Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In the journals

strategy+business: Given their rich international experience, you might think the major Western airlines — the so-called legacy carriers, like Delta Air Lines, British Airways, and Air France, among many others — would be well positioned to take advantage of globalization, now that other industries have caught up to them in seeing the profitability possibilities of worldwide commerce. But that’s not the case; in fact, unlike for virtually every other industry, for the traditional airlines, globalization is not an opportunity, but their gravest threat.

Harvard Business Review: A visitor walking the halls of Microsoft Research’s campus in Redmond, Washington, today is likely to overhear discussions not only about computer science but about a surprising variety of other subjects, from which way a galaxy rotates, to a new AIDS vaccine, to strategies for managing the planet’s precious supply of fresh water. What could these issues possibly have in common? And why would Microsoft—ostensibly a software company—be involved with them? The simple answer is data—vast amounts of data. So vast that when we run the programs that analyze some of the databases, the temperature of the building that houses 10,000 microprocessors shoots up several degrees.

Outlook Journal: Volatile oil prices, environmental concerns and the potential to create green jobs have once again ignited interest in renewable transport fuels. Accounting for roughly half the oil consumed globally every year and responsible for as much as 30 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, transport fuels are second only to power generation in their contribution to the planet’s energy and environmental challenge. With that challenge in mind, Accenture has selected 12 disruptive energy alternatives that, in the next five years, have the potential to replace major portions of today’s hydrocarbon fuels while simultaneously reducing GHG emissions.

McKinsey Quarterly: Many retailers assume that customers walk into stores for purely transactional purposes: they know what they want and just need to buy it. Yet McKinsey research indicates that as many as 40 percent of customers remain open to persuasion once they enter a store, despite undertaking extensive product research, reading online reviews, and comparing prices on their own. Retailers that fail to have knowledgeable staff on hand to help customers make decisions, or even to create arresting in-store visual marketing materials, are losing sale after potential sale.

Sloan Management Review: Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business: “What we’re going to see in the coming decade are companies whose whole culture is based on continuous improvement and experimentation — not just of specific processes, but of the entire way the company runs. I think this revolution can be fairly compared to the scientific revolution that happened centuries ago. Great revolutions in science have almost always been preceded by great revolutions in measurement. Management historically has not had that kind of careful measurement or experimentation.”

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