 3 more to go. Whenever I picked one of these CVs, I thought that I had found the best possible hire in the world, this rare gem that I might spend the rest of my professional life looking for and was prepared to sign a sign-on bonus check here and there - were it not for the fact that I am unemployed. Until I took a look at the next CV on my pile.

INSEAD just pushed the CV Deadline to Monday. I bet they did it on purpose just to get everyone to start this deep soul-searching reflection.

Also filled in my preferences for the Singapore campus exchange. Will disclose them only when I know the results to avoid bad Karma.

On the home front, we can't use the bathroom without flooding the kitchen. Water of unindentified source has appeared in the basement. Thinking of starting a snail breeding farm. Heard they sell quite well in this country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

INSEAD is recalling an exam for a recount! Let's see where else in the world did I see something similar...Oh yes, some presidential election west of the Atlantic...

There is Uncertainy about the Data and professors made a Judgement recall.

P1 Exams are a big deal. Students are asked to make a huge effort to prepare for them. Professors are requested to write new exams each year. The IT department is mobilized and work longer hours to make sure that all students can use the latest flashy technology to get their work done. The MBA Office people camp out under their desks.

INSEAD clients are professionals who have already made a big commitment to the school. One year of their life, high tuition fees, resignation, international move...
They certainly would appreciate being exposed to an equally professional facade for any item that the school puts forth as a priority.

We touched upon the power of the law of reciprocity in our Leading People and Group class. The OB Professors were cast in a leading role in our UDJ regression question. Should our Stats professors consider auditioning for a role in the OB case study?

Dear Uncertainty Data & Judgement students,

I would like to reiterate the request sent to you this morning regarding your
UDJ exams (below).

I understand that you are rightfully demanding further explanation,
and I want to assure you that all due clarifications will be provided to
all students by Monday 17th. Please trust that we are doing our best to
deal with this issue as fairly and smoothly as possible.

Meanwhile, I greatly appreciate your patience and cooperation.

Thank you,

Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences
Technology Management Area

-----Original Message-----
Subject: UDJ final exam
Importance: High

Dear UDJ students,

There was a minor problem in the grading of the UDJ final exam and to be fair to everyone, we feel we should go ahead and make this minor adjustment. Could you please give back your exams by Nov 14th ? Should you not return the exam by that date, your grade will be automatically adjusted downwards by 5 points.
Faithfully reported:

"I love power. But it is as an artist that I love it. I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies" Napoleon Bonapart

"Leadership is the ability to get people to do things they did not want to do and make them happy they did them" Winston Churchill.

"Proportionality is Power" Managerial Accounting Professor

Our managerial accounting professor will be your Entertainer.
"I am here for you" - Managerial Accounting Professor Motto

And as he quite clearly pointed out: there are no stupid questions, only stupid people who ask a lot of questions.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Researching the host country...

The French flag seem to represent the colors of Paris as used on the day of the storming of the Bastille, mixed with the Royal white. It is thought that the Marquis de Lafayette was responsible for inventing the red, white and blue cockade which soon became compulsory for Revolutionaries in 1789.
The flag was created in 1790 but with the colours the reverse of what they are today, i.e. with red at the hoist, and revised in 1794 to the modern form, when the French convention adopted the colors. The 1790 flag existed only as part of the jack and ensign of the navy.
The flag went out of use with Napoléon I's defeat at Waterloo, but was brought back in 1830 (again by Lafayette) and has remained in use ever since.
Napoléon I standardized first in 1804 to a white field chape-chausse of red and blue, and in 1812 to the modern French flag. In 1804 took place the distribution of new flags to the regiments, and it is at that time that the near-religious rituals surrounding regimental flags were adopted.

Although significances have been attached to the colours, some people believe that they are all spurious and invented after the fact. The red and blue of Paris were the livery colours of the coat of arms and natural ones for use by the militia.

Blue is the color of Saint Martin, a rich Gallo-Roman officer who ripped his blue coat with his sword to give one half of it to a poor who was begging him in the snow. This is the symbol of care, of the duty that the rich had to help the poor. Equality.
White is the color of the Virgin Mary, to whom the Kingdom of France was consecrated by Louis XIII in the 17th century; it is also the color of Joan of Arc, under whose banner the English were finally driven out of the Kingdom (15th century). It became logically the color of Royalty. The King's vessels carried plain white flags at sea. Liberty.
Red is the color of Saint Denis, the saint patron of Paris. The original oriflamme (war banner) of the Kings was the red oriflamme of Saint Denis. Brotherhood.

Another piece of trivia you could not have gone to bed without.
Deadline for CV book is on Thursday. I hear smashed paper copies thrown into trashcans as the 143rd draft gets abandoned. We must enter our precious data line by line into the school system, which takes forever, as a zillion people are online.

Our section is organizing feedback sessions for people wanting to work in industry/consulting/finance, hosted by people who have worked in industry/consulting/finance.
There might be one field which is under represented in my section, although I have met people with strong interest in these fields: public policies, health management, NGOs, governmental organizations, international institutions.

Frantic last moments preceding the time when your life story becomes a poignant monument of paper, ready for the multitude of potential employers.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

OOOOOOOooooooooo la la. Yesterday, grades were distributed in the midst of beer, Funk’n’bleau rock music, and laughter.

A little recap, grades at INSEAD are all relative. Exams and assignments are graded in absolute terms. Your absolute grades are normalized, based on overall average and on standard deviation. With this process, 50% of the students will be below average. It is possible to have a negative relative mark.

No matter how well you did in absolute terms, what ultimately gets recorded is how well you did with respect to the other students. This is actually used in practice at companies that measure performance of various units only with respect to the other units in the firm. As no one knows how well the other units are doing (results are published after each period), everyone has a tendency to over perform.

I hope that some of these observations will alleviate some of the worries that I have overheard and restore pride in some egos.

- Finance, Business and Economics majors had it easy in P1.
- Consultants have a large scope of understanding, due to the very nature of their work. They also tend to do well.
- For some people, English constituted a hurdle: if reading a case takes you twice as long as everyone else, you will not benefit from the same analysis time
- Your grade does not reflect your actual knowledge of the subject. You can have a very decent absolute grade and a very average relative grade (a lot of my marks are in this case). You know your stuff but some of the other super bright students have better answered the question. Similarly, you might have gotten an ok absolute grade but everyone else did a lot worse than you did and you end up with a sky high relative mark. You might not feel confident making decisions in this subject without relying on a third party, yet your mark indicates that you are an expert.
- These marks reflect what INSEAD expects from you. Not what you want to get out of the program (remember, you are the customer), nor exactly how things are done in reality. Going over dozens of stats exam in the INSEAD format does not make you a Stats wizard. Working on sample Finance problems does not turn you into a monkey.
- MBA programs definitely offers a variety of learning means, and most of your growth will take place with your classmates. As far as educational programs go, it is probably one of the most personalized and varied example. However, exams have the most restricted format and mould people’s thinking into template questions. This might not accommodate for your own learning or execution preference.
- Some people have just brilliant minds and are good with numbers. So what?
- Remember the stats results: GPA and starting salaries are inversely proportional. Success is a personal measure and must be associated with your own objective obviously. However, in general, GPAs largely fail to measure your determination in life, your actual learning (this is not a differential system, people with different starting base are graded on the same scale), your ability to enthuse and inspire others, your people’s skills, your intuition, and many other factors that make successful leaders.
- Since these grades are all relative, any extra minute of work that someone puts in can offsets another student mark. So anyone involved in social activities, club leadership, presentations, conferences and all the other activities that INSEAD offers – all in reasonable amounts - can experience a difference between their actual and theoretical grades.
- Sleep, food, stress and general fatigue do play a large role in these results.
- Even if your objective in life is to be the best ever at what you are doing, remember that you are taking time off this path, at school, to remove imperfections, identifies areas where you will want support. You are taking time off to learn. If this is your key objective this year, the more you learn, the more new areas you cover and the less likely you are to secure top marks.

Finally, may I add that Einstein, in his early years was a very average student, who even had to take support lessons to improve his knowledge?

Friday, November 07, 2003

Everyone in my Latin America class seems to be super knowledgeable. I'd have to read every single word of the Financial Times, The Economist, The Wall Street journal and all the national publications every day in order to come up with their combined answers.

Who can remember by heart, within half a second the GDP per capita in a remote province of Brazil two years ago? Who can remember the exchange rate of one of these currencies in July 1987 to the cent?

I am investigating the possible causes for such distortion

- they have swallowed an encyclopedia for breakfast and dine on its regular updates
- they have a spy-like ear device and someone at the other end of the line with a microphone, is reading out to them the Americas column from the Financial Times.
- they all have worked for the World Bank but only of them is admitting it
- someone asked them this very question the day before during a Trivial Pursuit game
- they are the Matrix

Maybe, they are just normal INSEAD students. Whatever story you bring to INSEAD, you will find people with a story that is even more extraordinary, with a breadth of knowledge that extends beyond yours in certain areas.
And that could well be why you'd go to business school.
Heard in LowerGround Gallery cubicle:
"but it is ridiculous zis case! ze strike price is ridiculusly low, I mean, zis lady is bazikelly screwed. Zis would never appen in reel life"

On top of that, who's this Business School graduate who does not have a clue about stock options?

Thursday, November 06, 2003

A Corporate Lesson which could be taught in Leading People and Groups:

A sales representative, an administration clerk and their manager are
walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a
genie appears in a puff of smoke. The Genie says: "I usually only
grant three wishes, so I'll give each of you just one wish."

'Me first! Me first!" says the administration clerk.
"I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in
the world." Poof! She's gone.

"Me next! Me next!" says the sales representative. "I want to be in Hawaii,
relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of
pina coladas and the love of my life beside me." Poof! He's gone.

"OK, you're up," the Genie says to the manager. The manager says:"I want
those two back in the office after lunch."

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.
Last POM class focused on queueing theories, or how to reduce waiting time at the customer while maintaining your costs as low as possible. Turns out that a low utilization factor of your workforce, or equipment, brings both the probability and the duration of waiting down, especially in the unpredictable service industry – where customers usually arrive in a random manner, and where the time needed to process one enquiry can vary greatly from customer to customer. Highly logical, if you are sitting idle, you’d be ready to help any incoming customer at any time.

Predictability makes it a lot easier to size the labor or machine requirements, in order to service properly customer demand. Two variability factors were introduced: arrival time of customers (or request) and service time.
In order to try to smooth out arrival times and avoid big burst of activity, a few tricks are available to managers. Here are some examples:
- schedule appointments (hairdressers)
- Develop incentives to help customer self select themselves: higher prices during peak hours, high season, etc…(used in Singapore to regulate traffic, based on simple supply and demand curves)
- be clear about waiting time: customers who do not value the solution to their problems as much as the waiting time will leave the queue, better assess the urgency of the request, etc...(used in help desk phone lines)

If the burst is predictable and its size can be estimated, peak load planning is possible.

In order to reduce unpredictability in service time
- when scheduling, ask more information about the problem (used in health services) to better assess appointment time (used by dentists’)
- develop knowledge about customer problem, use of equipment before processing the request. This has the added benefit that you can better design your next product and are more likely to secure the sale.
- collect historical data about processing time and develop forecast model
- introduce a triage system: people with standardized problem can be treated in a predictable way, leaving more time for unusual problems (often used in call centers)
- Standardize processes

Finally, if customers do have to wait, make it nice for them (Universal Studio theme park has video monitor to entertain their customers standing in line).

This concept was brilliantly illustrated by the long, gigantic, infinite line in front of the Viennese Pastries booth. Two people, one table serving 320 x 2 students, and that’s excluding partners.

It was also a good example of inventory management and customer’s perception. I was about to select my choice, a much awaited event when the Austrian team briefly assessing the number of customers fell victim of their success. It realized that it might be short of food and cut all the portions in half in front of my eyes. This has a much higher psychological impact than just knowing that you are being served half portion.
I once read about a study conducted at various airports. It showed that people who can see the plane that they have just missed by 1 sec take off in front of their eyes are much more disappointed than the people who cannot, who are likely to just shrug their shoulders and move on.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Heard in class:
- "I can go there with you, but you don't want me to, or it will take a lot of beers". POM Professor

- "So if this Black-Scholes formula is pretty useless for the majority of the option valuation cases, why don't we even bother with it? We should just concentrate on the Binomial approach" - student asking
- "because it is Nobel Prize winning stuff" - professor answering
- "and what did Mr Binomial get then? - student asking
- "well, Mr Binomial got nothing but it came into existence thanks to Mr Black and Mr Scholes" - professor answering

In Strategy Class, we started talking about the music industry, then moved onto the PC Industry.
- "so, in this music business, if.." - student starting
-"well, we left the music business about 15 min ago, and we were now really concentrating on the operating system part of the value chain," - strategy professor.

Equity Day
Yesterda'ys presentations of Equity Day delivered some mixed results. Some were awful: presenters came ill-prepared and had very little to bring beyond common sense. Some were excellent. An INSEAD alumni who set up a very successful company in the UK: activehotel , Andrew Phillips who talked about his experience, lessons learned. I'll share a couple
- What you don't learn at school and what's the biggest shock afterwards is people. Your MBA fellows are bright young achievers. People in the real world come with random attributes. It is much more difficult to deal with this uncertainty and ambiguity.
- Separate your potential investors. Otherwise, investor A and B around the table will say. "well, I like your concept but I worry about A" - "I also like your concept but I worry about B". So these people came in with one worry and leave the room with two.

I really like the Latam class. It forces me to take a country perspective on things, rather than a firm's perspective. We argued that a government must concentrate on creating an environment in which firms can grow, in accordance with national values and be supportive of its citizens, e.g. cooperative in spirit. If the job is done correctly and any "externality" can be corrected, companies can concentrate on being ruthless and 100% profit-driven. A country cannot be run by its bottom line. We also reflected upon the consequences of the decision of the Chilean goverment to refuse to extend tax breaks, or incentives for multinational to settle in Chile. Intel, for example, set up a plant in Costa Rica instead, rebuked by this attitude. The government argues that it is corruption free, that it will not bend. If it gives in today, it will be forced to give in even more tomorrow. Has this contributed to restrict Chile's portfolio of industry to commodities (it is #1 producer of copper in the world), thus making the country's economy extremely dependent on fluctuation in this competitive market prices? Countries build a comparative advantage (higher education lead to better trained workforce, highly differentiated, able to compete on value-added products) in which firms can build a competitive advantage.

CEO Visits
Also two visits of CEO yesterday:
- Lincoln Electric's Tony Massaro: "There are two Lincoln Electric. The one pre-Tony Massaro, and the one post Tony Massaro. Pre Tony Massaro, they did some stupid thing, like borrowing money to pay out bonuses. Well, actually, perhaps I should say that there is a pre-IPO Lincoln Electric and a post-IPO Lincoln Electric as it would have been impossible to do this as a public company"

- Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay and Harvard MBA who delivered a very interesting speech on her personal experience. "CEOs of start up must really live with the firm, live the business. I literaly spent 10 days living at eBay, camping out in conference rooms, at a critical negotiating times with our suppliers. That way, the best salespeople from our suppliers came to eBay as they knew that they'd find me there"

Two different attitudes, two vastly different businesses, two great leaders. Strong opinions (even though not everyone will agree with them), clearly laid out, a strong presence, a big ego with a welcoming laid back behavior - and a great track record. Hats off to INSEAD for arranging such interactive and open sessions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Heard in class:

"You are screwed, to royally frame it" Process Operation Management Professor

"Oaow, this is the first time that someone asks me to stay in longer...I mean, in class" Managerial Accounting Professor

"I am selling my seat!!!! 43,000 Euros!!!!" A student holding up his broken chair with two arms


This week is The Heart Of Europe week, a Swiss-Austrian and German conglomerate. Boris Becker was leading our Amphi Storming, using his racket as a pointer, Arnie IS BACK from California to tell us to be on time at the Oktober Fest party this Friday, a cow was quite certainly some mad Lola running around the amphi on two legs.

Germany - beyond the Nazi stereotype of pointy helmets and rigid hand salutes, the sad story of the eradication of millions of people. An extremely rich country in poets, musicians and intellectuals, most of them with unpronouncable names. I mean who can say Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche? Inventor of the gas-powered car (Benz) thus indirectly responsible for the creation and supremacy of OPEC, after the French who had no oil invented the steam-powered car (Cugnot) hoping for the creation of tremendous wealth for the most rainy countries in the world (Northen Europe would certainly have had a good voting power in such cartel and Saudi Arabia would have been quite far behind). France and Germany, once opposed and somewhat differing in their idea of borders, are certainly building strong knots. Perhaps remembering the good old times when the Royaume Franc was ruled out of Aix-La-Chapelle. Whether France with its highly centralized government, its wine culture and strong nationalism can really work with a country with a landler organization, a beer culture and a strong nationalism is a question that I'd like to pose to all of you.

Austria - once a great empire, when partnered with Hungary. The country of Mozart has recently shown some signs of right-wing tendencies. Anyone who has travelled to Vienna, apart from a fantastically lit Christmas market and a not very heated Imperial Palace, might have felt a great sense of safety. The most beautiful waltzes have emanated from this dress loving country (watch the Sissi movies in lieu of a fashion "defile). You can also line up and buy an opera ticket for the equivalent of 1 UKP on the day of the show. When I visited Vienna, for the first time in years, a Mozart opera was proposed to the public. Boy! What this a success?
It became a national event!!!!

Switzerland. Apart from being a serious competitor to Procter and Gamble and Unilever in laundry products, servicing mainly the pharmaceutical/drugs industry, with probably some 30% of its revenues coming from them, Switzerland is this country in Europe which is not part of the European Union, athough a good example of language blending with German, Swiss and Italian part. Although when I talk to the German about the Swiss, they say that they can't undertand them, the French that their accent is so funny that their laughter fits usually cover the conversation and the Italian that they did not remember that Switzerland existed at all ;-) A country of clockwork organization, impeccable nature, expensive ski resorts, on the par with New Zealand (Switzerland has more cows than people, and the kiwis more sheep than people) for protecting wild species and great chocolate. The country shows some willingness to take part in world affairs, beyong the pharmaceutical business, with the rollexing out, I mean, the rolling out of a large accommodation program for international cooperation businesses, such as the United Nations or the CERN.

Anyway, looking forward to the party.


Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay is coming to campus. As expected everyone wants to to go and see her presentation and demand far exceeds supply. Here is an ingenious log off (what someone can do with your e-mail if you forget to log off from the network):

Auction of Meg Whitman's tickets:

As a service to fellow students I've created a spreadsheet on the K: drive which allows for a mini-market of Meg Whitman tickets. So... if you really want a ticket, rather than flooding our mailboxes with mass emails, fill in your name and how much hard cash you would be prepared to pay for the ticket.

If you're a ticket owner and want to make some money, look through the spreadsheet and you'll find a list of willing buyers.

CEO of Linlcon Electric also coming today. We studied the company's incentive scheme in our Leading Organization class.

Erratum: Moulin Rouge show lasts for 1h 45 min (and the bottle of champagne is included in the ticket price)
Asked about the origin of the name, I'd reply:
fund managers have same probability of picking winning stock as a blind folded monkey throwing darts at a Wall Street Journal listing. I know nothing about Finance but I can throw darts.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Dear readers

The free version of this site - call me cheap technovice if you will - does not make an rss feed option available. I did not know what that was until a few hours ago, but an extremely helpful person pointed out to me, poor technovice, that it was possible to get people to get email notifications of the various posts.

Muchas Gracias for the super hint

SO! Proud of this new discovery and having a creative and resourceful reputation to maintain (MBA stereotype), I decided to build the replicating portfolio by Creating Today a Yahoo Group, and by inviting (lending info) anyone to join in.
You can find this group @ Group home page:

I think that if you send an email with "subscribe" in the subject field to

you will automatically be added to the distribution list

You can then, at any time, no cost to you and no cost to me unsubscribe through the extremely original reserve action: send an email with unsubscribe to the following address.

Any question, don't ask me. If this does not work for you though, please email me.
Truly in line with Jack Welsh ideas of proudly found elsewhere.
Paris - city of lights, city of love.
It feels so strange to wander around the French capital, overflowing with people. There is no down season in Paris. It is the most visited city in the world sometimes containing the equivalent of its population in visitor terms. The activity seems to follow the arrondissement structure during the day - business district, shopping district, student district, nightlight district - parks, etc...Life unrolls like a big giant snail. It also has the highest concentration of monuments in the world, ranging from Roman times to the latest architecture challenges. The Louvres in the largest museum in the world - although its displays are poorly lit, its labyrinthal set up makes it clumsy for tourists pressed by time, and the fact that it is hosted by an ex-royal palace makes it impossible for any disabled person. Truth must be said: Paris protects and highlights its art and treasures well. Everything that needs restoring is restored, well lit, well presented, affordable and available.
Montmartre feels like a little village, the business district like a North American city. A city of constrasts happily married for the better or for the worse. And the worse it has lived through. The city was full of posters displaying the famous "Appel du 18 Juin" that The General De Gaulle issued to all French people from his retreat post in Great Britain after the French defeat of 1939.
"France has lost a battle but France has not lost the war. French of all origin, we must unite, from wherever you are..." Vive La France.

It feels so strange to realize that there is a world out there, that is, outside of school, as the hard sole of your shoe beats up the wet asphalt of the Marais or the Latin Quarter.
Closed faces in the underground, joyful face of this local baker who greets an old lady, busy faces of the tourist rushing to catch a train, serious faces of the student reading in a trendy youngster cafe. All these people are so real. Yet, this world is so remote from where I live.

Trying to find out what would be the most Parisian thing to do, and glancing over the minuscule TimeOut in English section of the Pariscope, we select the Moulin Rouge revue and book ourselves some tickets for tonight's performance.
Arriving at Pigalle is already quite a bit of a surprise. Sex shops offering 2 DVDs for the price of one with evident displays overflowing in the street. Peek shop, 2 Euros for 3 minutes with extremely suggestive pictures competing for passers-by attention. Nightclubs pouring their loud music into the night, neon signs, long lines of taxis for long lines of people ushering towards their mysterious night destination.

Then a red windmill and a night of elegantly dressed people. Spain, America, England, Guatemala, Mexico, China, Korea, France...a lot of countries were represented in this tortuous line leading to the world's oldest French Cancan club.
The revue is very "deshabille" - most ladies wear little more than a few pearls and "paillettes", with a string bikini to remain decent. Most men are the GI Joe type, although extremely flexible...
The show presented no surprise. It is music hall at its best. Ventriloque, acrobats, jugglers AND the Moulin Rouge lady. Typical Can Can scene to conclude, fantastic costumes, a well oiled machinery to pull it off (I have calculated an average time of 20 seconds to change costumes and 30 seconds to change decor and to transition between acts) for a high pace high quality show of 45 minutes.

Bottle of champagne.

Highly priced. Demand is not falling, even when the prices are up. All shows were close to booked up all week. Last show starts at 11pm and that was the only one with a few seats left. They don't even bother with reservations. You give your name but no one checks. People must be turned down at the entrance.

My American friend after that, as we drove through the Bois de Boulogne to head back thought that every female person we met was a prostitute and started to explicity invite them through some frantic hand waving, forcing us to plunge down under the seat.

Not really the kind of show that I would have gone to, as it does not quite correspond to
- my taste in art
- my values

Faithful image of the frivolous side of Paris, eminent illustration of the marketing 101 principle that sex sells, the Moulin Rouge, since 1889, stands at the center of a typical Paris nightlife.