Research Highlight

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Why Sleep Is a Strategic Resource

Simple as it sounds, regular sleep is the best antidote for a fatigued or stressed-out workforce. But many modern workplaces condone practices that are not conducive to healthy sleep schedules, with leaders setting the expectation that others need to be at the office at all hours of the day and night. The authors argue that managers should “allow employees to separate from work when the workday is finished” and think of sleep as a strategic resource that is a key to human sustainability.

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Adapting to the Sharing Economy

Instead of buying and owning products, consumers are increasingly interested in leasing and sharing them. New strategies can help companies embrace this “collaborative consumption.” For instance, Ikea and Patagonia have found that helping people resell or give away products both enhances the companies' reputations and helps customers create space in their homes for new Ikea and Patagonia items. Companies have also found value in embracing opportunities to share existing assets and capacities.

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Why It Pays to Become a Rule Maker

Managers in some leading companies have pioneered a new approach to sustainability. In this approach, businesses have the potential to be rule makers as well as players in establishing environmental regulations. “There is an expression in Washington,” says DuPont’s Michael Parr, “that it is better to be at the table than on the menu.” Indeed, by engaging with government on the structure of the phaseout of air conditioning chemicals, DuPont helped bring an end to one profitable product life cycle and spawn another.

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Customizing Social Media Marketing

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for social media marketing. Instead, companies need to tailor campaigns to fit their products. Recent research suggests that one key question that can guide the approach is whether a company’s products are primarily useful or fun. For instance, consumers expect to encounter messages about fun products on platforms like Facebook. In contrast, they will only glance over recommendations for useful products. Because reactions differ, so too should the social sharing mechanisms used to promote these products.

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The Perils of Attention From Headquarters

Visits from corporate headquarters to operations in markets such as China are often seen as overly time-consuming and unproductive. According to one China country manager of a European luxury-goods group, “Not only do they come often, but they want to spend more time, and they all come on weekends! For my team, it means that nearly every weekend, there is somebody to entertain.” The authors offer a set of recommendations for healthier dynamics between corporate headquarters and affiliates.

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How Effective Is Location-Targeted Mobile Advertising?

New research shows that mobile advertising targeted to consumers based on their locations can be effective. This is particularly the case with customers who have shown a high level of interest in the type of product being shown to them. Researchers also think that some users might simply need more time to evaluate the trustworthiness of an app or offer — suggesting that marketers might see delayed responses to location targeted mobile ads.

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Getting Value From Your Data Scientists

Data scientists differ from other types of analysts in significant respects. To create real business value, top management must learn how to manage these “numbers people” effectively. To help executives avoid repeating some of the mistakes that have undermined the success of previous generations of analytical talent, the authors offer up seven recommendations for providing useful leadership and direction.

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The Upside to Large Competitors

New research suggests that a smaller company can benefit by making consumers aware that it competes against bigger corporations. In six lab and field studies, the authors explored the effects of having a large, dominant competitor and found advantages in highlighting a competitor’s size and proximity. “Small brands see consumer support go up when they are faced with a competitive threat from large brands,” write the authors. “This support translates into higher purchase intention, more purchases and more favorable online reviews.”

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Do-It-Yourself Leadership Training in China

In recent years, China’s economy has grown so rapidly — and changed so much — that demand for skilled business managers exceeds supply. A gap between Chinese companies’ unwillingness to invest in training and young managers’ hunger for an opportunity to learn may create an opening for companies with a strong tradition of employee education. Can leadership self-development programs help address that gap?

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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.”

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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.

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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 Sloan Management Review 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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