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Downs vs the Professor: Part 2 – Viva El Presidente!

(Editor’s note: As with any good two-part thriller, I strongly advise you to read Part 1 first, if you haven’t done so already…)

Now, here is a strange coincidence. Across the road from where we are at the Stanford Executive Programme is the Hoover Tower. Most people associate the name Hoover with US President Herbert H, but it is also the name of the first director of the FBI (J Edgar H). J Edgar was notorious for abuses of power – harassing dissidents and amassing secret files on political leaders, for example.

But for the purposes of this story, the important thing about him was he apparently enjoyed dressing in women’s clothing.

Now, as you know from last week’s blog, in our class we studied labour relationships as part of a class on applying game theory to micro-economics. And as part of that (of course), the Professor challenged me to wear women’s clothing in order to portray the lead character.

After taking the challenge, I have been elected Class President.

Coincidence or conspiracy? I will leave it to you to judge.

(When not doing my laundry, I am interviewing candidates for my own secret police force.)

The other good news is that the Professor also upheld his end of the bargain, wearing the All Blacks jersey for a morning, much to the delight to the four Kiwis there – and, even better, to the annoyance of the South Africans and Australians. He was a good sport, even though he confessed to preferring the Welsh when it comes to rugby.

Just so you don’t think this entire trip is solely about playing dress-ups, let me outline the course content we covered in the first week. The class mentioned above (applying game theory to micro-economics) was part of a series looking at motivations and trade-offs in real life situations.

In another series of classes we are covering strategy and strategic leadership, and in another  we covered corporate goverance and financial accounting (“don’t lie, cheat or steal, but if you do, be open and consistant about it”). We walked through case studies on Nortel and Enron and also a breathtaking case about an ex-Disney employee who left the company after just one year, with a $140m payout.

We also did a masterclass on negotiation and had a guest lecture from an evolutionary economist. Packed in around that is roughly 2.5 hours of reading each day, nightly meetings with our study groups and a daily exercise routine. It’s full on.

My new role of Class President is an interesting one. The main benefit seems to be that everytime he sees me, the Russian calls me ‘Mr President’ in his strong Russian accent. This is nice, but as yet no-one has offered me an intern.

I do have the key task of organising class outings, and it has also meant that I was probably the first person ever to do a full M?ori whaik?rero in the opening speech at the Latin party on Friday night. A great way to end the week, salsa dancing with the other 159 students, of whom only 24 are women. The odds of finding a dance partner were not great.

And I know what you are thinking, but no, I didn’t put the dress on again.

Those days are behind me, I have standards to uphold – I am the President after all.

David Downs is GM products and services for NZTE. He is also the author of No.8 Re-wired.

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