Research Feature

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The High Price of Customer Satisfaction

No company can last for long without satisfied customers. But misguided attempts to improve satisfaction can damage a company’s financial health. Research finds that the relationship between customer satisfaction and customer spending behavior is very weak, and that the return on investments in increasing customer satisfaction is often trivial or even negative. What matters is how customers rank your brand in satisfaction relative to your competitors.

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Reading Global Clients’ Signals

How can geographically distributed companies monitor large clients’ attitudes about their services? Traditional customer satisfaction surveys can lack sufficient timeliness and detail. But taking a big data approach to analyzing collaborations lets companies gain valuable and timely insights into client satisfaction. Examining the structural properties of email communication patterns and correlating them with external performance metrics can offer managers helpful insights.

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Combining Purpose With Profits

It’s an old idea: If you want to build a company that truly motivates its employees, it has to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose that transcends making money can motivate employees. But to sustain both a sense of purpose and a solid level of profitability over time, companies need to pay attention to several fundamental organizing principles, including the need for support systems that reinforce goals.

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Should You Outsource Analytics?

Outsourcing analytics activities can offer benefits, but it requires a carefully constructed relationship between the company and the business process organization (BPO). Customers must be careful not to lose their expertise or their core intellectual property. Research suggests that companies with superior analytics capabilities will approach outsourcing differently than companies that are analytically challenged.

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The Problem With Online Ratings

Studies show that online ratings are one of the most trusted sources in e-commerce decisions. But research suggests that these ratings are systematically biased and easily manipulated. The heart of the problem lies with herd instincts — natural human impulses characterized by a lack of individual decision making — that cause us to think and act in the same way as other people around us.

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Stories That Deliver Business Insights

Companies are gaining value from ethnography, the in-person study of how people actually use a product or service. Through its attention to the details of people’s lives, ethnography can be a powerful tool to help executives gain insights into their markets. Ethnographic stories can also be indispensable in helping executives rethink their assumptions about what customers care about and about overall strategic direction.

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Rewriting the Playbook for Corporate Partnerships

In fast-changing markets, some companies are developing flexible, adaptive strategic partnerships to leverage the resources of both customers and suppliers. Incentive arrangements focus partners on joint value creation, and companies are sharing information extensively to solve problems together. These partnerships make the most sense when the product or service is of strategic importance to the customer, when the vendor has superior expertise and when there is uncertainty in the relationship.

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Strategic Decisions for Multisided Platforms

Some of the fastest growing businesses in recent years — companies such as Facebook, eBay and LinkedIn — are “multisided platforms” that enable interactions between two or more sets of participants. The spectacular success of some of these MSPs has caught the attention of many entrepreneurs and investors. But building a multisided platform business requires savvy decisions on everything from design to governance to pricing.

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Why Customer Participation Matters

These days, many businesses are focused on increasing customers’ positive word of mouth. But emphasizing customer participation — such as providing feedback or suggestions — may be a more important vehicle for generating valuable repeat business. As one COO said, “Levels of feedback is a way we identify our most profitable customers. Those that bother to write to us do care. And they do spend money with us.”

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Delivering on the Promise of Green Logistics

The best way to reduce emissions and cut costs is to transport goods efficiently. So why aren’t more companies taking the steps that would get them there? In a set of three case studies, one of the key obstacle becomes clear: implementing logistics strategies to reduce emissions requires significant internal and external collaboration between companies, suppliers, and shippers. But as these case studies prove, undertaking complicated process changes can also produce significant rewards.

Typhoon Saomai swirls in the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan and the Philippines.

How Serious Is Climate Change to Business?

The fifth annual global executive survey about sustainability and innovation conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group suggests that climate change has yet to become a very urgent issue for most companies — and that only a minority of companies are preparing for its effects. In a preview of our upcoming report (due out in the fourth quarter of 2013) we present six charts that provide a snapshot of report statistics.

Image courtesy of Astrobotic Technology.

Spurring Innovation Through Competitions

Alan MacCormack, Fiona Murray and Erika Wagner examine the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to attract ideas from beyond their organizations. They write that companies increasingly “are discovering that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.”

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Innovation Process Benefits: The Journey as Reward

What motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects? And how can companies that sponsor such projects better attract individuals from outside the organization to participate? Christina Raasch and Eric von Hippel investigate the ways that individuals can gain significant benefits from participating in an innovation process — and the implications of that for organizations.

Showing 21-40 of 559