Research Feature

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Beyond Forecasting: Creating New Strategic Narratives

In rapidly changing industries, it can be hard for established companies to build momentum for new strategic directions. But by rethinking the past and present and reimagining the future, managers can construct strategic narratives that enable innovation. A new study helps to understand how managers actually make strategy in conditions of considerable uncertainty, and do it in a way that is coherent, plausible and acceptable to most key stakeholders in the organization.

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The Opportunity Paradox

How can companies capture new opportunities most effectively? When evaluating new business opportunities, there’s a paradoxical tension between strategic focus and flexibility. Managers tend to be opportunists or strategists, and while most managers focus their attention on opportunity execution, opportunity selection appears to matter as much. Sustained business success seems to depend not just on capturing one opportunity but also on stringing multiple opportunities together.

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How Strategic Is Your Board?

Strategic thinking at the top of a company is more important than ever for business survival. But boards of directors have no clear model to follow when it comes to developing the strategic role for the companies they oversee. Should they supervise, cocreate or support strategy? A structured assessment of a board’s strategic responsibilities can bring clarity to its role in creating strategy, and boards should be prepared to change their role in strategy if the industry context changes.

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How to Win in an Omnichannel World

Retail customers now readily use both online and offline retail channels. To thrive in this new environment, retailers need to reexamine their strategies for delivering information and products. Companies that are successful at navigating the omnichannel environment take a customer perspective and view the activities of the company through two core functions: information and fulfillment. They also consider hybrid online-offline approaches, including inventory-only showrooms and “buy online, pick up in store” options.

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Creating More Accurate Acquisition Valuations

Deal markets can be “hot” or “cold,” and the state of the economy can bias executives’ evaluation of potential acquisitions. For instance, relying on discounted cash flow scenarios can bolster managers’ sense of confidence and create unrealistically low perceptions of uncertainty. Executives can mitigate valuation biases by having a checklist — the list tempers natural inclinations to focus on the value of growth options in “hot” markets and risk of investment in “cold” markets.

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Why Managers Still Matter

The role of managers needs to be redefined in today’s knowledge-based economy. Managerial authority remains essential in situations where decisions are time-sensitive, knowledge is concentrated and several decisions need to be coordinated. As well, an important task for today’s managers is to define the organizational goals and principles that they want employees to pursue. “From our perspective, the view that executive authority is increasingly passé is wrong,” write the authors.

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Finding the Right Corporate Legal Strategy

How can companies use the law to gain strategic advantages? Some companies move beyond viewing the law just in terms of compliance and use their legal environment to secure a competitive advantage. Companies can adopt one of five types of legal strategies: avoidance, compliance, prevention, value or transformation. The right strategy for a company will depend on factors such as its business model, managers’ attitudes toward the law and the legal department’s ability to collaborate with managers.

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What It Takes to Reshore Manufacturing Successfully

The process of bringing assembly work back to U.S. factories from abroad is more challenging than the economics would predict. In the United States, many key resources, including the manufacturing workforce, have atrophied. Author Willy C. Shih (Harvard Business School) recommends that to reduce turnover, companies that embrace reshoring — bringing assembly work back from abroad — encourage workers to complete training and certification.

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Revisiting Complexity in the Digital Age

As businesses grow and diversify, they almost inevitably make their range of offerings more complex. Until now, managing that complexity usually involved a trade-off between creating value from complexity and benefiting from the efficiencies of simplicity. But smart use of today’s digital technologies can help companies finesse those trade-offs between costs and benefits. Digitization can help companies, for instance, increase product variety and integration while maintaining process simplicity.

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When Customers Help Set Prices

To many managers, the idea of involving customers in pricing decisions seems counterproductive. For most companies, pricing is a sensitive, private affair. But it may be time to reexamine those ideas. Letting customers have input on prices provides opportunities for customization and can promote greater customer engagement. Opening up customer participation also offers a way for companies to create a new sense of excitement.

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Innovation Lessons From China

China is becoming the best place to learn how to make ideas commercially viable, even as many multinational companies are growing increasingly wary of doing business there because of concerns about unfair competition and theft of intellectual property. Chinese companies excel at cost reduction, accelerated product development and networked production — and know how to assess what they can do and quickly find partners to fill the gaps.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ming Xia.

Protecting Intellectual Property in China

“By operating in China, overseas businesses expose their intellectual property to risk,” write Andreas Schotter (Ivey Business School at Western University) and Mary Teagarden (Thunderbird School of Global Management). “But deciding to stay away entails the even greater risk of missing opportunities to acquire knowledge that is critical for competitiveness across a wide range of global markets.” To protect their IP, companies need to control and manage their IP vulnerabilities proactively.

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What’s Next for the Chinese Economy?

After a period of remarkable growth, China faces substantial challenges. There is evidence that China is hitting the wall of diminishing returns with a growth model that relies heavily on exports and investments in fixed assets and infrastructure. It is harder to grow a country’s economy after the country has attained “middle-income status,” and the author argues that China needs both political and economic reforms to move to the next stages of its development.

VOLVO TRUCK CORPORATIONVolvo Tuve Plant

What to Expect From a Corporate Lean Program

“Lean” programs help many manufacturers boost productivity. But misplaced expectations of how quickly these programs can improve performance can make their implementation difficult. Better understanding of the rates at which lean programs produce improvements would make implementation go more smoothly — and lead to more increases in productivity. Managers should set targets that are appropriate to specific plants and be careful not to derail progress by using initial gains to lay off workers.

austin-1000

The Dandelion Principle: Redesigning Work for the Innovation Economy

People who are “different,” either behaviorally or neurologically, can add significant value to companies. The authors, who studied the practices of innovative organizations and the experience of a Danish company working with people with autism, argue that companies can benefit from adjusting work conditions to embrace the talents of people who “think differently” or have “inspired peculiarities.” “Managing innovation is less about averages and more about understanding outliers,” write the authors.

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Accelerated Innovation: The New Challenge From China

Chinese companies are opening up a new front in global competition. It centers on what the authors call accelerated innovation — that is, reengineering research and development and innovation processes to make new product development dramatically faster and less costly. The new emphasis is unlikely to generate stunning technological breakthroughs, but it allows Chinese competitors to reduce the time it takes to bring innovative products and services to mainstream markets. It also represents a different way of deploying Chinese cost and volume advantages in global competition.

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The Pitfalls of Project Status Reporting

Accepting five inconvenient truths about project status reporting can greatly reduce the chance of being blindsided by unpleasant surprises. For instance, many employees tend to put a positive spin on anything they report to senior management. And when employees do report bad news, senior executives often ignore it. Overconfidence is an occupational hazard in the executive suite, and executives need to examine their own assumptions and beliefs about project status reporting.

huang-1000

Should Your Business Be Less Productive?

Research suggests that productivity improvements can have counterproductive results in a service business. Productivity gains are not always easy to make without sacrificing perceptions of quality, and unlike on the assembly line, increased productivity may not always lead to increased profitability. Instead, in a service business, productivity must be treated as a strategic decision variable.

tupungato/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock

Reducing the Risk of Supply Chain Disruptions

Most managers know that they should protect their supply chains from serious and costly disruptions — but comparatively few take action. The dilemma is that solutions to reduce risk mean little unless they are evaluated against their impact on cost efficiency. To protect their supply chains from major disruptions, companies can build resilience by segmenting or regionalizing supply chains, and limit losses in performance by avoiding too much centralization of resources.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DaveMN

What Unhappy Customers Want

Companies have tried for decades to improve customer complaint resolution — without notable success. Customer expectations are rising; customers now expect positive results and not just the chance to complain. Many customers want nonmonetary remedies, such as an apology or a chance to vent. In addition, companies must recognize that they must treat every customer interaction as if it were playing out on a Facebook page or a YouTube video, because it might be.

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