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Human Rights: The Next Frontier

It is becoming more and more commonplace for companies to take human rights into account when sourcing materials or manufacturing processes. Guest blogger Olivier Jaeggi of ECOFACT explains why this trend has significance for sustainability — and how corporate standards are increasingly taking the position that paying attention to human rights is a necessity for companies’ risk management strategy, rather than an act of good will.

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How to Avoid a Social Media Fiasco

If you think social media crises are uncommon things that happen only to other companies, you’re kidding yourself. A panel at the 2014 South by Southwest festival highlighted some of the most prominent recent fiascoes and offered a compelling view of just how commonplace these events have become. Five key takeaways from the panel offer suggestions for keeping a company from being the next entry on the steady parade of social media disasters.

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Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Attack

As the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings draws near, the response of leaders in the public sphere offers some lessons for the effective use of social media — which has shown itself repeatedly in recent years to be the key means of communication during a crisis. Seven specific lessons on how to manage crisis communications via social media can be drawn from the Boston Marathon crisis and its aftermath.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Roy Luck.
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Ethnography in Action at Wells Fargo

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How do companies gain value from ethnography — the in-person study of how people actually use a product or service? Wells Fargo Bank commissioned an ethnographic project and found out for itself. The bank was able to determine that customers approach retirement with three styles: they were either Reactors, Poolers or Maximizers. The bank learned, for instance, that the language of customers who were Maximizers would not resonate with Poolers — and so it developed new kinds of messaging for each.

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Rent The Runway: Organizing Around Analytics

For the fashionista who lacks the budget to buy fabulous designer dresses, there’s a solution: Rent one.

Rent The Runway rents occasion dresses. The company caters to its fashion forward clientele through unique services, including on-call stylist advice and customer’s “style moment” photos, parsed by measurements.

These services are, in no small measure, what sets Rent The Runway apart from its small pool of competitors. They’re are also driven by data and analytics.

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ComScore: The Art and Science of Big Data, From the Inside

While comScore is among the world’s biggest data purveyors — the digital measurement and analytics company has collected about 14 petabytes of online data from around the globe, about 20 terabytes a day — it still has to execute on all that data internally, in order to be successful externally.

This, it turns out, is where a lot of organizations stumble: Capturing the value in big data.

A recent report by MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) details how comScore organizes its assets to create value from big data.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Peyri Herrera.
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The Big Upside of Customer Participation

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Encouraging customers to provide feedback and recommendations directly to a company engages them in valuable ways. Researchers looked at customers of a global bank who engaged in either positive word of mouth, or provided suggestions, or both. They found that customers who ranked high in participation tended to purchase more products and services. In other words, participation was more closely associated with customer spending than word of mouth was.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Image News/Thinkstock
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Is Hostility to Blame for Sustainability’s Leadership Gap?

When a conservative think-tank challenged Apple’s sustainability programs at a recent shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook didn’t back down, refusing to bow to its calls to suspend any activities that didn’t “add to the bottom line.” Apple’s shareholders rewarded him with resounding support. If sustainability is to increase its profile as a business priority, more executives will need to follow Cook’s lead.

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Better Decisions with Smarter Data

Part of that gap between the pressure to be more data-driven in decision making, and a lack of useful data, says Grenoble University researcher Ali Fouladkar, can be explained by the fact that while data analysis has led to competitive advantage for some organizations, decision makers are often presented with noise-filled big data.

What they need instead is smart data.

The problem in getting to smart data in an era of big data is part technological and part training.

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The Science of Managing Black Swans

In business, a black swan is neither a bird nor a ballerina — it’s a very rare convergence of factors that leads to catastrophe. New research suggests that by exploiting all types of data, managers can help prevent some black swan events, and reduce the hazards of other risky blind spots. The caveat: less intuition; more data.

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“Diverge Before You Converge”: Tips for Creative Brainstorming

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A new integrative process for idea generation uses approaches drawn from education, business model design and more, and breaks down the process of creativity into seven distinct steps. One of the most intriguing steps is number five, “diverge before you converge.” The idea behind it is that the most effective brainstorming processes draw from both individual thinking and group discussion, with individuals coming together only after independent idea generation.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Nicolas Keller.
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How Nonprofit Organizations Use Reputational Risk Management

When an organization’s mission and message are about helping those in need, it may be hard to imagine any reputational risk associated with their enterprise. The surprising reality: nonprofit groups are building reputational risk management systems because they meet challenges to their missions very similar to those faced by private-sector companies — and reputation is everything.

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Sustainability Redefined: Setting a Goal of a Flourishing World

Business has gotten the message that the world’s resources aren’t unlimited. But, argues John Ehrenfeld, it has missed the corollary that growth can’t be unlimited if resources aren’t. Ehrenfeld argues that using growth as the basis for sustainability is a mistake — and proposes an alternative metric.

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The Untapped Opportunity of Visual Logos

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Research shows that corporate logos can have a significant positive effect on customer commitment to a brand: “separate visual symbols used as logos tend to be more effective than brand names at creating a sense of emotional connection with consumers,” write C. Whan Park (University of Southern California Marshall School of Business), Andreas B. Eisingerich (Imperial College Business School at Imperial College London) and Gratiana Pol (Marshall School of Business).

Courtesy of Women's World Banking.
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Women’s World Banking: A Model Knowledge Network

Knowledge networks are helping members of organizations of all sizes learn quickly and collaborate productively. The most effective networks, including organizations such as Women’s World Banking, are clear about goals, allow for shared expertise and embrace online communication. Women’s World Banking, for instance, has a robust website where members discuss topics, share documents and collaborate on wikis. Charu Adesnik of Cisco, which provided seed funding for the network’s Leadership Community, says that “technology allows learning to continue well after an in-person training.”

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