Class 1 – OB/ECN

Yesterday was the start of the academic session at Haas. I belong to a cohort called Oski, with 60 students. There are three other similar sized cohorts. I don’t know why it’s not called ‘classes or sections’ simply. Oski is the name of the official mascot of Berkeley, and was introduced in 1941. You can check out some pics here.

The course is almost fixed for us for the first two semesters. It covers the core principles of management, and all these courses are almost mandatory. The remaining semesters are all electives. I have heard that the first year is going to be the worst. Let’s see…

We started with Organizational Behaviour (OB) – it’s considered the fluffy stuff. Unfortunately there are no equations to solve people problems. So we are going to go through many case studies of how companies have erred or survived through some of the fluffy issues. Yesterday’s class was a case on the Challenger Space Mission of 1986 and a fabricated similar situation. I had little knowledge of the disaster, but came out with a lot more than general knowledge about it. It’s a great example of how biases, communication errors, accountability, corporate and political pressures play into corporate decision making. This was an extreme example of what could go wrong in a high pressure situation, with limited time to make a decision.

The problem with cases like these is hindsight is 20/20. I guess I learned how a bias by a leader can influence the outcome for worse and how consensus is not necessarily the best decision. Its good to see some things written down – like potential human biases. It gives a framework to use in everyday life. “Why does this person care so much about this project” – type of questions could be easier to answer?. I do wonder sometimes, if I can pull myself out and look at issues so objectively when I am in the middle of it all. That’s going to be an important quality for any of us who shine in the coming years beyond middle management.

The second class was Microeconomics (ECON). I am looking forward to this one. The last time I took an economics class was 1996 in my first year of IIT. I liked it then as well, but I’ll probably appreciate it a lot more this time around. We have a very energetic professor for this class, which is going to be a life savior since this class is in the second half of the day. No surprises that we started off with Supply and Demand curve. The surprise was that I seem to learn something new every time I see this curve. It looks pretty benign but it’s so powerful. With a 6-10 hour per week of expected time commitment on only this course, I am happy that I have a fascination for it.

The happiest part of the weekend was that both the instructors are pretty good and the quality was class discussion was really impressive. The saddest part of the weekend was that I realized that I will not be able to take the whole of Sunday off for the next many months. But then some great guy once said that “no one ever died of hard work”, I’ll try to keep this in mind and keep marching…

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