French Connection (in Mexico)

Daimler and Renault-Nissan have entered into a new alliance to open a new joint plant in Mexico. As the video below indicates, they intend to achieve economies of scale that neither partner could accomplish on their own while maximizing differentiation between the two brands. What are the tradeoffs in trying to achieve these competing goals? How will consumers perceive the arrangement? This could spur some nice discussion on alliance management — an opportunity, perhaps to apply the “Four C” alliance framework or the Resource Pathways framework to assess the opportunities and risks. If you are looking for a complementary exercise, this case would go nicely with the Global Alliance Game.

Contributed by Aya Chacar

An Apple A Day Kills Profit?

This quick Zack King video shows what happens to profit in the healthcare industry when patients are healthy. You might talk about healthcare policy and strategy when good strategies reduce profit. Here, an important distinction might be made between industry and firm level profit. This might also trigger some interesting discussions of ethics. Here are more Zack King videos.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Money Tree Strategy?

These two quick Zack King videos might be a nice introduction to competitive advantage. It is sort of in the spirit of Dick Rumelt’s Silver Doodle example. Would a firm have a competitive advantage if it could copy and paste money? If it owned a money tree? Consider the opportunity cost and watch heads spin… Here are more Zack King videos.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Special Orders Outsourced at BK

This funny video depicts the movement from poorly trained and low paid local workers to outsourced workers overseas and finally to flawed voice recognition software. The result is equally frustrating for the customer. Ultimately, this touches on a variety of subjects including human capital, global strategy, outsourcing, and technology strategy. One important caution is that the video reinforces stereotypes. This too should probably be a part of the conversation.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Taking Customer Loyalty Too Far?

Of course, we explore customer loyalty as a key element of differentiation. How far does loyalty go? This ONN story about Southwest airlines pushes that envelope by asking what customers will do for employees (like lying to the CEO’s wife about where he is). Of course, it’s a bit silly but there’s something useful in there too 😉

Contributed by Russ Coff

Ford Reintroduces the ’93 Taurus

Going after the market niche of people who don’t want the glamour of a new car, this ONN feature describes Ford’s decision to reintroduce the 1993 Taurus (including a new Superbowl ad). This is simple & silly but it does get at the notion of a cost-based strategy…

Contributed by Russ Coff

Letterman Sends Fruit to GE Board

When GE acquired NBC, there was much doubt that they could create value with the highly unrelated acquisition. This very funny video of Letterman delivering a fruit basket to GE headquarters illustrates the cultural differences (see especially the GE handshake ;-). However, business segment data reveal that NBC’s operating margin was doubled and revenue was up 60% after GE’s ownership. Did they actually make money? Maybe. It took them 10 years to accomplish this (and everything tanked the 1st 5 years) — a time factor that may reduce the value created by as much as $3 billion depending on their initial assumptions. This can be used to demonstrate hard numbers behind the acquisition integration process (spreadsheet available on request).

Contributed by Russ Coff

Value Chains: A flighty topic…

Norman Sheehan has developed an award winning exercise to teach value chain analysis (see the JME paper). Here are excepts from the abstract: Despite its ubiquity, many students struggle to understand and apply value chain concepts. JetFighter uses a complex manufacturing process (intricate paper planes) to enhance students’ value chain competencies. Teams are use value chain concepts to develop innovative strategies to fulfill customer requirements and outperform rivals. The exercise involves two production periods with a brief value chain lecture occurring after the first period. Given that teams typically lose money in the first round, their motivation to learn is enhanced as they are immediately provided an opportunity to apply this knowledge in the second period. Here are materials for the exercise:

Contributed by Norman Sheehan

Starbucks’ Dual Advantage

BusinessWeek offers a nice analysis of Starbucks’ decision to lower prices on its premium coffee. Rita McGrath describes the “hourglass economy” as thick markets for low cost and highly differentiated products. Accordingly, Starbucks is keeping prices high for premium drinks in its stores but dropping the price of coffee by 10% to draw in more price conscious consumers. This strategy leverages Starbucks’ lean supply chain operations that give it a very low cost structure despite offering premium products. Ultimately, this puts higher cost rivals at a disadvantage because Starbucks can offer a better value proposition.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Groupon: The Next MySpace?

You could easily fill an hour by just playing the videos below, saying “discuss,” and then stepping out of the way. I use the videos (all 3) along with the available case study — Ivey case W12674, which already has its own teaching note. As preparation for the Groupon discussion, you could also ask students to explore the web site where Groupon makes its sales pitch to merchants, at Here are the videos:

Groupon would fit best as a closing exercise at the end of a module on sustainability of competitive advantage. To add a humorous interlude to your discussion, you might include this Brazilian video or this ONN TED talk on Social Media.

Contributed by Rich Makadok

ONN: Outsource Your Own Job

ONN (Onion News Network) spoof on outsourcing — in the end all work is outsourced to one person. Very funny and explores the limits of outsourcing.

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Here is a real news story about a programmer who outsourced his own job to a developer in China. He continued to get great performance reviews while he watched cat videos on YouTube.

Contributed by Aya Chacar

Ryanair: New heights from low costs

In this interview (9:44), Deputy CEO, Michael Cawley, explains Ryanair’s relentless pursuit of cost reduction and the resulting value created. High demand elasticity contributes to their advantage since the increase in total demand arising from lower prices gives them added volume on routes that might not be profitable for other carriers. The interview is conducted by Juan Jose Guemes from IE Business School. Of course, there are several nice cases written about the company that go well with this.

Contributed by Birgul Arslan

A Cost Advantage From High Wages?

Many students assume that low wages are a necessary component of a low cost strategy. However, the many of our best examples of cost advantages pay their employers higher wages. In groceries, Aldi comes to mind – they chased Wal-Mart out of Germany because Wal-Mart couldn’t match their prices. Wayne Cascio writes about Costco’s advantage over Sam’s Club. Samsung is another very nice case of this as their low cost advantage is linked to higher productivity obtained from high wage workers. This insulates them for a time from the threat of Chinese competition which relies initially on low wage workers. The only way for them to catch up was to invest in human capital (see the Samsung Electronics case).

Contributed by Aya Chacar

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

The Gap: “For kids/by kids”

This is another ONN (Onion News Network) report. The focus is on a new ad campaign by  the Gap that touts their kids clothes that are sewn by kids. Another very funny satire but it definitely gets to the point of ethics and globalization as well.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Outsourcing Childcare to India

This is an ONN (Onion News Network) report on U.S. parents outsourcing childcare to India by boxing up their kids and sending them via FedEx. Very funny but might be useful in spurring a discussion of what can be outsourced overseas.


Contributed by Russ Coff

Egg Drop Auction: Strategic factor mkts

The essence of this exercise is simple. Teams must build a device that will catch an egg dropped from 25 feet (e.g., a stairwell). The trick is that they must build it from items purchased in an auction. As such, items that are easy to use (e.g., an old pillow) are very expensive while items that are hard to imagine a use for (a brick) are cheap. Profit is determined by 1) succeeding in the task of catching an egg and 2) having the lowest cost function. As such, this demonstrates Barney’s (1986) notion of superior expectations in strategic factor markets.

Now that you see where this is going, here are the rest of the details.

Continue reading

Quarter-length and Semester-length Simulations

Attention simulation users: It would be great to have a separate page for each simulation below. If you have used it and can summarize strengths, limitations, and some tips for implementing, please submit a full entry on the simulation.

Click the links below to access quarter and semester length simulations

Contributed by Mason CarpenterMason Carpenter

Mini Cases

I developed a number (39!) of mini-cases to demonstrate a range of strategy topics.  I usually use the cases and their attached questions at the beginning of a lecture or part way through to break up the pace.  I find that they provide a strong, shared basis for talking about particular subjects in strategy, and can be used to promote debate and discussion.  These are found in the Test Bank accompanying the Hitt, Ireland, Hoskisson Strategic Management textbook, Fifth Edition (2003).

Contributed by Mason CarpenterMason Carpenter

Teaching extended (multi-part) cases

At the 2003 SMS Conference, Mason Carpenter (me), Amy Hillman, W. Gerry Sanders, & Gerry Keim presented a program on challenges and opportunities of teaching extended session strategy classes.  The hand-out with several of the pertinent suggestions are provided in the attached handout.

Click Here to Download PDF

Contributed by Mason CarpenterMason Carpenter