Anita McGahan on Recasting MBA Schools

Here’s an interesting TEDx talk by Professor Anita McGahan, recipient of the Academy of Management Business Policy and Strategy Division’s 2010 Irwin Outstanding Educator Award, on revamping business education.

Very relevant thoughts, especially for our country like ours.

P.S.: Click on the title of the post if you are not able to see the video

C K Prahalad

Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad , one of world’s influential thinker and strategy guru passed away this Friday. Prahalad was one of the top management consultants in the world and advised several top world class organizations. His ability to abstract complex problems and provide accessible frameworks made him a much sought after scholar in industry.
Prahalad’s “Competing for the future” (co-authored with Gary Hamel) and “The fortune at the bottom of pyramid” are two of the early management books that I read. I had in fact quoted them as being one of the reasons that I was drawn towards corporate strategy when I applied to the FPM programme in IIMB. Both these books had very powerful thoughts presented articulately and in an accessible form.

Once I joined the doctoral programme at Bangalore, I was exposed to more of his work. Also, I learnt that CK’s popularity with the academics is not as much as with the practicing managers. This is not to say that his intellect was challenged. It is just that I sensed that he was not percieved as much a star in the academic world as he is with the practicing world. I guess huge success of his books and concepts such as ‘core competence’ and ‘BoP’ among practitioners only added to this. Consider this note from one of the academics in informing of his demise through an email – “Another titan passes away. Even though, I consider Sumantra Goshal to be a more accomplished “academic”, there was a lot to be learned from Prahalad.” Note the word academic is within quotes. Sure, Sumantra Ghoshal was a thinker par excellence, but Prahalad’s contribution to the literature (as much to the practice) is not minor as well.

As one of my Professors mentions in an obituary in the Hindustan Times, “Over the past 35 years, CKP rewrote the lexicon of strategy with three concepts: dominant logic, strategic intent and core competence.”

CK and Richard Bettis put forward the concept of ‘dominant general management logic’ or ‘dominant logic’ in their 1986 Strategic Management Journal (SMJ) paper. They defined dominant logic as a cognitive schema that shapes the “way in which managers conceptualize the business and make critical resource allocation decisions”. They argued that while strategically similar businesses can be accommodated using a single dominant logic, “diversified firms with strategic variety, impose the need for multiple dominant logics”, thus providing a new link between diversification and performance. In my understanding, ‘dominant logic’ is one of the earliest and till date the most powerful cognitive concept in strategy literature that is dominated by economic analysis. In that sense, the paper was a path breaking one and stood out from the clutter of regression oriented studies that analyzed the link between firm diversification and performance. In their 1995 retrospective of the article, Prahalad and Bettis mention how their original paper took more than five years in the making and convincing the reviewers. The 1986 paper won the inaugural ‘Strategic Management Journal Best Paper’ prize.

In his 1989 Harvard Business Review paper titled ‘Strategic Intent’ (co-authored with Gary Hamel), he employed the concept of ‘strategic intent’ to explain a phenomenon that actually played itself repeatedly over time across industries – the victory of the Davids over the Goliaths. Time and again, across industries and across countries, global leaders are challenged and overcome by companies whose resources and capabilities are far smaller than the leader to begin with. Hamel and Prahalad attributed this to the ‘strategic intent’ of the challenger firms which they defined as a relentless pursuit of a certain ambitious long-term strategic objective that implied a sizable stretch for the organization. This paper won the coveted McKinsey Award for the best HBR paper of the year in 1989 and remains as much valid today as it was twenty years ago, the agressive internationalization of firms from emerging economies being a case in point.

Core competence and BoP were not altogether new concepts. Core competence is hugely influenced by Edith Penrose’s work on ‘The Theory of Growth of Firms’ and companies such as Cavinkare were already catering to the BoP markets much before the HUL’s of the world started listening to Prahalad. In my understanding, core competence is one of the very few works that stands true to the spirit and intent of Penrose’s work though much of resource based view stream of work trace their intellectual roots to Penrose’s work. Moreover Prahalad was instrumental in taking these powerful concepts to the practicing managers through his articulate writing and rich anecdotal experiences. In that his contribution is immense.

Knowledge on the net..

1. http://www.justiceharvard.org/

The first ever Harvard Business School course made available to everyone online. The course is titled “Justice” and is on political and moral philosophy. Professor Micheal Sandel offers this popular elective to more than 1000 students in a Harvard auditorium. The content is thought provoking, delivery of Professor Sandel captivating and the Haravard ambience invigorating.

About the course:
“Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history. Nearly one thousand students pack Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre to hear Professor Sandel talk about justice, equality, democracy, and citizenship. Now it’s your turn to take the same journey in moral reflection that has captivated more than 14,000 students, as Harvard opens its classroom to the world. This course aims to help viewers become more critically minded thinkers about the moral decisions we all face in our everyday lives. In this 12-part series, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The result is often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white. Sorting out these contradictions sharpens our own moral convictions and gives us the moral clarity to better understand the opposing views we confront in a democracy.”

2. http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm
MIT OpenCoursware site where MIT shares a host of course content across disciplines.

Social Networking – Critical Success Factors

One of my friends recently blogged on how ‘Buzz is losing its Fizz’ (here).  I tend to agree. The number of posts and threads on Buzz has come down dramatically. I think unless ‘Buzz’ undergoes massive restructuring, it may follow the path of Orkut which is losing share to Facebook (FB) by the day, at least in India. Buzz falls short in what I consider are the two critical success factors for virtual social networking platforms.

1. Privacy and Customizable controls: Personally I was not kind to the idea that Buzz selected by default (initially) whom I follow and who follows me. Nor does it provide me any control over who can view the content – and which content – that I post.

Our initial response to social networking was more driven by the novelty value of the virtual networking.  As social networking on the digital world is becoming more and more integral part of our life, we are only beginning to come to terms with the issues that it poses. Increasingly we see the issues of privacy coming to the fore. Of course, as one of my FB friends remarked “The message is clear – don’t send any messages on FB that you’re not prepared to share with the world” after this FB glitch, the user owns the primary responsibility for the content that he/she posts. The corollary is that from the service provider side, the most critical success factor (CSF) then becomes the the range and the efficacy of the privacy and customizable controls it provides.  While Buzz falls short on this score, Google’s original social networking service Orkut does well on this aspect. However, Orkut fares poorly in what I consider the second CSF of virtual social networking platforms.

2. Rich content experience: The second CSF- at least in informal networking sites Orkut and Facebook and may not be that much in professional networks such as Linkedin – would be the richness of the content and experience. Buzz falls short in this aspect too.