Accenture Challenge: A Challenge in Leadership

Accenture Challenge: A Challenge in Leadership

The Accenture Challenge is meant to be a one-of-a-kind learning experience that gives students the chance to envision a creative solution to an imaginary problem that roots itself in reality. Horror stories run rampant handed down from alumni past about the all-nighters, the high-pressure presentations, and the ruthless judges. Professors try to assure us it’s a safe learning experience and if we don’t do well, well then, so what? Yet none of this insulated us from the true shock of being completely out of our element.

What even is a RFP??

The first hurdle to clear in this challenge is to decipher what the Request for Proposal actually wants. The fictitious cruise line company wants some sort of technology solution to enhance guest satisfaction. It has a lot of fluff. It goes off on tangents while describing the company’s history and, for some reason, listing the tonnage of the ships. Teams that can’t dig deep and isolate the main points will ultimately end up focusing on entirely the wrong things. Our team was one of those teams. Focusing too much on a technical solution and application development cost rather than addressing all key areas threw us off during the presentation.

Stand Your Ground

There was a part of the RFP asking for a unique solution to increase satellite bandwidth aboard the ships to power the new applications. During our initial research, we found a new satellite technology currently in use with Royal Caribbean. We were excited about this and wanted to include it in our proposal. However, an Accenture rep came in our meeting room to see where our heads were, and after hearing about this solution, cast quite a bit of doubt on it. We decided to scrap it.

The next morning, that same rep judged our presentation. He said he wanted to hear more about that satellite technology. Three out the four finalists included that same technology in their presentations. Even the Accenture solution included it. We should have stuck to our original ideas, making a case for them instead of letting ourselves be thrown off.

Support Fast Failures

A big failing of leadership was present in our group. The communication between team members was not streamlined. We lacked focus and vision. Strengths were not utilized to their fullest extent. We were tired. We were hopeless.

After presenting one of the worst presentations we have ever given, we were left to mull it over and identify where we went wrong. After seeing what the finalists had put together, we felt embarrassed by our work. We were disheartened, our emotions amplified by lack of sleep.

However, after a night’s rest, we could then realize the value in all this. Now instead of being sad and angry about our failure, we can now look forward to the next challenge, knowing that we all survived this storm. We have renewed hope that with what we learned this week, the next challenge will have nothing on us.

Information is not knowledge

Information is not knowledge

“Information is not knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Renaissance comes from renaissance des lettres, which comes from Old French renaissance meaning “rebirth.” This is where we come to apply the term to the period of new art, literature, and philosophy in Europe. It was a rebirth of knowledge and culture that sprouted from the ruins of the Dark Ages.

When we say Information Renaissance we mean that the way in which we do work is being “reborn” in some sense. Just 25 years ago, it would have been unthinkable that anyone could make millions by collecting and selling information. Yet today, we see it in countless young entrepreneurs who skirted the expected “industrial” way of doing things, i.e. getting a “nice salary job with benefits” in a nine to five office. Today, what drives our economy is information. Our way of doing things is being reborn.

In a society that is overloaded with information, it is difficult for us to make sense of it all. It’s hard to define exactly what “information” is. Since selling information is so lucrative, it’s only natural there would be less than honest people looking to make a quick buck at the expense of a gullible audience. The 2016 US presidential election saw a massive increase of false news circulated on social media. The sites that hosted this news were incredibly biased toward their ideology and invented sensationalized headlines to be shared by people who take for granted that what they read “must be true.” The authors of these faux news articles made hefty profits from advertisement revenue and the public is left horribly misinformed in this new information renaissance.

What we must do then is see this as an opportunity to not falter on the edge of this new paradigm and prosper in a new information economy. With the rapid changes in how we communicate, conduct business, and learn, it is easy for some to get left behind.

Apple’s Dulling Edge

Apple’s Dulling Edge

Recently, Apple has been under fire for losing its innovative edge it’s long had over its competitors. Its rush to innovate and outpace their primary rivals, notably Samsung in the mobile phone market, has most likely led them down this path.

Just in 2016, Apple has faced a slew of criticisms over some of its new products. The iPhone 7 no longer features a headphone jack, a move which Tim Cook, much to the bemusement of Internet users, described as “courage.” Many critics say that this is a scheme for people to buy overpriced adapters for products that should be compatible anyway. Their new MacBook series features minimal I/O ports, most of them being a new USB-C standard. The iPhone 7 still ships standard with a proprietary Lightning to USB-A cable. This means an Apple customer must purchase an adapter to plug their iPhone into their MacBook.

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Apple – “It just works”

Others criticize hardware specs of the new MacBook, which limits users severely compared to similar notebooks such as the Dell XPS 13 or the Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad. Many laptop manufacturers have been adding touchscreens to their notebooks for a few years now. Apple refuses to add touch capability to their screens because it “detracts from the experience.” Worse yet for Apple, Microsoft has recently announced the new Surface Studio, which puts Apple’s Mac Pro through its paces on hardware, and beats it on price, especially since the Surface Studio also includes a 34” touchscreen monitor. Apple’s Mac Pro doesn’t ship with any screen and Apple doesn’t make any touchscreen displays outside of its iOS devices.

So, is this the end for Apple? Surprisingly, no. The new MacBook, despite lacking many common I/O ports and touchscreen capability, has actually outsold its competitors by wide margins. The debut of the iPhone 7 sans headphone jack still saw demand outpace supply on release weekend.

These numbers imply that Apple is doing the one thing it knows really well; how to make market an experience. Apple sells so many laptops and phones because it knows how to make durable and stable software that integrates seamlessly with its many products. Apple may seem like its floundering in innovation, but remember, even Apple’s history is tarnished with terrible products that were ridiculed off the market.

I would say a lot of the doom and gloom rhetoric surrounding Apple is due to its status and symbolism in American culture. Apple has long had a reputation for being overpriced and the brand is a status symbol. I believe that Apple is indeed in a creative slump, but the company’s mission is still visible; the desire to create simple products that make a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

CICS: No Substitutes

CICS: No Substitutes

Center for Information and Communication Sciences. CICS. Such a long name for such a short program. A program that neatly compacts two years’ worth of study into one, 11-month package. Although there are other schools that train master’s candidates in ICT (information communication technology), CICS is one that emphasizes business leadership and prepares its graduates for leadership at all levels.

As far as ICT master’s programs go, CICS has been in the game for much longer. Founded in 1988, it’s one of the oldest programs of its type in the USA. Sure, other schools like University of Kentucky have similar programs that try to blend management and technology, but those programs are too young to expertly combine the right ingredients to produce alumni such as ours.

But perhaps a new player in an old game can be what CICS needs: a challenge. The faculty here know this program is unmatched by any other state university in Indiana, or the US, but they know we can’t become complacent. Maybe as other schools roll out similar degree programs, we’ll learn that we can’t afford to do things as they’ve always been done. We can also adapt successes from these new programs into our modus operandi and push ourselves to be even better, to stand out, to be different.

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Of course, not many people in the US know about CICS, much less Ball State University. I know for a fact I would walk past the big sign in the Ball Communications building every day as an undergrad and wouldn’t give any thought to what was behind those doors. But then again, maybe CICS is content to operate in relative obscurity, only working towards a greater goal of producing competent and confident young professionals that will change the world, one project at a time.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Standing on the shoulders of giants

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Newton

When thinking of plagiarism, a quote that is often (unfoundedly) attributed to Samuel Johnson comes to mind; “Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” Plagiarism is not an issue only with the unmotivated college student, but rather a wide-spread concern in the global scientific community.

Plagiarism comes from the Latin word plagium which means “to kidnap.” This grim connotation is not without its own merit, however. When a scientist publishes a work, we expect it to add new, insightful, original ideas to scientific discourse. So when a scientist uses others’ work and passes it of as his own, it diminishes any original idea he may have had and only serves to harm the scientific community as a whole.

Of course, plagiarism can be seen as a symptom of a larger problem. Many scientists live by a mantra of “publish or perish.” The intent of the plagiarist is not always malicious; they are most likely operating in a self-preservation mindset. In some institutions, particularly in China, research grants are determined by quantity of publications rather than quality. This pressures academics to cut corners, ultimately undermining the integrity and academic reputation of the nation’s institutions.

It is imperative that we as scholars and scientists strive to publish work that is original and properly cited. Citations not only give credit to original ideas, but also show where the publisher’s thoughts and findings originated. This same reasoning is why Google Scholar has adopted its motto as “Stand on the shoulders of giants.” We should not take for granted we can see farther because of we are so high up already, but we should acknowledge those who lifted us there in the first place.

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