Nokia Morph and SmartSilver

I must say I’m still pretty excited about Nokia’s Morph concept.  It been some time since I saw it the first time but it still amazes me.  The technology of the materials especially.   Earlier today I spotted SmartSilver on the Business Week website.   SmartSilver is a nano-version of ordinary silver  but when it becomes ‘nano-ised’ is bonds permanently to both natural and synthetic fibers.  The good thing about this is that it will give lifetime odour control so no more smelly trainers.  I’m probably more aware of innovation in materials because I really liked metallurgy at university.  And chemistry.

Apart from digesting the MBA rankings we are busily preparing the first set of marks to go out to the MBA class later today.  I’m sure there will be a a few worried faces when they come to pick up their marks but by and large I’m satisfied with the outcome.  Well done guys!

FT Rankings 2009

You probably won’t be very surprised when I confess to being upset at the FT MBA Rankings out today. For me, as for most UK schools, it was grim reading. But I also think that it was expected to some extent. Last year many US schools went down because the World economy had caught up with USA. Now it has caught up with the rest of the world, and UK and European Schools see the consequences. This year’s results also demonstrate the volatility of the rankings, with small changes in some of the areas assessed leading to more pronounced swings in a school’s overall position.

So much for external factors, what about the Edinburgh MBA? Well, if you have studied the mechanics of the FT rankings you will know this. Otherwise, let me tell you that the 2009 ranking is based on responses from the classes that graduated in 2005 (50% weighting) and 2004 and 2003 (25% weighting each) so more recent investments will not affect the 2009 numbers.

I am pleased to say that the University of Edinburgh Business School have made a number of changes since then, most prominently the Career and Personal Development programme that I have referred to before. The key focus of this programme is employability but the outcome of these investments will not feed into the rankings until later on. As an example, it will be 2012 before the 2008-9 data enter the FT survey.

This however doesn’t mean that we cannot do better. We can and we continue to work on a holistic offering that will represent good value for money. What I mean by holistic? It’s a reference to the fact that we don’t ‘play the rankings game’.

The 44th “Mr President”

As I write this I have one eye on the live coverage on the BBC of the inauguration of Barack Obama.  So many people and such celebrations. The oath taking is in progress and you can almost see people’s lips move in sync with the oaths.  You can also see the nerves kicking in, as Mr Obama has to be reminded of the words.  And now the citizens of the United States of America have their new president.   So much hope is attached to Mr Obama’s presidency; time will show how he manages.

Last night and this morning I also had an eye on the share price of RBS.  After the predictions of a record loss RBS shares plunged 67% yesterday.  They have moved up a bit today but investors remain nervous because other UK banks have dropped as well.  The record loss to a large extent stems from the sub-prime market and the acquisition of ABN Amro.  An acquisition that took place despite much concern about the profitability of this.

Obama, the writer

In some Edinburgh-circles the name Barack Obama has been household even before he ran for president. Back in 2007 when Obama was one among many US presidential hopefuls, the Edinburgh based publisher Canongate Books won the rights to publish Obama’s bestseller novel cum life-story Dreams From My Father and they went on to publish The Audacity of Hope. What makes Obama’s books so special, and especially Dreams From My Father, is the literary ability of the author. Obama can write and does so in sentences that flow elegantly and effortlessly. And he’s a good storyteller. Reading that book will give you a very good insight into the mind of the man that very soon will take the oath as the president of the United States of America.

The biggest task for Obama and every other politician is to tackle problems currently being faced throughout the world. When you read the papers and watch the news it is doom and gloom all over with very few positive notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the media could report on some of the positive things for a change? Because there is positive news. Supermarket chain Waitrose will take on an additional 4,000 staff, the discount fashion chain Primark saw an increase in sales over the last 16 weeks and the Government has come up with a plan to help SMEs through a loan guarantee of up to £20bn. This is to counter balance the over cautious behaviour of the banks. Yes, it would seem that the banks have used the bail-outs to stock up reserves and not passed the benefits on to the people who have underwritten the support, the tax payer – private or corporate.

A different kind of buzz

Last semester we certainly had a lot of buzz in the building and tons of brain power was expended on a daily basis.  This is still the case but it is fair to say that the buzz is different in nature now.  As described before, now it is time for options courses – course of specialist nature.  It is early days but I can already see people engaging in a different kind of discussions, much more exploratory.  It is also interesting to see new connections being made.  Before Christmas when everybody took the same courses, the class tended to hang out with the ‘ usual gang’.  Now the class is split up in many sub-cohorts, one for each class, so new shared interest are being developed between people who may not have worked closely together before.  This of course will affect the group dynamics.

One course I have high expectations for is the option Climate Change and the Challenge for Business.  It is the first time that we  offer this important topic to the MBAs.  I hope to be able to add a few comments from students who take this class at a later opportunity.

I don’t know about you but right after the Christmas break I always find it difficult to shake off that holiday feeling and get on with things.  This of course was exacerbated by my catching that awful cold.  But now I seem to have found my energies again.  Good thing as there’s nothing more annoying than having a to-do list as long as you arm and no energy.

As I write this I’m also looking into my travel arrangements for going to Barcelona on 12 March to attend the fair on the World MBA Tour.  If interested then you can sign up here.  Quite apart from meeting with exciting prospective candidates, this for me will be a chance to meet with Alumni in the area as well as paying a visit to on of our exchange partners, EADA.

I’m also very much looking forward to the MBA Careers Fair on 6 February. Some exciting companies such as Accenture, IBM, RBS, Procter & Gamble  and Lloyds TSB have confirmed their attendance and many more will attend.

7g or 0.2g?

Of what? CO2, it’s the emission. Doing what? Searching Google.
Yes, according to the BBC website the jury is still out on how much CO2 one Google search will produce. See for yourself here.

I also saw the other day, under the headline A Bevy of Biofuels, the slide show on Business Week about potential new fuels, mostly biofuels that could replace oil to some extent or in some capacity. It was really fascinating to read about all these products, some of which I had never heard about before, but one thing in the back of my mind was that these crops would then take up arable land currently used to produce food. While sounding promising I can’t help thinking that taking up arable land for this may not be the best solution when so many people are starving and also when arable land apparently is shrinking. Yes, it is a question of optimising growth methods, but how far can we take that? I was quite taken though with Algal Oil, which apparently is made from algae. It was listed as the energy researcher’s Holy Grail because apparently you can grow the algae in almost any kind of water, even contaminated water, and if current research is successful you can use CO2 as a fertiliser. We have enough of both CO2 and contaminated water so here are two waste products that we can easily sacrifice.

Otherwise, well we had the Re-Induction today and it was so nice to see everybody back. A few were still suffering from jet-lag but generally the class had caught up on their beauty sleep and all were rearing to go. It will be a very different semester now that all are taking a different mix of classes but hopefully with an increased sense of achievement as specialist knowledge is stocked up. Soon we will look into allocating the consultancy projects to students on the full-time class. This will be launched later in the semester. At this point in time, the students on the MBA in International Business are looking into internships.

Yes, we do have MBA students taking on internships. If your business could do with an MBA for three months over the summer to solve a problem then just leave a message. Maybe that project you tucked away in your filing cabinet because you thought would be worth doing if only you could find the time?

Welcome back

Pupils from the nearby school pass by my window as I write this, proving that they were back in the harness before the MBA class this year. We only recommence on Monday. Many are already back though and it’s nice to catch up and hear what they have all been up to in their three-week break. Some display angst over their exam results but this is of course very understandable. The current climate makes the job prospects look a bit shaky. The thing is that the jobs are out there – more than 50% of the MBA class the just graduated in December has jobs – but it takes more legwork to find the right job and to secure it. But you knew that didn’t you?

But doesn’t the current climate also open for opportunities? If you have been laid off, why not take this opportunity to “top-up” your knowledge? Take a year out and do the MBA, or another course that will be the right choice for your CV, and then join the job search a year down the line when things have calmed down again. You may even have been given a redundancy package that can help pay for it. And what about businesses investing in talent instead of laying off good people? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to call it study leave? Then you can welcome back you improved talent in a year’s time. Full or part sponsoring of the course fee for your most talented employees could be a very good investment in the future.