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From Risk to Resilience: Learning to Deal With Disruption

In a volatile, global economy, supply chains have become increasingly vulnerable. Supply chain practices designed to keep costs low in a stable business environment can increase risk levels during disruptions. But companies can cultivate resilience to unexpected disruptions by understanding their vulnerabilities and developing specific capabilities to compensate for them. The authors identify and detail 16 capabilities companies can use to respond to particular vulnerability patterns.

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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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MIT Sloan Conference August 29: Growth Opportunities in Latin America and China

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August 29, 2014, MIT Sloan School faculty with expertise in Latin America, China, energy and the global economy present their research and engage in discussion with business leaders about the business challenges and growth opportunities in Latin America and China in 2014 and future. The presenters look at economic and political uncertainty, risks of deflation, fluctuating commodities prices and energy issues. They also compare and contrast the ways of doing business in both marketplaces.

Image of Shanghai courtesy of Flickr user John Chandler.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnchandler/9268261356
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The Surprising Effectiveness of “Assembly Line” Innovation

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Unconventional approaches to innovation are speeding up new product development, making R&D faster and cheaper. In China, companies are embracing an industrialized approach to research that allows them to complete projects as much as two to five times faster than they did before. “These developments have potentially huge implications for how companies should think about global competition and whether they need to rethink and reengineer their established innovation and product development processes,” the authors write.

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Asia Pulp & Paper and Greenpeace: Building New Directions, Together

When two organizations are on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to sustainability issues, it may seem like there’s no hope of ever reaching agreement. Such was the case when Greenpeace and Asia Pulp sat down to negotiate a truce after Greenpeace’s hard-hitting campaign to change Asia Pulp’s forestry practices, which Greenpeace saw as destroying endangered rainforest habitat. But as Asia Pulp’s Aida Greenbury explains, it’s possible even for two polar opposites to find areas of common ground and work together for sustainable business practices.

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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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How Facebook is Delivering Personalization on a Whole New Scale

As Facebook becomes more mobile-centric, it’s also becoming adept at laying its customer data over brand data and third-party data to create uniquely customized experiences for its users. In a Q&A, Blake Chandlee, vice president of global partnerships at Facebook, details the power that comes from being able to overlay all that customer information. “Historically, we’ve never had the ability to have the scale of a mass media along with the personalization that digital provides,” says Chandlee.

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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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From the Editor: Innovation and China

In today’s global economy, there aren’t many large companies that can afford to ignore China in their plans for growth. The Summer 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on China, with insights about how to learn from China, what the future may hold for the Chinese economy — and how to do business in China despite the challenges of protecting intellectual property there.

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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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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.

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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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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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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.

Courtesy of Women's World Banking.
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Women’s World Banking: A Model Knowledge Network

Knowledge networks are helping members of organizations of all sizes learn quickly and collaborate productively. The most effective networks are clear about goals, allow for shared expertise and embrace online communication. Women’s World Banking, for instance, has a robust website where members discuss topics, share documents and collaborate on wikis.

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DBS Bank Pumps Up the Volume on its Technology

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DBS Bank, Singapore’s largest, is using analytics, social media and mobile technology to boost customer satisfaction and its bottom line. The company is using technology more effectively, filling in with outside vendors where it feels it cannot achieve top performance on its own. The bank is also building on its traditional transaction model to leverage information more effectively — a process it expects will radically remake the way it interacts with its customers.

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Are Companies Ready for the New Global Executive?

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HR executives believe that tomorrow’s leaders will be a more diverse group than today’s and will face special challenges as a result. A survey of 197 human resource executives from global companies finds that “leaders from highly diverse backgrounds will need to work together more effectively.” The challenge is that diverse groups often have more disagreements than homogeneous groups, demanding proactive skill development in group dynamics.

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MIT Sloan Management Review Launches Chinese Edition

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MIT SMR has launched a Chinese edition of its magazine and website, in partnership with local publishing firm Shanghai Li Han Technology Information Management Co. Ltd. Building on MIT SMR’s English language content, translated into Simplified Chinese, the publication will be enhanced by localized content relevant to business leaders and academics in China. The Chinese edition will bring MIT SMR’s premier content to the Chinese management and business community.

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