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.
Israel turned 70 years old in May of 2018, but its brand image internationally was less than ideal. Market research revealed that many people associated Israel primarily with military conflict. Harvard Business School professor Elie Ofek discusses efforts to rebrand the country in his case, “Israel at 70: Is it Possible to (re)Brand a Country?”
If the Key to Business Success Is Focus, Why Does Amazon Work?
Harvard Business School professor Sunil Gupta explores the infiltration of Amazon into dozens of industries including web services, grocery, online video streaming, content creation and, oh, did we mention physical bookstores? What’s the big plan? Is the company spread too thin, or poised for astronomical success? Gupta is the author of the case study, “Amazon 2019.”
Managers: Are You Prepared to Handle Religion in the Workplace?
Challenges related to managing religion in the workplace are on the rise, as are religious discrimination claims and monetary settlements in the U.S. and around the world. Harvard Business School professor Derek van Bever discusses two examples in his case, “Managing Religion in the Workplace: Abercrombie & Fitch and Masterpiece Cakeshop.”
Would You Live in a Smart City Where Government Controls Privacy?
Toronto is experimenting with smart city concepts envisioned by Google spin-off Sidewalk Labs. Harvard Business School professors Leslie John and Mitch Weiss discuss the tradeoffs of using technology to improve modern city life at potential costs to digital privacy from their case, “Sidewalk Labs: Privacy in a City Built from the Internet Up.” Is it worth it?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a crucible moment in 2018 after Cambridge Analytica accessed data from 87 million Facebook accounts. Harvard Business School professor Bill George discusses his case, “Facebook Confronts a Crisis of Trust,” including why Zuckerberg handled the crisis as he did, the role of companies in protecting privacy, and the pros and cons of regulation.
Will Startup Fishbowl Become the Social Media App for Your Industry?
Fishbowl's founders have built a social media platform allowing professionals to connect anonymously and with candor within their companies and industry. But the app is still largely limited to the consulting industry. Can they extend the app into other sectors? What’s the winning business model? Will adding employers to the mix pay off or kill the value? Harvard Business School professor Leslie John discusses her case study exploring the boundaries of social media and personal privacy.
How Helena Rubinstein Used Tall Tales to Turn Cosmetics into a Luxury Brand
Harvard Business School professor Geoff Jones examines the career of Helena Rubinstein, one of the trailblazing female entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Using guile, brilliant branding, and more than a few falsehoods, Rubinstein lifted cosmetics from an accessory item for prostitutes to a great luxury item during the Great Depression.
Pursuing Precision Medicine at Intermountain Healthcare
What happens when Intermountain Healthcare invests resources in an innovative precision medicine unit to provide life-extending, genetically targeted therapies to late-stage cancer patients? Harvard Business School professors Richard Hamermesh and Kathy Giusti discuss the case and its connections to their work with the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator.
Have you ever wondered how Hershey chocolate came to be so popular? Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn discusses the life and vision of Milton Hershey, the entrepreneur and philanthropist behind the Hershey chocolate bar, the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Milton Hershey School.
Can Miguel McKelvey Build the “Culture Operating System” at WeWork?
How deeply does the culture of a startup matter? Can it be shaped? Harvard Business School professor Jeffrey Rayport discusses WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey’s innovative role in building a company culture to support rapid growth.
Was Eastern Labs a huge success or an expensive mistake? Eastern Bank CEO Bob Rivers innovates from within by partnering with fintech entrepreneur Dan O’Malley to launch a completely automated small business lending product. Harvard Business School professor Karen Mills discusses key questions from the case: Did Rivers have the right intrapreneurship model? Did he change the culture at Eastern? Did he make a mistake spinning off Numerated into a separate company?
Honda Created a Civic for Very Light Jets: How High Will it Fly?
After thirty years of research and development, the HondaJet is now the top selling jet in the very light jet segment of the market. Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano discusses how Honda Aircraft Corporation CEO Michimasa Fujino brings the jet to life, and must now decide on ways to grow the business.
Building a Nonprofit Marketplace System to Feed America
Feeding America is the third largest nonprofit in America, managing a network of more than 200 food banks nationwide. Harvard Business School professor Scott Duke Kominers and University of Chicago professor Canice Prendergast discuss how the organization designed a marketplace that was efficient and fair for all participants.
Could Big Data Replace the Creative Director at the Gap?
Is it time to throw out the creative director and rely on big data to predict what consumers want to wear next? Harvard Business School professor Ayelet Israeli discusses how Gap CEO Art Peck considers this bold idea to boost sales.
Vodafone’s Innovative Approach to Advanced Technologies
Harvard Business School professor Bill Kerr discusses how Vodafone, one of the largest companies in the telecommunications space, incorporated technological advancements like big data, automation, and artificial intelligence to improve productivity while ensuring new opportunities were created for the next generation of workers.
Baseball’s Billy Beane Shows Companies the Power of Data
Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane brought a data driven and unconventional approach to winning baseball games. By setting strategy and articulating the metric to evaluate and acquire the players who would ultimately implement his strategy on the field, Beane’s sabermetrics approach brought about a cultural shift in baseball from the players and managers to coaches and scouts. Harvard Business School professor Srikant Datar discusses how strategy and metrics work hand-in-hand, and how Beane’s story provides companies with important lessons in data science.
Did Entrepreneur Ernesto Tornquist Help or Hurt Argentina?
Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey Jones examines the career of Ernesto Tornquist, a cosmopolitan financier considered to be the most significant entrepreneur in Argentina at the end of the 19th century. He created a diversified business group, linked to the political elite, integrating Argentina into the trading and financial networks of the first global economy. The case, "Ernesto Tornquist: Making a Fortune on the Pampas," provides an opportunity to understand why Argentina was such a successful economy at this time, and to debate whether its very success laid the basis for the country’s subsequent poor economic performance.
Should U.S. Companies Still Care About the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
American President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change just over a year ago. What does that mean for the role of United States companies and business leaders in confronting climate change challenges? Harvard Business School professor Vincent Pons looks at the historical debate and what the road ahead looks like for the role of business in improving the environment.
Two Million Fake Accounts: Sales Misconduct at Wells Fargo
Coming out of the financial crisis, Wells Fargo was one of the world’s largest and most successful banks, viewed as a role model in how to manage in times of crisis. The news of its sales misconduct -- opening more than 2 million fake accounts -- in 2016 rocked consumer confidence and inundated the news. Harvard Business School professor Suraj Srinivasan discusses how sales culture, leadership, board oversight, and risk management all played a role.
In early 2015, Amy Hood, CFO of Microsoft, and the rest of the senior leadership team faced a set of fundamental choices. The firm had opportunities to serve customers in ways that would be associated with higher growth but lower margin. Harvard Business School professor Fritz Foley discusses how leaders faced these difficult decisions, and worked to get investors and employees on board.
LA Philharmonic Shows the American Symphony Orchestra Isn’t Dead Yet
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra faced real challenges, as all U.S. orchestras did: an aging subscriber base, disinterest from younger audiences, and development of a pipeline of donors for the future. Harvard Business School professor Rohit Deshpande discusses how protagonist Deborah Borda positioned the orchestra for continued success, building on healthy financials, a celebrity music director (Gustavo Dudamel), the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the development of a youth orchestra.
How Chase Sapphire Made Credit Cool for Millennials
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card was one of the hottest product launches in 2016 enthusiastically received by millennial consumers, a group that had previously eluded JPMorgan Chase and its competitors. Harvard Business School professor Shelle Santana discusses how protagonists Pam Codispoti and Eileen Serra shifted their focus to retaining customers attracted by the one-time signup bonus of 100,000 reward points and on acquiring new customers now that the bonus had been reduced.
Careem: Riding the First Unicorn in the Middle East
Ride-hailing service Careem, the “Uber of the Middle East,” experienced expansion so dramatic that it monitored its growth target every 15 minutes. Was this a fabled startup unicorn? But doubling the size of the company every six months took its toll. Harvard Business School professor Shikhar Ghosh discusses how the founders approached a number of critical organizational and cultural issues to keep its 4 million customers satisfied.
Candy Crush was a Blockbuster; Can King Digital Capitalize?
Riccardo Zacconi was the co-founder and CEO of King Digital Entertainment, the video game company that had quickly established itself as the world’s leading maker of casual games for mobile devices after the sensational success of its game “Candy Crush Saga.” He’s faced with the central question of whether and how to scale the company through an astronomical period of growth. Harvard Business School professor Jeffrey Rayport discusses whether a single creative studio can scale to manage a portfolio of almost 200 games, when one of them is the mammoth hit Candy Crush.
Why JPMorgan Chase is Investing Millions in Detroit
JPMorgan Chase is working with local economic- and workforce-development organizations, small businesses, philanthropies, and the mayor. The goal? To put in place a series of investments to help turn around the struggling city. Harvard Business School professor Joseph Bower and JPMorgan’s head of corporate responsibility, Peter Scher, discuss why businesses should create philanthropic programs of their own.
How a Coal Polluter Became a Renewable Energy Leader
Enel, Italy’s state-owned power company, was one of Europe’s largest coal users and polluters. Now it is recognized as a leader in renewable energy services. How did it engineer that monumental change? Harvard Business School professor Mark Kramer discusses how CEO Francesco Starace’s vision of sustainability drove innovation and fostered a completely new enterprise around developing and promoting renewable energy.
Trump’s Populism: What Business Leaders Need to Understand
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 U.S. 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? Harvard Business School professor 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.
Could a New Business Model Make Clinical Drug Trials More Accessible to Patients?
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 Harvard Business School professor Ariel Stern about her case: "Adaptive Platform Trials: The Clinical Trial of the Future?"
Black Business Leaders Series: John Rogers and the Importance of Hiring Minority-Owned Services Firms
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? Harvard Business School 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.
Black Business Leaders Series: Oprah’s Path to Authentic Leadership
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. Harvard Business School 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.
One Love: Managing a Movement Against Relationship Violence
The One Love Foundation is a group dedicated to the prevention of relationship violence through education. Harvard Business School 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.
Leadership Lessons from the Young Martin Luther King, Jr.
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. Harvard Business School 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.
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. Harvard Business School professor 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.
Does Time Pressure Hinder or Facilitate Creativity at Work?
Harvard Business School 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.
Language and Globalization: The Mandate to Speak English at Rakuten
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. Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley discusses the thinking behind Mikitani’s mandate and why there’s such a strong connection between language and globalization.
What’s the value of crowdsourcing technological solutions to societal problems? Could a hackathon help solve the heroin crisis in Cincinnati, Ohio? Harvard Business School 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."
Telemundo: The Fastest Growing TV Network in the United States
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. Harvard Business School professor Henry McGee discusses how digitalization and globalization are reshaping the entire media industry, including Telemundo, right now.
How to Promote Home Delivery of Prescription Drugs? Give Employees a “Nudge”
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? Harvard Business School professor John Beshears describes how using choice architecture, or nudging people, can guide employees to making wiser decisions while still respecting their autonomy.
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. Harvard Business School professor Vikram Gandhi discusses the importance of investing for impact and the potential for influence on corporate America.
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? Harvard Business School 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.
Does Le Pliage Help or Hurt the Longchamp Luxury Brand?
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. Harvard Business School professor 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.
Pal’s Sudden Service: Taking Fast Food to the Next Level
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. Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano discusses the company’s strategic challenge of deciding how much to grow and whether its organization model will scale.
From Don Draper to Big Data: The Revolution in Advertising
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. Harvard Business School 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.
ShotSpotter: A Gunfire Detection Business Looks for a New Market
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. Harvard Business School professor Mitch Weiss discusses how moving from one business model to another is difficult, and how successful companies make the transition.
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. Harvard Business School 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.
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. Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who wrote the case with Harvard Business School 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?”
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." Harvard Business School 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.”
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. Harvard Business School 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.
Why German Businesses Support, Train, and Hire Syrian Refugees
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? Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson discusses what it takes to integrate a huge number of new people, and the role business can play.
Cost-cutting Leads to Turbulence in the Airline Industry
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. Harvard Business School professor Susanna Gallani discusses one of the central lessons from her case study (co-authored with Harvard Business School professor Eva Labro), "RegionFly: 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.
IDEO Is Changing the Way Managers Think About Thinking
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. Harvard Business School 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 Buell, this case may change the way you think about thinking.
Black Business Leaders Series: Franklin Leonard, “Black List” Mastermind
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. Harvard Business School professor Henry McGee, the 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.
Black Business Leaders Series: A Remarkable Legacy of Firsts, Maggie Lena Walker
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 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. Harvard Business School 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.
Black Business Leaders Series: Putting Diversity to Work
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. Harvard Business School 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.
Black Business Leaders Series: The Entrepreneurship Behind Ebony Magazine
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. Harvard Business School professor 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.
Can Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Save Jazz Music?
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 Harvard Business School professor Rohit Deshpande.
The American Food Paradox: Growing Obese and Going Hungry
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% 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. Harvard Business School 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.
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. Harvard Business School 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.
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. Harvard Business School 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.
Digital Change: Lessons from the Newspaper Industry
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, Harvard Business School 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 5-6% 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. Harvard Business School 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.
Managing in the Real World: How to Make Gray-Area Decisions
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. Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School 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.
Innovation Under Constraint: Constructing a Turnaround at Lego
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. Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse discusses how the Emmy award-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.
Behind Apple’s Tax Situation, an Unprecedented Financial Policy
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. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai explains the genius of the financial wiring behind the inventors of the Genius Bar.
What Building a “Jeopardy!” Robot Taught IBM About Innovation
It’s a good bet that winning a game show 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? Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih discusses how building Watson, a deep question answering machine, reinvigorated a stalled research and 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? Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School 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? Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie discusses why a company many have never heard of will be a lynchpin in the future of self-driving automobiles.
Hold Onto Your Complexity: Bringing Multiple Identities to Work
Carla Ann Harris has blazed trails 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. Harvard Business School professor Lakshmi Ramarajan discusses her 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. Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School 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 Real Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace
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. Harvard Business School 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 Walmart 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. Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson discusses what she calls the paradigmatic case: how Walmart 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.
The Key to Keeping Resolutions? Betting Against Yourself
It’s been a few months since many of us made New Year’s resolutions. Have you stuck with yours? Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School professor 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. Harvard Business School 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% 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. Harvard Business School 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.
The Amazing Life of One of America’s Earliest Black Female Entrepreneurs
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. Harvard Business School 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. Harvard Business School 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.
Running for office requires a lot of public speaking. But often, it’s what candidates aren’t saying that can make or break their campaigns. Take the case of Dan Silver, an experienced congressional candidate who leaves voters cold despite his eminent qualifications. With the help of KNP Communications, Silver is forced to watch himself at the podium and makes some profound discoveries. Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy delves into this fascinating case and the importance of body language, believing in your own story, and how to put your best self forward.
Digitally-enabled prescription medication may sound futuristic. Thanks to Proteus, the future is now. The company has developed the technology to place microchips inside prescription pills, allowing doctors to retrieve real-time updates on everything from dosing, to vital signs, to the efficacy of different medications. However, regulating and marketing such ground-breaking technology is almost as complicated as the medical conditions it can help cure. Harvard Business School professor Richard Hamermesh unpacks the challenges of changing the world of medicine.
How do you manage a community, grow it, and sustain it? Threadless has done it since 2007 by crowdsourcing its T-shirt designs and selling the best ones. Harvard Business School professor Karim Lakhani talks about the challenges, exciting moments, and ultimate dilemma in the case: When do you grow the community vs. when do you go national and make the big money? Many companies consider how to bring elements of community into their companies. Learn more about this fascinating journey from Lakhani's case, “Threadless: The Business of Community.”
Ron Johnson's career path has featured stops at some of the world’s largest and most innovative retailers, including Target, Apple, and J.C. Penney. At each stop, Johnson learned invaluable lessons, like how to build on success, how to keep growing as an individual, and how to embrace missteps. Harvard Business School professor Das Narayandas examines Johnson’s career trajectory and discusses the importance of personal accountability and creative planning in the rapidly-changing world of retail.
In the hundred-plus years since journalist Upton Sinclair shined a light on the deplorable conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry in his groundbreaking exposé, "The Jungle," per capita meat consumption for Americans has increased 63%. Can the world continue to feed its growing meat-eating population? New technologies have the potential to revolutionize the meat industry by growing tissue culture beef… but, how do you market against the “yuck" factor? Harvard Business School professor Jose Alvarez aims to answer these questions.
The Long Run: The Impact of Brain Injuries on the NFL
Today’s NFL is fast-paced and hard-hitting. Though players are well-compensated, many wonder about the long-term cost of those violent collisions on the athletes, the league, and culture at large. Harvard Business School professor Richard Hamermesh discusses those implications and his case “The National Football League and Brain Injuries."
With her unique leadership style and innovative approach to green fashion, Stella McCartney shows that a luxury brand can be sustainable. Harvard Business School professor Anat Keinan discusses her case.
Host Brian Kenny introduces Cold Call, the official podcast of the Harvard Business School. Cold Call distills the Business School’s legendary case studies into podcast form. The podcast airs every two weeks and features HBS faculty discussing cases they’ve written and the lessons they impart.