Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Insights, Imperatives and Home Cookin'

MBA students, almost by definition, are a bunch of alpha types. We've got opinions—sometimes informed, sometimes not. And we like to share them. The Haas team engaged in a lot of vociferous opinion sharing today. What was making the air in the room so hot? Perhaps it was the sun beaming through the window. Yeah, it was the sun. That's it.

Who says Berkeley students are all namby-pamby peaceniks? Tempers fray as Mike settles his score with Sandeep.

More seriously, we made a lot of headway today. The challenges facing our client are not trivial, and we're determined to tackle those challenges in a way that makes the best of our knowledge and experience. There are eight of us on the team—we're Carmie C and the Sensuous Seven—and we've all got something useful to add to the conversation. Today was an exercise in navigating each of our respective inputs and moving them through the innovation process.

Stanford, Kellogg—who are are always called "Kellogg" and never "Northwestern"; interesting, huh?—Chicago and Cornell are bona fide top-tier schools. That's beyond question. And they all boast outstanding faculty members. At Haas we've got Sara Beckman, and today was so much about the direct application of Sara Beckman and Michael Barry's framework for innovative thinking. I could go into it at length but I'll hold back for now. Suffice it to write that you should spend a minute reading about it. While plenty of observations, frameworks and imperatives were cast around "The War Room"—as we've affectionately come to call our digs—we nonetheless managed to find our way through to a few solutions. Or so we think.

But that was in many ways a distraction from what initially presented itself as today's main event: an address by the eminently charismatic Mayor Elect of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. The man has a way about him. His delivery is at once punchy and poignant. He's adept at maintaining an accessible narrative replete with anecdotes pertaining to children and Wendy's chicken nuggets and the framing of the tribulations of New Orleans as major national security issue. Mitch's verbal tapestry is colorful, rich and hung right there in front of the audience to enjoy or reject.

Mitch led me to cast my mind back to the night before and our hour in the company of Mark Cuban. Both men possess salient personalities, and in my mind's eye I toyed with the thought of Mitch and Mark going mano-a-mano in a Battle Royale of soaring invective. Mark would yell "bullshit!" at Mitch and Mitch would rub his head, gesture forcefully at Mark and tell him that he'd never truly testing himself until he'd run for public office, or something to that effect. Ah, what food for thought. It'll probably never happen. But if it did, it sure would be fun to watch.

I honestly thought that would represent the highlight of my day—Mitch and his laser-like ability to extract from an audience question the absolute essence of what was being asked. But I was wrong. The true highlight was the dinner the Haas team spent in the company of our local hosts (keep your web site jokes to yourself), Tom and Dian Winindger. That hoary old cliche about Southern hospitality; it's true. Perched on the upper level of an old yet tastefully remodeled building overlooking Prytania Street, the Haas team joined their entrepreneur in the company of Tom, Dian and their band of associates. It was a private event and we'll leave it as such. Although in what we now know to be true New Orleans style, we ate well, we drank much and we shared a few good stories about bad times and good... Mostly good.

It was a dinner that didn't suck.

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