B-School Bulletin: A Black Hawk Pilot’s Perspective, ‘House of Cards,’ And More

Former U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot Matthew Leitch, Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2018

A Pilot’s Perspective: Reaching New Heights In Business School

News from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

“What do flying and finance have in common?

“On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much — but I have found several parallels between my experience as a U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot and my business school experience.

“Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned thus far.”

Ask great questions.

Imagine yourself in a cramped cockpit, decked out in body armor and trying to fly a 20,000-pound aircraft to the top of a mountain while staring through night vision goggles that give you a 40-degree field of view. You have to land the aircraft on one wheel in order to let a sniper team take a position on the peak of the mountain. There are eight other aircraft in the area that are also under your command, so you’re listening to five different radios simultaneously while navigating to your landing zone.

As you approach, you hear that the target has changed. Your whole plan is now rendered useless. You’ve been assigned a different objective and need to formulate a new plan immediately. It’s up to you to determine how to accomplish your new mission – and with limited information. In that moment, you really wish there was a class on how to ask effective questions.

As leaders, the ability to communicate effectively is crucial. Whether you’re a military leader trying to absorb information about a new mission or a business professional evaluating how the capital markets are trending, the ability to ask great questions demonstrates active listening skills and fosters valuable dialogue – yet it’s something few of us are ever taught.

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Robin Wright plays the ruthless Claire Underwood on the hit Netflix series House of Cards. Indiewire

What Can We Learn From Claire Underwood?

News from ESADE

“The main characters of the hit series House of Cards are Frank and Claire Underwood, a couple you’d want to keep your distance from. They are brilliant, ruthless and absolutely terrifying.

“Claire Underwood is the wife of a cruel and ambitious senator who manages to become the president of the United States through conspiracy and murder, but she is also a lobbyist who will not hesitate to step over anyone’s dead body to achieve her goals. Claire is a mixture of submission and ambition. ‘Behind every great man there is a great woman with bloodstained hands,’ wrote the creator of House of Cards, describing the series.

“The character, embellished by a distinctive haircut and appearance of icy simplicity, seems to be the authors’ means of freeing themselves from the feminist trope of politically correct women who strive to achieve their goals while respecting the rules. For Claire — played magnificently by Robin Wright — there are no rules and no morals. In fact, she has been described as an antiheroine and a feminist warrior.”

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Mountain Hub allows outdoor enthusiasts to share information about trail conditions

Time To Pivot? Four Steps To Make It Work

News from MIT Sloan School of Management

“In the fall of 2012, Brint Markle wanted to build the first piece of avalanche hardware built on prevention: If avalanche safety is good, avoidance is better. With two fellow MIT students, Markle, MBA ’14, co-founded Avatech, a company that sold handheld probes for assessing snowpack and slide risk.

“After graduating from MIT Sloan, Markle continued to build Avatech from its new headquarters in Park City, Utah. ‘It was a really innovative product, and we attracted a lot of attention,’ he said. At the same time, a growing contingent of consumers was enthusiastic about the information-sharing software that supported Avatech. With this sentiment in mind, and with a sudden change in funding, Markle decided to pivot.”

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Study: More Frequent Sales Quotas Help Volume But Hurt Profits

News from Harvard Business School

“Firms often struggle with finding the best way to motivate their salesforce. How much of a rep’s compensation should consist of a fixed salary and how much should be based on commission? Should commissions be capped? What’s the effectiveness of bonuses and other incentives? And so on. While past quantitative research has investigated some of these issues, in our recent study we focused on an under-researched aspect of salesforce compensation: sales quotas. More specifically, what should be the appropriate frequency of quotas — for example, daily or monthly?

“To answer this question, we conducted a large-scale field experiment at a major retail chain in Sweden. The company sells small to mid-sized consumer electronic goods, accessories (such as headsets and phone cases), electronic parts, and small home appliances. With more than 80 stores, the firm employs a direct salesforce of about 350 employees who are compensated with a fixed salary plus a variable tiered commission, which ranges up to around 2%, based on sales performance surpassing a preset quota. Traditionally, salespeople have been compensated based on monthly quotas, and that plan was kept in place at five stores to serve as the control group in our experiment. These stores were selected as a representative sample of different geographic locations (Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo) across Sweden. For the remainder of the stores, a daily quota (more temporally frequent) plan was implemented for the entire month of May 2015.”

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Extravert CEOs have a big appetite for acquisitions, but does it benefit their firms?

When Extraversion Rhymes With Acquisition

News from INSEAD

“There are two important trends in the world of business today. The first is that corporations are gradually losing ground to smaller firms boosted by new technologies, improved markets and better financing. My predecessor as editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, Jerry Davis, has written a book on these particular changes. The second trend suggests that the opposite is happening, as a small set of finance, services and industry behemoths are amassing exceptional power.

“As a result, researchers are now looking more closely at the CEO personality. This is because in both the smallest and the largest firms, any departure from rational decision making is consequential. It can destroy a small firm or lead to severe ripple effects in the case of a large one.”

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