Saturday, December 7, 2013

One Last Hoorah

I must say, when signing up for this course I had no idea what the class truly entailed.  From the class description I gained a small insight of what topics the course might cover, but still, there was no indication of the extensive, in-depth material that we would touch base on throughout the year.  I would say that the subject matter discussed in this course was far more interesting than anything I have touched base on thus far in Economics.  As a result, I learned an incredible amount about Organizations that I had no knowledge of previous to my undertaking of the course.

To be honest, i possessed an unquestionably meek education of organizational processes prior to this course.  Now I can proudly attest to the fact, that although I am by no means master of organizational schematics, I have achieved a greater discernment of many facets discussed throughout this course.  First off, I had no idea there were so many transaction costs behind a single, ordinary negotiation.  From search and information costs, to bargaining costs, there contains a multitude of hidden costs that occur during any given exchange.  Many of which are unseen and often unaccounted for by the average individual.

One particular topic I perceived to be interesting was from one of the book readings.  It is known as the Ratchet Effect.  To briefly summarize this effect, when manager's exceed production in one period, they are "rewarded" with higher quotas in the next.  It was fascinating to me since I am still torn by how this might affect performance in a particular workplace.  In one sense this is great for the organization.  Management has discovered means to surpass the desired performance set in a specific period, and as a result, the company attempts to pursue extended future performance.  If a company wishes to grow, then elevated performance is dire to this pursuit.  However, if managers notice such a pattern of increased quotas, the stress induced on them may deter motivation to keep increasing workplace production.  This is just one topic from the course that perplexed me and induced myself to critically think about how organizations manage their staff, employees, and production capabilities.

Obviously the vast information introduced in the course can fill pages upon pages.  A great deal more than needs to be touched upon in this blog.  Yet, all the intelligence this course has to offer provides a fortified structure for an increased understanding or organizational procedures.

Now to turn to the class format.  I was particularly fond of the way the course was structured.  The way the class revolved around the blogging and assigned readings was paramount.  It facilitated understanding of the course material, and made it very easy to grasp a lot of the mathematical concepts that I was not as familiar with anymore.  I feel the pedagogic approach should persist in future class formats, especially since the structure of the class made learning easier than many classes I have partaken in thus far.  Additionally, the blogging portion was awesome!  Many times in a college classroom, interaction between students is meager relative to the interactions between students and the professor.  Commenting on each others' posts allowed us to  familiarize ourselves with our fellow classmates, and provided a solid basis for the level at which our writing should strive to attain.  I have not had a lot of chances to expand upon my writing knowledge since setting foot on this university, but the blogging has given me this opportunity to practice my writing and hopefully increase performance.

Writing the blogs and completing the excel files was somewhat time-consuming, but incredibly straightforward.  In regards to blogging, after about a half hour of preparation, it was easy to let the words flow and complete the prompt.  I would usually start by thinking about how I was going to go about introducing the context of my blog.  From there I pinpointed what topics I would discuss and from there everything just seemed to fall into place as I wrote.  For the excel homework, it usually took me about an hour to complete.  I typically was very anal about reading everything on the homework, and this contributed much to the time consumption.  Other than that, similar to the blogs, the excel homework was very straightforward.  The proper equations always seemed to be readily available in the text.  The comments posted on the class website also facilitated the completion of the homework,  especially since Professor Arvan always made himself available to assist struggling students.  I felt that not finishing the homework was inexcusable because of this.

I particularly wouldn't change much about the course.  My only complaint would be that I feel there should be more material covered on the exams.  I wasn't a fan that there were only three problems worth a substantial amount of points.  I felt this way, because if you did not understand one part of a particular problem, it would lead you astray for the rest of it.  In this type of occurrence, messing up one problem would lead to a huge disparity in grades achieved by different students on the exam.  Other than this I would not change much else.  I was a huge fan of the class format induced by Professor Arvan.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Modern Day Branding

There are often misconceptions of how important branding is to a company's success.  But every company of quality knows how well a brand can make a product or service.  Companies hire designer agencies to create the brand, but even the most important work is done before the agency gets started.  The company has to clarify its target consumer group, and figure out the message it wants to convey with its brand.

When a company brands itself, it is mostly in the form of a logo or a simple phrase.  For example, McDonald's brand is the golden arches consumers can spot from a mile a way when they are driving through a developed part of town.  Nike's brand is the swoosh, that conveys higher quality athletic equipment accompanied by prestigious gear worn by all our premier athletes.  Brands are a means for consumers to identify with a particular organization, and it is because of this that a company's brand is paramount.

One company I am most familiar with is Adidas.  This particular organization sponsored my club soccer team.  As a result, I frequently purchased their gear, and over many years of athletics, I gathered quite a vast collection of Adidas merchandise.

Adidas brands itself by its logo.  Three increasingly smaller lines, stacked one on top of the other.  That's not the only method for how it is branded.  Athletes around the world know the simple, yet powerful catch phrase, "nothing is impossible".  These three words when uttered separately mean next to nothing, one can even deter individual motivation for success, but when combined, these three words mark a phrase that carries extraordinary power in today's fitness world.  Adidas created a strong brand for itself.  It created a simple, yet effective logo that is easily identifiable and readily familiar.  It created a simple slogan, enticing hope and desire for any athlete that wished to pursue unimaginable feats.  Adidas did its research and understood its target consumers quite well.  Through such powerful branding, this company was able to construct a reputation that shall persist for generations.

The brand itself is just an identity marker.  Its the reputation that is built around it that captures consumer attention, and lets them know this product is better than the rest.  The easiest way Adidas is capable of building such a persona, similar to how many top-end organizations do, is have professional athletes model their merchandise.  It targets professional athletes for the obvious reason that its commodity's use is favorable for the active person.  It has a strong reputation in the athletic market, and if it wants to build its prestige more, then it is a great idea to associate its product with chief role models.  This leaves the impression that the product it offers is higher in quality and intended for premier performance standards  Everyday athletes look up to professionals.  Those are the people we inspire to be someday and wish for every minute that we could attain the glory that comes with walking the path they stride.  Adidas understood that.  They figured that people would attribute high quality with professionals, and thus assimilate this higher quality to the merchandise itself.  Through professional athletes, Adidas provided a solid framework for establishing its reputation.

If Adidas wished for their high-end reputation to persist, they had to continue to adapt.  They would have to constantly manufacture new merchandise befitting the latest styles and trends in the athletic world.  If they failed to re-invent themselves, without compromising their original brand of course, then their reputation might squander and the quality the brand once conveyed will increasingly suffer.

A brand acts as a footmark for an organization.  It provides an original identity of what the company's product is and who it is intended for.  Through advertisements and media outlets, a company is able to build its reputation.  It is able to further sustain it through proper marketing and creating new ideas for its products.  A brand builds a company, but a reputation sustains it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Numbers Never Lie

I have mentioned in previous posts about my passion for weightlifting.  Outside of work and my family, the gym is where I have developed my strongest reputation at this stage of my life.  A majority of my thoughts and actions are constantly comprised of behaviors regarding anything workout related.  Because of this, I have developed a concrete reputation with those who share a common interest in the sport, as well as with those people outside the weight room.

One thing is for certain, I by no means consider myself an elite lifter.  I still have many concepts to learn and understand about lifting as well as recognize the physiological responses of the body to different forms of exercise.  At this point in time, I have merely begun to scratch the surface in regards to fathoming every aspect of the human body and its response to various stress loads.  I feel it is this that fuels my hunger for further knowledge.  Because of this, I have an ever increasing burning desire to push my body to optimal performance levels.  These are the reasons I have developed a strong reputation thus far, in the culture of weightlifting.

As aforementioned, I am far from the top rung of the metaphorical powerlifting ladder.  Nonetheless, I have still made a substantial amount of progress from when I first started in my freshmen year of college.  In this sport, reputation grows by numbers and dedication.  I understand this may be a bit superficial, but numbers don't lie, and in the weight room, numbers tend to hold a substantial weight in what truly matters.  In relation to my fellow students, I can lift a substantial amount of weight.  It even shocks them further when they find out that I am a former soccer player.  Us soccer players are supposed to be frail.  I love to push this stereotype.  The amount I lift is one way that I have gained my reputation.  However, this is not the only facet that brings a lifter respect.  A great lifter has to be humble, he or she has to be courteous and understand proper weight room etiquette so as not to be rude.  Everyone should have an opportunity to better themselves physically, and a great lifter has to acknowledge this.  A great lifter has to also make sacrifices, and has to be willing to help those who lack appropriate understanding.

From following these guidelines is where my reputation stems, and from regulating my behaviors on behalf these beliefs is how my reputation was born and continues to grow.  I have to eat constantly, and also have to continuously learn more about the sport.  My friends and family always see how strict I am with my diet, and through this my reputation enhances.  I make sacrifices, choosing to go to the gym instead of sleeping or going out, and through constantly pushing myself to my own limits I earn respect from others and increase my reputation as an avid powerlifter.

I do not always stray from behaviors that benefit me in the gym, but at times I do feel it is extremely necessary to indulge in other enjoyments of life.  Especially, since exercise is only a stimulus for growth.  The actual muscle-building comes through recovery.  In my opinion variety is the spice of life, and putting 100 percent of your time into one activity can burn you out, no matter how much you enjoy it.  When i stray from my usual behaviors, I for one become more lenient on my diet.  I eat out with friends, and enjoy lots of fatty and sugary foods that I do not eat very often.  Once in a while it feels amazing to taste these delicious treats.  This also keeps me sane, since eating a lot of the same foods everyday can be mentally exhausting.  Other days I sleep in and take extra days off the gym.  Instead of going through daily stretches and exercises, I partake in activities I have enjoyed since I was a child.  I play video games, and watch movies that make me laugh and smile.  This mental vacation from always thinking about the gym restores any lost motivation.  Once I choose to direct my attention again towards the weights, new motivation arises and I am increasingly excited to return to lifting.

An individual's reputation is important in life.  It provides a fundamental basis for how others perceive your behavior.  Only the individual can build his or her reputation, and it is up the that person whether they choose to sustain it or increase it further.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Parking, Parking, and More Parking.

One such experience I can recall that reflects the standard principal agent model, is a time that I ran parking for one of the home Illini Football games.  I understand that I have related this setting to class concepts in the past, and the scene may be getting a little stale, but nonetheless, many of my experiences at the IHotel relate very well to topics of the course.  Thus, I shall reflect upon another aspect of my occupation that addresses the prompt for this week.

I have discussed previously about operations regarding parking for home football games that we conduct.  Because of this, I will not bore you with another detailed description behind our process.  Whilst I am on the clock, I answer to two principals, the conference center management and the customers.  This also applies to any parking scenario.  Our main objective is to park as many cars as possible, because the more cars we accommodate the more money the hotel receives.  The amount of money the managers turn in also reflects on how efficient they made the process.  Because of this, my superiors have a tendency to micromanage us in order to make sure we are doing our job to the best of our abilities.  We certainly don't want to fail in their eyes.

Besides making as much money as possible, it is our duty to maintain a friendly and fun atmosphere for those parking in the lot.  On game day, we want to assure everyone that their car will be safe, and provide them with whatever they need to make their tail gaiting a fun experience at the IHotel.  Often times, guests wish to take up more space than the managers appreciate, in order to set up their pre-game festivities.  This is where conflicts arise between myself, the agent, and the two principals.  Guests want more room, yet managers want more money.

The difficulty in this situation is when guests are asked to condense their tail-gait they often get angry.  They are there to appreciate the moments before kick off, surrounded by friends and family whose company they appreciate.  Whenever they take up more than one spot, my manager angrily commands us to enforce the one-spot per payment rule.  We have two options in this situation.  We can painstakingly ask them to move their stuff to a smaller area in front of their car, or explain to them that if they wish to take up an extra spot then they must pay an extra twenty dollars.  You can imagine their reaction when we ask them to pay more money on top of the steep twenty dollar fee required to park in the lot.

When I run into this dilemma, I almost always give in to the customer.  The only time I do not, is if the guest parks in such an absurd manner that it disrupts the entire flow of the parking operation.  I feel it is just easier this way.  Most of the people get extremely moody when asked to move their belongings or pay extra.  Some even get hostile, as which I witnessed one morning when I asked a patron to move his tent.  I do not wish to spoil anyone's good time.  Furthermore, I do not wish to constantly run into conflict with the guests, which happens about fifty percent of the time that I request tail-gaiting condensing.  In the end the hotel loses out on potential profit, but I feel since parking provides "free" money, then we can afford to lose some profit in order to satisfy the customers' needs.  That being adequate space for tail-gating.

Now by satisfying the customer, I do fail from my manager's perspective.  The guests are better off, yet we lost out on an increase in profit.  My boss also gets angry since it reflects somewhat poorly on him.  It is extremely hard to solve this issue.  Both parties will never be fully satisfied, and in order to make one better off, we have to make the other worse.  An increase in parking efficiency may assist in higher profits.  Yet, the guests will be unhappy with the small space they are provided to enjoy themselves.  The only way I see to solve this tension is to allow guests to park where they desire when the lot is empty, as long as they park in an orderly manner.  From here we can try to manage the space they inhabit during tail-gating.  Further instructions on the amount of room that guests receive for their entertainment should be provided upon entrance into the lot.  This way when visitors are confronted, they will be more understanding and reasonable.  Lastly, implementing more organization once the lot fills provides increases in customer satisfaction and parking efficiency.  In the end the situation is tricky.  My manager wants to squeeze as much cash out of this as he can.  However, by aiding the guests, I will  inevitably fail in the eyes of my superiors.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Team Experiences

To be honest I have never been much of a fan of group collaborative assignments.  I prefer to do my own work on my own time, and with as busy as I can be outside of school, I am more averse to working around other people's schedule.  No matter the extent of my aversion, there are still many moments in my life that group work was mandatory, both in and outside of the classroom.  Most experiences with group collaboration went extremely well, and many times I made great friends from it.  However, there has been times where working with a team was completely disastrous.

Like I said, more times than not, I often dreaded the concept of working with other students on projects.  Everybody always has conflicts with one anothers' schedules, and it always seems that meetings take place at the most inappropriate times.  So needless to say, in my abnormal psychology class my heart sank the first day of class upon hearing there was a large group assignment that was to be done at the end of the semester.  

Meeting every member of my group went fine.  Of course, there was the awkward small talk guaranteed with every new encounter, but bit by bit we picked away at the surface of each others' characters and all found something we extremely liked.  By some weird coincidence we had all been competitive soccer players throughout our childhoods, and early teens.  From talking to one another, we discovered we all shared a burning passion from the sport, and from then on all my group anxieties disappeared.  Communicating about the assignment became effortless.  Everyone was extremely comfortable with working around scheduling conflicts for group meetings, and whenever we got together we had a blast.

In time we even began to organize small pickup games between ourselves that we undertook when we felt pleased with the amount of the assignment we had already finished.  Of course, this cohesion transferred over to our school work and we received an A on our assignment.  I feel the reason this went so well was due to our similar personalities.  I feel that when an athlete plays a sport for so long they develop a mindset in relation to their particular sport.  Mostly due to long-term effects from large exposure to the elements of the sport in question.  Because of this, I feel we all shared similar personalities through similar experiences with the sport.  We all played in big tournaments, all played since a young age, and all were exceptional soccer players.  As a result, we respected one another and thought similarly which created an extremely strong group chemistry that was reflected in our high grade on the assignment.  

I wish all my group experiences went as well as this one, but unfortunately not all experiences are what we hope they would be.  This had a lot to do with the time my fraternity made the decision to kick out one of its members.  The decision required a unanimous decision, with every member of the house planning, and took a lot of preparation.  Since I was on the executive board at this time, I had to work long hours with other members to determine how this process should play out.  The problem was that our fraternity was so diverse, and with diversity often comes different opinions.

As a fraternity we were basically composed of nearly every high school clique you could think of.  You name it we had it.  We prided ourselves on the different characters we had within our walls, and felt because of this it made us stronger.  On the contrary though, in this particular situation it made us weaker.  Cliques soon formed after we proposed to kick the alleged member out for threatening the executive committee of our house.  Some felt his threat was warranted and others certainly felt it was going too far.  His plan was to sue the fraternity over fines which were rightfully appropriated to him for missing mandatory ritual practice.  It was mandatory for all members, and any member not present was fined.

He extended this threat months on end, and often made life in the house unbearable.  This is why we wanted him gone.  However there were members of the committee who were friends with him, part of his so called "clique".   Due to this, they shot down every proposition we brought forward on the matter.  In the end the house determined to kick him out, after we decided a hearing was the only matter of action left.  It went terribly.  twenty members dropped immediately feeling as we had been unfair, and half our officers resigned at the time.  This left our house in brief turmoil.

I definitely feel this happened due to conflicting personalities.  Different people with different views, often makes it hard to arrive at a single conclusion.  Also, the act of this one individual was the catalyst for all this disaster.  We tried reasoning with him, but he was insistent on taking legal action, even when he had no credible ground to stand upon.  His fine was not unusual, but what he chose caused great calamity and severed any cohesion we once had within the house.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Team Collaboration and Award Distribution

The explanation of early development in group collaboration is a reference to a valuable milestone of human evolution.  It is long been known that the collaborative efforts of a group are for more efficient than the effort of an individual on similar tasks.  Early humans discovered this concept long before any era of modernization, and this notion has maintained its perennial nature to this very day.  From early hunter-gatherer groups, evolved small farming towns that eventually blossomed into large industrialized cities inhabited by thousands of different individuals, all providing, in some way, to the common good of many.  The average humans have come to know that efficiency lies in the efforts of many rather than the efforts of the few.  As a result, production and wealth have reached levels that some may have never thought possible.  The problem with this is that the boom in wealth that our modern societies have come to be familiar with, may not be shared equally between the different members of the economy.  A little strange since we are all taught from young age to be fair and share.  But the main question of today is how much should we share for it to actually be considered fair.

In answering the question of equity in team collaboration, I can provide an example from my place of work, at the I Hotel and Conference Center.  Every weekend, usually on football game days, we provide parking services for fans going to the game.  The spots are usually in high demand due to the large amount of ticket holders and the minimal availability of parking here on campus.  Normally, the conference attendants are in charge of running the lot, but the hotel managers still get a cut of the profits we make during the day.  Also, the conference attendants only get a fixed amount of the total money pot, so after a certain amount of cars, we have already made the maximum amount we can make on the day.  If we do not park an appropriate amount of cars however, we suffer deductions, so it is usually in the conference attendants' best interest to elicit efficient parking procedures throughout the day  This situation has two examples pertaining to the article.  One where equity between conference attendants spurs parking efficiency, and the other where the managers take more of the money, even though they spent no time dealing with the parking fiasco.  The later situation can often be demoralizing to us, and therefore contradict our motivation to park as many cars as possible, and instead park a certain amount until we are sure we will be satisfied with our part of the cut.  Furthermore, the deductions if we do not get many cars often cause us to question the morality behind the process and this relates to the matter of procedural fairness that the author of the article touches base on.

First, we talk about collaboration leading to equity.  As mentioned before, all the conference attendants suffer the same consequences regarding deductions, and we also all receive the same pay out.  If one person is not doing their job, than the parking process fails.  In this sense, if only one pulls the rope, and the other attendant does not, than we get less marbles than we would normally have.  So in order for all of us to receive our determined payout at the end of the day, which is usually not much more than our hourly pay, we must all do our job, and pull on our end of the proverbial rope.  Because of this, it is in our best interest to work together, and work with each others' interests in mind.  It is not the same as the initial condition with the rope in the article, simply because there is no inequality produced for us each doing our share of the work.  However, this process still holds the same collaborative principles that were presented in the article.

Finally, we discuss the inequality in regards to management.  Our managers have no part in the parking process during game day.  They do not have to deal with drunken and disorderly tailgaters, or deal with the hostility of fans we are forced to turn away after the parking lot fills up.  Either way, they still get a higher cut of the day's payout before the rest of the earnings get sent to the hotel conglomerate.  The problem with this is many of the conference attendants feel this is unfair.  They do more of the work but get less of the pay.  The article does not touch on this kind of situation, but it still deals with the idea of inequality in the economy.  Collaboration is stifled between the attendants and the managers interests as a whole and because of this, at times, we park less cars than is desired by the hotel.  It should be known, that after we hit our quota, we suffer no more fear of deductions and more cars simply means higher profits for the hotel.  Because of this, only the hotel managers lose out on the extra money they can make if we were to utilize complete efficiency in our procedure.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Illini Bucks Effect

Personally, I feel that introducing the concept of Illini Bucks into the already established academia is a double edged sword.  At the Individual level, it will allow students who have accrued a large amount of Illini Bucks a more competitive edge when it comes time for class registration.  Those who save their bucks will be better off when it comes to picking classes that fit their ideal schedule.  Therefore, certain students will be able to avoid classes with low demand, such as uninteresting courses and 8am's, and be given an opportunity to choose classes that are more intriguing.  The problem with this system however, is a mjaority of students will more than likely save their Illini Bucks for the sole purpose of class registration.  As a result, the system will in effect cancel itself out and, since older students will have more of an opportunity to gather additional Illini Bucks, leave the registration platform in the same way as before the introduction of Illini Bucks.  One way that Illini Bucks would be able to change the face of class registration is if a variety of other incentives are provided for the purchasing power of varying amounts of Illini Dollars.  Such incentives could allow the Illini Bucks to be spent on various sports games throughout campus.  Another good that can be offered in exchange for Illini dollars is public parking.  As a student with a car here on campus, the supply of affordable parking in the local area is shockingly low.  There are meters placed at basically every parking spot imaginable, and often high fees are assessed to park in the many private lots around town.  Having one's vehicle towed is highly probable, and therefore creates another anticipated yearly cost.  Because of this, Illini bucks could be exchanged for meter time and parking spots on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  Offering more incentives will create a competitive market and entice students to choose to spend their bucks on what they deem is more rewarding.

Illini Bucks have huge promise to undermine the system that is already in place.  Especially when talking about different prices that are determined for purchasing the Illini Dollars.  As of now, registration is offered in a priority method of senority, and Acadamic standing.  This allows older students an opportunity to obtain the proper classes required for their major so they are able to graduate at an appropriate time.  Also, those students with a higher academic status, James scholars and Evans Scholars, are offered priority registration as well.  Providing a reward for academic performance, such as creating a higher possiblity for students to get classes they desire, will motivate, and hopefully lead to increased academic achievements.  In regards to these issues, if the price of Illini Bucks are really high, then those with more resources will be able to accrue copious amounts of them.  This will eliminate established senority and rewarded academic status, since younger students and any individual with the right amount of cash will be able to purchase these Bucks to pick the classes or whatever incentive they desire.  For low cost, I feel there will be no effect, since everybody will be able to buy a large amount of Illini Dollars.

I feel in order for this system to work properly, Illini Bucks should not be paid for, but in turn be a reward for different achievements around campus.  Such achievements would include, but not be limited to, academic performance, community involvement, and campus volunteer work.  Because of the nature of the Illini Bucks, this reward program should elicit more student cooperation around campus and provide one with further motivation to invest in their academics here at the University of Illinois.