Tools for digital note-taking

I will not insult you by telling you how to take notes in class. But several facts make me type this post tonight:

  • I have a quite bad writing on top of being tired on some evening classes
  • My handwriting played some tricks on me for the last exam (Management Accounting and Control): I couldn’t read some parts of my notes!
  • And finally Brett and Kate McKay recently wrote a piece about note-taking strategies for academic success. In this last article, the authors advocate for taking notes directly on a laptop with a note-taking software (like Evernote or OneNote)

Dan "Mr. Deliverable" Brown takes some notesRegarding the first two bullet points: I decided to give it a try this year and take my notes directly on my laptop (I know it’s forbidden by Vlerick rules but no professors complained – yet). A good practical tip: use a small laptop (mine has a 13″ screen), it’s really easier to share the table with other students than a larger laptop.

So far, we only had three different classes in 2012 (Organisational Behaviour / Leadership, Corporate Finance and Negotiation skills) and I have to say the experience is very positive. I can actually read everything I wrote! And, when I take less (or no) notes because my vigilance state is going down, there are simply no notes but at least I don’t find scribbles I’m furious I can’t read.

As long as the course doesn’t involve schematics, equations or drawings or, if it does, as long as the slides (where these drawing are reproduced) are provided in advance in electronic format (usually PDF), everything is fine. My way of doing includes the transformation of PDFs into images and I insert those images in the document I will use to take note before a class (it takes approximately 2.5 minutes when you have the right tools).

However there is an issue with Corporate Finance. This course indeed sometimes uses equations or (more often) T-accounts and it’s quite difficult to directly write them down on the laptop (or at least at the same speed as if I was writing/drawing them on a paper). Sometimes, there is a timeline drawn on the board. And this is something I’m currently struggling with …

Regarding the third point, the McKays are right when they consider Evernote as the best note-taking software out there. On top of that, it’s free (as in free beer) and all your notes are synchronised between all your Evernote clients (PC, Mac, Android, iPhone) and even on the web (protected by your credentials). But one important feature that I miss in Evernote is the possibility to directly add free notes or a placeholder and be able to draw inside it in a few seconds. I know it’s possible with OneNote but I don’t have the money for that. So I use MS-Word and try to quickly insert a “draw object” inside the document when needed. That’s not really intuitive: it breaks the usual flow. And it takes some time. But it works. For that purpose, the text document from Google docs is really nice: you can define a draw area quite easily and quickly and add basic shapes in it. The only issue that prevent me from using Google Doc is that the wifi network in the classroom is sometimes hectic. I wouldn’t trust my documents are in a safe state if the network is going down at unexpected times.

I’ll try to continue to type my notes. Let’s see in June 2012 if my writing or my note-taking skills will have improved!

Photo credit: Dan “Mr. Deliverable” Brown takes some notes by Neal B. Johnson on Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)
Edit: sorry for all the mistakes, the post was written at 2AM, as usual :) – I corrected most of them.

Industrial growth rate and business investment in Indian states

The Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and Bain&co published a report comparing industrial growth rate and business investment in 7 Indian states (among the 28 states in total in India).

Map of Indian states (from Nations Online Project)

Map of Indian states (from Nations Online Project)

Although Bangalore and Mumbai are considered as the two major economic centres in India, their states (Karnataka and Maharashtra, respectively) are not ranked first. The winner is: Orissa! And the last state is (West) Bengal. The Telegraph (from Kolkata) has some more details. The full rating, according to growth rate of industrial output, is:

State Growth rate of
industrial output
Orissa 12.0%
Karnataka 10.5%
Rajastan 7.9%
Gujarat 7.5%
Tamil Nadu 7.0%
Maharashtra 6.9%
Bengal 3.7%

Where will you invest, next time?

Pecha Kucha!

Last Friday, second year students laughed when Jules threw “Pecha Kucha!” at the beginning of the class. But as other first year students, we were all wondering what it means. So, Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for chit-chat. According to Wikipedia, it is “a presentation methodology in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, usually seen in a multiple-speaker event called a Pecha Kucha Night”.

How do we pronounce ペチャクチャ?

Junko, is that right?

Do you want to watch an example? Here you are:


Now I don’t really know what to think about Pecha Kucha. It’s sweet, it’s often graphically appealing but oh la la, it’s s l o o o o o w! Although I watched several Pecha Kucha presentations tonight, maybe I didn’t watched the right presenters but I don’t feel thrilled by this type of presentation. As I often wrote about before, I prefer the TED presentation format (well, actually there is no real format in TED), the Ignite presentation style (that is actually similar to Pecha Kucha but faster) and the excellent Dick Hardt’s dynamic introduction on Identity 2.0 (I put the video again below).


I hope I won’t be forced to do Pecha Kucha next year!

Indian business schools revamping their cursus

Today, here is a second post that has less to do with Vlerick per se. I just read an article from the (Indian) Economic Times about Indian business schools revamping their cursus. I was curious about this article because, at Vlerick, we talk about a future new branding, a future new website, potential evolution of courses following feedback from students (is that possible? ;-) ), etc. I was then wondering how are business school in other countries (and Indian in particular, sorry guys if I always come back on this) and how they are evolving.

David Garvin (HBS) on Rethinking the MBA

Everything started last year when three professors from HBS published a book about “rethinking the MBA” (S.M. Datar, D.A. Garvin -above- and P. Cullen, Harvard Business Press Books, 2010). In a video, Prof. David Garvin explains “why business education is at a crossroads” (in other words: why he wrote the book and why you should buy it). In a nutshell, if many business schools focused on knowledge and analytic skills, in the authors’ opinion, very few MBA graduates have a balance between this knowledge and practical skills and a “sense of purpose and identity”. This would make them brainy in theory but handicapped in practice.

Re-thinking the MBA idea

The new curriculum proposed (both by the book, by some US business school and apparently now by some Indian b-schools) contains:

  • subjects like business ethics and CSR (*),
  • more field works and supervised projects,
  • more self-analysis and leadership humility,
  • a more global perspective,
  • etc.


Now, did Vlerick applied this? I’m not privy to how/what Vlerick decides for its programme but I think we have a little bit of everything mentioned above … Vlerick has business ethics and CSR classes, it has in-company and give back projects for full-time students (the project for part-time students) as well as the IMEX game giving an integrated persepctive of the whole curriculum and the global perspective is given by the diversity of students’ origins (especially in full-time students) and the international study trip. As I only spent 6 months so far, I don’t know yet if there aren’t other activities.

It’s good to have these activities but is it enough and are we good at them? As the proposed balance is only 1-year old, I think very few people exactly know what is the right balance and which school is good at re-thinking its MBA.

What do you think? Is is just a cosmetic change or is it really something that will change the face of MBA studies? As a Vlerick student/alumni, do you think your b-school was re-thought enough (or that it doesn’t/didn’t need to be re-thought) (anonymous reply authorised ;-) )?

(*) the author of the MBA oath was a student of Prof. David Garvin ;-)

How Belgium is selling itself in China

For the New Year of the Dragon, Belgium is selling itself on Chinese social networks Baidu and Weibo.

I don’t know you but for me, I watched the 7 first seconds as a demonstration of a missile attack from China on Belgium (and France, the Netherlands). I’m not sure it was the best way to demonstrated direct flights from China to Europe …

Diplomatic and economic relationships between Belgium and China are quite recent. However these ties were quickly strengthened with the fast Chinese economic growth. For instance, look at the amount of activities organized by the The Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) … Here, Belgium tries to attract Chinese tourists to Belgium and by doing that, strengthen economic exchanges too. They try to attract Chinese tourists and businessmen in Belgium ; Vlerick will be sending some Belgian business students in China in a few months …

For those who are going to other parts of the world, here are the Belgo-indian chamber of commerce and industry, the American chamber of commerce in Belgium and the Belgian chamber of commerce for Southern Africa.

It takes two to tango

Last year, I ranted about the fact there was no MBA blog anymore on the Vlerick platform. No full-time blog. No part-time blog. It was a bit mean because it takes two to tango, of course.

it takes two to tango

As mentioned before, there is an official Vlerick blogging platform ready for students (as well as the dean, professors, etc.). But only students can really write about their experience. It seems full-time students were asked to write but none volunteered so far. Part-time students were not asked because in the past students said they didn’t had the time or interest for blogging for Vlerick. And voilà: what can Vlerick do if no one wants to write for them?

Now if you are interested in telling your experience at Vlerick or more broadly as a MBA student, just ask the Vlerick e-marketing team and they will set-up the blog platform for you (I can give you the name of the person to contact). Or just go to WordPress or Blogger and create your own blog (it’s also easy and free). And no time for blogging is not an excuse: frankly speaking, it doesn’t take so much time (e.g. I only spent 5 minutes for this post so far and finding the photo took most of the time).

I will be happy to read you soon, then? :)

Photo credit: it takes two to tango by Gerard Stolk on Flickr (license CC-by-nc)

Stop using Facebook to help our Greek friends

Or so it’s what’s implied by this nice chart found on Bloomberg Businessweek:

Read the full article for more figures (and to see why correlation may not imply causation) ;-)

Chinese New Year 2012: January 23

Smiling dragon Like in many Asian countries, the Lunar New Year in China will be on January 23, 2012 (in our Gregorian calendar). The Chinese New Year (aka the “Spring Festival” or 春节) is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. According to the Chinese calendar, this year is the year of the water dragon (龙). I thought it would have been interesting to know for the lucky ones who are going to China this year :)

There are usually many celebrations with many customs and traditions. I guess there will be also celebrations in Belgium but as it’s not very easy to find them (except maybe at your local Sino-Vietnamese restaurant), here are three activities found for you:

If you know any other celebrations, feel free to post them in comments below!

Photo credit: Smiling dragon in the Forbidden City, Huế, Vietnam (from my photos on Flickr, licence CC-by-sa)
Edited on Jan. 10 to add Maasmechelen Village celebrations. Edited on Jan. 20 to add the three celebrations from belvietnam.

Vlerick Knowlegde now available without registration

Vlerick has a good website but I’m glad it will be redone in a few weeks. Indeed I didn’t know that there was a “knowledge platform” and it deserves more visibility. The platform is meant to “share Vlerick research expertise in multiple management domains with the business community” (btw its URL is What is new (or announced as new via Twitter since I didn’t know it before) is that Vlerick Knowlegde is now available without registration. Great so now it’s like INSEAD Knowledge, RSM ERiM or HBS Working Knowledge! Is it a criteria for ranking? (No, Jep, you said no sarcasm anymore this year!)

Well, I sincerely think an open knowledge platform should be a criteria for ranking: it shows how a business school is giving back to the community. Given that platform, you can add additional criteria on the quality of its content, the types of media used, the possibility of interactions, etc. but that’s another story.

Although free, this kind of platform should most probably be an advantage for the business school too: it’s a showcase of its researches and researchers and it shows potential future students what are the hot topics in the school. For instance, in Vlerick Knowledge, there are topics on accounting & finances, entrepreneurship, governance & ethics and performance management but none of these four are in the “most popular” section at the end of the main page. I agree that most popular articles are promoted by viewers and not the school itself. So most popular sections on Vlerick Knowledge are: operations & SCM, strategy, HRM, innovation, risk and people management, marketing & sales and ICT & BPM (I wonder if this order means something ; for web search engines, it does at least).

After rankings and potential customers, the third potentially interested population is: current Vlerick students! :) For instance I was glad to read the SABAF case again (webmaster, it could be a nice plus to put the link to the full academic paper, thanks) or surprised not to hear Prof. Filip Roodhooft talk about “creating transparency” about the modern CFO’s roles ;-) (yes, there are even podcasts ; and transparency creation is indirectly there).

But there is a twist (there always is one in the end). The platform doesn’t seem to be fully adapted to this new openness: in most page where you previously should register or log in to read the full paper (like US Investments in Belgium – the 2010 report or Generation Y career expectations), these registration links are still there but lead to a 404 error page. Not good. However, the summary is already there, that’s a good start. I’m eagerly waiting for the content to become freely accessible!

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. I found it excellent so I share it with you, readers of this blog. Thanks to you too for this good 1st year in blogging my experience at Vlerick :)

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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