Oktoberfest began as a raucous wedding celebration in Germany more than 200 years ago and has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Munich, alone, hosts some 6.4 million guests (who consume almost 8 million liters of beer) during the festival each year. Professor Juan Alcacer discusses how the Oktoberfest brand has been transplanted around the globe, whether copycat festivals help or hurt its reputation, and to what extent its original hosts could or should be profit-motivated.
Lego has been helping children piece together dreams and build their imaginations for decades, and has become one of the world’s most popular toys and most powerful brands in the process. But the company known for great directions lost its own in the 1990s and has stood on the brink of bankruptcy a few times since. Professor Jan Rivkin takes listeners behind the brick and into the minds of Lego’s leadership as they tackle digital disruption, how to innovate while remaining true to their core product and mission, and engineer an impressive 2004 turnaround that positions the company for huge future success.
Before “House of Cards” was an internationally-renowned and critically acclaimed hit series, it was a total shot in the dark. Luckily for the small film studio behind it, Netflix saw it as a shot worth taking. Professor Anita Elberse discusses how the Emmy-winning show flipped the script on standard television series production, brought binge-watching into the mainstream, and ushered in a whole new era of must-see programming.
Most people know Apple as one of the richest and most successful companies in the world, but it wasn’t always that way. In 1997, the company suffered a near-death experience that caused it to completely reimagine itself. The result was a new line of products and a totally unique financial model that has since led to unprecedented success. Professor Mihir Desai explains the genius of the financial wiring behind the inventors of the Genius Bar.
It’s a good bet that winning a gameshow isn’t often on the list of top priorities at large companies. So how was it that building a robot to do just that became a prime focus at IBM? Professor Willy Shih discusses how building Watson, a deep question answering machine, reinvigorated a stalled Research & Development team, taught IBM a ton about communication and product development, and led to a hotly-contested “Jeopardy!” match on the Harvard Business School campus.
College represents one of the biggest decisions and investments many consumers will ever make. But can they really trust the rankings available to help them choose? Professor Bill Kirby unpacks the complex world of university rankings, including what “world-class” actually means, what rankings don’t take into account, and how schools are learning to game an imperfect system.
A novel idea: give loyal customers a chance to buy shares in a company they love. That’s the premise behind LOYAL3, which uses the democratizing power of technology to give average investors better access to IPOs. Professor Luis Viceira discusses this novel mission, the huge new market it creates, and the delicate balance of being disruptive but only when necessary.
Increasingly, almost every team is a global team in some capacity. This presents a difficult challenge for managers everywhere, and especially for high-potential leaders who want to take their careers to the next level: how do you bring together a team whose members are geographically and culturally dispersed? Professor Tsedal Neeley discusses her case of a real-life executive charged with corralling a hugely diverse, underperforming group and leading it back to success on a global scale.
Though Google has become the U.S. face of the driverless car movement, other global companies have been developing similar technology for more than a decade. Mobileye is one of them, with a $10 billion valuation and a huge head start in a potentially enormous market. Professor David Yoffie discusses why a company many have never heard of will be a lynchpin in the future of self-driving automobiles.
Carla Ann Harris has blazed trails through and excelled at institutions like Harvard and Morgan Stanley. But doing so has required her to strike a careful balance between her professional image and her personal passions. Professor Lakshmi Ramarajan discusses Harris’ inspiring success and the importance of managing perceptions to achieve greatness.
Since brewing is a marketing-driven business, finding ways to differentiate a beverage from its competition is crucial. Heineken’s chief marketing officer took a novel approach: take the complicated processes of production and distribution and make them interesting and important to the consumer. Professor Forest Reinhardt explains how a big, sophisticated company used small details, from trucking routes to the color of refrigerators, to put its commitment to the environment to work on its behalf.
Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are tapping into their vast personal wealth to make commercial space travel a reality. In the process, they're revitalizing a listless national space program. Professor Matthew Weinzierl discusses his new case on New Space, and how public-private partnerships are becoming the building blocks for the hottest new startup sector.
The statistics are startling: about one-third of American workers suffer from chronic work stress; $27 billion worth of work days are lost to mental health-related absences each year. Professor John Quelch discusses his case on the state of mental health in the U.S. workplace, and why even though companies are better than ever about providing services to their workers, the stigma attached to mental health leaves a lot of work yet to be done.
Can big companies fix big problems? Are they responsible for doing so? As the third-largest employer in the world, any move Wal-mart makes reverberates around the globe. Yet despite its many successes and innovations, particularly in terms of sustainability, the company often faces criticism for its business practices. Professor Rebecca Henderson discusses what she calls the paradigmatic case: how Wal-mart takes huge risks, makes great strides, and demonstrates how companies are one of the few instruments humanity has for changing the world at scale, for better or for worse.