in transit, mark danielsonJournal



Well, I guess one more entry from Copenhagen.  I’m in my usual breakfast spot, only this time, for the first time in over a week, I’m not surrounded by classmates.  About half the class is in transit at this moment.  Me, I have a later departure today, so I’m leaving with a large pack of folks around 11:00.

Programs like this can be a weird beast.  It’s rare that one gets a chance to intensely study a specific subject in a foreign place with a group of folks who are, at the beginning of the trip, largely strangers.  This class represents the sixth such experience I’ve had–three in high school and three as a grad student–and it seems the ending of these brief periods always define themselves much more distinctly than other life experiences.  The difference, maybe, is that they create a completely transitory community, one that can only exist for a brief period before scattering.  (I’m somewhat reminded of that town in Canada that was intentionally shut down after the local mine closed.)

There’s also a weird quality to time on trips like these, especially when away from one’s loved ones.  I’m not just talking about the general acceleration that happens as a trip nears its end, but how the timeline of the trip itself begins to contort.  I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and son later today, but in some ways it feels like I was with them just a few days ago.  Oslo, on the other hand, seems years distant.  History as I feel it is different from what clearly must be true.

I have a ridiculous amount to write about from the class and the trip.  (I’ve apparently been using “ridiculous” quite a bit over the past two weeks.  Also, “rabid.”)  The subject matter may have to wait a bit, as I’m really split on a number of items covered in the class.  There’s something going on here, but the idea of corporate social responsibility, and the way many organizations are approaching the topic, may be distracting people from deeper, more important issues. As for the cities and the experiences, I’m already arriving at the point where I’ll need my photos to remind me.

Eight hours to Amsterdam, 18 to Minneapolis. More later.

Posted in Education,Journal,Travelog at 8:58 am

TraveLog: Oslo


Wednesday morning in Oslo. I just got back from a 45 minute jog around parts of the city center, which was both awesome–hey, I’m jogging in Oslo–and horrible–bricks and pavers everywhere. I’m currently in the midst of breakfast, which, aside from the time opened up by rising early and depriving myself of sleep, is pretty much the only open time I have here.

After a gentle opening on Monday, the class started in earnest yesterday. I obviously can’t speak about the organizations we visited, but wanted to say days like yesterday kind of justify the decision to pursue a MBA. (Hopefully I’ll still feel that way when my crushing debt load hits around January.) The fact we are in class does make it kind of difficult to see the city–I’m not complaining, we of course knew that beforehand–but with with many of the museums and such closed on Monday, and shutting around 6:00 weekdays after that, we’ve been faced with some extremely narrow windows to take in the city and its culture. That led to things like lunch yesterday when a group of us decided to skip food and do the National Gallery in 20 minutes. If given appropriate time, we would’ve been there for at least a couple of hours.

Today we have more site visits, and tomorrow we’re off for Stockholm. I’m excited to go to Sweden, but at the same time am sad about leaving, as I was just starting to get a feel for this city, it’s people and its rhythms.

Well, I need to get ready for one of our site visits today, one for which I may have to be politely combative.  More later.

Posted in Education,Journal,Travelog at 8:30 am

CSR: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff


So, I had some interesting thoughts about corporate social responsibility on my jog near our hotel tonight, but as one of the key things I’m working on relates to one of the companies we’ll be visiting on the trip, I guess this is the point I have to start to clam up on the topic, even though I was just starting to get my brain in gear.

~ ~ ~

To clarify my earlier comments on CSR, though, I do think there is value to the study of it, I just think the meat of what is new, interesting and important lives within a narrow spectrum of the topic, which I would limit to companies being 1) transparent, 2) aware of all stakeholders, even competitors, and treating them with diligence and respect, and 3) using organizational competencies or challenges as a means towards social good.

I think the last point is the most important, although it’s difficult to be effective at it without the second point. For many industries, transparency strikes me as the least important of the three, and in many cases can start to blend in with “just good business” items I consider to be kind of a distraction from the central topic.

Those distractions are a clear part of what I consider to be a problem with discussions around CSR right now. There is something new here, but it is getting lost in the marketing, greenwashing and general BS that can surround companies that are new to the topic and are going “me too!” You’re good to your employees? You try to be efficient with your resources? Whatever, that’s expected. Show me what you’re doing beyond that.

One of the initiatives of the foundation attached to my employer (DISCLAIMER: I am speaking on my own behalf, not on that of my company) that I think is a good example of “doing something beyond” is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Emergency Information Service (EIS), which springs into action when a natural disaster or other major event challenges a community and disrupts traditional means disseminating critical information. (The Haiti earthquake provided one example.) The goal of the service is to “provide fast, practical and verified information” to affected populations, including “everything from public health advice to trustworthy information on relief efforts – and always in local languages.” It’s a good example of a company—the Foundation has access to Thomson Reuters resources—using its unique competencies—in this case information gathering and dissemination—and using it to do good even though there is arguably no direct benefit to the organization. It’s this kind of corporate behavior that I find interesting, and think in many ways it’s more important than the old-school corporate charity that we’re familiar with. (It also, incidentally, makes me proud to be a Thomson Reuters employee.)

Unfortunately, it’s these very kinds of efforts that often get drowned out when companies report on everything they’re doing for CSR, much of which they really should be, you know, doing anyway.

Posted in Education at 12:22 am

Nothing New Under the Sun


I’ve been skipping through books on CSR over the past week, trying to get myself psyched up for a trip that’s less than a week and a half away, and so far everything seems to be backfiring. One of the books I’m working on, Saving The World At Work, caused a bit of a revelation this evening, and not in a good way. The first chapter of the book includes examples on Ikea flat packing its furniture and maximizing shipping space. That of course was given as an example of corporate responsibility–not being sloppy on shipping allows Ikea to minimize its environmental footprint. Critics could argue that the real benefit to Ikea comes from the fact the aggressive shipping methods allow it to save money, but I’m not really bothered by that. Save money, save resources, win win, but something about the example, and others like it, have bothered me.

It was on my walk tonight that I got it. A frequent argument for companies developing CSR initiatives is that it’s just good business, and while that may be true, one could just as easily argue that running one’s business in an efficient manner is just good business. While the argument on CSR is considered revolutionary and worthy of discussion and study, the efficiency argument is so obvious that few would bother to speak it. The problem is, aside from limited kinds of stakeholder outreach, and certain types of remediation, there is little difference between the two.

In a nutshell, CSR may just be a different name for something that has existed for as long as businesses have competed with each other. We may be developing new methods in this day and age, but from a philosophical standpoint, it’s starting to look like CSR is nothing new.

Posted in Education at 11:58 pm

Scandinavia on Deck


Sometime yesterday evening it dawned on me that I’m just over two weeks away from heading to Scandinavia for my class on corporate social responsibility, a trip for which I’m grossly unprepared. In many ways my brain is still in China, as I reach the midpoint in Richard McGregor’s immensely interesting The Party, and as I still try to cut through the 5000+ photos I took there in January. It’s kind of like when you trip on something, and have that long moment to process the fact that you’re falling, and then that split second when it becomes clear that the floor is going to happen.

I entered that split second last night. I used up my existing credits on Audible to grab any CSR listening I could—off topic, but is there anything as ridiculously broken as Audible’s search function?—and grabbed a few books for my Kindle as well. It’s going to take quite an effort to get my brain to shift, though. Even with my pre-courses at Carlson, I somehow managed, completely unintentionally, to keep my mental focus on cleanup from the past months and years rather than preparing for what’s on deck. In a way I suppose this is somewhat natural after four years of parenthood, work and school: As my classes have eased up and my bandwidth has increased, the natural inclination has been to catch up on that which had been set aside.

But, I’m not done with school yet, and with the huge time and financial commitment this final course represents, I owe it to myself to get as much out of it as possible. So, I’m going to have to put down The Party mid-read—something I hate, hate, hate doing, as I’m fantastic at not picking up books back up after an extended pause—get the photos done tomorrow or Friday (my American classmates have seen them, my Chinese classmates have not) and get going on CSR.

~ ~ ~

And with that, I should probably apologize for what may happen to this blog over the coming weeks. It’s been fairly dormant since I started school—there have barely been ten posts since my dad died—but now its reanimation may make it look like a hack CSR blog. (Emphasis should be on the word “hack.”) Some people talk aloud to work through their ideas. Me, I tend to write, and as I work through the vagaries, motives and conflicts surrounding the topic of CSR, I’ll probably be writing about them here.

Posted in Education,Journal at 11:45 pm

So That Happened


I had my last in-classroom class at Carlson last night. I paused before exiting the room, feeling that I should mark the occasion somehow, but in the end there was not much to do other than just walk out. I guess that’s how these things often end. Getting an MBA has been one the more difficult initiatives I’ve taken in my life—I have the extra weight and debt to prove it—but it is now essentially over.

The only things between me from that incredibly expensive piece of paper (and becoming the target of well-deserved jokes) are a couple of reports and a two-week trip to Scandinavia in June. I’m thankful I’ll be ending the program with a class that includes me getting to visit a part of the world I’ve never been to, and getting access to companies I’d never have the chance to see up-close otherwise, but in a way it will make the end of my degree an even quieter experience. Instead of the sound of a door closing behind me, at some point in the near future a single tap of a mouse will mark the submission of my reports, and the end of a wonderful, challenging, and sometimes strange four years.

~ ~ ~

I’m not sure if this was appropriate or not, but after the class I went out for a few beers with some classmates, came home in time to help put Mathias to bed, and fell asleep after reading him some books. I woke up in his room around 3:00 am, tip-toed over to Lisa and my room, and fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. In the process, I got more sleep last night than I have in months.

Posted in Education,Journal at 10:59 pm

Journal for 12 Sep 2010: One Year and Counting


I’m sitting, surrounded by homework, in a hotel room in Door County, so I guess it must be September.  We’re on our yearly trip here–this is a family tradition I inherited when Lisa and I got married–and I’m one week into what I hope will be my last year at Carlson.  I’m trying to enjoy both the trip and my second-to-final semester, but the fact they’re starting at the same time kind of works against that goal.  Granted, I actually like the subject matter of my courses this year, and they’re heavy on reading and writing, which typically makes things easier for me, but the sheer level of work I’m facing is daunting.

This is what a typical Wednesday will look like for me for  the next 14 weeks:

  • 6:40: Get up.
  • 7:15: Depart for work
  • 8:00: Traffic willing, arrive at my desk.
  • 4:45: Depart for the U
  • 5:45: Start class
  • 9:05: Depart class
  • 9:30: Arrive home, say hi to the dear wife
  • 10:00: Weather permitting, go out for a quick walk or run
  • 10:45: Prep for my evening meeting with India
  • 11:00: Meeting with India
  • 12:30: Brief, fleeting moment of free time
  • 1:00: Sleep

Unfortunately, for most of the fall, I will have a class on either Tuesday or Thursday as well, meaning I’ll be going two days without seeing Mathias.  I really didn’t want to take classes on sequential days, but this late in the program, fewer remaining electives means less control over one’s schedule.  This schedule also puts a lot of pressure on Lisa, of course, but the only other option would be for me to extend my program past next spring, and I can safely say neither of us wants that.

Posted in Education,Journal,Travelog at 3:48 pm

Journal for 24 May 2010: What’s Next?


Few things have been as bad for this site as my MBA program, but at least I can say I’ve had a successful semester. I’m officially done with all my finance and stats courses—how great the lifting of that burden is I can’t really overstate—and actually managed to pull off a B+ in my managerial accounting class. I had a thoroughly enjoyable class on strategic leadership this semester as well, and in a way I consider it a kickoff to the rest of my MBA. With all but one of the required courses out of the way, from this point on it’s pretty much just the fun stuff. In a way I’m almost a little bit sad that I only have a year left before I’m done.

Almost sad. By which I mean “ecstatic.” I’m taking one summer course just to make sure I won’t find myself one class short at the end of Spring 2011. If I knew for sure that I could get into at least one of the international programs I’d like to take I wouldn’t have to take a course this summer, but I’ve known a number of really bright classmates who didn’t get into any of the international programs they applied for, so I’m hedging my bets.

~ ~ ~

With graduation on the horizon, and with Mathias only a few years away from kindergarten, it’s time for Lisa and I to consider what we want to do with ourselves over the next few years. It’s for that reason that tomorrow evening will find me in my car headed to New York, with Lisa and Mathias following by plane two days later. No, this does not mean we’re moving—it’s just another step in us understanding what our options are. Maybe New York is in our future, or maybe somewhere else on the east coast could soon be our home. (My company is like a rash across the Eastern Seaboard. A friendly rash with good benefits and lots of advancement opportunities.) Or maybe Chicago, San Francisco, or even—am I actually going to say this?—LA. I really want to stay with my company, which limits us somewhat, but considering the number of people I know who work for companies that only exist in the Twin Cities, I’m feeling pretty fortunate.

Staying in the Twin Cities is also a possibility, of course. While neither Lisa nor I have any strong ties to the area, both of our professional careers here are going pretty well. If they weren’t, we probably would’ve checked out some time ago. While the Twin Cities have a lot going for them, both of us feel we’ve been here too long. (I’ve now lived in the Twin Cities for longer than I have anywhere else in my entire life. When I came up here for school, I only expected to be here for a few years before getting out.)

~ ~ ~

You can’t really settle down somewhere without settling. (I knew that when I named this site, but my problem then wasn’t that I wasn’t moving, it was that I wasn’t actually going anywhere.)  I spent most of my life growing up settling for one thing after another, often at the direction or suggestion of others, a trend that continued for a few years after I completed my undergrad. And you know what? Settling isn’t really my thing anymore.

So, with that, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area, here we come.

Posted in Education,Journal,Travelog at 10:07 pm

Items Noted Elsewhere: Shift Happens


Rummaging about online tonight in search of data to sufficiently frighten me before me latest class project (the web 25 years from now), I stumbled upon an updated version of the presentation my ops professor launched his ops management class with just over a year ago.



It’s interesting to see how it compares to the original version. Some things have changed even faster than expected.

Here’s to embracing the future in all of its wonderfully gory glory…

Posted in Education,Items Noted Elsewhere at 10:03 pm

Journal for 10 October 2008


Lisa has a theory that I’ve outgrown my blog, but I don’t really think that’s the case. Instead, there’s the simple fact I’ve been incredibly busy, and much of the time in the past I would’ve spent online I now spend studying or playing with our rambunctious toddler or simply vegging out. The irony is there’s hardly been a time I’ve had so much to write about… And yet so little time to actually write it.

The 800-pound gorilla in my life these days, the gorilla I’m going to try not to write much about as it isn’t really all that interesting, is my Data Analysis and Statistics for Managers course at the U. The professor is solid and I seem to have a good group of folks on my project team, but the subject matter is often just a bit beyond me. The interest (and even excitement) I felt with my strategic management, operations and venturing courses is not in the least bit present here, and, worse, I’ve learned very little that I can apply to my day-to-day work. (That’s a bit odd as I spend much of my regular workday dealing with reports and interpreting data.) My financial accounting class, which was not enjoyable for me at all, at least gave me some knowledge I could do something with.

My stats midterm was last night. I think I did OK, but of course won’t know until next week. My second class of the semester, Information Technology & Solutions, begins in a few weeks, and for what are likely obvious reasons I’m not expecting much of a problem with it. Regardless, I’m looking forward to my current class being over.

You know what I’m looking forward to tonight? Sleep. More later.

Posted in Education,Journal at 11:02 pm
Next Page »

in transit—a lame attempt at a homepage since 1996—is a service of Mark Danielson and
© 1996-2006 by Mark Danielson. All rights reserved unless specifically noted.