Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Life Relates to a Business Executive Lecture

First of all, I have to say this weather is ridiculous. Torrential downpour all day doesn't make me feel much like leaving the house, even though I already had to, but when it has actually been SNOWING on my side of the mountains for 3 hours?? Yeah, I'm really not happy. Here's what it looks like outside right now:

Here's what it SHOULD look like:

Mother Nature, did you forget that it's April now?? Did you fail that portion of the test where you match up the month of the year with the correct temperatures and sunshine quantity? Because this is all wrong!

But what I really wanted to talk about was this cool lecture I attended today for a business class. I think most universities have this, where successful business people (CEO's and such) come and talk for an hour about their success once a week or something, and students get to ask questions when they're done. I've seen a lot of videos of these online, mostly from MIT, as a requirement for a previous business class I took, but today was my first that I actually attended. The experience was interesting firstly because it was the only time I've been in a room with so many people in the college setting. I know most class sizes in college are usually huge, but my school is not like that at all. In fact, I think the most I've ever had in one class is 70 people, and that's way higher than the average. So it was cool.

I took lots of notes throughout the lecture, because I have to do a short write-up as an assignment before the end of the semester, but even if I didn't have to, I probably would have done it anyway because I found the talk so interesting. Even though I'm technically an Accounting major, I still thrive on anything Business, and hearing from the CEO of a fortune 500 company was way cool. The main thing that inspired me to write today was the section on strategic planning in order to achieve your company's goals. This is done by categorizing things into the following 3 levels:

L1: Current Projects
L2: Defined Opportunities
L3: Concepts/Vision

There was a cool graph that related each level to its associated time certainty and risk rating. Current projects are things that you are working on now, that usually you have the most resources in. They have a high time certainty (How debatable is it that I'm writing a blog post right this second?) and low risk. Concepts and Vision, the third category, is for long-term desires a company has but won't make a priority yet because many things need to happen before they're possible. In this level, the time certainty is low and the risk is high. The middle level of Defined Opportunities is where those visions and desires become more attainable and are actually considered as something that might happen soon. Risk and time certainty are in the mid-range. Most often, the thing that moves a project from L3 to L2 is the timing - perhaps one goal of a company involves coordination and transaction with another, and when that other company is ready to move forward, it becomes a Defined Opportunity - you're ready to start talking about the details. An event or project can also move backwards, from a Level 2 to a Level 3, because of certain circumstances, but naturally a project cannot move from a Level 1 to a Level 2 if it's already in progress.

This organized idea was all nice and pleasing to the left side of my brain, but it became even more fun when I realized this concept can be applied to everyday life. Current Projects that I'm currently working on include finishing up this semester's classes, planning an end of the year Apprentice party (it is facebook official now), and looking for a job. Defined Opportunities include planning my birthday party and maybe looking for an apartment. That one could also fall into the Concepts/Vision category, where I also keep the far-off dream of taking a trip to Disneyland with friends and getting my motorcycle's license. Essentially, this system of categorizing goals and plans is a way of setting relative priorities to all the things going on in your life. Most people probably do this naturally without even thinking about it, which is why I think it's interesting that we can match a given model for business strategies to the human psyche.

The speaker at this lecture also laid out many other foundational beliefs, such as his company's core elements of success being Geographic Growth and Innovation, which lead to constantly increasing Productivity. That sounds pretty boring, but the explanations provide meaningful significance. Let's zoom in a little on productivity though - one of my favorite words, along with the similar word efficiency, which always get me going inside. Just ask my mentors at IV and they'll confirm that for you, with giggles on the side, since apparently it's so amusing that I'm this excited about the weird things that nobody seems to want to pay attention to in this organization! If the Accounting thing doesn't quite work out, I'm sure I can find another career in business that satisfies this desire of my heart.

I also couldn't resist jotting down some of the last small pieces of advice, no matter how obvious or cliche they seemed: "Pursue the Premier," "It's easy to be mediocre," strive for a "culture of constant improvement," and "A good leader is never satisfied." Whether you aspire to be the leader of a global company traded on the NYSE or not, these are probably good principles to live by in any job or walk of life. Never settle for anything less than premier, or else your heart won't be in it, and you don't want to end up someone who hates their job. Because after all, when you're not going to school anymore, you're pretty much working all the time. I myself am pretty set on not letting that happen, which is why it was so important to me that I figure out what I like to do before picking some ho-hum degree that I didn't love.

So yeah. Those were some of the thoughts circulating around in my noggin today. Part of me is so excited I'm learning all this stuff now, rather than later in life like the majority of the people in that lecture room who already have kids and are going BACK to college. But I shouldn't boast ... I'm definitely thankful for these opportunities. And the application of the learning experiences ? Starts now :)

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