Keeping tools fresh and modern

Personal growth jammed into the reunion weekend

Just at my Columbia 30th MBA reunion.  As I blogged earlier, it’s amazing to think of graduate school with no email, no Google, no Internet, no cell phone etc.  But we managed.

Still, remaining sharp continues to be an imperative for all of us.  As Covey once described it – “sharpening the saw”, remains as much of an imperative as ever.

I think.

Many of my fellow alums admitted to limited exposure to FaceBook, Twitter, even LinkedIn.  Hmmm.  That’s not the end of the world.

But don’t we remember senior execs in the late 80s and early 90s who never touched the PC in their office.  Their assistants pressed the buttons.  Now, that is completely out-of-style, though you occasionally hear of a senior exec today with no computer skills.

On the other hand, Gartner has recently been urging senior execs to get hands on skills with the iPad as they view it as such a game-changer.

I’ll use this viewpoint to highlight Columbia reunion sessions that struck home with me on keeping tools fresh and modern and the ongoing imperative to pursue that challenge.  (But how, with what time?)

Entrepreneurial Session

I enjoyed this session where four mini-cases were reviewed very much.  Had to power read the cases before we broke into small groups to determine whether we liked the opportunity to invest in various businesses or not. Power reading was an imperative since they emailed me the case before I arrived home from Tunisia and I never saw the email in the avalanche that came.  (See my recent Ups and Downs article about Unsubscribing to Email.)

I presented the positives for one of the investments to the class and did a reasonably decent job.  It turns out that this investment looks like it will pan out for the investors – disposable but biodegradable plates and such – so I got a little boost of encouragement that all was not lost in my noggin.  One of the other members of our small team came up with our case name – Green Plate Special.  This points to the benefits of strong team work!

Another alum talked about the strengths of an online business which did not seem solid to me.  However, what struck me was her highlighting of opportunities to use traditional media such as broadcast television to grow awareness for this service.  Never in 1,000 years would I have thought of that point – it seemed very old-fashioned to me.  But is it me or her?  Her comments felt dated…..but everyone is really experimenting with new tools to see what works.  Am I out on a limb in my views on the power of various social media tools?

The Science of Personal Leadership with Professor Wadhwa

This was a standout.  Professor Wadhwa’s research into leadership was excellent. His basic idea is to understand personal leadership centered around leading first yourself.  And his work is driven by a fact-based view on what you can do vs. a faith-based view of personal growth (or what we might have called a “woo-woo” kind of course years ago).  Sign up at his Institute for Personal Leadership for updates.   I did.

If only I could stumble across more client work this year, I’d love to go to his December session.  He’s a compelling speaker and his examples are excellent.  Everyone was buzzing about this.

Is the lesson to be learned here that every so often you must invest in yourself?  I’ve been lucky.  I did the Stephen Covey work years ago, then the Center for Creative Leadership,  and then the very excellent TimeOut sessions  from the Professional Thinking Partners.

Interestingly, these sessions have stuck with me.  Is that the idea….rather than a session on wireless technologies or how to use social media, but rather something that centers on personal development and reflection.  Hmmm

In these tough economic times and with the cost of higher education, everyone talks more and more about “trade school-like education” as having the right payback.  But does learning technical skills go right out of date vs. more conceptual problem-solving skills?

University Endowment Update

Excellent discussion on the imperatives to generate income that universities face given the costs of higher education.  Hence, their need to invest aggressively.  Hedge funds, private equity etc.

I understood all of it….but I’m not a finance-type.  I don’t care where alpha and beta are going.  And will delta follow where they lead?

I’m a marketer, strategist and new product developer.  There will always be money for great ideas that meet consumer needs.

I’m more Apple than Goldman Sachs.  More Comcast than Morgan Stanley.  More Bloomberg than Citibank.

That has remained true over 30 years.

The New Campus

Very interesting session about building the new campus up in Manhattanville.  For those of you who are geographically-challenged like myself, that’s one more train stop on the #1 line from 116th.  But you go down the hill into…..I never went there, although apparently I missed the chance for excellent BBQ down there.  Who knew?

A recent interim exec position at Bright Beacon brought me close to the terrifying dynamics of building a new campus:  the costs, the design issues, the constituencies, the no-win situations.  Eeks.

But I would also say that I like interim exec positions as it’s a chance to flex my personal leadership skills (see above).  Another piece of the puzzle that I might not have valued as highly  so many years ago.

If you’ve got an interim exec position, call me.  I can do a good job and not leave lasting damage.

The Saturday Sessions

Attended a number of sessions on Saturday which were panel discussions with alums from the reunioning classes, including the CEO of Kikkoman, class of 1961.

It didn’t hurt me at all to stretch my brain (branding, social enterprise) and REALLY stretch my brain (the health care panel).  So, growth comes in many forms….personal growth, using modern tools, understanding current industry dynamics…

What are you doing for growth?

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