Friday, October 11, 2013

Copenhagen 20 / 20 from here

Found this as an unpublished (presumably unfinished) draft of a post. It seems to be from June 2010....

Its all in hindsight now. The belt of life was moving full speed ahead upon getting off the plane on my 30th Birthday in Portland. It is now mid June, and I have not had too many down minutes since the Jan 2nd touchdown to reflect on the dazzling flash of my life that I rolled through from August through January in Copenhagen, for which the last month was shared with my beautiful wife to be. I just graduated a few days ago, and I am excited to turn the page to the next chapter (more to that below).

First a reflection on the Land of the Danes...
In my re-immersion back into my lovely life in Portland, one notable difference that comes to mind is the generally more rapid pace of life I live here compared to how the hours of the day got prioritized in Denmark. Even with a cognitive awareness of this difference, and a slight effort to curb that pace, there is something that seems somehow inevitable. While clearly not a single variable experiment, the pace of life is worth noting as I continue to articulate the differences in my experience in the 2 societies. As I perpetually re-evaluate my values moving down the incredible path of life, the bare necessities of my little 1 bedroom apartment in Copenhagen, with a duffle bag's worth of clothes, a computer, and some books, will be a guiding light as I strive for simplicity moving ahead. Maintaining an existence of minimized possessions is a hill worth defending in my opinion. I clearly prioritize at some level of cognition an empty Zenful platform for reflective contemplation, that is routinely available to step back upon.

I miss...

The concept of bike traffic (in theory if not practice).
A falafel pita from Christiana
The common drive between a motivated scholarship group to expand our cultural horizons.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chemical Residue...

As I now have the luxury of time and space, I am afforded a slightly removed and reflective vantage point to consider my academic experience abroad, and in particular my experience with BASF, "The Chemical Company". I had the opportunity to combine a wide variety of the knowledge accumulated throughout my MBA experience with my life and work experience into a functional business recommendation. I was challenged to provide BASF with information about the energy efficiency movement in the Swedish construction industry, to best prepare for the diffusion of 2 BASF innovative technologies. On a broader scale, I was challenged to learn and understand the innovation process and business strategy on the fly, then apply it in a tangible application, all in a foreign international context. The most profound things that BASF seemed to gain from my work was a new paradigm to view innovations on a continuum from incremental to radical, and an understanding of the levels of existing competition completing the fundamental jobs to be done. They seemed to not fully understand that while the technology behind the innovative product may have been an unparalleled radical new technology, the job to be done that was being fulfilled in the end market had existing levels of competition, and thus, price elasticities existed based on available options to complete those jobs. At some level they knew that more radical innovations required more resources allocated to facilitate communication with identified opinion leaders throughout the value chain, it seemed to be helpful to articulate that point to them as well.

Personally, on my path through this MBA as a chapter through life in general, I gained countless new and profound perspectives in my experience in Denmark, which were highlighted by the opportunity to do my business project with BASF. I sincerely believe that those profound learning experiences go beyond what I stood to gain in the traditional business project in Portland. It was not a passive exercise however, but rather a deeply engaged process complete with rigorous academic scrutiny and high expectations in a professional consultancy assignment. This was an amazing opportunity to not only learn about business in a different context at a top ranked European Business School (CBS), but to gain a first hand perspective of how business gets done in a unique socio-cultural setting, operating from a slightly different paradigm than the model of western capitalism that is continually reinforced through an American MBA. That is to say that I am sincerely grateful for the unique chance to expand my cultural and MBA horizons through this program, and I hope that this incredible opportunity can be extended to more PSU MBA students in the future.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My fall adventure is now officially to the home stretch. Most of the friends I made are gone, to rarely (if ever) be seen again. Now Vanessa and I are on the one big trip-with-in-a-trip in my 4.5-month adventure. Paris for 4 nights, Berlin for 3 nights, and Hamburg for 2 nights, then back to the CPH on the 29th. We will bring in the Danish New Year, and then hop a plane back to the old US of A on the 2nd. Which will land us in Portland at 5 pm just in time for a birthday party to push through the jetlag. Then the 2nd to last term of my MBA will kick off on January 4th, and the show will officially be over. What will be different? What have I really learned?

For starters, I learned that an adventure not pursued is an adventure not taken, and thus an experience not had. Throughout this term, and ideally in my life in general, I have tried to keep the larger picture of enriching my life experience in mind. With an uncertain time frame, we only get one pass at life and I aim to make it as worthwhile as possible. In the process of getting the details figured out for my fall in Copenhagen there were many hurdles which made this amazing experience often appear out of reach, as it was not a turnkey operation by any means. To satisfy the transfer of credits, to not harsh my progress through the program, I had to get a bit creative to make this all happen. I had to first define an ideal plan for me, then tweak the plan to satisfy all prioritized parties, and lastly to work all the details out. Had I focused on any of the various hurdles along the way I could have easily been dissuaded and scrapped the whole effort. This process further entrenched my belief of a similar strategy as I continue to turn the pages of my life. Specifically it allowed the experiential highlight of my trip, the opportunity to do my business project in Copenhagen to learn first hand about different Scandinavian perspectives taken in business management and operational leadership.

Beyond the lessons of the process, I learned that Copenhagen is a beautiful old city where I was just getting to have my personal favorite nooks and crannies lined out, which I expectedly grew quite fond of. Vanessa seems to like it fine from her shorter exposure, and at the very least, it has not been eliminated from the short list of places where we would happily live for an upcoming chapter of our life.

Perhaps most importantly, I redefined what it means to live on my own, without my seemingly ever-present covey of close friends and family close by, influencing my day to day path and interactions. I was able to step off of my established social conveyor belt, which has come to largely define who I am and what I do, allowing a series of why’s into the equation. A level of social inertia invariably breeds a level of complacency, which I was allowed to step away from, if only for a moment. I learned to miss and further appreciate my friends, family, and mostly Vanessa as I could see the gap of interaction that was missing from my day to day life without them, and specifically her. On the other hand my self-confidence and intrinsic need to take reflective steps back were greatly affirmed in this journey, and it has been a much appreciated opportunity and amazing experience to help in the continual redefining of who I am as I finish school, get married, make a career, and continue writing my story.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Business is a trip

This past week I was afforded the opportunity to go on a business trip to Göteborg Sweden. My supervisor Jesper was helping coordinate a regional marketing event on packaging in the Göteborg office, and as long as I was able to justify my travel expense by arranging interviews for my project, I could go. So, I managed to secure two interviews with key value chain actors to assist in my quest to understand the diffusion of Energy Efficiency Innovations into the Swedish Construction Industry, and was thus able to go.

The trip was great. I got to stay in a nice hotel, ate nice meals, and got to have beers and chat with a crowd of interesting managers from all over Northern Europe. In the day I was able to sit in on this marketing event, and got a clearer picture of how the rubber hits the road with products and clients. All in all very educational experience. Plus my interviews were phenomenal, one with an architect, and one with a LEED commercial development project manager at Skanska, a wonderfully run forward thinking contracting company operating on a global scale. Admittedly I am trying to find a company with international opportunities to work for when I am done with school, and Skanska is a good one. Then in the bonus round a legitimate wind storm, complete with sheets of rain, jack-knifed a rig on the international bridge between Sweden and denmark, stranding us in Malmo for a few hours on our way home. Jesper has a wife and 2 little kids to see, so he had a reason to curse the situation (although he kept a zen calm), I on the other hand got to see another city, which is only 20 minutes by train out of Copenhagen. I got a close up view of the turning torso (pictured above), and a driving tour of the town including a castle and a nice town center. All in all a success for my first expensed business trip.

The Relevance of Interactions & the Value of Practice

I woke up this fine Sunday morning in Copenhagen and routinely turned on the radio, stumbling across a good BBC interview by Peter Day. As I am not an academic by trade (whatever that means), I am not familiar with very many theories and less with specific scholars behind the theories, however I am a sponge to well articulated ideas that put words to approximations of my thoughts. This interview is with the late Russell Ackoff who you may be familiar with, but I was not. If you have 20 minutes, it is a good piece that touches on management and some of the problems with business education. Take 20 minutes while you drink your coffee and have a listen. If you are so moved, give me your feedback on his perspectives.

Here are some notables I jotted down:

...its not what the parts do, but how they do things together. While research and experimentation is the paradigm for analytic thinking, design is the paradigm for synthetic thinking. Its about putting things together, not taking them apart. The importance of the parts lies in the way they interact, and not in how they act separately. You simply cannot treat the parts as independent entities.

Being taught might be the worst ways to learn anything. We too often confuse teaching with learning.

The specifics of what we learn in school is almost irrelevant. The important thing is that we learn how to learn and become more motivated to do so.

...Information is more valuable than data, knowledge more valuable than information, understanding more valuable than knowledge. But all time and effort are dedicated to information, less to knowledge, none to understanding, and even less to wisdom

3 contributions of business school education:

1. gives students a vocabulary allowing them to speak with authority about subjects they do not understand
2. gives them a set of operating principles to effectively withstand any amount of dis-confirming evidence
3. most importantly, it gives students a ticket to a job where they can learn something about business management

the worst kind of mistake is something you didnt do that you should have done.

Link to Interview



Below is an unpublished draft I found on my blog that might as well be published as it represents some of the shit that rattled around between my ears on my business school trip to Copenhagen....

Business school for me is all about trying to honestly understand how businesses, large and small, function in our society. Below is a glimpse into a recent storm in my brain, where I am trying to clarify some of my confusion while coming up with a better set of questions to guide my learning process.


Working with a giant multinational corporation on this business project has (not surprisingly) been an eye-opening experience and a sincerely great opportunity to understand how business operates on such an immense scale. The organizational structure and bureaucracy involved in getting things done is something I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around no matter how many times it is explained to me. So many times, problems of any kind seem to stem from an inability for stakeholders to communicate effectively throughout the value chain of an issue. Thus, business strategy is as much to me about identifying information gaps and facilitating a communication channel to open a discourse, as it is about efficiently producing widgets.

At my core, I am an idealist who thinks big, often looking beyond hurdles toward the alluring potential of a goal. I tend to break issues down to a simple level and ask basic questions about big ticket items. In this magnitude of a business structure, those questions are often met with a set of organizational protocols and structural bureaucracies that seem geared toward keeping the parts separate from the whole, inevitably delaying progress. Eg: Mr B wants to communicate with Ms D about how their products work together, but he must clear it through Mrs A, C and Mr Z first, who also need approval from someone but have no idea what the others even do. Furthermore, the financial incentive for Mr B and Ms D to collaborate will only marginally get back to them and will not justify the inevitable slog through the muddled process.

This thinking is primarily a riff off of my weekend ponderings on systems thinking, in that such procedural frustration reflects an inability for corporations to see and understand a bigger interrelated picture (insert forest and tree metaphor here). When it comes to the project I am working on, this theory of systems thinking seems quite applicable to the recommendation I am inching towards. I am creating a strategy to diffuse energy-efficiency related innovations into the construction process. Presumably, I am to focus on the specific market forces and understand how to most efficiently get individual products into that system. The premise of this perspective is a good example of the fragmented analytical type thinking described by Russell Ackoff (as mentioned), which in this case fails to see that an interrelated building (or business) system comprises more than the sum of the individual parts. To understand this market, it will require a more holistic approach of understanding the relations of the parts, which in reality must work together with people and the physical environment in order to make the most energy efficient building possible. Such an approach will illuminate the white space where gaps exist keeping the system from best working as an integrated whole. Understanding this perspective, and learning to see the negative space between the parts, may very well be the keys to promoting future R&D to best promote energy efficient design.

Often it seems that the more a corporation diversifies its offerings and business units, the more fragmented the seemingly simple response to "what do you do?" becomes. In my opinion, this depressed rate of communication is a microcosm of the larger industrial production culture, where focus is increasingly zoomed in on maximizing the efficiencies of the individual parts and not the relationships of those parts in creating a cohesive whole. Rarely in this system is it considered how the parts fit into their surrounding environment and interact with it. But why should they? What are the incentives to do so?

According to self-interest economic theory, the incentives will dictate that the objectives will be to maximize the wealth and security (utility) of the decision makers. So assuming this debatable economic theory to hold true, while considering the systems thinking I have been ranting on... there is no incentive to take a systems view in an organizational system where the profitability of products is separated into divisions (parts of the system). So is the real motivation to help innovate the most energy efficient building systems possible? Or is it to squeeze as big of margins out of each product to support the profitability of the silo'd product divisions? Following my spun together logic, the overarching objectives simply cannot sincerely be to support a functioning interrelated system.

Every company proclaims a list of forward thinking (sounding) objectives, but it appears that something has to give between economic theory and those proclamations. Assuming a level of sincerity in the stated objectives, a structural issue seems to be preventing large business's from doing what they allegedly intend to. With sincere intentions to establish a pipeline of information, then (in this case) to facilitate future innovations that work to make buildings function as coordinated interrelated energy efficient systems, according to my above logic... I need to know how the structure of the system simply should be adapted to allow the currently disconnected parts to work together to support a more functional interrelated system.

Nice rant...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

perspectives of time

Time is cruising by here. The middle of November is here and my time in Copenhagen is getting less and less. That is all in the perspective of the time keeper though. Similar to the tune I sang to Shawna and Corey as they were preparing to leave Amsterdam, the time I have remaining here is more than most get to spend in Europe, let alone to embrace one amazing place. I still have over 6 weeks left in my adventure, and to let hindsight creep into my outlook would be selling my time short, as there are still many experiences to be had.

On the nearest horizon, I have managed a company funded business trip to Sweden on Monday. I will drive with Jesper 4 hrs to Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest population center behind Stockholm. I have 2 interviews set up with companies to talk about the research I am doing for my thesis project. I will meet with a large architectural firm, and with Skanska. Skanska is a Swedish global contracting and development company, who has operations as far away as Oregon. They are a very well run company with an ethical mission of sustainbility that drives there operations. 2 nights in a hotel in the city center should allow a nice peek into Gothenburg, and I am looking forward to it.

My term project is narrowing nicely, and I have a good line on having a finished product ready to hand in and present by the end of the term. I am managing a well balanced approach of academic theory and practical function, which will hopefully allow for a recommendation that will be of actual use for BASF in the future when approaching new markets with varying energy efficiency innovations.

I am looking into a weekend trip to Berlin next weekend with a couple friends. Nothing is set yet, but the idea is funneling toward decision time. And more exciting, in only 2 weeks from today I will no longer be completely surrounded by no lover! Vanessa comes in right after Thanksgiving and will stay with me until we fly home together on the 2nd of January.

Since posting last I have seen my first live football match, where the home town FC Kobenhavn played a team from Holland to a 1 - 1 tie. My friend Natalies parents were in town, and her mom opted out of her midfield ticket 10 rows up, and I reaped the benefits. Good times.

And I checked out a cool visually aided musical composition by an American DJ. DJ spooky (appropriate on Friday the 13th). Pretty impressive piece of experiential music. This is part of a pretty incredible film festival that is going on in Copenhagen right now. CPH DOX. lots of interesting films and heady displays of talent. It is a daunting task of prioritizing and scheduling, considering how much is going on with this festival.

Good stuff... all over the place.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Copenawesome - an Autumn glow

I've managed many a smile in the couple weeks since my last post. Copenhagen continues to grow on me as I am now well past the half-way point of my stay. On my bike rides home from work this past week, while being overwhelmed with all the crisp goodness that is fall, I first articulated to myself how I will undoubtedly miss this place when I fly home in January. Of course that just further pointed out the obvious, of how fortunate I am to be here and made me thankful yet again.

There have been a few specific times in my life, which as they were happening, I was able to identify as moments that would stick with me for a long time, almost like a lucid dream. Two such occasions come to mind on boats in Kodiak, one in a nook of Izhut Bay at anchor watch on the Saturn, and the other southwest of Karluk on an early morning wheel watch. Now another, in a park in Copenhagen last week. The fall colors and crisp weather are truly spectacular right now, and combining that with the old buildings, canals, parks, dynamic clouds, and the endorphins from my 5K bike commute, the stars in my head all seemed to align. It was an intersection of my stimulated physical senses with a sincere reflective appreciation of my ability to experience such a moment. I think it largely boils down to just stepping back long enough to tip my hat at the miracle of being alive.



Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Dam

Its Sunday Morning and I'm in Amsterdam, Holland (AKA the Netherlands). I got here Friday night late and am staying with my friends Shawna and Corey. They have lived here for just over 2 years, as Corey works for Wieden + Kennedy and was transferred out from Portland in 2007. Their tour is up however, as at the end of the month they are headed back to Portland.

I will go out on a limb and say that this is the most comfortable arrangement I will find myself in while on this Eastern-Atlantic adventure. They have an amazing 200 yr old, tall skinny house right on a canal in the main part of the city. I have my own room with a full size bed which is very comfortable, (in contrast to the spongy super single in my Copenhagen flat). They brought their big dog Riley from Portland, who is happy here, as am I to have a dog to play with. Truly a beautiful place to live, a point I am trying to not dwell on as the reality of leaving is starting to set in for them. However, the redeeming quality being that they have a beautiful house off Hawthorne waiting back in Portland, which will undoubtedly be the scene for another great chapter in their lives.

I am their last guest to visit, and they are showing me a fine time beyond the lavish accommodations. Yesterday we walked and rode bikes all over the city, seeing not only the main tourist sights, but the locals niche they have delicately carved over the last 2 years. Compared to Copenhagen, Amsterdam seems more like a trip back in time. The buildings are tall, skinny, and all leaning one way or the other having settled over time. Missing is the Copenhagen juxtaposition of post-modern architecture peppered throughout the old. Paintings from a hundred years ago, and pictures from the Nazi occupation largely resemble the same visual scene of Amsterdam today.

Eating out is actually an affordable option here, relative to Copenhagen anyway. After some coffee and a walking tour of the neighborhood, with a snack lunch from the outdoor market, we had a delicious Belgian beer at a neat little pub. Then following a bike tour of town we wound our way on the crooked cobblestone streets to a little laid back and delicious Dutch restaurant, where I got a venison steak. I have hardly eaten at a sit down restaurant at all in Copenhagen considering the inflated prices there, so this was a great treat to be able to afford a good meal. And nonetheless, it was on par with the best steaks I have had.

After dinner we walked through the red light district and saw all the prostitutes in the windows. That was interesting, and made me actively consider societal morals and where a line in the sand should be drawn to protect against exploiting young girls.... That waltz led to another pub where people were playing chess while sipping beers and smoking joints. We had a beer and then wound our way back to the house and made it to bed before midnight. All in all an awesome day in yet another new land. I will be staying until Tuesday evening, and will be capturing as much of the scene as possible through the experiential constraints of my camera lens.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trains, Castles and Foooootball

Im actually taking the plane to Amsterdam next week instead of the train, as its cheaper and faster. I have taken a few train trips thus far, and even took a little one today. I saw the castle from Shakesperes Hamlet up the Danish coast an hour to a town called Helsingør. Pretty cool spot, complete with a moat, and a maze of subterranean dank underworld. Helsingør is a quaint little Danish town to boot.

Then I watched the Danish National team beat Sweden 1-0 in a world cup qualifying match. Granted, I watched it on TV with some friends, even though it was here, but nonetheless it was pretty freaking neat. You could feel the town buzz when midfielder Jakob Paulson lasered the only goal past a Rudy Fernandez look-a-like Swedish keeper. Sweden has a forward who was flat out amazing, but even with his magic, Sweden couldn't find the net, and the home team prevailed. After the game I pedaled around town with a beer from a kiosk watching all the elated fans drink and smile while singing their way down the Copenhagen Streets. Now Im home by 11:30 and ready for bed. Good day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Viva la Borholm
In Denmark an element clearly missing from the landscape are mountains. With this in mind, I have embraced the clouds to ponder upon. The winds are frequent, and the transient clouds make for a fascinating dynamic in the sky...

While many exchange students went to Germany for Octoberfest, or to some other quintessential euro-trip destination... I journeyed to the stormy island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

View Larger Map

Before I get to the boat wreck and the people drowning in Bornholm, let me back it up to Friday Night. I went to Amager (Copenhagen island neighborhood) to a show with a couple new friends to see another new friend's group, The Stradlins, play. Good time. I even managed to half restrain myself in order to make the 6am train to Bornholm.

After a downpour of a bike ride to the train station on 4 hrs sleep, I met with the rest of the ScanDesign crowd where we hopped a train to a ferry to Bornholm. All with our bikes. It turned out that Captain Hazelwood was asked to pilot the boat to the dock, as he smashed into a piling and literally tore a gaping hole in the starboard bow of the high-speed ferry.

The weather was admittedly bad though, approaching higher sustained winds than Ive seen. My guess is a steady 60 knot wind with gusts to 90+. I was impressed anyway. That didn't really let up for our trip much. Luckily I love stormy weather, and the harder it stormed, the more I smiled. Marianne, our local friend and guide got quite literally blown off her bike on the 2nd day as 3 of us opted to bike the 25 kilometers across the island. 2 people actually did drown on the island on Friday too.

Bornholm is an agricultural granite island with a few quaint coastal towns and a rich Danish history throughout. The group of ScanDesign fellows are a well rounded bunch of graduate students, varying from architecture to business and urban planning. I enjoyed getting to know them all better over the weekend. We stayed 2 nights in a hostel in Rønne, and had a really nice time hanging out together. We shopped and cooked good dinners both nights and had a few bottles of vin. Marrianne is a neat lady, and we are lucky to have such a fascinating Danish perspective as our local liaison.

On Sunday we either biked or bussed across the island to Gudjhem. Beyond Marianne getting blown into a ditch and a tire I blew (which Nic patched), we bikers had a lovely ride, actually with the wind at our backs most of the way, even going up hills with out pedaling a few times. After the couple little time hangups, we met the rest of the crowd at the Bornholm KunstMuseum. Not being a huge museum buff, I was thoroughly impressed with this spot. It was more than just a museum, although the art displayed was quite impactful. The building was a profound architectural success in my mind as it embraced its environment, framing the surrounding landscape, effectively bringing together and highlighting the best of inside and outside.

The Ferry ride home on Monday morning was flat calm and I even got to meditate over a phenomenal sunrise on the boat deck in solitude. I opted to not photograph that as it seemed like an inevitable injustice to the moment. Memories of profound morning wheel-watches in Alaska were conjured. It was nice. All in all a smashing good weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

killing birds

I have never liked killing birds, but I am knocking off the proverbial multiple today. I am sitting in a neat coffee shop/pub in a rad Copenhagen Neighborhood researching the Swedish construction market. More on that in a minute. It's nice to get out of my little flat to do the same thing while being a bit more present in this experience of a new culture. This 3rd place establishment (not work, not home) called "Bang and Jensen" is mellow and hip, in a comfortable kind of way. It is not a lot different than a place you might find in Portland. Somewhat uncharacteristically I have a hard time initiating conversation with strangers, part to do with the fact that they are speaking Danish, but part to do with a different social dynamic than I am accustomed to. People are friendly, but not outgoing. In class yesterday I returned from a break and the 3 girls in my case group, 2 from Denmark and 1 from Belarus, were trying to figure the nationality of the instructor, as no one could quite place his accent or mannerisms with any established stereotypes. I made a couple guesses and I could see that they were genuinely interested in the answer. So I casually strolled up before the break was over and asked him. Turned out he is Swedish. They all agreed that it was a cultural difference for me to be so direct in asking him that. My point of the anecdote being that, while a snapshot of this or most Danish scenes could be mistaken for a lot of places, there are subtle cultural differences that seem consistent as I experience different places and interactions here. They truly need to be experienced first hand to get the full flavor of a place.

The other bird I am killing is that of this research for my intern project. A lot of information to cram in. Upon meeting with my supervisor, Jesper who seems like a really nice and helpful guy, the scope of my project has been narrowed into more focus. I have redefined it now to "Make a strategic recommendation of where synergies can be achieved between major stakeholders, to most effectively position BASF products in the Swedish construction market for energy efficiency." That is admittedly a bloated mouth-full. Essentially to create a market pull strategy, by understanding the intricate relationships in this market to effectively boost demand for BASF products. Interesting products I am getting to read about with phase change technology, innovative insulation materials and the sort.

Off to a meeting to make sure I am steering the ship in the right direction.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A framework reinforced by a history of the middle

"few have too much and fewer have too little"
That is the guiding mantra of Danish society. It is rooted in a history of embracing small scale agriculture. When the rest of the industrializing world fostered a continuing feudalistic system of land ownership stemming out of the dark ages, effectively widening the gap between peasants and aristocrats, Denmark's land reforms of the 1780's went in the opposite direction. Through engaging in talks with large landowners, incentives were created to encourage the disbursement of land and rights from a few to many. Voices of peasants and workers were given fair representation, and the idea of a middle class was in effect born out of Denmark's history of agricultural land ownership.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The little things

Im a week+ past the 1 month mark of being in Denmark. This is now officially the longest consecutive period of time I have been in any country other than the US, passing my 4 weeks in Ecuador. Really, anywhere on my own for that matter. The experience has thus far been worthwhile to say the least.

All in all the little things have not seemed too profoundly different. The bread is however quite different, and I have grown to like it. Im not sure whats up with 4 dollar coins? Seems like kind of a lot to risk losing in a couch. The grocery stores for the most part are much smaller with less variety, although I can see the 1 stop shop phenomenon creeping its way in at places like Føtex (not necessarily a good thing). People (me) seem to eat out less frequently as it is quite expensive, while 150 kroner ($30) can be stretched quite a ways at a market. Lots of dairy and pork. Ive been eating yogurt with granola every day. I cannot find Yerba Mate` anywhere, and as far as I can tell, note-cards cannot be purchased here (making them from construction paper works just fine however).

The most profound reflection on my experience thus far, is that while life may be outlined by adventures taken, the defining joy for me comes in the human interaction of sharing that journey. Its a little like the bear in the woods. I now think that I may take for granted the covey of close friends I have, and having just committed to spend the rest of my life with someone, there is a bit of hollowness in experiencing a beautiful new part of the world and not sharing it with my special lady friend. That of course isn't to say that I am not having a great time, or am not forever grateful for the experience of pushing my comfort zone and expanding my mind through a new cultural perspective. Plus, I am making some friends whose company I will undoubtedly enjoy. Beyond my expected missing of the little lady, it seems somehow contradictory and odd to make such a profound commitment then to venture off on my own... But, to quote every athlete who has nothing to say... it is what it is. And while it is indeed that, I will embrace this experience like the once in a lifetime opportunity it is!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

... the Journey Continues

Although I have not seen one for quite a while, I definitely remember the commercials. BASF is the company I will be working for over the next 11 weeks on a consultancy assignment. They are a very large German chemical company, with the catchy tag line: "The Chemical Company"... and I have no idea what the acronym stands for. Correction: BASF used to stand for Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik, which reflected where it was founded and what it produced back when it was founded in 1865. Now it is 'just' a trademark. They're not just a large German chemical company, but in fact the largest chemical company in the world. The Ludwigshafen headquarters alone is three times the size of Monaco and uses the same amount of electricity as Denmark does in a year.

The placement process was based on my resume and the essays I wrote as part of my application to the Internship program. Beyond a short project description, I dont know too much about what I will be doing at this point. The idea is that I will be constructing a "strategic recommendation addressing the market for energy efficiency in buildings in Scandinavia". More broadly they want to determine their "optimal positioning in the energy efficiency market in order to achieve sustainable growth in the region". My experience as a GTA in the carbon footprint analysis course last year at PSU along with my background in residential construction and my interest/familiarity with green building, all inevitably lent to my placement on this project. This should nicely parallel my quest to somehow get involved with the climate conference here in December.

I will meet with my CBS adviser tomorrow, then with my company supervisor next week to fill in the details of the assignment and to get started. While I anticipated working for a small Danish start-up company, I am nonetheless very excited for the experience and the opportunity for exposure to the inner workings of a large multi-national corporation. While many MBA students enter with a track record of structured corporate work under their belt, my path has been one of an industrious entrepreneur, with only a fringe understanding of "big business".

One of the basic concepts alluring me to pursue an MBA was to gain an understanding of the societal power allocated to big business, not as a power monger but rather as an advocate of rethinking the status quo. Now I have the chance to finally see first hand how the machine works a bit, and I believe that understanding will provide a valuable perspective where ever my path leads. Also, I am looking forward to the learning about the cultural intricacies of the business environment in Denmark.

Although I bring a healthy level of skepticism to the table, of a giant chemical companies intentions being in the best interest of a truly sustainable human future, I am genuinely looking forward to the specifics of the assignment and the opportunity to gain new perspectives and learn. . Despite my leery skepticism of the inherent good of global mega business, I plan on exceeding expectations and am quite excited to begin! ... and the journey continues.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jaegersborg Dyrehave

A 20 minute train ride from the city center sits an impressive and huge park, 1000+ hectares (2471.05 acres) run by the National Forest and Nature Agency of Denmark. It is full of deer. I only saw 2 species, the Red and Fallow Deer. Apparently there are "Sika" deer as well, but I don't believe I saw any. Nice little morning excursion! I will likely be making repeat visits as my stay continues.


Merkur Bank

This week I met with Lars Pherson, the CEO and co-founder of a local lending institution, Merkur Bank. It was a very worthwhile conversation. The gist of what I walked away with are some pretty basic concepts that often get pushed aside or overlooked in the unquestioned business quest to ALWAYS maximize the bottom line. It is possible for a bank or for any institution to earn "modest" profits and to be content as a profitable institution. Its likewise feasible to be a task driven organization, meaning that they identify a problem in the current system and work to encourage solutions to that problem. Investing at any level can and should be as much about mission as profitability. Merkur has 2 different and separate rubrics for lending, BOTH of which need to be satisfied in order to lend: Mission and Profitability. Long term client relationships are as important, often trumping the perceived value of short term profits.

The new window of interest, which was opened for me through this conversation and research, was that of small to medium sized business development loans. In the post Yunus world of microfinance, microcredit/loans have received a tremendous boost, however the "lost level", as Lars referred to it is that of the established small business. From the Merkur website:

Imagine you are the owner of a successful business that produces organic products for which there is a growing demand. The natural thing to do is to expand your business, but when you contact your local bank, it offers you a loan at an interest rate of between 25-40 pct., if it is willing to offer you a loan at all. This is the reality faced by many businesses in developing and industrialized countries.
These limited credit possibilities constrain the ability of businesses to expand and to improve further their sustainable production lines. It is in light of this challenge that Merkur Development Loans Ltd. was founded, a joint venture between the cooperative bank, Merkur, and the Industrialisation Fund for Developing Countries (IFU). Both Merkur and IFU are experienced in financing initiatives within the area of sustainable development and providing credit to developing countries.

Merkur Development Loans Ltd. extends loans to small and medium size businesses and cooperatives in developing countries. For lending projects to be eligible for loans, projects must be certified within one or more of the following fields: Organic and biodynamic agriculture, fair trade, or sustainable forestry.
Up until now, microcredits, which have mostly been extended to individuals, enabling them to start their own businesses, have received a great deal of attention. But there is also a great need for loans to somewhat larger companies and cooperatives. These businesses promote local development since they hire their manpower locally.


As I came to business school last year, I had virtually no idea what direction it would take me. However, one main observation leading me to study this thing called business, in what will likely be the only advanced degree of my life, was of a clear and vast control of resources allocated to this entity known as big business, whatever that is. I felt that in the last 100 years-ish, the control of specifically financial resources has emerged as the dominant power mechanism to affect the allocation of natural and economic resources throughout society.

So, that Combined with my varied background was what was tickling my brain coming in. My background of science and design, combined with a lifetime of commercial fishing, then remodeling houses and starting a construction business. Despite the obscure path as it seems laid out, the fishing provided me with a work ethic and an appreciation for nature and its resource value, the science and design provided a lens to my understanding of the world, the construction and remodeling gave me hands on experience with a trade, and the starting and running a business contextualized the trade and its role in society while introducing me to the nuts and bolts of business.

Since beginning this MBA, I have been on a mission to find a path I am passionate about contributing my career toward. Admittedly I have fluctuated, as interesting conversations and courses constantly flooded new ideas into my head & I kept picturing what it would be like to work in one field or another. The most grounding concept that has kept my journey toward a path at all focused, has been the big picture of what it was that fascinated me about business in the first place. It wasn't the lure of making 6 figures, but rather the hook of wanting to understand the seemingly out of whack power structure, in which the top controls not only all the money and how natural resources are managed and protected, but far too often it also dictates the policies that govern us.

Regardless, I came in to this hoping to shift the status-quo of how power and resources are allocated in society. Considering my entrepreneurial background and upbringing by educators, I feel that looking to entrepreneurs and youth with the greatest potential to bring a new perspective to these positions of power, seems like the best mechanism to affect long term change, which is the only meaningful kind. I have worked hard in seeking out conversations, and have been privileged enough to manage some very interesting meetings with business leaders in Oregon who have from one angle or another had similar agendas in what they do. I am trying to keep that ball rolling while in Europe.

My interest in energy efficient building led to a great opportunity to assist in the teaching of a carbon footprint analysis course in the Fall and Winter, which has stimulated an interest in burgeoning carbon markets and carbon finance. I have become very intrigued with the food industry and the role of supply chains to encourage local distribution of responsibly grown products. That was derived from a broad interest in the management of natural resource industries, forestry, farming, fishing, and ranching, which at some level grew from my background in commercial fishing. At some point I got a meeting with the CEO of Shorebank Pacific, and that led to meeting with the President of Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia. My conversations with him really introduced me to the realm of community development finance, and in that I seem to have found an intersection of the potential paths forming in my head. Incorporating tools of social responsibility into entrepreneurial and transitional models... keeping up with burgeoning carbon markets, and fighting to get poverty a legitimate seat at the table, all seem to intersect in the realm of community development finance and consulting.

Here are a couple video links with the CEO of ShoreBank International talking about what it is. Its not emmy material, but it does lay it out pretty clearly...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bike tour

Bike tour

Yesterday I rode up and down Vesterbrogade and Istegade, to the royal house at Slotsholmen, up to Christiana for coffee, then back up Frederiksberg Alle, and over to Norrebro to wrap it up. Good day getting to know the city even more.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More input...

These past 2 weeks have been a marathon of information to digest on a wide array of topics. There has been on average 40 pgs of reading per daily class session, around which a leading CBS professor from each topic area lectures for 4 hrs.

The topics are:
The Entrepreneurial Process – A Framework
Introducing Denmark: Business and Society in a Small Advanced Economy
Managing Creative People Globally
The Dynamics of Management Consulting
Managing Small High-Tech Firms in Networks
Venture Capital Management
Entrepreneurship and Internationalization
Inter-firm Cooperation: Alliances, Acquisitions, and International Technology Transfer
Rules of the Game in the Global Economy
International Management of Intellectual Property

It has been a very interesting 2 weeks, and I am looking forward to the final week before the internship begins. Beyond the topic range, there are a host of global perspectives in the course to further enrich the experience. While it is a notably less questioning and all around different mix of characters than I have grown used to in our tight knit cohort at PSU, I am taking the half full perspective that I was growing complacent in my comfortable scene and that envelope is now again being pushed.

I have a meeting with a very interesting Danish Bank tomorrow after class as well. Merkur Bank. But now I will continue my reading!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Aimless Wanderings

I keep sniffing out new parts of town and finding my way around this incredible city. I have some legitimate favorite spots materializing...

aimless wanderings

A series of fortunate events

I'm finally now getting into my groove of learning. Any post from here on out can be assumed to have at least some procrastinating motive. The way my schedule has shaken down thus far has been fairly amazing. First, to get the scoop on the courses I was signed up for, I waltzed into an advisers office who happened to be from the states and identified with something I said as we were getting acquainted. She happened to be in charge of the International Internship in Entrepreneurship, which I was familiar with, however the deadline to apply was last spring before this trip even materialized. She liked me and my story enough to streamline an application for this elite module* internship program.
CM_IIE - Internship in International Entrepreneurship* (Elite course)
*"only 20 elite modules have been appointed in Denmark by the Ministry of Science. Elite modules are especially demanding and challenging courses, aimed at particularly skillful students."

To start off, its 3 weeks of 4 hr/day lectures with a slew of readings, followed by a 4 hr exam. Then the 30 hr/ week consultancy internship starts up for 10 weeks with a 50 pg mini consultancy report and a 1 hr oral presentation to the company and advisers. It will be a lot of work, however well worth it to get the exposure and deeper level of immersion that will come with working in a Danish Company for 10 weeks. They still haven't told me the company I'm placed with, but who ever it is, its an opportunity for a unique experience that Im not about to pass up. Plus, it will transfer as my entire PSU business project, which will allow me to take the core classes I'm missing in the Winter and Spring in Portland. It sounds like perhaps more work than the business project would otherwise entail, but I figure the more I put in the more I will get out, and perhaps in the larger scheme will balance out some of the garbage in garbage out work I did in my undergrad tour.

My other course, "Leadership and Management in Action" only meets on Wednesday's for 4 hrs and is mainly case based discussions. Not as challenging, but it will undoubtedly be interesting and helpful.

I went to dinner last night with the Scan Design Foundation and the rest of the students they funded for study in Denmark this Fall. Pretty awesome that that opportunity and I crossed paths, as they are funding this incredible opportunity for me and 10 other students. I am the lone Oregon representative, as they have before now only funded a variety of UW students. The other students are nice group who I will enjoy getting to know.

Thats all I've got for now. Its a lot to be thankful for, and truly a good run of fortunate events leading me to this point. Now I'm definitely procrastinating ...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pretty much the same as PSU's business building...

Check out this museum I get to check out... Every day for class.

the place to get learned

Its gonna be rough going back to the cave in January.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A nice little Sunday

Everything is pretty awesome here. I wish I had the little lady's hand to hold while seeing all this cool new stuff.

Second batch of the CPH

My Spread

The spread

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Copenhagen Bike City

I am still not sure where I will be working, and depending where my internship will be located, I may not need a bike as I live right on the metro line. Regardless, I am fascinated by the sheer volume of bikers here, and the infrastructure that supports them. It is not a hip thing to do, or just for healthy people or hippies. Everyone rides their bike, and that's just the way it is. The one thing that illustrates the fact that its just a way of life and not a conscious "healthy lifestyle" move, I have never seen so many people smoking while biking. One uncited fact: more than 40% of Copenhageners bike to work, and the city hopes to get half of commuters onto bikes by 2015.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A window to a culture

Last week I had a very introductory 5 day language class in my attempt to learn some Danish. Perhaps more so than in other cultures, the Danes seem to have a thick skin to get through before they will let you into their honest circles of what they feel and what being a Dane means to them. I don't want to learn danish for practical reasons, as the Danes speak conversational English almost without exception, even in Lemvig. My interest in this language in particular is rather to chisel away at the barrier so I can get a more genuine peek at what Danish culture is really about. If I don't want to be treated like a foreigner I need to not act like one.

On that note, it is a hard language with guttural noises that a life of English simply doesn't cater to. To my untrained eye, the Danes write more letters than are initially heard by my untrained foreign ear.

Some other cultural things Ive noted thus far (some verbatim from an orientation)

Denmark is a fairly non religious country, and Copenhagen is particularly agnostic. At a glance, this doesn't affect my largely internal existential ponderings on the subject. (In my head-maze I am currently gravitating to some spiritual intersection of a Pagan Buddhist Scientist.) However, one of the knocks on this land is its lack of diversity, and I wonder if there is a level of intolerance for religion that contributes to that. Perhaps it is not a bad thing to be intolerable of fanatical religious extremists, but how is the line between discrimination and open-mindedness walked..? And, how does this affect immigration into this country? I do have to admit that there is a clear homogeneous mix of dashing light skinned people.

As I live and learn here, I will try to maintain a healthy, albeit small, level of skepticism, understanding that despite the glow of the people and places, there are things which they have not perfected. It is always a healthy practice for me to not miss the deeper picture, and likewise here to temper my initial reaction of agreement and blatant envy.

skal (Cheers, pronounced like skoal)

Lovin it in Lemvig

My friend from high school Colin has been playing at obscure levels of professional basketball in Europe (Spain and Germany) for the past 5 years. He and I were good friends in high school, but as is often the case, we lost touch over the past decade. He now lives and plays ball professionally for a club team in Lemvig, which is a small town in North Western Denmark. I took the train up to visit him for the weekend.

View Larger Map

It was real nice to reconnect with Colin and hopefully rekindle a friendship. After such a long time it is far from a sure thing that you will still get along with an old friend, but we had a great time, and I look forward to seeing him again while here.

Lemvig, pronounced (Lem-VE) has the quaint small town feel that I can appreciate. The small size of the town became obvious upon meeting locals for the first time at a bar who knew about me and the bulk of my story after my being in town for all of 4 hrs. Winthin meeting some middle aged people and chatting for 25 minutes or so I was offered a ride back to Copenhagen on Monday, which unfortunately didnt time out right, but it goes to show the friendly nature in the Lemvig air.

Colin's Club team, with friends and family, had a pig roast party where I got stuffed before a long night of drinking beer with Danes young and old. Things got a little drunk in town that night, but it was a lot of fun. The next day it was playing some light hoops, or "Basket" as they call it (for the first time in ...multiple years), and just relaxing in a friendly town in the Danish countryside. Colin is likewise trying to learn danish, so we watched some Danish subtitled episodes of The Office to learn a bit with our feet up.

Good time.

Pictures of the CPH

From Copenhagen First Batch

This first batch of pictures is mainly of my place and my initial Copenhagen wanderings with my camera. My camera is awesome, and it has been fun to learn my f-stop from my elbow over the past couple years, but it would be nice to pack around a little pocket size jobber to fire off more in the moment pictures.

I changed the slide show on the side to my last few US exchanges as well. ("farvel" is danish for farewell or goodbye.) I think all my albums are public, thus accessible, and hopefully relatively PG.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Picture confusion

The header picture is currently me in a lake at Yosemite when Vanessa and I made an unbelievable road trip Early this summer. We went from Oregon through the Wallowas, Sawtooth's, The Roaring Fork Valley, through some National parks including Yosemite, then to the Sierras and back home. That trip was awesome, and the slide show can be viewed off to the right side...

I just haven't got around to plugging any pictures of this foreign new land up yet.

As of day 4 this place is freaking awesome, and I confidently don't predict any backtracking from that statement. I swam in the Baltic Sea today, and am getting settled nicely beyond that. I have a metro pass and am shopping for a cheap bike to round off my transportation needs. Portland is good, but this place is incredible for biking. There are big lanes and bikes are treated as their own entity, as opposed to being part pedestrian part car as they are seen in Portland, which is A, if not THE premier bike city in the US.

I lucked out on a sweet apartment that is well below market value and for all intents and purposes all mine. It is big enough for the little lady (AKA fiance) to come visit, although it may be a bit cozy for anyone not willing to play little spoon.

After 2 days of Danish class I have to say that it is more manageable than I anticipated. Kind of funny that I keep mixing Spanish into my translations, as that is the last language I made an attempt to learn... Some wires are crossed up there for sure, but the language lobe in my shriveled brain is firing for the first active time since South America.

That is all for now. More to come....