Thursday, February 11, 2010

The sound of the Stradivarius – Joshua Bell Live

A few years ago I posted this link on this blog. It was an article in the Washington Post by Gene Weingarten, columnist, who wrote a regular feature titled Pearls Before Breakfast. In the article he conducted a social experiment of sorts – if a world famous musician played in a public place – the L’Enfant Plaza at DC – dressed like any other mendicant, what would you do? Would you stop to listen? Would you leave some money? Would you notice at all? I loved the premise of the article and even more than that, I loved how the author used language to describe Joshua Bell and his performance. Since then I’ve wanted to watch the performance myself.

Joshua Bell performed at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville yesterday. And I found out just by accident. But I went all the same, with SZ who’s a musician herself. Joshua Bell was accompanied on the piano by Jeremy Denk, who I’d never heard of before and was really really good! There was a lot of chemistry between the two men and their instruments conversed with each other, sometimes leading and sometimes following. Joshua Bell was every bit the way he was described in that article – he was spirited and animated in the way he played his violin, he rocked from side to side, stood on his tip toes, stamped his feet, plucked the strings of his violin… I don’t know a ton about classical music, but I loved how he kept the audience engaged by the theatrics. His pianist was much the same and they took cues from each other’s body language. And I learnt something new about performance etiquette – no one coughed/sneezed/sniffled while he played, saving it for the silence between sequences. The encore was a beautiful little piece by Fritz Kreisler based on a composition by Dvorak.

SZ and I grabbed some dinner at the downtown mall before heading in for the concert. All in all, a wonderful evening, with great company, and the excitement that comes with seeing the flesh and blood version of something I read about three years ago.

Update: Here's a review of the concert from a local newspaper, The Hook. I think the writer does more justice than I did with this post! Hat tip to SZ.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Guest Post - Michael Goff, D'2010 on Innovation

I’ve been meaning to host a guest blogger for some time now so I’m very happy to welcome Mike onto this space. I’ve long felt that although the 16 of us bloggers are pretty cool there are yet some other cool people we’ve known here that aren’t out on the blogosphere. It’s only fitting that my first ever guest blogger is someone I’m so fond of and so proud of. He's always sporting an infectious grin and it’s hard not to be impressed by his intelligence and his good humor. Mike thanks a bunch for doing this!

I know Mike through our one semester spent together in Section 5 in the first year. He’s wicked smart and always has great contributions in class, but he’s also a really cool guy outside of class. Mike’s one of the many double-Hoos at Darden, which means that he went to UVA for undergrad too. Before Darden, Mike worked for CACI as a technology consultant and come May, will move with Camden, his wife, to Washington, DC to join BCG. Mike matches his awesome in-class contributions with outside-class involvement in Darden Student Admission Committees, BGiA, the UVA Outreach Committee and several Darden soccer teams. In his spare time (and he has plenty), he likes to perfect his chili recipe… and run marathons, like this picture shows! Over to Mike!

One of the great things about business school is the opportunity to take classes outside your comfort zone and to expand your skillset beyond the traditional marketing, finance, operations, etc. functional areas. Last fall, I took a class called “Developing New Products and Services.” The goal of the class was to identify a market opportunity for innovation and then develop a prototype for a product or service to capitalize on the opportunity.

My team identified a gap in modern technology, which allows people to read news conveniently online or on an e-reader, but the decrease in circulation of printed newspapers reduces the opportunity for manufacturers and stores to put coupons in front of consumers. As a solution to this opportunity, our group set out to understand how people shop and use coupons and grocery lists.

I foolishly volunteered to develop and code an iPhone application that would combine the concepts of coupons with a grocery list that could be carried into a store and then scanned for a membership card and coupons. The idea was to keep everything in the one item we carry with us at all times: a cell phone. I don’t regret the task, but it was by far the most difficult task I’ve taken on in business school.

I learned several lessons through this experience:
• First, I’m no developer. I was never good. I proved to myself that I can figure things out, but that’s the end of it.
• The iPhone is an amazing device that can do some crazy stuff, and most of its power stems from some very basic tools and objects.
• There’s no substitute for effective project planning to predict issues before you encounter them. It also helps to know what resources you have available and realize they’re going to be insufficient. The key is the creativity to dig deeper in a pinch to get the job done.
• The secret to problem solving is breaking a system into its component parts and challenge fundamental assumptions that may be difficult to recognize.
• Any time you’re planning to innovate, it’s better to generate lots of ideas and test them as quickly as possible. It’s a lot better to fail early (maybe even often) to get where you want to be.

At the end of the day, we had a great time showing everyone our prototype. I think I showed the app to everyone I know. I’ve never shown my parents a paper or exam, but I was pretty happy to whip out my phone and say, “Ever wanted to search for coupons while you were shopping in a store? There’s an app for that…”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

MBAs and the Movie-world

Today I sent an email to the South Asian Society here informing them about a course being taught at the main UVA grounds on Fact, Fiction and Film in India’s History, which took the form of a movie screening each week followed by a discussion on the movie in the context of the course. It seemed like an interesting way to study history and the part movies have played in the interpretation of historical events in the country.

This evening, Darden’s YouTube channel uploaded a video featuring a classmate of ours who worked in the movies industry before school. Ed (who is also from Section D - that's important... and relevant) saw an opportunity in the Cannes Film Festival for students like him, who were interested how the industry (and in his case, the independent films industry) worked. He organized a trip to Canne as part of a course and even interned on location, getting an insider’s perspective on the workings of the industry.

I thought this was important enough to write about because before I came here, I didn’t imagine the movies as a place an MBA would go to. My preconceived notion of the industry is that it is a place for the creative, and not necessarily the spreadsheet jocks. If I sat and thought about it long enough – and it’s fairly apparent from the fact that I am writing this post that I did – I find it fascinating how you can marry the shrewd business and strategic thinking with that of creativity and storytelling.

... some food for thought.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin