I, The Absolute

Archive for November 25th, 2005

Term Five Debrief

Posted by itheabsolute on November 25, 2005

To complete the requirements to get the degree, we have to complete 33 courses. 17 courses are covered as a part of the core; a minimum of sixteen and up to 18 courses can be done during electives. There are four elective terms and it is logical to expect students to do four courses each of the four elective terms. But, most of them are doing five courses each during terms five and six and three each during terms seven and eight. Interviews happen during break between seventh and eighth term. So students want to keep academic load the least during term seven. Understandable. Why three subject during term eight – just to party hard, once the job is secured. Hence the bidding is a highly skewed process with students willing to bet high for courses during term five and six. I would expect that many courses will get cleared at very low points during term seven.

I also fall into the same bracket. I did five courses during term five. Have picked up five for term six (on waitlist in one course). The following were the five I covered in term five

Innovation Management – the course was completely case study oriented and most of the companies and topics were related to innovation in IT or related sectors. The class size was small and hence the class participation was at its best. The professor played a good part in moderating the class and giving good chance to the students to air views. Every class we were required to turn in a one-page write-up giving our diagnosis of the problem (business problem) the company in the case is facing and decision criteria required to overcome the problem and recommendation to implement. The final exam was a take-home exam with another analysis on a case on Boston.com. We had to analyze the benefits or risks for a newspaper company of going online. The course was replete with jargon such as s-curve, architectural innovation, evolutionary orientation, et al.

Strategy Implementation – this course was not very good. The problem with strategy courses is at the end of the course if you will look back on what you have learn, you will probably not be able to talk about anything specific. It is completely nebulous and generic. It is not without a reason. There is nothing right or wrong in strategy. The best way to know if some strategy argument is right or wrong is to know if it was implemented and if it brought results. This course focused on implementation challenges which a middle level manager will face. The professor’s argument was that most of us will join organizations at middle level and it is pertinent to look at the problems concerning middle management and not the CEO. That was a good perspective. The course, as are many courses at ISB, was case oriented. The cases are completely class discussion driven punctuated by screening of related films and discussion thereupon.

Fixed Income Securities – course was okay. Was taught by two Israeli professors. Ten hours are too little to cover a course like this. The professors try their best to cover a large ground, as a result of which depth is missed. It is for the student to do more work and discover the concepts in deep. The course gives an overall orientation of the various topics in the fixed income market – yield curves, YTM, pricing of bonds, pricing of calls, what types of securities are traded in the market, risks associated with each type of security. If someone is wanting to get into sales & trading in financial sector, this course is a must.

Rural marketing – was taught by Harish Bijoor, the ex-Tata Tea, ex-HLL and present CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults. It gives a perspective of how rural Indian markets are different from those of urban markets. Since they are different, the same approaches which urban marketers have adopted fail to deliver results in the rural markets. Monkey brand tooth powder, Baba jarda, Rupa innerwear are some of the most selling brands in the rural market. The best brands are one with two syllables, both having the same pronunciation, such as baba, kaka, dada, tata, etc., (remember, these were the words which we first uttered as a child. Hence the ability to relate to them the most). The course was good in giving an overall idea of what challenges we face in capturing the attention of the rural people – many of whom are not literate, have quite different habits from the urban Indian. The professor also made groups of students make presentation of various topics covering book reviews, village visit, media in rural, distribution challenges in rural India, etc

Negotiation analysis – quite an interesting course. Taught by a young and enthu prof. During most the class time, we spent doing negotiations with other students. We had three one-one negotiations (thru role play). The topics moved from single issue to multiple issues. We also had three round multi-party multi-issue union-management negotiations. The idea was to learn the concepts taught in class / read in the material given and apply them to the simulated negotiations. At the end of the class, one realization was every negotiation will involve strong contexts, the fear of the unknown, and strong emotions that we attach to decisions. Simulated negotiations lacked them. We were negotiating with class mates and there were limitation to getting very professional. However, overall the learning were good. The reading material given for the course was too bulky and I am yet to cover a few readings. In brief, it is this

– Everyone has a BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement. At the negotiating table, there is no need to get desperate because we always have a BATNA. Even if it means remaining, say, unemployed, it is still a BATNA. It may be sometimes better than accepting a lousy offer from an employer. One needs to use BATNA to determine reservation price – the monetary walk-away point in a negotiation. But you always aim to obtain your “target price” from the other party. Usually what causes fear amongst the negotiating parties is that we do not realize that everyone comes with a few alternatives. Hence, there is most of the times a ‘zone of possible agreements’ (ZOPA), which is the range between the reservation prices of both the parties. Sometimes, however, an impasse may be the best outcome because there is no ZOPA.

– Lack of preparation is the biggest reason why we fail to maximize returns from a negotiation. Preparing a planning document with quantified scores attached to each item of the agenda will give clarity of what we want to achieve out of negotiation. There is a minimum score below which we do not want to go. It is important to determine this score. Having said that, maximize returns does not mean win-lose proposition. A good negotiation is one which maximizes the overall takeaway from the negotiation, for both the parties. This is a pareto efficient agreement. He also covered concepts related to negotiating offers from employers, doing a negotiation as an agent of someone, etc.

I would disagree if someone told me that a bad negotiator will become good after taking this course. A good negotiator may however become better. The most important aspect of negotiations, apart from a good preparation, is the person himself. The personality factor, his alertness of mind, etc matter most. Also, if the opposite person is totally irrational and has a belligerent outlook, then a good personality is more of a requirement. More than concepts of negotiations, one needs to know more of psychology.

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