On the fifth day of New York, Vlerick gave to me …

In this series on the International Study Trip I’m reporting from New York …

Fill in the blanks in the lyrics:

On the fifth day of New York, Vlerick gave to me
Five  …
Four …
Three …
Two …
And a bunch of cool new friends.

Well, it’s been five days we’ve been in New York and, as for fellows in China, there was so much to do and see that there was hardly time to write on this blog after the first two days.

In the last three days, we finally had some flavor of what it takes to do business in the USA! Bill Catucci, John Tognino and Ed Stroz, all three are or were CEO and play(ed) a role in the US economy. They gave very interesting talks about their careers, what and how they did, always putting emphasis on leadership, acknowledgment of mistakes and ethics. It was also very nice to see that all three were also alumni from Fordham University and were returning there to give classes (I’m sure it would be possible to give the same type of program in Vlerick, given the Alumni network the School has, ymmv). We also had classes on finances and marketing (but I merely saw these more as complement of classes already given in Vlerick). Finally we also visited the New York Times building for a Vlerick Alumni event at the Flanders Investment and Trade office and we were received by John Melloy at CNBC just before its TV show Fast Money.

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But only half of a study trip is about classes and company visits (imho). It’s also about meeting new friends from other MBA programs (PTMBAs in Ghent, modular MBAs, PTMBAs in St Petersburg) as well as MBA students from Fordham University. It’s also about visiting New York, its surroundings and the startup scene. It’s about meeting New Yorkers and Vlerick Alumni.

So overall, I’m quite happy with this study trip. There is always room for improvements; we communicated them so you’ll definitely will need to go to New York in 2013 in order to have a great trip! ;-)

All photos are mine and were taken during this trip; you can freely use them.


A jazzy second day in New York

In this series on the International Study Trip I’m reporting from New York …

For the second day of the business trip to New York, we followed a class at Bloomberg by Prof. Dr. Werner (Fordham University) and enjoyed a jazz/leadership workshop in the afternoon. Eli Yamin Blues Band is perhaps not yet very well known in Belgium (but I have the impression that this will change with the help of some students). Lots of other things can be said and listened to but I’ll just put some pictures: next time, come to New York, it’s worth it! :-)

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All photos are mine and were taken during this trip; you can freely use them.

First news from New York

In this series on the International Study Trip I will report from New York …

On the first day in New York, we started slowly (most of us just arrived the day before). We just followed The Force and did a tour of the city. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Paul’ Chapel, Ground Zero, Wall Street, 5th Avenue, Broadway, Central Park, … There was a lot to see and to hear about in just a few hours. Let’s say now we know some (additional) places to visit for the next days. The morning ended with a lunch at the Trump Grill.

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During the afternoon we took part in the US economy and did some (window) shopping. Tomorrow the real thing starts at 7.30AM :-)

For the crispy news … what happened in New York stays in New York ;-)
All photos are mine and were taken during this trip; you can freely use them.

Competitiveness and the USA

One year ago, HBR gave ways to fix capitalism. Its special report in the coming March 2012 issue will be about restoring US competitiveness. Wikipedia defines competitiveness as “a comparative concept of the ability and performance of a firm, sub-sector or country to sell and supply goods and/or services in a given market“. Instead of comparing the USA directly against other countries at competitiveness level, Michael Porter (the same one, yes) and Jan Rivkin take it indirectly, re-defining the USA as “a competitive location to the extent that companies operating in the U.S. are able to compete successfully in the global economy while supporting high and rising living standards for the average American“. In their article, they give several examples of what the competitiveness of the USA is and what it is not. Two videos on hbr.org show interviews from American CEOs on the biggest threat to US competitiveness and potential solutions from businesses. These videos enumerate a list of items that either cause problems or could solve the said issue (sometimes, an issue can also be a solution) and are a light summary of what is written in the paper.

Following Porter and Rivkin, there are a number of economic performance indicators going in the wrong direction: reduced productivity, disappearing job growth, slowly growing wages, unfavorable international trade and investment balance and finally, a lack of confidence of American managers for the future. Unfortunately these indicators are part of what constitutes competitiveness:

  • From a macro perspective, a competitive nation requires sound monetary and fiscal policies (such as manageable government debt levels), strong human development (good health care and K–12 education systems), and effective political institutions.
  • From a micro perspective, a competitive nation exhibits a sound business environment (including modern transport and communications infrastructure, high-quality research institutions, streamlined regulation, sophisticated local consumers, and effective capital markets) as well as strong clusters of firms and supporting institutions in particular fields, such as information technology in Silicon Valley and energy in Houston.

(directly from the article)

Although this comes from interviews with HBS alumni, it goes in the same direction as the last Global Competitiveness Report (2011-2012) from the World Economic Forum. In this report the USA continue to lose its leadership position in competitiveness (they are now 5th behind Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden and Finland). America’s most problematic factors are the tax rates and regulations, its inefficient government bureaucracy and the access to financing. Government debt is also a big issue.

Porter and Rivkin don’t really give any solution. But they conclude that actions should be taken. And in the video interviews, some CEOs seem to have ready-made plans (e.g. thinking more locally, engaging in public-private parnerships, lobbying the US government to make the right changes, promoting continuous self-learning, investing in public goods, etc.).

But in the end, does it matter?

The main “opponent” to the competitiveness concept is Paul Krugman. In a 1994 paper, he argues that countries do not compete with others the way corporations do. And somehow, by defining the competitiveness of a country (here, the USA) by the competitiveness of its companies, Porter and Rivkin aknowledged that Krugman was right on this point. Back to Krugman’s paper, one may use productivity as the main component of a country economic welfare, but not competitiveness. And he finally also highlight the fact that using competitiveness risks distorting the quality of domestic economic policies (with a detailed example of the health care reform undertaken during the Clinton administration).

This reminds me of Prof. Gerooms’ course on Economics where he introduced Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage. Basically this “law” says that every country is gaining from trade (thus introducing a bit more than “just” competition). And when one digs a little bit more, one will find criticisms of this law by Porter (again), in 1985 (Ricardo was from the 19th century), when he introduced the competitive advantage. Everything is interconnected … I’m wondering if professors will address this issue of competitiveness during the trip to the USA …

International Study Trip: New York!

In my last post, I forgot to mention my preferences: 1. Mumbai, 2. Beijing and 3. New York. Since less than 15 students asked for India and less than 15 too for Russia (15 students = less than 10% of PT and modular MBA students!), there will be no trip to Mumbai nor St. Petersburg. Canceled. Dura lex sed lex. Anyway …

New York, here I come! :)

Traders in front of the New York Stock Exchange



Photo: Traders in front of the New York Stock Exchange by leonem on Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Are there more law and MBA graduates than ever now?

At least that what the GOOD team maintains in a nearly very good infography. Well, at first sight, everything is very nice and well presented …

Trends in Higher Education infography

But then you ask yourself: how is popularity measured? It’s nice to see that all fields became more popular in 10 years. But what does popularity means? The number of registrations? The number of diplomas awarded? Fortunately we know data is coming from the National center for education statistics so popularity can’t mean the number of appearances of students in NCSI or Fringe ;)

So, whatever it means, following this infography, all fields of study saw an increase in popularity in the previous 10 years (see figure below). The most popular degrees in the USA are still in business-related fields, followed by health and education fields. But if you look at by how much these fields became more popular, health-related fields are growing popular faster (+65%) followed by visual and performing arts (+52%) and business is only third (+46%). Let’s also notice that engineering is getting the smallest increase in number of students (+13% only).

Increase in popularity of degree by field of study

Finally when you look at business-related degrees only (see figure below), the popularity of Masters increased the most (if you exclude Ph.D.s: it’s easier to score +77% when you start from 1,201 students than when you start from 240,947 (+77% would mean 426,476 students after 10 years!)).

Increase in business-related degrees

Conclusion? We are doomed! It’s a Red Ocean! More and more people are doing an M.B.A.! This diploma will soon lose value and prestige!

Will I be able to sleep tonight? Definitely! I have other more important things to worry about (like starting to do some exercises in microeconomics, macroeconomics and financial accounting). Have a good night!

Any other thoughts or conclusion? Feel free to comment below …

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