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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a few months since many of us made New Year’s resolutions. Have you stuck with yours? Professor Leslie John studies how to help people change bad habits (and reinforce good ones) by looking at what makes them tick. Here, she discusses stickK, an application that motivates people by forcing them to put skin in the game of self-improvement.
Maine has had one of the worst state economies in the country the last few years. But something special is happening there of late that could change the face of job creation in the future. Senior fellow Karen Mills, the former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President Obama, explains her new case on the Maine Food Cluster Project, including the role catalytic philanthropy and cluster initiatives can play in reenergizing struggling business sectors.
For entrepreneurs, size and scale don’t have to come at the cost of agility. Fabricio Bloisi, a 21-year-old Brazilian college graduate, proved that with his company Movile. Professor Lynda Applegate discusses how, with the right blend of talent, ambition, and teamwork, a company can become an international powerhouse and still remain nimble and true to its roots.
Research says that 85 percent of people will make a purchase after reading online reviews about a product or service. This has had huge implications for the hotel industry and helps explain why TripAdvisor, a massive repository of user-generated reviews, was the most-visited travel website in the world in 2013. Professor Thales Teixeira discusses TripAdvisor’s staggering success, how the company has forced an entire industry to change the way it considers (and purposefully influences) the online review process, and how consumers navigate that sea of reviews.
Though not everyone may know her name, Madam C.J. Walker helped invent what have become staples of our modern country and economy: national sales forces, corporate social responsibility, and, yes, even basic haircare. Orphaned at age 8, married at 14, and widowed at 20 with a daughter to raise, Walker went on to become a millionaire entrepreneur in the Deep South at the turn of the century, against all odds. Professor Nancy Koehn describes Walker’s inspiring real life story of making good on her own unique American dream.
No organization wants to fail. But even for the best and the brightest, failure is inevitable, and occasionally that failure can be catastrophic. Professor Amy Edmondson describes her experience writing and teaching a case on the Columbia space shuttle’s final mission, including the organizational challenges within NASA that contributed to it, and the lessons that can be taken from the tragedy.