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Introducing myself …

Hey guys,

I am Felix, Master degree student and student representative here at EBS University. I also did my bachelor here and, obviously, could not let go. I am really enjoying my time at EBS and being part of the 1st YGL curriculum is just another very cool thing we get offered here.

I come from closer Düsseldorf but will be moving back to Hamburg soon, where I was born 24 years ago. Between you and me ... it is the most beautiful city here in Germany!

As I did several internships during the course of my studies, I know one thing for sure: Some day I will be an entrepreneur, working my own business. Hopefully I will get some inspiration from those YGLs that I will meet in the next five days. In order to share my experiences with you, I will blog them here.

You will hear from me soon!



My first exposure to: the Cradle to Cradle design concept

I attended a Cradle to Cradle conference at Copenhagen Business School at the end of September 2010, where I was introduced to the concept of Cradle to Cradle design. The keynote speaker was the Director of Cradle to Cradle Denmark (Vugge til Vugge) and Executive Director of EPEA. His speech about designing circular nutrient (material) flows so as to move away from the current cradle to grave nutrient (material) flow in modern day production, really got me thinking about the potential of this design concept. We were told to imagine a circular flow of nutrients some of a biological nature and others of a technical nature. The biological nutrients cycle is that of nature that we all are familiar with. The technical nutrient cycle, involves the initial extraction of the mineral (nutrient) from the earth and then this is managed and its purity conserved by design in an indefinite circular flow (closed-loop) of production, use, up-cycling, and re-fed as a nutrient (mineral) with the same level of purity as before into the same production process. An amazing vision!

In order to realize this vision current production systems require a lot of rethinking and redesigning. One could even argue that a paradigm shift is necessary. One where the concept of waste is eliminated during the design process, and products, packaging and production systems do not produce any waste. As every kilogram of industrial waste is due to an ineffective process somewhere in the production cycle. To remedy this is not an easy or simple undertaking and requires extensive and intensive analysis of the current chemical make-up of the components and production processes in use. Thereafter once the detailed current situation is known, rethinking and redesigning can begin.

I am by no way an expert on the Cradle to Cradle design concept, but find it to be so appealing and in alignment with many of my thoughts of how business and society should function that I have continued in earnest to read up more about it. Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the founders of the concept, have written a number of books on it, and I have found the reading that I have done to be both inspiring and enjoyable.

As the real beauty of the Cradle to Cradle design concept is when it is achieved and functioning in practice, then the users and consumers of these products can do so guilt free, as the material flow remains circular and thus Eco-effectiveness is achieved. In contrast to this vision, we are currently bombarded by messages of restraint, reduction and how inefficient we are in mass media, which paints a depressing picture of life and the future for all of us.

But what if there was a better way, where we could celebrate life and enjoy all things we consumed and used guilt free? I believe that if we use our intelligence and begin thinking and designing in Cradle to Cradle design terms we can find and realize a better way!


Alternative Examination Technique

I was introduced during this week to a different exam format; I had my first Oral exam at Copenhagen Business School. Now some of you may be saying, so what! Well, to place the exam in context, the oral exam lasts 20 minutes and represents your mark for an entire semesters course work and in my case 7,5 ECTS. The pressure to perform is immense. Prior to the oral exam the student needs to write a 3 page synopsis, which is intended to set the scene for the discussion in the oral exam, but the synopsis does not count for any marks. The academic level of the synopsis is used to frame the discussion so in that way indirectly has an effect on your mark. In short, all points are given for your performance in those 20 minutes!

The 20 minutes are structured as follows, the student has 2 min to present at the beginning of the exam, without any PowerPoint, so just speaking. Then the examiners will ask the student questions related to the readings that the student referred to in their synopsis for the following 6 to 8 minutes. Thereafter the examiner will ask questions about any reading in the entire semester course for the following 6 to 8 minutes. Then the student leaves the room and the two examiners discuss the student's performance. The student is called in and given their mark in the 20th minute of the exam.

I found it an extremely tough yet efficient way of being examined. The only disadvantages are that some student's competence does not lie in presenting and speaking, and also that the students entire semester mark hinges on performing in a 20 minute time period, which converts it into a high pressure situation.

However, for business students that are going to be constantly faced in their future careers with time pressure and expected high performance in pressure situations, I think this examination style provides them with excellent preparation for the real working world.


CBS and my courses

In this week's entry, I will tell you briefly what has been keeping me busy academically whilst here in Copenhagen. The natural starting point is the courses I have been attending at CBS. I have four courses a week, each session is two and a half hours including two short five to ten minute breaks. I fortunately only have one course which starts at 8am the other three courses are all at reasonable times of day. The major differences I find at CBS vs EBS is that we have less face time here with the lecturers, larger classes and more pre-reading for each class. Currently each of my courses have on average 50 pages of reading per session.

In addition, the course that I have chosen each have a practical element to them, which is primarily what attracted me to the courses. However there are purely theory based course available for those students who prefer that. An example of the practical element in one of my courses, “Business Plan Writing for Social Enterprises”, is we have been assigned an external coach to help us develop our business plan and we are also writing a business plan that can be put into action. So real world contacts, budgets, funding options and business models. My group is writing a business plan on Bio-gas production for domestic use in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are striving to strike a balance between the positive social benefits which the social enterprise needs to deliver and the financial sustainability that the social enterprise requires to optimize the scale of its social impact. Motivation, enthusiasm and commitment are all present in our group and the group dynamics are functioning well, so I am looking forward to our final result.


Doing business in China

This really has gotten to be a key topic during my studies here at Tsinghua University. One of the most important reoccurring concepts which must be considered in the Chinese business environment is Guanxi. This term basically addresses the type of relationship which one has to build in order to do business in China. Take supply chain management for example. Supplier-buyer communications and information sharing is an essential ingredient in effective purchasing. To promote this a personal relationship or Guanxi must be established, over time to build trust and understanding between the two parties. This informal but strong tie to each other allows parties to open up towards each other, and business in China will not succeed without it.

An example of a company who broke Guanxi with their partner can be seen from the Danone Wahaha joint venture. The relationship between the two companies quickly turned sour due to a dispute over Danone’s increase in ownership of the joint venture. It was a small but high impact stake increase as it made Danone the majority shareholder with 51% ownership. The Chinese partners, feeling betrayed, would no longer cooperate with Danone and there was nothing Danone could do. Not even their newly acquired majority ownership allowed them to control the organization. The end result of the small stake increase was the loss of trust, which ultimately led to Danone’s exit of the Chinese market. So remember, when in China build a strong Guanxi and don’t forget to maintain it, your business depends on it.

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