Monthly Archives: August 2013

BOOK REVIEW: “The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization” by Mats Alvesson (2013)

The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work OrganizationReview by Philip Warwick

Mats Alvesson’s latest work centres on the depiction of three contemporary conditions of modern western society:  grandiosity, illusion tricks and zero sum games; principle among these being grandiosity.  Alvesson argues that behind the seemingly impressive façades, there is little to show for consumption, economic growth, prosperity or mass higher education.  He ends the book with the rather downbeat conclusion… underlying the grandiose society’s illusion tricks is the triumph of emptiness.

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Filed under Book Review, Business Schools, Consumer Behavior, Consumption, Guest Authors, Higher Education, Leadership, Psychology, Sociology, Strategy

STUDY ABROAD : Peng Chen talks about coming to Grenoble from Beijing (Beida) University

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Peng Chen talks about coming to Grenoble from Beijing

Peng Chen, of Peking University in China, had options to study abroad in the United States, Singapore, and all around Europe, but he chose Grenoble, France for its diverse cultural factors. Peng had always wanted to see Europe, experience the unique teaching style that came along with the continent, and live like a typical Frenchman. Needless to say, when he first arrived in France, Peng was pleasantly surprised with how accurate his expectations for France were.

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Filed under Business Schools, China, Europe, France, Higher Education, Study Abroad, Travel

BOOK REVIEW: “Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business Markets” by James Anderson, Nirmalya Kumar & James Narus (2007)

Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business MarketsSalesmen require more gravitas than the power of persuasion and price cuts to make consistent sales to their customers.  In order to sell a product or a service, a company has to take a multidimensional role as a value merchant, rather than a salesman.  In fact, it is this very shift of the role of sellers that outlines what customers are looking for in terms of product or service offerings of the highest value (their perception).

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BOOK REVIEW: “When China Rules the World, the end of the western world and the birth of a new global order (second edition)” by Martin Jacques (2012)

When China Rules the World, the end of the western world and the birth of a new global orderReview by Philip Warwick

Martin Jacques, who holds academic posts at the London School of Economics and Tsinghua Universtiy in Beijing, as well as being a former journalist and founder of the left leaning Demos think-tank has produced a fascinating book about how the world’s political and economic power has been shifting in the early twenty-first century and what is likely to happen next.

Jacques finishes his book with an unexpected flourish (which I am just about to ruin for you) in which he makes a good case for China’s predicted world dominance to become a reality sooner rather than later.  Through much of the book he refers to a Goldman Sachs prediction that China’s economy will overtake the United States (US) in 2025.  The reader is left to assume that this is the date on which the new world order will be finalised.  However, in this final section he points to the rapid implosion of all things American, suggesting that the impact of the 2007/2008 financial crisis on the US (and the Europe Union), together with US foreign policy which has had a myopic focus on the middle-east for the last decade, has left the field wide open for China.  He names 2008 as the year that marked the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of a period of US world dominance that has lasted since 1945 and has been unchallenged since the collapse of the Soviet Block in 1989-1991.

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Filed under Asia, Book Review, China, Economics, Guest Authors, Leadership, Politics, Strategy, USA

The Smartest Kids in the World are created by the smartest (and bravest) education policy makers.

Gregg Glover Harvard School of Education

This week’s edition of The Economist contains a review and discussion of Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.”  The book readdresses some of theAmanda Ripley woes in the US education system where the notion of ‘teaching to the test’ has become the norm and ‘critical thinking’  has been forgotten. As usual, Finland and several Asian countries do very well. Poland also gets good marks for the improvements in its education system. European who have been panicking about the supposed army of Polish plumbers ready to invade Britain, France and Germany should be warned. Soon they may be joined by battalions of  highly skilled accountants, lawyers and doctors. Continue reading

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Filed under Business Schools, Education, Europe, Exchange study programs, Higher Education, Management, Strategy, USA

A friend in change is a friend indeed

During the holiday I had a very pleasant surprise. Over the last 2 years I have looked at other blogs when writing my own to get ideas and inspiration. One of the best blogs I have seen in higher education is written by Martha Graham at James Madison University. We had both left several messages on each other’s blog (which included me stupidly calling Martha “Graham” for the first couple of months!) Even though we have never had the chance to meet we have had many exchanges over the past year or so.

Martha had written an excellent article on Bob Reid, former Dean at JMU and who is now Executive Vice President and Chief Accreditation Officer AACSB. Bob and I met up at the EFMD Annual Conference 2013 in Brussels and I send Martha the photo never expecting her to publish an article on it! I am very flattered indeed by what she has said.

An article in “The Economist” this week discusses research that shows the more time people spend on Facebook the less happy they are. Like Martha, I totally agree with this. However, technology today means that we can communicate with people without ever meeting up and I have been delighted to have many exchanges with Martha. As she says, we have become friends without ever seeing each other. 

There is another positive side. In her article, Martha refers to a friendly bet that we had concerning Greenland. Because of that, I did some quick research and was lucky enough to stumble upon a wonderful blog called The Fourth Continent. This is written by a lady who has emigrated to Greenland and gives some amazing insights into life there. I have become an avid reader of her blog which is quite a unique blog and well worth a read. So even a friendly challenge with someone you have never met can have a positive effect. 

The start of the coming academic year will be a little different for me this September, so I have asked a member of my team to begin writing another blog to take up some of the themes I have explored over the past two years. “Mainly International” will begin publishing in just over a week. When my colleagues and I started talking about the layout and the themes, I first asked them to look at the one Martha writes. My basic message was that I wanted the blog to be as good as “Be the Change.” That is just how highly I regard the blog. Not only does Martha write quite beautifully, the warmth and the attachment she feels towards students, staff and other members of the JMU community is quite evident. It makes it great reading. 

So, many thanks to Martha, not only for this post but also the the inspiration you have provided me in writing over the past year or so. I am sure that you provide the same inspiration to many other as well.

James Madison University's Be the Change

Go to any discussion board about social media or modern communication and you’re bound to find comments about the dismal state of interpersonal communication. Parents decry watching their children and friends sit side-by-side texting each other instead of talking face-to-face. And who among us has not doubted that one person can have 986 friends?

While the discussion is valid, it’s also worth noting that adaptation is a significant component of change. And what we are experiencing in the fast-changing realm of communication requires — demands, actually — an adaptation.

As a devotee of handwritten letters, I love getting real letters in my real 3-D mail box. Much history has been recorded by such letters. I’m reading a book by Dava Sorbel (Galileo’s Daughter) based on letters written to Galileo by his daughter. I’ve also written here about Dorie McCullough Lawson’s book (Posterity) a compilation of letters from…

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Global Achievement Gap” by Tony Wagner (2010)

The Global Achievement GapThis week’s edition of The Economist contains a review and discussion of Amanda  Ripley’sThe Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.” The book readdresses the paradox that the USA has the best universities in the world but does badly on international tests in secondary education.  The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranking places the US 25th out of 56 participating countries for mathematical skills, just ahead of Latvia, and behind the Slovak Republic.  Ms. Ripley’s book is largely reiterating many of the ideas by Tony Wagner in his book, “The Global Achievement Gap.”  Ignored for several years when it was first written, it has today become a highly influential book.  Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Careers, Education, Higher Education, human resources, Leadership, Management, New York, USA