All posts by davidelasi

GMAT Essays, third attempt: family-friendly program

The following appeared in a memorandum sent by a vice-president of the Nadir Company to the company’s human  resources department:

“Nadir does not need to adopt the costly ‘family-friendly’ programs that have been proposed, such as part-time work, work at home, and jobsharing. When these programs were made available at the Summit Company, the leader in its industry, only a small percentage of employees participated in them. Rather than adversely affecting our profitability by offering these programs, we should concentrate on offering extensive training that will enable employees to increase their productivity.”

Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.

The memorandum of the vice-president of the Nadir Company argues that the Company should not implement ‘family-friendly’ programs because they are too expensive and are not successful. Instead, the Company should offer training courses to increase the productivity of the employees. The argument, however, relies on weak evidence and unsupported assumptions to reach this conclusion; therefore, it is seriously flawed.

First, the fact that only a small percentage of employees participated in a ‘family-friendly’ program at the Summit Company does not imply that such program was unsuccessful. Indeed, a predominant piece of information is missing to interpret this evidence, that is the percentage of employees with family over the total of employees. This evidence would support the conclusion of the argument only if the ratio between the number of employees with family that adopted the ‘family-friendly’ program and the total number of employees with family would be very low.

Besides the fact that the evidence does not prove that the program was unsuccessful at the Summit Company, the argument assumes that the same low success rate would be obtained at the Nadir Company without supporting this assumption. For example, it is possible that the Summit Company is based in a city where there are good services for employees with family, such as cheap and reliable kindergarten and schools offering afternoon service for working families. On the contrary, the Nadir Company might be based in a different city where services to support families with working parents are not as good as in Summit Company’s area. As a result, a ‘family-friendly’ program could be of much higher interest for Nadir’s employees than for Summit’s employees, resulting in a higher success rate.

Finally, even assuming that only a low fraction of Nadir’s employees would take advantage of part-time work, work at home and jobsharing, this does not mean that the program would result in a loss of profit for the company. It is indeed demonstrated that when parents are allowed to have flexible work conditions, they are more productive on the work that in absence of flexibility. Therefore, the costs of a ‘family-friendly’ program would be offset by the higher productivity of the employees.  It is not clear why training would make the employees with family more productive than they are now.

In conclusion, the argument fails to demonstrate that ‘family-friendly’ program constitute only a cost for the Company that does not result in an increased productivity of its employee. The argument would be more thorough by showing that training is more effective than flexibility on the work to increased the productivity of employees with family.

GMAT Essays, second attempt: Apathy about Management

“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79 percent of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest int he topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits program”

Discuss how well reasoned …etc.

This argument challenges the general notion that workers are apathetic about management issues, by mentioning the results of a recent surveys that showed a high interest in certain management topics among the respondents. However, the evidence mentioned in the argument appears to be too specific to make any general statement. Moreover, the representativeness of the sample cannot be assessed based on what the argument states. Therefore, this alone does not allow to make a general claim applicable to all workers and comprehensive of all management issues.

A convincing argument would have to consider at least the following three elements: a statistically sound survey, a comprehensive list of questions on management topics and the segmentation of the surveyed sample.

First, a survey should consider not only the total number of respondents, but also the total number of non respondents. This information is not given in the argument, which explicitly mentioned that the results are based only on the workers who responded to the questionnaire; therefore, it is not possible to determine to what percentage of the total surveyed people corresponds the mentioned 79 percent figure. Without this element, it is only possible to conclude that those who answered are (not surprisingly) highly interested in the two topics above.

Second, the expressions of high interest concern only the topics of corporate restructuring and the redesign of benefits program. Both topics are clearly the subject of high interest for most of the workers: the former because it is directly related to major changes in the organization with the potential to affect one’s career, the latter because it has an impact on every employees benefits such as retirement plans, healthcare assurance etc. This does not prove that the workers are concerned about other management issues that involve the rest of the organization, for example those related to the efficient management of the company or to the effective communication of decisions and strategies throughout the organization’s hierarchy.

Finally, no information is given on the composition of the surveyed sample. Do the 1,200 surveyed workers who responded to the questionnaire belong to the higher or lower spheres of the respective companies? It is clear that those with more responsibilities – coordinators, managers and executives – most likely are very much concerned about management issues, while those with less responsibilities – line workers, clerks and support staff – are more likely to be apathetic towards the same issues. In the former case, the reported figures may be not surprising, while in the latter case a high percentage would constitute a really significant, perhaps unexpected and noteworthy, result.

In conclusion, despite the argument shows that within a rather unidentified part of the body of workforce (the respondent), and on certain specific topics (corporate restructuring and benefits program) there seems to be a high sensitivity, the evidence is not enough to falsify the general belief that most of the workers are generally apathetic about management issues.


GMAT Practice Essays for the Analytical Writing Assessment

Practicing for the  Analytical Writing Assessment is probably one of the most time-consuming and demanding part of the GMAT test preparation. There are several reasons why studying for this section of the test risks to be very time consuming or ineffective, above all: the limited knowledge of GMAT’s expectations for this section, the difficulty of an easy assessment of one’s AWA level and the self-confidence in one’s own writing skills.

It has to be considered that the GMAT AWA essay is rated on a 1.0 to 6.0 scale according to certain standards, which lack of knowledge can seriously harm the possibility of obtaining a high mark even if the essay is, in principle, well-written. The GMAT AWA optimal essays characteristics can be summarized as follows: length comprised between 300 and 500 words, 5 paragraph structure (Introduction, three paragraphs and conclusion) and the presence all over the essay of the so called “structural words” (i.e., supporting examples, contrasts, Ying-Yang etc.). Knowing in details these few guidelines for the AWA section, and constantly practicing accordingly, is of outmost importance to obtain a high score.

While practicing for GMAT AWA is important to learn how to write an essay in a perfect GMAT Style, assessing one’s own initial AWA level and quantifying the progress during the preparation for the test, is very difficult due to the lack of an automatic rating system that can fully substitute the role of the human grader.

The Three Photographies I’d Love to Have

Nr. 1 Case Study House #22 (Julius Shulman)

The first time that I saw it, was on the page of a Sunday’s issue of the Financial Time. I was reading it on a bench in a public park in Bern; must have been shortly after returning from a US’ trip, for I always read this journal when I got it for free on an airplane.

I cut it with my hands from the journal, before I threw it away, and sneaked it in the frame of the unused computer monitor that rests on my desk. It was Julius Shulman’s Case Study House  #22. This Los Angles’ magnificent black and white architecture photography, is the first print one that I ever desperately wished to have and – quoted around 15,000 $ – I could not afford to buy. As first photographic love, I grant this picture the nr.1 position of this wish list and – I promise – I will own it one day, no matter how futile this “trophy hunt” might look.

case study house 22 julius shulman


Nr. 2 Twisting at My Birthday Party (Nan Goldin)

This image was featured on an Internazionale‘s article on Nan Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” book. It is not one of her most acclaimed pictures, actually it is pretty rare to found on web, and I ingenuously asked a quotation to a gallery, leading to a half heart attack when I was quoted a round 25,000$ for it.

I don’t know what attracts me in this picture, but I do love it; perhaps because it reminds me of certain odd and shaggy parties I happened to witness in my life.

nan golding twisting at my birthday p

Nr. 3 Patti Hansen Over Manhattan (Helmut Newton)

At place number 3 is Helmut Newton’s “Patti Hansen Over Manhattan”. I consider this as a very strange choice for me, because neither I have a passion for Helmut Newton, nor I use to like nude photography. Despite this, this image is incredibly powerful, and might well be my first and only nude photograph that I would ever love.

patti hansen manhattan helmut newton

P.S. Since a long time I sustain that there is a big gap in the arts market between premium photographers, those auctioned at Christies and Co. whose picture go for the 10+ k$, and very low-class photographers that are barely able to make a hundred bucks for their creations. I do believe there is a troop of outstanding though not famed photographers, and of middle-class collectors, willing to meet in the 500-2000 $ market zone. Despite my effort, I wasn’t able to identify an appropriate online marketplace dedicated to this market segment.

GMAT Essays, first attempt: Olympic Foods

Learning Journal

This is my first GMAT essay that I am publishing on this website. My overall impression is that I didn’t score that well here, but I made a commitment to publish my essays online and I have to honor that commitment to keep motivation high. However poor the result is, what matters is what I learned through this first exercise:

  • The optimal length of a GMAT essay seems to be about 600 words. Writing a text of this length in only 30 minutes doesn’t leave much time to hesitate on the content of each paragraph
  • The first paragraph of an essay typically recalls the argument, in its essence, and introduces the view of the writer. I think it is very important to start right away drafting these few lines, to help the mind assimilate the essence of the topic, before thinking about “how well reasoned etc.” the argument is.
  • The following 2-3 paragraphs shall be used to express the writer’s view. It is important to take a minute, before starting to write, to think exactly what is really important and strongest from the logical point of view, to be addressed. I found indeed that I came up when I was almost overtime with ideas that I could have given higher importance, and could have been easier to describe early on in the text.

My final realization is that much more exercise is needed to get a good performance within the time constrains. So I cut it short now, and go on with the next assignment 🙂

The following appeared as part of an annual report sent to stockholders by Olympic Foods, a processor of frozen foods: “Over time, the costs of processing go down because as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for example, the cost of a 3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of food. And since Olympic Foods will soon celebrate its 25th birthday, we can expect that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize profits.” Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.

Essay (about 400 words)

This argument presented into an Olympic Foods’ annual report states that the company will reduce its operating costs and increase its profits as it approaches its 25 th birthday, because  the long term experience in the field will allow increased efficiency. A comparison with what happened over almost 15 years in the film processing industry is brought as evidence to support this claim.

Although it is true that usually experience translates into optimization of processes and direct costs, there are several elements that could possibly lead to a different outcome, that is stable or reduced process efficiency.

For example, increase efficiency is often achieved by the implementation of new manufacturing equipment. This is particularly true for companies on the market since a long time, such as the 25-years old Olympic Food. In this case, the implementation of more modern manufacturing lines will most likely require a significant investment. As a result, profits in the years immediately following this investment might be lower for the need to pay-back the investment.

The argument is also supported by the analogy with the film processing industry, an industry that heavily dependent on the rapid appearance of new technologies to improve its manufacturing techniques. The appearance of these new technologies – for example the digital print replacing the traditional optical print – has played a major role in the cost reduction of the film processing. On the other side, the frozen food industry has not seen many breakthrough innovation in the last decades; therefore, unless a significantly new and more efficient way of processing frozen food is in sight, it is unlikely that the costs will drop down in a similar fashion.

Finally, the impressive drop in price of the film processing industry, might not be originated at all by increased process efficiency. It is indeed possible that the fierce competition has forced the company to lower the price by reducing the margins on the selling price of the prints. Considering most of the traditional photography processing companies are in deep financial troubles nowadays (e.g., Ilford, Kodak etc.) this could be a plausible scenario, and certainly not a desirable one for Olympic foods.

In conclusion, even though in some cases it is observed a price drop of certain services over time, this is not necessarily due to the improved process efficiency by experience, nor it is a pattern that can be considered of general validity across very different industrial fields. Additional and stronger evidence should be brought to the attention of the stockholders to support this statement.

Thomas Sankara

Betrayed, forgotten, written-off: Thomas Sankara was a true upright man. He was incredibly smart in the simplicity of his ideas about the sustainable development of his country, Burkina Faso, free from imperialism and based on solid local real-economy grounds.

He lived as he preached, by refusing all the benefits that his presidential position would have entitled him and by putting into practice his teachings. For example, he insisted on dressing only with Made in Burkina Faso clothing, to show his people that his country would be capable of producing what the population need and be proud of it.

Sankara was a politician with an uncommon trait: he was used to say exactly what he thought, without compromises, without fear, not even when sitting next to a giant such as French Prime Minister Mitterand. His attitude made him enemies, and his tragic premature death marked the end of a dream for a country, and the vanishing of a hope for an entire continent.

My defining quote

Our Country produces enough to feed us all. We can even produce more than we need. Unfortunately, for lack of organization, we still need to beg for food aid. This type of assistance is counterproductive, and has kept us thinking that we can only be beggers who need aid.

Today I sold my first photography: a London’s pub under a snow storm

Today I sold my first picture ever, for the astounding amount of 25 $!

It’s a picture I took couple years ago in London, when the city was under a heavy snowstorm and I was lucky enough to see the city under an unusual white snow blanket. The image will be used in a promotional video of a new book.

Quite oddly this happened just a couple of days before I will visit London and the Ansel Adams exhibition at the Royal Museum of Greenwich

London Snow Storm by Davide Lasi (davidelasi)) on
London Snow Storm by Davide Lasi

My own Nobel Price for Medicine assignments

If I would be entitled to assign two posthumos Nobel Prizes for medicine, there will be my two pics: the Italian Achille Antonio Brioschi (1860-1942), the father of the famous “Effervescente Brioschi” and John Pemberton, the man who created “Coca Cola“. I have never found any comparably simple, effective and side effects free remedy for digestion problems as these two drinks! Good job guys!


coca cola


Enjoying practicing for GMAT AWA

Have you ever considered than practicing for the GMAT AWA can be funny and also a rewarding activity? I do believe it is possible to kill two birds with one stone by creating blog posts on interesting topics and writing them in a perfect GMAT style.

WordPress post editor already includes a word counter, so what you need to simulate as much as possible the GMAT writing experience, is to set up a timer (30 minutes).

From the next post on, I will try to proceed on these lines to improve my AWA skills, startup my personal blog, and learn something 😉