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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Mar 21, 2018

In the 2016 United States presidential election, candidates from both major political parties used anti-establishment messaging to appeal to Americans, a theme that had been on the sidelines of US political discourse for decades. Donald Trump, in particular, played into the rising anti-establishment sentiment, embracing a populist platform and emphasizing his position as a Washington outsider. Why did his message resonate with voters? Rafael Di Tella discusses how many Americans felt betrayed by the educated “elite” view on globalization, and looked to Trump as a president who would put American workers and values first.

Mar 5, 2018

Dr. Brian Alexander at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston was in the process of launching a new type of clinical trial: an adaptive platform trial. Unlike the traditional randomized controlled trial, adaptive platform trials facilitate simultaneously studying multiple therapies for a given disease and have the potential to make clinical trials for new cancer drugs more efficient and accessible to patients. Developing questions around design, operations, and financing set the stage for this discussion with Ariel Stern about her case: Adaptive Platform Trials: The Clinical Trial of the Future?

Feb 13, 2018

The African American CEO of a money management firm publicly criticizes the Fortune 500 for paying lip service to diversity. His board urges him to stop. What should he do? HBS Professor Steven Rogers and protagonist John Rogers discuss a new case study about the risks of speaking up, and the importance of black empowerment in the investment sector.

Jan 31, 2018

Oprah Winfrey believes in sharing the experiences that led her to become the wealthiest woman in the entertainment industry and the first African American woman billionaire. Professor Bill George traces her growth from childhood, focusing on how and when she discovered her true voice and how that authenticity spurred her career success.

Jan 23, 2018

The One Love Foundation is a group dedicated to the prevention of relationship violence through education. Professor Tom DeLong talks about the challenges CEO Katie Hood faces as the organization works to create a movement and then maintain momentum around community engagement, fundraising, and growth.

Jan 11, 2018

As the Montgomery Bus Boycott starts, the young Martin Luther King, Jr. faces challenges to his leadership goals, strategic vision, and personal and family safety. Professor Bill George discusses Dr. King’s early years and how they shaped his ability to respond with courage at his crucible moment—and how leaders today can find the strength to do the same.

Jan 3, 2018

Inspired by research linking happiness and productivity, the Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi Ltd, invested in developing “people analytics” technologies like high-tech badges (so-called “happiness sensors”) to help companies monitor and increase employee happiness. Ethan Bernstein discusses Hitachi’s next challenge—how to find the right business model—as well as the ethics of collecting and sharing employee happiness data and whether a happier workplace is truly a more productive one.

Dec 4, 2017

Professor Teresa Amabile discusses how managers can create the ideal conditions for employee creativity and success based on her research in three industries, seven companies, and 26 creative project teams.

Nov 15, 2017

Japan’s largest online retailer Rakuten is rapidly expanding into global markets. In order to ensure the success of the organization, but also to break down linguistic and cultural boundaries in Japanese society, CEO Hiroshi Mikitani mandates English proficiency within two years for all employees. Professor Tsedal Neeley discusses the thinking behind Mikitani’s mandate and why there’s such a strong connection between language and globalization.

Oct 31, 2017

What’s the value of crowdsourcing technological solutions to societal problems? Could a hackathon help solve the heroin crisis in Cincinnati, Ohio? Professor Mitch Weiss discusses the underlying skepticism and emerging realities that unfold during protagonist Annie Rittgers’ journey to organizing a successful hackathon in his case, Hacking Heroin.

Oct 11, 2017

With about 54 million Hispanics in the U.S. who have an estimated buying power of 2.3 trillion dollars, it’s no wonder Telemundo is the fastest growing television network here. But as the traditional broadcast market as a whole continues to shrink, Telemundo chairman Cesar Conde grapples with how to redefine Hispanic television to capture millennials consuming media on digital devices. Professor Henry McGee discusses how digitalization and globalization are reshaping the entire media industry, including Telemundo, right now.

Oct 3, 2017

Bob Nease, chief scientist at Express Scripts, wants to promote home delivery of prescription drugs by mail — a process proven to lower error rates, increase cost savings, and improve medication adherence. But, if switching to home delivery is beneficial to most employees, why don’t more of them do it? Associate Professor John Beshears describes how using choice architecture, or nudging people, can guide employees to making wiser decisions while still respecting their autonomy.

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.

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