A Different Script Ending…

The economics of video streaming and DVD rental brought Netflix to conclude that the businesses were better off separated. However, they erred in assuming that the separation would be well accepted by their customers. Below is the explanation of the separation and how it would affect users after the uproar ensued. Ultimately, the customer pressure pushed them to reverse their decision.

…and this brought the following reaction from Conan O’Brien:

Contributed by Jeff Martin

Failing Newspapers Affect Crazy Loons

Ok so here is another funny Onion News Network story of how the death on newspapers affects crazy loons who fill their houses with old newspapers. However, there is a serious issue on how firms ensconced in old technologies respond to strategic challenges. Here is an academic paper by Adner and Snow on the topic. You may also be interested in their HBR article on the topic that may be useful for teaching.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Madonna vs. The Stones?

A longstanding debate has compared the “static” resource-based view to dynamic capabilities. When does competitive advantage stem from staying the same and when does it demand constant change? This article in the Financial Times explores how the Rolling Stones have maintained their advantage by avoiding change. The article discusses how change may be bad for goods that have emotional appeal. In contrast, Madonna has reinvented herself multiple times. This is most apparent in her reinvention tour (below). The musical legends may help to bring this discussion to life.

Contributed by Aya Chacar

Schmidt on Disruptive Technologies

McKinsey has put together a video of Google’s Eric Schmidt discussing disruptive technologies. It is divided into four segments: 1) Biology goes digital, 2) Materials and manufacturing, 3) My computer my friend, and 4) Man vs. machine. They also have a transcript of his comments available.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Free Org Change Videos

Education Portal has put together a series of videos on Organizational Change that seem like a nice addition especially for online or part time courses. Education Portal Academy offers these videos for free. The content is fairly basic but some of it might be very useful to augment other course materials. This could help you cover these topics outside of class if you want to do an experiential exercise in class (see, for example, the org change ruse on this site) or if you want to give students some additional background resources.

Contributed by Russ Coff



M&A: Resistance is Futile

The Star Trek reference to the Borg may be lost on most of today’s students. However, their method of absorbing all life forms with which they come in contact is similar to how some firms integrate targets. I recently taught the GSK/Sirtris case in which there is a debate on how much to integrate a target that has a culture of innovation. Ultimately, Sirtris was fully integrated and the original research capabilities were lost. The final decision to shutter Sirtris came just as one of the original co-founders published promising new findings.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Valentine’s Day: A Formula for Love

You may have heard Jay Barney say there cannot be a rule for riches (or the rents will be competed away). However, Harlequin romances has been using a formulaic approach to developing romance novels for years. This HBS case on Harlequin explores their resources and capabilities in this area in the context of a strategic decision. Is the formula a source of advantage? If not, what is? To go with this case, you might consider using:

  • This Pandora radio post on the formula for a love song.
  • This video of Kurt Vonnegut describing the formulaic approach to telling stories (such as Cinderella).

Contributed by Aya Chacar

Words in Sentences Org Design Exercise

The attached documents (below) contain the instructions to distribute to students and the raw material strips for the exercise. The attached PowerPoint file contains a list of what to prepare before class (slide 1) and the slides for class, including discussion and wrap up slides. It is best to go over the directions in detail in class as, unfortunately, students often do not read the directions very carefully; the verbal overview also gets them thinking about setting up a divisional vs. a functional structure for the task. It really is worth stressing the fact that they need to set up a structure. Choose an external quality control group at the beginning of class — Purposefully pick students who are quick and pay attention to detail for this task, as it will have to be completed in a short period of time.Overall, what tends to happen is that both groups improve from trial 1 to trial 2, however the functional group improves by a much greater amount and generally has fewer QC errors (i.e. words used repeatedly). Continue reading

Org Change in the Classroom: A ruse

organizational-change-timizzer1-1024x8181The mid course evaluation or any other feedback from students (such as the culture artifact hunt) can be used as a jumping off point for an exercise on organizational change. All you need to do is take their suggestions to a logical conclusion and tell them that you are changing the assignments and/or grading structure. This, of course, is small potatoes compared to real strategic change. However, even if you pick fairly moderate changes, students will typically protest. Then you can discuss the influence tactics used to thwart the proposed change. It can be great fun to play with their heads (but be sure to let them know it was only an exercise)! You might think it unwise to intentionally anger your students as part of an exercise. However, this is a lesson they won’t forget and, if you debrief carefully, they will see why the lesson is so important. Here is an example of the types of changes I announce:

  • Added assignment (to emphasize a new topic they want). Include a few additional readings and a case — hopefully that add up to an expensive additional coursepack (> $10).
  • Change the teams to emphasize diversity, skills, or to increase their inventory of available skills.
  • Change the grading weights (e.g., less emphasis on class participation is guaranteed to make the more vocal people voice their concerns).
  • Add a comprehensive exam (out of concern that the additional studying is needed for them to integrate the materials).

Contributed by Russ Coff

Green Underwear at Patagonia

One day, Yvon Chouinard, the enterprising founder of Patagonia, told his product design team to free the company’s underwear from wasteful plastic and cardboard packaging. His staff balked – he was told to expect failure. He pressed on with the changes anyhow, because it was the right thing to do.

Contributed by Sharon Livesey

Seagram’s Acquisition of Universal

The short film Trey Parker and Matt Stone made for Universal Studio’s takeover of Seagrams (wine coolers). Has many guest appearances, like Demi Moore, Sylvester Stallone, and Stephen Spielberg. This is a hard to find video – even Trey says he doesn’t have it! Watch the rest of it on Part II.

Contributed by Andrew Inkpen

Governance Under Fire at Tyco

This is an INSEAD video examining the unfolding scandal at Tyco. “Shareholders are screaming. The stock price has dropped from $60 to $7 a share. The press is hitting you every day with requests for info on the turnaround of the company. The prior management is still there, wondering about their futures. The prior board is there, wondering about their futures. And you’re there, trying to bring some order to this chaos.” That’s how Eric Pillmore describes a typical day at the office when he stepped into the corporate governance role at Tyco early in August of 2002.

Contributed by Joan Allatta

Additional Video Libraries

A number of excellent suggestions came out of the SMS Teaching Community session on using videos in class. Eventually, all of these will be integrated into this site. Here are a few additional video libraries you may wish to check out.

  1. The BCG Library has more than 100 videos on YouTube. They are usually 2 to 3-minute long.
  2.  Accenture channel: Like BCG, Accenture has their own YouTube channel.
  3. Graziado Business School has a video library with interviews, etc.
  4. Inc. magazine has a series of interviews with entrepreneurs.
  5. Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner is also a great source.
  6. There are gazillions videos at MIT, but I couldn’t find a channel dedicated to business…
Contributed by Bernard Forgues

Case Libraries

2e1e41_ff04ac9674ba4be1848f097fee5bd061Here are some popular case repositories:

A New Flight Plan for Japan Airlines

Here is a mini-case ripped from the headlines. As the article states, “As much as JAL has focused on slashing costs, it has also sought to close the service gap with local rival All Nippon Airways – putting in new seats, revamping in-flight menus and installing electronic toilet seats in some business and first class cabins. That investment underscores JAL’s belief that customers will pay a premium for full-service flights.” You can also find a companion video from CNN here. This is great for an introductory class. Allows discussing all parts of a strategic audit including strategy, performance, resources, and competitive position. Also the right size to introduce case discussion for a group that has never done case analysis and discussion before. So how did Kazuo Inamori help change the culture at JAL: ‘nommunication’. “That is when he unleashed another secret weapon. I brought six cans of beer after these sessions or to people who were working late,” he says. After a beer or two, people opened up and told me their honest opinions.” (see the follow up story and video here)


Contributed by Aya Chacar

Corporate Culture Artifact Hunt

We often talk about culture as a source of sustained competitive advantage (see Jay Barney’s article on the topic).Cave Painting I have run a great exercise where I send students on an artifact hunt through the business school to identify strengths and weaknesses in the school culture. Students present and analyze their artifacts and we discuss the implications for the competitiveness of the school. The next class explores the levers or impact points one would use to influence the culture. A final class might explore the implications of this for managing strategic change. The time this takes may make it better for a strategy elective but I am using it in my core class this semester.

Here is a bit more detail on how the exercise is run:

Continue reading

Daily Show: Energy independence

In a humorous take, Jon Stewart looks at the past 8 U.S. presidents and notes that they all made detailed promises to move toward energy independence. The clip is a little long but can be used to raise questions about difficulties in implementation. Why were none of them successful? Interestingly, today with natural gas and fracking technologies, significant progress has been made on energy independence. However, this might not be the innovation that Jon Stewart was looking for. One might discuss why this is the case in class…

Contributed by Aya Chacar

Putting Together the Strategy Puzzle

Learning Objectives:

  1. The importance of being explicit about and challenging existing operating assumptions.
  2. The importance of understanding what resources are available
  3. The importance of recognizing & utilizing commonly overlooked resources/expertise within the firm.
  4. The value of big picture vs. in the trenches perspectives.


Requires two 25-piece puzzles. Prior to the exercise, two pieces from each puzzle should be blacked-out with an indelible marker. Additionally, one of the fifty pieces should be placed in the trainer’s pocket prior to the training. Continue reading

Envisioning the Future: Write your own BHAG

 “I teach the topic of Strategic Vision at the beginning of the semester in Strategic Management for undergraduates, and was drawing on Collins & Porras’ HBR article dealing with this topic (Sept/Oct 1996). They discuss envisioning the future as one aspect of developing a strategic vision for a company. Envisioning the future includes having a long term goal they call a “BHAG” (big, hairy, audacious goal) and writing a vivid narrative description of how things will look when the BHAG is achieved. My senior undergraduate in-class exercise was for them to write their own BHAG for their career 5 years from now, along with a vivid description of what a day in their professional life would be like (as they might describe it to a former classmate in five years). For some of them, this is the first time they thought in concrete terms this far into their professional futures. I got very positive feedback from the class on this exercise and some of them did a remarkably good job with it. I read two of them aloud to the class (anonymously). I sometimes find it difficult to craft meaningful exercises early in the semester before we have gotten into the “meat” of the concepts of Strategic Management, and was glad to get a good response from my students on this one.”