Spring Semester Wrap-up

My original intent was to do a post for each course from the spring, but since summer classes have now started, I don’t see that happening. So I’ll try to do a quicker post with all of them. I ended up taking 3 classes for credit in the spring and one as a listener. Unlike previously, most of these weren’t with my original SDM cohort — only one was a required class and it was one that many people took last spring. I did get to meet and work with some of the SDM 09s, though. I also had a Sloan course and a Kennedy School course.

System Optimization

One of the required courses in the SDM curriculum (although actually it might be one of the options with the new curricula), on the covers this sounded like an interesting course. Unfortunately, it ended up being largely about using Excel and its built-in Solver to do what boil down to linear programming problems. Certainly important for certain fields and positions, but not so much for me. Luckily, it was just half a semester :-)

Organizing for Innovative Product Development

The second half of the semester, I took Tom Allen’s course on organizing for innovative product development (15.980). The class was organized basically as a discussion around some slides and research that Dr Allen has done in his lengthy time with Sloan. It was a fun class overall with some interesting insights about how organizations can be set up to succeed both in terms of the hierarchy, hiring process, etc as well as things like focusing your usage of space.

One of the really cool things in the course was Gunter Henn’s discussion of how he used some of the work he had done with Dr Allen in building a BMW design center in Germany. The big idea being that you want everyone to be somewhat focused on the same things and so the center of the building is all glass windows and looking down on an area where prototypes of the vehicles are built. It also tends to lead to congregation of people around the vehicle when trying to work through an issue.

The downside is that some of the findings here are hard to apply — while it’s true that communication happens best in sort of flat (physical) structures and when you’re close by, how do you do that when you’re in an already existing building with a structure that you can’t change? Another question, at least to me, is how to apply some of it in the highly disconnected area of open source development. Clearly one of the takeaways is that conferences where people get face time are still very, very important. Something to think about as we change the structure of FUDcons and FADs.

Evolution to Web 3.0 and the emergence of Management 3.0

How’s that for a buzzword worthy title? The course was taught by Professor Stuart Madnick as a Sloan course and this was the first time it was taught. My primary reason for taking it was to get some exposure to the more “typical” MBAs from a technical background. I was also somewhat interested to see what was being proposed as “Web 3.0″. It turns out that the main thing being proposed was the move towards the Semantic Web. Even after the course, I’m a bit skeptical :-)

Overall, though, the course was interesting. I switched to listener (audit) status, but still did most of the readings/work/etc. The first half to two thirds of the course I think actually could make a very compelling course if the content were fleshed out a bit more — in it, we covered a lot of sort of emerging trends in the web / online services. The biggest problem, perhaps, was the fact that a few of us within the class had a much deeper knowledge of the area than the professor and we didn’t really get into the interesting bits.

As we got into the last third of the course, we switched to talking almost exclusively about semantic web technologies. And this is where things got pretty weird as we started to get deeper into details of XML and RDF schema. The lack of consistency in the level of technical depth had to have been frustrating for some of the class, although some of us took it in stride.

All that said, I’m still glad I took it as a listener. Good to see what other people are thinking about in that sort of area. Also, met some cool people some of whom are going on to do cool things as they after graduation. And I was able to wave the “open standards are important” flag a few times.

Game Theory at HKS

I covered this more in-depth already, so no need to repeat myself