Tag Archives: classes

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

Semester is barreling along

Three weeks in and the semester is certainly barreling along at full speed. At this point, I think I’ve had enough sessions of each class to be able to have an actual opinion about them.

System Optimization – this is one of the required SDM courses and I’m actually finding that it really isn’t that interesting for me. It’s all about solving linear programming problems, but doing so using the built-in Solver functionality of Excel or various add-ons. While I guess that using Excel is fine for simple cases and therefore a lot of what people hit and want to do, to me, it’s just kind of annoying. I’m tempted to pull out the numerical methods book from my book case and write my own solver for the next problem set :-) Especially as Excel (/OpenOffice.org Calc) annoy me a bit. It’s only a half semester course, though, so I’ll just go through it and get the bits and pieces needed done.

Evolution to Web 3.0 – this is a new Sloan course and is turning out to be pretty good. A lot of the discussion in the class shows that there are definitely a lot of people who have passionate interest around what’s going on on the web for today and tomorrow, which I think is increasingly important. There is (thus far at least) something of a lack of discussion of some of the hard questions around ownership and privacy, but I’m hopeful that we can have some harder discussions around those as the semester progresses. While it meets for three hours (once a week), I’m finding that the time passes pretty quickly which is always good. The only real downside is that some of the examples that we’re starting with are older, but the discussion tends to drive towards more current happenings. I am pretty skeptical of the Web 3.0 label, though — I think a more accurate description of the course would be something around Emerging Business and Technology Trends on the Web instead of trying to bracket it with a buzzword.

My final course is Game Theory Applied to Strategic Decision Making at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. This has been a fun class — the crowd is different than both the SDM cohort or your typical Sloanie and so some of the discussions go in very different ways. Also, there are some group assignments and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to network with some KSG people. The professor is also very animated and clearly enjoys talking about the subject. Keeping my trend, the one thing I’d personally change about the course would be to make it a little bit more mathematically rigorous — but I’m pretty sure that’s my bias showing through again and I intentionally didn’t try to do a super-mathematically rigorous game theory course.

So yeah, things are moving along. I’m even at this point caught up with what needs to be done and hopefully can stay slightly ahead from here on out. I’ve also started to have some discussions so that I can get going on my thesis and have it finished by the end of the year. I feel pretty comfortable right now with the timing for getting that done.

Spring classes continued

I had the first session of my second (of three) classes today. The class is Evolution to Web 3.0 an the Impact on Business 3.0. While the title is somewhat chuckle worthy it actually seems like it should be a good class. It’s at least as much focused on the evolution to where we are today with web technologies and their impact on business and business processes in addition to the question of how you make money in such businesses. Then again, it’s a new class, so I guess in some ways, everything is subject to change based on how things progress over the course of the semester. There’s definitely going to be a very large component of discussion and participation in class, which is (usually) a good thing.

As a Sloan class instead of an SDM or ESD class, there’s definitely a different mix of people but that was one of my goals with the class. The mix is interesting though – I’d say about two thirds have a software-y background, most of the rest have an IT background and then there are a non-trivial number who just thought it sounded interesting or are trying to move to be in the software/computing space. The latter group may in some ways have the most interesting thoughts just because they’re not spoiled from being so deep in things.

Tomorrow, I get to have the first session of my other class for the first half of the semester, System Optimization. It’s supposed to not be bad, both being sort of interesting and fun and also not being huge amounts of work. Hopefully, that holds up :)