018-Innovation-500

Summer 2004
Volume 45, Issue # 4

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When Learning Stops

  • Read Time: 5 min 

Learning rarely follows a linear, upward progression. People forget what they once knew; institutional memory fades; obstacles of all kinds block individuals and groups from making progress. Sometimes an initially successful program or approach stops delivering results.

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Does Promotional Pricing Grow Future Business?

  • Read Time: 3 min 

Do big discount strategies really prompt new customers to buy more items, more often? Or does promotional pricing actually undermine attempts to increase future spending among existing customers? A recent large-scale study of a U.S. catalog retailer investigated how discount promotion strategies ultimately affect the bottom-line business.

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Getting Credit for Governance

  • Read Time: 7 min 

Recent research relates the importance of corporate governance not to stockholders but rather to another important stakeholder: bondholders. Ever since spec­tacular failures occurred at previously well-regarded companies, the spotlight has shone on corporate governance activities as the means of preventing fraud and aligning management with shareholders’ interests.

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The Vision Thing

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 3 min 

Today’s almost mythical notion of the hero-leader demands that vision be a pre-eminent executive trait. Time and time again, if a corporate leader is successful, his or her vision is cited as the cause and lauded as the foundation of the leader’s greatness.

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The Education of Practicing Managers

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 11 min 

The authors contend that contemporary management education does a disservice by standardizing content, focusing on business functions (rather than on managing practices) and training specialists (rather than general managers). Working with several major international universities, the authors have developed seven tenets to improve MBA programs by grounding them in practical experience, shared insight and thoughtful reflection.

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A Health Care Agenda for Business

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 29 min 

As health care costs continue to skyrocket, companies must aggressively seek ways to work with employees and providers to reduce costs, while improving quality.

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A Return to Basics at Kellogg

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 14 min 

Kellogg‘s profit margins and the stature of its brands both declined throughout the 1990s. A wake-up call came in 1999 when the venerable company lost market leadership. The author describes how it embarked upon an ambitious and, for the food industry, novel strategy, emphasizing profit and value over volume and employing compensation and organization strategies to help cascade the change through the company and re-establish its innovativeness, profitability and reputation.

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The Balance of Power

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 33 min 

A corporate sphere of influence is not just a platform for a company’s offensive or defensive initiatives. It is the basis upon which the company builds market power over rivals so it can maneuver freely without fear of retaliation.

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Confronting Low-End Competition

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 24 min 

Every company lives in fear of competitors that offer seemingly similar products for much lower prices. Dealing with such discounters is no simple matter, as Hewlett-Packard, May Department Stores, Salomon Brothers and others have discovered. Nevertheless, various strategies — ignoring or blocking the competitor, strengthening your value proposition or even strategic retreat — can help slow or even stop the low-end competitor without destroying the industry’s profit margins.

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Don’t Be Unique, Be Better

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 13 min 

Even the best companies let their customers down sometimes, and many disappoint frequently. The authors lay much of the blame for this on companies’ obsession with uniqueness and differentiation. According to their analysis, companies are too quick to dismiss “category benefits” as a source of advantage. They explain why companies such as Toyota, Cemex, Orange, Medtronic and Sony are successful because they are simply better at offering what customers really want.

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Strategies for Competing in a Changed China

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 23 min 

A decade ago, multinational companies seemed poised to dominate in China. Today that picture has changed. Whereas IBM, HP and Compaq had quickly won more than 50% of the personal computer market, for example, Chinese company Legend Group Ltd. is now the number one supplier. Research in 10 industries over the last 10 years reveals a pitched battle of competencies between multinational and local players and points to five strategies that can help multinationals regain the edge.

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Learning From the Internet Giants

  • Read Time: 19 min 

Many companies have struggled to design IT systems, databases and content repositories that provide their employees with easily accessible and relevant information. The authors urge organizations to emulate the strategies of Google, eBay and Amazon.com, whose core competence is based upon making it easy for customers to find what they want — quickly, accurately and usefully.

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Is Your Innovation Process Global?

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 24 min 

By sourcing and integrating knowledge from dispersed geographic locations, companies can generate more innovations of higher value and lower cost.

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How to Lead a Self-Managing Team

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 23 min 

Teams that are basically left to run themselves can be highly efficient and productive. To be successful, though, such autonomous groups require a specific type of external leadership.

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Corporate Spheres of Influence

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 27 min 

The design of a corporate portfolio should be based primarily on its strategic intent and desired competitive impact, that is, on how a select set of market positions builds a platform for growth while influencing the behavior of rivals and the structure of the industry.