31 Mar 2014

Talks/Seminars/Conferences around Cambridge in March 2014

The last two weeks of March are busy with the Global Consulting Project, which I will make a separate post later on after finishing it. Through the Michaelmas and Lent term, I've joined 74 talks, which goes beyond my original target of 60 up to the end of Lent tem.

King's College view from punting when good old friends visited Cambridge

The best this month was The myth of common sense by Duncan Watts. I read his book in Japanese, and found this seminar here a few days before coincidently. He emphasises a lot unpredictability of complexities under highly networked and heavily interlinked phenomenons. The key takeaway to me is to limit areas where our common sense works well, especially to halt political and policy decisions by common sense.

This site (Everything is Obvious) tells more, or the book itself.

Full List
  • #66 MBA Leadership Talk: MSCI ++
  • #67 The myth of common sense (Duncan Watts) ++++++
  • #68 The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets ++++
  • #69 Robin Ince is (in and) out of his mind. ++
  • #70 Frankenstein 2.0 ++++
  • #71 Transmissible cancers in dogs and Tasmanian devils ++++
  • #72 Making machine see +++
  • #73 Mind over matter +++
  • #74 The impact of mobile technologies on healthcare +++

23 Mar 2014

A trip to Oslo, Norway for Cambridge MBA's Global Consulting Project (GCP)

I started working on an one-month consulting project with a client from Oslo, Norway. Of course I cannot disclose the details due to the non-disclosure agreement, but it is exciting because the scope of the project is a mixture of macro and micro economic perspectives with an aspiration to grow into a global economic cluster. To grasp the ecosystem and issues there, the team is invited to do around 20 interviews with various players in Oslo, which is a small but neat and modern city.
A view over Fjord from the Oslo City Hall, Norway
This is also a lucky opportunity for me because I've been wondering when I should go there and visit the Munch Museum, who is my second favorite now next to Van Gogh. Unfortunately, the museum has been closed until early April, yet we very much enjoyed some masterpieces in the National Museum, including the most famous 'Scream' painting. Yet, I preferred 'the Dance of Life' (below) to 'the Scream' for some reason which I cannot explain in a word.
The Life of Dance by E.Munch
Although having said that, we visited the location where Munch got his inspiration on 'the Scream'. It was really a beautiful scenery in the sunset and thus contrasted the screaming craziness inside the artist.
The place of his great inspiration (a few minutes from Bus station Brannfjellveien
This was a very good exercise since it was on the way up to a hill of artistic park with funny modern arts presented. One example is this shape of love. There are a lot of sculptures on the streets of Oslo, which I would assume reflects their positive attitude to arts and/or affluent money from oil to make something for public.

18 Mar 2014

Failure forces me to think over.

I failed to get a place in the MPhil ISO (Innovation, Strategy, Organisation) course at Judge Business School.

Presumably, it must have been the result of my bad, in the Cambridge standard, GPA in my undergraduate degree in Japan. Had I studied very hard in that period, however, I would not have ended up coming and living here. Putting differently, I would have never considered working or living abroad, had I not encountered the international experiences I had in the four years of my most sensitive time in my life, which was in the end at the expense of the university grades.

If I were asked to choose between the trade-off again, I still would say I would take the current choice, which gave me international exposure, management failures (and some success, maybe), and a few but lifelong friends, all of which shaped my career and life so far after the graduation.

No Pain, No Gain. Move on.
The River Cam

16 Mar 2014

An encounter with the respected.

Today was one of the most memorable day in Cambridge. I encountered, finally, the person I've respected for my adult life. He was indeed the part of this lovely town.

I fully understand it is morally wrong and ignorant of privacy to take a picture of any person without any permission, but the scenery of the coincidental timespace then was so perfect, fur more than any movie, that I couldn't help taking one, from a bit distance away.

A Perfect Spring Day for the great encounter, Trinity Street, Cambridge
Or, the Universe is not so lazy to allow such a coincidence for me; this was a gift to my effort made in the hectic Lent term, hopefully.

8 Mar 2014

Can a business be 'socially responsible' and is it good for a whole society?

This is the question, raised by Friedman (Friedman, M., 1970), I tackled in the half of my essay for Philosphy in Business. My conclusion is yes but with a limited definition of 'social responsibilities'. A few discussed points are:

  • Can a business, not a person, be responsible?
  • What is then 'social responsibility' for a business?
  • With that definition, can government and business together achieve social purposes?
I heavily relied on the argument by Wolf to narrow down business's responsibilities and its social ones, who discussed the distinction between moral and practical responsibilities. (Wolf, S., 1985)

When I submitted, I thought over four crucial conditions where good purposes can be met together with government and businesses with such 'social responsibilities', in the old age. These should change along the discourse I face going forward and thus be polished and redefined to adapt to the current world environment:

  1. The government is generally trusted among people;
  2. The government possesses capability of identifying and enforcing right regulations;
  3. Businesses mostly produce goods and services within one country; and
  4. Negative externalities of businesses is at least kept within the national borders.
For sure, conditions 1 and 2 can be recovered by some reforms on the rules of political games, but 3 and 4 would be never fulfilled again unless the national borders are redefined in a dramatic manner, which I don't believe to happen within a life of myself.

Assuming you live in a transition period makes you feel special but change nothing. As is the course of dynamic interactions, things never seem to be steady state; there is and will be always a delta if you observer realities. If any single government, and even capital markets, cannot address the multinationals (e.g. tax payment by Apple), do we inevitably live in a world of laissez-faire, with which I, along with Smith, am not a big fun either since 'the maintenance of justice and the rule of law is therefore vital.' (Smith, A., 1776)

In the end, at least surprising to me, I myself prefer living in a world with the rule of laws which are discussed and legitimated by somewhat democratic, or participatory, procedures.

Friedman, M., 1970, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’ New
York Times Magazine, 13th September.
Smith, A., 1776, 'An Inquiry to the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations.' Available from <http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html>
Wolf, S., 1985, ‘The Legal and Moral Responsibility of Organizations.’ in Pennock, J.R and
Chapman, J. W. (eds.) Criminal Justice. New York: New York University Press. pp. 267–86

6 Mar 2014

Final assignments in Lent about to be done

Now is 4:30 am, when I am now at the peak of busiest weeks, polishing up the essay for Philosophy in Business.

I argued in the paper that what is 'social responsibility' of a business fundamentally and implications in the modern context of businesses. This has been fun to struggle with very philosophical questions such as what is responsibility and can a business be responsible etc.

On top, my team will have a presentation for Strategic Pricing, where we for the first time used conjoint analysis to assess various packages of a charity event. It was also fun to use the most updated on-line tool.
It is still beta version as of today, but adequate enough for simple choice-based conjoint (CBC).

After tomorrow (actually today), I can focus on:
  • Preparation of three exams, namely Marketing, Operations Management, and Strategy in a actual order of timing/date
  • Update of financial projection of the entrepreneurial project
  • Initial cumulative research phase of our Global Consulting Project (GCP)
The Cambridge Phenomenon as preparation for our GCP