Term 6 – a lesson in humility

It started with a delay and some germs and somehow the whole term was about a little delay and a lot of germs with several of us sneezing and coughing and generally stumbling through the classes.

It started off with a test on Competitive strategy and now that many of us have got into the groove of writing tests we didn’t even discuss it as we stepped out for tea and cookies 🙂 it was the first test that we could type up – so many people felt liberated, especially those whose handwriting is so good that they need an expert to decipher what they write.

And then our true lessons started – Prof Srinivasan from Stanford started his class on Conjoint Analysis and casually told us that he and a colleague of his had created this analysis and now it’s used worldwide ! Sure we were all left somewhat disjointed with the depth of the analysis and our stiff brains had to do calisthenics around the concept 🙂 Somehow Prof Seenu would come to the whiteboard close to me to try and explain a complicated mathematical equation and after a couple of times, I told him, that I get the concept but my eyes will glaze over every time he wrote a formula that filled half the whiteboard and he can safely ignore the look in my eyes. Prof Seenu has created several tools that we used – Linmap, Asemap etc. and then I was talking about Prof Bala Balachandran from IIM who setup the Great Lakes University with Mano and Samuel said he is Prof Seenu’s older brother !! What a family. We learnt about customer preferences, choice shares Vs market shares, attributes, attribute levels, benefit segments instead of demographic segments, concept testing, perceptual map, and the sum of part-worths. The cold calling on the last two days left us all sweating 🙂 and in our case rating may work better than ranking … we are all nice people, we just may not write the tests well. Ok Prof, granted that there is a lot of variability in our seemingly homogenous group and that is why I am taking Arun off my friend list – he not only remembered that formula but also told you when asked ! And finally I will decompose in an “eigen” way before I understand Eigen value decomposition… It’s not your fault at all.

Prof Seenu, the most important lesson you taught us was “humility” – here was someone so accomplished yet so willing to answer questions and so sincere about getting the concept across.. Your statement on the last day about how our questions helped make you a better teacher showed the truly great person you are. I just hope we remember this lesson throughout our lives, because the other lessons we can find in books, this quality is to be learnt and practised, not just read about. Or in your language I am hoping the GRP (Gross Rating Point) for this lesson is high – both the percentage reach and the frequency of application.

This term also had the day that gave me hope – March 4, when Prof Sridharan wrote 11 – 10.1 = 9.9 !! Now, Prof Sridharan’s resume gave me a complex, he seems to have aced every accounting exam, and getting ranked number one across India…. And am numerically challenged .. So you can imagine my happiness and sense of relief when he got the above answer 🙂 if someone like him can make that mistake, I have hope, someday I will ace an accounting exam too ! No not the one that we gave on March 8th, I would be happy to pass that one. Well, I know all about contribution margin and transfer pricing. This term, we went back to Kindergarten .. Just that ABC meant activity based costing and not Apple Banana Cat !! ABC, ABP and ABM – well every activity now has me looking at it with respect. Sorry Narayanan, the entire class was looking at you because you understood the ABC and ABP better than us and even had an example while we were just getting out of replacing Activity for Apple ! I did try and tell Antony that he should not stare at you with that frown, but it didn’t work :(. Well this was also the term where many of us had their hair tousled even before we were halfway through … With all the thinking we had to do. Prof Sridharan, after your class on revealed preferences, we will now always look at what the person does, not what the person says and won’t allow upstream processes to become inefficient. And yes, autonomy for the divisions ! Not sure if we can always align the managerial incentives and maximise RI and ROI – but the lesson did hit home.

The gala dinner this time sans the loud music was truly gala, from shooting balloons and fishing and trying the hoop to hearing Prof Seenu sing, was truly fun. Now to work on Sanchita’s specification for the one part of the 1:3.5 equation in Brazil will be interesting.

We had the Deans meeting us and the PR plan progressed .. The next group of PGPMAX is already onboard and time flies, waiting for no one. We shall fly too … First to Brazil and then to the destiny we create for ourselves !

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