A trip to India and a learning experience

July 29, 2013

I was recently in Coimbatore, India, visiting my parents.  As part of the trip I took the opportunity to talk to university leaders in the area and was invited by the Amrita School of Business of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeeth to give a talk to their faculty and students.  Faculty from the Ramakrishna College of Engineering and the Sasi School of Business also attended the talk, which was well attended with over  75 participants.  The topic of my talk was “New Frontiers in Higher Education: The American Experience,with a focus on business education.

The three key messages which I shared were:

  1. The financial crisis of 2008 prompted business to rethink the notion of capital.  Today “reputational capital” is as important, if not more so, than financial capital.
    Implication for business schools: Teaching participants to think of reputational capital and the creation of the same must become an integral part of business school curriculum. Critical thinking, communications and ethics are important drivers in this process.
  2. The aftermath of the crisis and the jobless recovery means we have to do more with less.  Employees have to think beyond their job descriptions and more in terms of the entire organization.
    Implication for business schools:  Strategic thinking, team building and an ability to conceptualize the business model of the organization as a whole — these are skills that must be woven into the curriculum.
  3. The availability of big data will mean that data can be strategically used to inform decision making.  Research shows that corporations with a data-driven decision making culture are more productive.  Hence, the availability of big data will mean that corporations will have to move away from a culture where decisions are made by “HiPPOs” (highest paid person in the organization) and to one where all employees can leverage data to help make decisions.
    Implications for business schools:  Business schools must build curriculum focused on exploration, analysis and strategic use of big data.

I enjoyed the interaction with the faculty and students who attended the talk.  I learnt about how business schools in India have incorporated the tenets of servant leadership into their curriculum and culture.  Innovating and building curriculum within the context of the local business environment is crucial to graduating successful alumni, and schools like the Amrita School of Business appreciate this and have built this into their culture.  While political uncertainties and corruption continue to retain a grip on the Indian political scene, businesses in India have learnt to do more with less.  They invented the idea of frugal innovation, or Jugaad, and they have mastered the practice of adapting to and functioning within a chaotic and constrained system.   Now, if only we can move the politicians aside and move on.


Summer is Here – The Heat Index Rises, As Does Our Activity Level

July 2, 2013

Summer is here, and most people think that with schools closed, it is time for academia to relax. Quite the contrary.  Since commencement festivities during the middle of May, much has happened. The Ted Bauer Golf Classic was held in May and as always, the event evokes strong participation. Connecting with the business community and being relevant is a focus for us. The month of May witnessed a whirlwind of activity connecting Bauer to Houston business. Be it a community of bankers, accounting professionals, or real estate professionals, Houston is our playground, and the businesses that flourish here are our partners.

I teach a corporate finance class to the Executive MBA students in May and June, and this allows me to interact with students and bring business leaders as speakers to the class. A panel of energy CFOs spoke on the financing issues that are relevant for energy firms. Hedging risk, being nimble, being transparent so stakeholders understand the business, and creativity in designing contracts, are all key to success for the finance function in the industry.

I spoke to Russ Capper on the BusinessMakers show about our programs and the mission of the college. Knowledge, learning and community — these are the key drivers of everything we do, and the ultimate measure of success is student success. The footprint we leave and the legacy we create is defined by the stories of our students, and the opportunities that become available to them as a result of their journey through Bauer.

In June we honored the Alexander family for their investment in our students, through the legacy gift to the Stanford Alexander Center for Excellence in Real Estate. Business acumen coupled with a large dose of integrity and a strong work ethic never fails.

This year, the Bauer College was prominently featured in the IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America) mid-year meeting in California. Professor Joe Pratt spoke at the Board of Directors dinner. I had the privilege of introducing Joe and speaking about the curriculum we are building at the Bauer College — a curriculum built around the business of the energy business. The story of the independent energy producers is one of tenacity, drive and the will to succeed. Their spirit of entrepreneurship is helping our nation reduce its dependence on oil imports.  To me, this is the story of this decade, the transformation of the industry via technology and the opportunities created via the ‘shale-gale’ phenomenon.

In June, I also visited Austin and San Antonio to talk to the media about the Bauer story. Texas, as we all know, is booming, and these cities, like Houston are enjoying the benefits of success.

The college is working on its strategic plan for the next five years. Through faculty and staff forums, we are actively working to define a roadmap for the coming years. It is exciting to see the participation and engagement of our stakeholders. At the same time, our marketing professionals are busy working on messaging that will describe the Bauer brand, and a redesign of the web site.

Summer is here and as the temperature rises, so does our level of activity. As always, it is an exciting time to be at Bauer.