25 August 2009

Global Youth to Business Forum (2)

Amazing experience! I participated in the Entrepreneurship track (the Alcatel Lucent part was already mentioned) and afterwards we had great keynote speakers, an open space and a forum. I have to say what impressed me the most today was this young guy called Vishen, an AIESEC alumni, which own a company called Mind Valley.

Absolutely mind blowing.

Besides being a great speaker, he had such amazing hints on how to build a great work place to work. He was so inspiring, so vision driven, I felt extremely touched by his way of thinking and working. Certainly I will implement some of these things in my current team and in AIESEC Norway. The guy is so generous, he is a true alumni example, he gave to us one of his company products to support us to achieve our goals. And, as his wife was in the norwegian AIESEC national board, I invited him to chair a conference in Norway and now we just need to set the date, because we has extremely up to it!

I am impressed with my own experience in International Congress. I didn't skip one single session and I am alive and kicking. My energy level is very high, I am not tired at all. And now I have a discussion with all the Presidents for 2.5 hours, which leads the end of it at 23:59.

My own AIESEC 2010

There was this session on International Congress to understand to ourselves what the global AIESEC 2010 vision means to each one of us. It was a very inspiring session with the virtual presence of the previous 5 AIESEC International Presidents: Brodie, Dey, Gabiza, Juan and, of course, Aman.

It was especially cool to see what Brodie had to say, since he is such a legendary icon for us AIESECers. In the last years, there was no one (and no team) in AIESEC so celebrated as he as President of AIESEC International and his team, the ones who were responsible for the process of the vision 2010 creation in the International Congress 2005, in India.

I am totally part of the 2010 generation. When I joined AIESEC, back in April 2005, my first regional conference (organized by my Committee, AIESEC Porto Alegre, Brazil) had a huge focus on the AIESEC 2010 vision. I feel really connected to it since them: when I was vice-president in my local committee, our team used the 2010 to create our own vision, when I was in the national board of Norway the same thing and, obviously, now that I am leading AIESEC Norway, the national vision is 100% based on the Global AIESEC 2010 vision.

To connect even more, on the session we were asked to create our own version of AIESEC 2010, a personal state, something that you will believe it's 2010 for you. And here is mine (rough words maybe, but the feeling is there):

I want to lead AIESEC Norway to accomplish 3 things:
- Achieve 99 exchanges realized
- Have star members living a 5 stars experience
- Be a financially sustainable organization

Personally, I want to be the CEO that AIESEC Norway needs to achieve the above and be admired for leading by example and supporting my team (my vice-presidents and my local committee presidents) to achieve together our goals and vision.

Youth to Business Forum

Besides interacting with AIESEC members and alumni, there is another key interaction that brings a hell lot of value to my AIESEC Experience constantly: interacting with "externals" - people not from AIESEC, but from other organizations, companies, government, etc. Here in International Congress 2009 in Malaysia we have one full day called Youth to Business Forum, where we can interact with these "externals".

I just left one workshop with Alcatel Lucent about entrepreneurship and it was amazinly good. Basically we discussed very briefly our ideas around what is entrepreneurship and went straight to practice, working in groups to come up with business ideas, pitching these ideas to the other groups and receiving investments.

Our idea was very successful and it was brilliant to discuss it with everyone, because it's something that I do intend to do in the future: an experiential learning program that attaches itself to normal education, giving to high school students the chance to develop competencies and skills such as project management, communication, leadership, etc. Of course, it was also great to receive the feedback that there was some holes in our idea, for example how we are going to fund it which needs to be a little further developed.

I truly believe that not only we AIESECers gain with it, but also the companies by hearing the youth voice in this matter. I may sound a little full of myself saying that AIESEC is the youth voice, but, hey, we have some thing going on there, see this example:

Recently there was an youth program that took 50 young people to Antartica to study the problem with the gobal warming. From thiese 50 people, 6 were AIESECers. Consider we have only 35,000 students and university students are millions, I guess this is a pretty advanced representation when talking about youth that actually DO SOMETHING to change the planet into a better place.

Now I am going back to the forum.

24 August 2009


((Self-reflection time at AIESEC International Congress 2009 in Malaysia))

I consider myself quite creative, but been in AIESEC Norway for some reason has been retracting a little my creativity, I am not being so crazy anymore. I believe this is because I started to believe I know everything already and I have all the keys and nothing else can be different. Clearly I was not in the organization when the minds of brillient people came with a whole new concept called "the AIESEC experience". I cannot accept the "peak" as my peak, because this means death. I need to reinvent myself, go to the next level. Stretch, again, my bondaries.

I think I need to connect myself again with the realm of possibilities, be less grounded on the reality.

Being a fully responsible executive with a quite restricted experience at young age sometimes restrict you. Or, maybe, only me?

How can someone be responsible for a 1.5 million budget and the whole strategic development of AIESEC Norway be less grounded on reality and more connected to the unseen possibilities? How to balance responsibility and creative strategical thinking?

Any hints?

23 August 2009

Cultural sensitivity?

((some of the dates will be messed up, because I wrote lots of posts offline and programed them all at once, because internet is quite restricted here))

I can't imagine a place where people are more culturaly senstive then in AIESEC, but even here, I sometimes have my doubts of the extent of this sensitivity.

We are here in International Congress 2009 with more than 600 people from 100++ countries. Naturaly, there are some of them that are muslims and are fasting during Ramada (and of course they don't drink), which is happening at the same time as the Congress.

We from the western part of world, on the other hand, love to have a party with loads of alcohol. Now I pose my question: are we, AIESECers from the west, culturaly sensitive by drinking in Malaysia (a Muslim country)?

Don't get me wrong, I am not telling we are not, quite the opposite, my question is really sincere: is culturaly sensitive to not drink in the Muslim country or by accepting the drinking and the Muslim delegates completly leting it go as "things from the western culture"?

I am going to grab a beer tonight and thing more about it.

I am lucky to be in AIESEC International Congress 2009 in Malaysia

((Self-reflection time))

I consider myself lucky.

27 years old, Brazilian and I am the leader of the national office of AIESEC in Norway. AIESEC is just the biggest youth-run organization in the world, with more than 40.000 members spread around more than 100 countries.

I consider myself very lucky.

I am now in Malaysia (a place where I, sincerely, never dreamed of going) in IC (International Congress) that AIESEC runs every year, with around 600 delegates from all around the world (literaly).

The Congress is just starting. I feel energized as hell being around all those close friends from who knows how many nationalities. IC is an experience that I consider myself extremely lucky to be living for the 2nd time. Who, with 27 years old, can say that spend around 14 days with 600 people from 100 different countries, exchanging ideas, having fun, working together and giving his/her best to make the organization grow - not because of the money, but because we believe in it's ideal and relevance to society.

I consider myself extremely lucky, because I am one of the two delegates of AIESEC Norway in this Congress. And looking to the other national boards that brought their whole teams to IC, I feel a little envy. I really would like my team to be here. We couldn't bring all the 6 people in our team because we didn't consider as a wise investment to AIESEC Norway (both in human and financial resources) to bring all. But it would be damn cool if my team, the MC Big Bang, would be here. I am sure we would have a blast together. And we would brand AIESEC Norway very well, because we are a hell of a talented team. I would also enjoy to see our local committee presidents here, so they could experience the huge scope of this amazing organization.

IC is great, not because of the sessions, not because of the more than 60 "externals" (how we call people that are not from AIESEC, usually from companies, governement or other NGOs), not because of the cool 6 stars hotel or because it's in amazing Malaysia. No, IC is great because of these 100+ nationalities working together for one common goal, peace.

I miss my team. I would like they would be as lucky as me to represent AIESEC Norway in this Congress.

I am sure they understand, though, that they couldn't come because it was not a good investment for the organization. Those are true AIESECers: even knowing they would love to come, they use maturity to agree not to come, because it's not the best for the organization.

What a team I have!

I am so lucky to have them.

18 August 2009

Education at the crossroads

My all time favorite subject, education, in some insightful post from the status quo breaker, Seth Godin:

Education at the crossroads

Actually, there isn't one, there are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.

Should this be scarce or abundant?

MIT and Stanford are starting to make classes available for free online. The marginal cost of this is pretty close to zero, so it's easy for them to share. Abundant education is easy to access and offers motivated individuals a chance to learn.

Scarcity comes from things like accreditation, admissions policies or small classrooms.

Should this be free or expensive?

Wikipedia offers the world's fact base to everyone, for free. So it spreads.

On the other hand, some bar review courses are so expensive the websites don't even have the guts to list the price.

The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.

Should this be about school or about learning?

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is 'getting it'. It's the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn't care about workbooks or long checklists.

For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.

The combinations...

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't meant there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.

16 August 2009

Lessons Learned from 30 Years of Leadership

From Harvard Business Review Blog (obviously the hints wouldn't be mine, I didn't even completed 30 years old).

Recently, I had dinner with Dick Harrington, former CEO of Thomson Reuters and now my partner at Cue Ball, a Boston-based venture firm. We talked about his three most significant lessons learned over his very successful 25+ year career as a Fortune 250 executive.

Tony Tjan (TT): Dick- attempt the impossible and give us the top three business lessons learned over three decades!

Dick Harrington (DH): First, you have to have an "approximately correct" strategy -- you have to know where you are going, but directionally correct is the key. Two, you have to be highly focused and intensely execute that strategy by motivating and aligning the troops you have. And three, it always comes back to the customers and the fact that you have to manically know your customers and drive everything from that.

TT: Nicely done. So let's start with the first point. People often worry about architecting a perfect business plan or strategy and then get lost in the minutia. How do you know when you are "approximately correct," as you say?

DH: You want to be approximately correct instead of precisely incorrect. There is a point at which additional information or research will not change the basics of your strategy. When you get your strategy there, you have to "Nike it" - you just do it. If you continue to refine and refine, you'll never get into action, and the incremental value of research just won't be worth the time and money. Schedule time frames and be religious about them to launch, get feedback, and see if the strategy is acceptable to the customer or if you need to adjust.

TT: Your second point is about execution focus. What's the best way to rally people and spread that intensity?

DH: First, you have to communicate what you are trying to accomplish. And you need to know the team members who are going to make it happen and those who are going to keep it from happening. It's important to have time with them so they have an opportunity to discuss and debate what's critical.

At the same time, you have to draw the line at some point and say "Okay, we have everyone's input. These are the five most important things we need to accomplish and they are the only things we are going to work on." You want everyone - probably 4-5 key people, maybe 10-15 at larger organizations -- in the same boat so you can accomplish those things on a timely basis.

TT: Can you use operating metrics or dashboards to help imbue people with a sense of ownership?

DH: Absolutely. When you think about executing a strategy, you need operating metrics to see how you are doing. But keep them simple, so folks can easily see if they are being successful and adjust along the way as needed. This is the key, the dashboards or metrics a company uses should be simple and frequent enough so that all key members on the team can use them to keep score and see how their actions translate into performance (or not). Most companies don't internally communicate their metrics frequent enough, or if they do they are often measuring too many things or, even worse, the wrong things.

TT: The third big lesson from you is your "golden rule," which is that ultimately it just comes back to the customer. But how can people possibly forget this?

DH: It's an ego thing. The biggest reason people don't do this, and we've seen it a lot, is that they think working in an industry a long time means they know everything about the customers' needs.

What I've been able to do over the years is make sure we have appropriate customer intimacy and research - not a billion dollars worth, but enough -- to prove to others that they don't know their customers as well as they think they do or as well as they ought to.

TT: What is a simple first step someone can take for big impact customer research, particularly for the budget constrained firms that may be reading this?

DH: Find your smartest 10 customers and talk to them; those are the ones who can actually give you valuable information. It's about spending time with them and going over 10-15 questions to learn about how they use the product and what you can do to make their lives easier. From those questions you'll probably get another 15-20. That's a great start and you can use that information to consider other more structured methodologies for more specific feedback.

When I was tasked early in my career with running an auto repair manual business that had the leading market share, I first wanted to go talk to customers. I found out right away that customers didn't even like our product--they just hated our competitors' more! After some rounds of feedback, we were able to start producing what people wanted, not just what would suffice, and things took off from there.

I should also add that these days a lot of your customer feedback and research might already be out there - there are at least three of our portfolio businesses where we can just go to Twitter or Yelp to see what customers think. The web is an amazing customer research forum and more people should use it not just to search all the good things people are saying but more important to identify early possible areas of customer frustration and product improvement opportunities.

11 August 2009

AIESEC Norway 2009-2010 vision (as presented in ScaLDS)

This is AIESEC Norway: (if you can't see the video, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnNod7EWGRA)

I know I've been an extremely bad blogger. I am not prioritizing the blog at all - but I can say why: because I LOVE my job and I dedicate a lot of time to it.