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Cold Call by Harvard Business School

Cold Call distills Harvard Business School’s legendary case studies into podcast form. Hosted by Brian Kenny, the podcast airs every two weeks and features Harvard Business School faculty discussing cases they’ve written and the lessons they impart.
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Cold Call by Harvard Business School
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Sep 19, 2017

Financial returns are important, but for many companies, using capital to influence positive outcomes is just as important. Enter impact investing and the example of State Street’s SHE, a gender diversity index ETF designed to track U.S. companies leading their industry in placing women on boards of directors and in senior leadership positions. Professor Vikram Gandhi discusses the importance of investing for impact and the potential for influence on corporate America.

Sep 5, 2017

Faber-Castell is a 255-year-old company that makes pencils. How does an established company like this think about innovation, particularly if and when to adopt a new technology? Assistant Professor Ryan Raffaelli’s research looks at established companies that produce beloved products and how they manage technological shifts in their industry and in the world. This case explores Faber-Castell’s “companion for life” strategy and its bet to double down on the pencil.

Aug 22, 2017

Longchamp’s Le Pliage is one of the fashion world’s most successful products, a cultural icon across the globe. But managing the low priced, nylon handbag is challenging as Longchamp tries to move its brand upmarket into higher priced, luxury leather goods. Senior Lecturer Jill Avery discusses the balancing act of cherishing the heritage of an established brand against the need to look forward and grow in the face of a rapidly changing industry.

Aug 8, 2017

Pal's Sudden Service has developed a unique operating model and organizational culture in the fast food restaurant business. With an emphasis on process control, zero errors, and extensive employee training and engagement, Pal's has been able to achieve excellent performance in an extremely competitive industry. Professor Gary Pisano discusses the company’s strategic challenge of deciding how much to grow and whether its organization model will scale.

Jul 21, 2017

Advertising in the digital age bears little resemblance to the Mad Men depiction—the Don Drapers of advertising have been replaced by big data and the people who work with it. Professor John Deighton, the author of the case, WPP: From Mad Men to Math Men (and Women), and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and group chief executive of WPP and the protagonist in the case, discuss how WPP has been successful in the new advertising world order where algorithms and robots rule.

Jun 19, 2017

ShotSpotter provides gunfire detection sensors to cities across the United States. CEO Ralph Clark is interested in taking the company beyond the business-to-government sales model and into new services. Could his company provide a service to colleges and schools concerned with mass shootings? Could the technology be adapted for indoor applications like shopping malls and movie theaters? Or even citywide deployment through smart cities to detect gunfire during terrorist attacks. Professor Mitch Weiss discusses how moving from one business model to another is difficult, and how successful companies make the transition.

May 30, 2017

It’s a common challenge for almost every startup: how much and how fast to grow. But Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of the Indian mobile payments and commerce platform Paytm, knows that he wants to take his company to $100 billion and replicate its model in other emerging markets. Professor Sunil Gupta discusses how reaching Sharma’s lofty goal won’t be about technology and finding new solutions, but rather all about finding new use cases for existing solutions.

May 16, 2017

When CEO Jeffrey Dunn took over Sesame Street in 2014 and made a licensing arrangement with HBO, many people were skeptical this would take the program in the right direction. But with a new mission to, “Make kids smarter, stronger, and kinder,” and a lot more innovation, it seems the opposite is in the works. Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who wrote the case with Assistant Professor Ryan L. Raffaelli, talks about reversing a losing streak with new partnerships and in the process determining how to answer foundational questions like, “Who are we if we make this deal?”

May 2, 2017

What does it take to successfully lead a team to the top of the highest peak in the world? First-year students find out as they participate together in, Everest: A Leadership and Team Simulation. Professor Amy Edmondson talks about the choice to use Mt. Everest as the backdrop for this academic exercise, designing the simulation, and what students learn about teamwork along their way “up the mountain.”

Apr 18, 2017

Health insurance that consumers like? Doesn’t sound possible, but South African company Vitality is doing just that. By focusing on consumer-driven health insurance ideas like paying customers to take care of themselves, Vitality has expanded to the UK and China. Professor Regina Herzlinger discusses why this idea of paying for self-care has the potential to improve health care in the United States as well.

Apr 4, 2017

Germany took in a million Syrian refugees in 2015, buoyed by the knowledge that these people could contribute strongly to the country’s economy.  But has it worked out as successfully as hoped? Rebecca Henderson discusses what it takes to integrate a huge number of new people, and the role business can play.

Mar 21, 2017

Is it possible to retain brand value after cutting costs and services dramatically just to stay alive? The airline industry has struggled with this question for decades in the face of economic downturns, changes in market structure, and shifting clientele. Professor Susanna Gallani discusses one of the central lessons from her case study (co-authored with Professor Eva Labro), Region-fly: Cutting Costs in the Airline Industry, that encompasses any company in any industry: the long-term focus for any leadership team has to be on not just survival, but figuring out how to come back from a rough patch to regain and even exceed market position.

 

Mar 3, 2017

IDEO’s human-centered design thinking is a systematic process used to help create new products and services. And, the best part? They are open about the process and how to adopt it. Professor Ryan Buell explores this process through the example of Cineplanet, the leading movie cinema chain in Peru. The company hired IDEO to help them determine how to better align their operating model with the needs of its customers. Like Professor Buell, this case may change the way you think about thinking.

Feb 22, 2017

Using crowdsourcing to develop an annual list of Hollywood’s hottest unproduced screenplays, Harvard graduate Franklin Leonard took the negative term “black list” and turned it into a coveted place to be.  Three films that once appeared on his Black List are nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year. Professor Henry McGee, former president of HBO Home Entertainment, explores a fascinating case about navigating the Hollywood film industry, reclaiming blackness as a positive, and taking success to the next level.

Feb 15, 2017

Growing up in the heart of the Confederacy, Maggie Lena Walker started work as a laundress at age nine. At the urging of her mother and mentors, she turned to education, and used it to propel her life forward—graduating high school at 16, working as a teacher, and learning accounting. Those experiences, coupled with her strong work ethic, culminated in Walker rising to lead the Independent of Order of St. Luke and found several other businesses, all of which created jobs and opportunities for many women and blacks where there had been none before. Professor Tony Mayo discusses Walker’s remarkable legacy of firsts, and the courage and strength it took for her to forge a path forward for herself and those she served.

Jan 26, 2017

In theory, most companies would love to diversify their workforce. In practice, hiring specifically to increase diversity can cause a variety of cultural problems within an organization. Professor Robin Ely discusses two of her cases that train a critical lens on race-based and race-blind hiring, and some of the best practices firms can employ to achieve a well-balanced staff.

Jan 26, 2017

For more than seven decades, Ebony Magazine has chronicled the most important African-American issues, personalities, and interests of its time, including operating essentially as the journal of record for the Civil Rights Movement. But along with most other media companies, the publication faced stark challenges if it was to survive in the rapidly changing media landscape of 2015. Senior lecturer Steve Rogers discusses Ebony Magazine’s storied history, including its founder’s awareness of disruption theory fifty years ahead of time, and what the company has long meant for the black community.

Jan 18, 2017

Research says that people imprint on music in their dating years, and carry those tastes with them through the rest of their lives. Lately, this has spelled trouble for jazz music, which is failing to attract new and younger fans in a competitive musical landscape. With its listenership in steep decline, jazz legend Wynton Marsalis is looking to rebrand the genre and engineer its comeback, with the help of Professor Rohit Deshpande.

Jan 3, 2017

One third of the U.S. population is obese, even as 50 million Americans often struggle to find enough to eat. And all that in a country where 40 percent of the food made and purchased each year is thrown away, and in which food needs are expected to more than double over the next few decades. Professor Jose Alvarez discusses how the former president of Trader Joe’s is boiling these difficult problems down into one elegant solution in a pilot store in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and blazing a trail toward sustainability in the process.

Dec 20, 2016

There is a joke in the cybersecurity community that there are two kinds of companies: those that know they’ve been hacked, and those that haven’t found out yet. The Target Corporation learned this the hard way during the busy holiday season of 2013, when 110 million customers’ information was compromised. Professor Suraj Srinivasan explores one of the largest cyber breaches in history, analyzing why failures happen, who should be held accountable, and how preventing them is both a technical problem and a matter of organizational design.

Dec 7, 2016

Wayfair has been around since the early days of ecommerce. But where it now exists as a single, popular brand, it was once an unaffiliated collection of 240 websites selling very different things. Professor Thales Teixeira takes listeners on a journey through the rise of internet sales and search engine marketing, and into the minds of the company’s executives as they built an online furniture giant from scratch.

Nov 18, 2016

On the internet, content may be king, but connecting users is the key to building an empire. The Norwegian media giant Schibsted learned this lesson the hard way, and then used it to thrive in an online news market where many others have failed. Through the lens of his new book, The Content Trap, professor Bharat Anand discusses Schibsted’s resounding success, how bringing users together drives revenue, and the importance of media companies adopting a “digital-first” approach.

Nov 14, 2016

By some accounts, only 5 to 6 percent of people around the world get the cardiac treatment they need to survive. The rest perish. This statistic highlights the stark need for affordable, quality health care that can be delivered at scale, and a solution to that staggering problem has sprung up in, of all places, the Cayman Islands. Professor Tarun Khanna explains how a new hospital with a revolutionary cost structure and service model is making a name for itself on an island better known for bright sunshine and sandy beaches.

Nov 3, 2016

An unfortunate but necessary part of a manager’s job is having to let underperforming employees go. Knowing when and how to take that step with the company’s, the employee’s, and your own best interests in mind is a difficult task. Professor Joe Badaracco discusses the best ways to make hard decisions and deliver bad news, pulling from his case “Two Tough Calls” and his new book, Managing in the Gray.

Nov 1, 2016

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare for short, had three goals: make health insurance available, required, and affordable for everyone. There was just one problem—the launch of the Healthcare.gov website was a complete and utter failure. Professor Len Schlesinger delves into the enormous challenges involved with building, launching, and fixing Healthcare.gov, and how those administrative trials and triumphs are instructive for any managerial setting.

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