Research Highlight

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Creating More Resilient Supply Chains

Global supply chains bring increased risks of disruption from events such as natural disasters. But by understanding and planning for such risks, Cisco Systems improved its own supply chain resilience. Its five-step process: identify strategic priorities; map the vulnerabilities of supply chain design; integrate risk awareness into the product and value chain; monitor resiliency; and watch for events. John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO, calls this type of risk management “a key differentiator.”

Image courtesy of Dupont.

Bridging the Sustainability Gap

Most mainstream investors are unconvinced that sustainability leadership translates into profits and marketplace success. Despite rising importance on the corporate agenda, sustainability —as currently understood and measured — interests only a small niche of investors. The authors argue that a “back to basics” approach for measuring sustainability’s direct impact on revenue growth, productivity and risk would provide mainstream investors with the data that’s critical to their decisions.

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Rejuvenating a Brand Through Social Media

When Nestlé UK invited customers to vote for a new chocolate bar flavor, the company’s target customers participated in droves. By leveraging social media for the Kit Kat brand, the company was able to build positive word of mouth through consumers who became brand advocates; increase sales; and generate a higher return on investment. The process followed a four-step framework that any company can use to extract valuable information from the vast amount of data generated by social media.

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What Businesses Can Learn From Sports Analytics

In professional sports, some teams are becoming sophisticated in using data to measure team and player performance, sports business and health and injury prevention. Sports teams’ use of analytics has much to teach other managers about alignment, performance improvement and business ecosystems. For instance, teams are beginning to assess performance in context, seeing how teams do with or without a particular player. This “plus/minus” analysis could be a valuable technique for many businesses as well.

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Finding the Value in Social Business

A recent survey by MIT SMR and Deloitte shows that companies are starting to derive real value from social business — with the payoff concentrated most strongly in companies that have reached a certain level of sophistication in relation to their social business initiatives. The higher a respondent rated his or her company on a “social business maturity” scale, the more likely he or she was to report that the company is deriving business value from its social business initiatives.

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The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

New research finds that under certain circumstances, people who deviate from a dress code or other norms in appearance are perceived as having higher status and greater competence. Studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality. On the other hand, nonconformance due to lack of awareness does not lead to positive inferences from others. And nonconformance is risky: It comes at the cost of abandoning a comfort zone.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sjors Provoost

How to Win a Price War

There are usually no winners in price wars. But under the right circumstances, it’s possible to win a price war by leveraging a specific set of strategic capabilities. These include the ability to read how things are changing, the skills to analyze data to identify trends and opportunities and the wherewithal to implement organizational changes both internally and across the value chain. Albert Heijn, a Dutch grocer, started and won a price war through its strategic capabilities and skills.

Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum/Flickr.

Creating Societal Benefits and Corporate Profits

The odds of launching a new business that creates value for both the company and the public can be improved with good planning. An in-depth analysis of how four companies created for-profit initiatives that also have high societal value suggests that each followed a similar step-by-step process to achieve what the researchers call synergistic value creation. Those steps include establishing cross-business incubators and installing multi-perspective monitoring systems.

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Avoiding Layoff Blunders

It’s surprisingly common for companies to make mistakes in their layoff decisions — and those mistakes can be expensive for both the individuals affected and the organization. Fortunately, simply by avoiding five common decision-related problems, businesses can do better.

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Raising the Bar With Analytics

More than half of managers surveyed strongly agree that their organizations need to step up analytics use, according to a 2013 global survey by MIT SMR and SAS Institute. In addition, survey data suggests that in companies where analytics has improved the ability to innovate, managers are more likely to share data with partners and suppliers.

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Thriving in a Big Data World

Words have become data; the physical states of our machinery have become data; our physical locations have become data; and even our interactions with each other have become data. Three recent books offer expert perspectives on the increasing power and importance of analytics.

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The Real Savings From IT Outsourcing

Research suggests that outsourcing IT can help reduce sales expenses and general and administrative costs, which are often four to five times IT costs. Managers need to take a balanced approach to their investments in internal systems and outsourcing to reap greater benefits in terms of cost savings. Analyzing the impact of outsourcing on non-IT costs and formulating strategies for maximizing the savings on these expenses can help companies get the most out of outsourcing spending.

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How to Position Your Innovation in the Marketplace

Should a new product or service launch at the high end of the market and move downward or at the low end and move up? In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for entering the market, but a new research-based framework helps identify the best strategy for a particular product or service. The two key questions to ask: Is the basic functionality of the new offering better or worse than that of existing competitive products? And how groundbreaking are the novel attributes of the new product?

Image courtesy of Adriana Cisneros

The Art of Strategic Renewal

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.

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The Discipline of Creativity

Managers can’t afford to rely on haphazard, hit-or-miss approaches to idea generation. Ideas must fit with an organization’s strategy or take it in a new, purposeful direction, and they must solve real problems for stakeholders. A new seven-step process for idea generation is designed to help managers understand their problems deeply, generate tangible ideas for solutions and translate those ideas into action.

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Acquisitions That Make Your Company Smarter

It’s challenging to successfully integrate any acquired company. It’s even more complicated when you purchase a business for its knowledge. From Pfizer Inc.’s acquisition of Icagen Inc. to Walt Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, knowledge-based acquisitions are focused on acquiring new knowledge — related to product features, customer needs, processes or technologies — and depend on assimilating the two companies’ expertise. Included: a sidebar on “Six Steps for Smoother Knowledge Transfer.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stuck in Customs.

The Power of a Good Logo

The authors’ research found that corporate logos that express a brand’s symbolic, functional or sensory benefits, have a significant positive effect on customer commitment to a brand — and thereby a significant impact on company performance in terms of revenues and profits. The research also indicated that separate visual symbols used as logos tend to be more effective than brand names at creating a sense of emotional connection with consumers.

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Does Your Company Seem Socially Irresponsible?

Public perceptions of corporate irresponsibility are shaped in subjective, yet predictable, ways. “People like tidy stories with a clear villain,” write Nathan T. Washburn of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Donald Lange of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “We lose interest when there are too many factors, extra complexity or too much ambiguity.” That means that powerful negative images can be hard to respond to.

Image courtesy of Flickr user lowjumpingfrog

The Sweet Spot of Sustainability Strategy

Today’s fringe issues in the sustainability world often become tomorrow’s mainstream and generic market expectations, writes Gregory Unruh of George Mason University. Between these two extremes lies a third territory, which Unruh calls “strategic.” “It is in this strategic territory that proactive companies have the best opportunity to influence the sustainability standards for their industry,” he writes.

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Driving Change Through Corporate Programs

CEOs of large companies introduce corporate programs as a way to foster strategic renewal. But whether the goal is boosting profitability, improving business models or establishing new directions for growth, it’s important to match the design of the program with the desired outcomes.

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