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Ever since the term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 by Wired writer Jeff Howe, group activities ranging from the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary to the choosing of new colors for M&Ms have been labeled with this most buzz-generating of media buzzwords. In this accessible but authoritative account, grounded in the empirical literature, Daren Brabham explains what crowdsourcing is, what it is not, and how it works.

Crowdsourcing, Brabham tells us, is an online, distributed problem solving and production model that leverages the collective intelligence of online communities for specific purposes set forth by a crowdsourcing organization—corporate, government, or volunteer. Uniquely, it combines a bottom-up, open, creative process with top-down organizational goals. Crowdsourcing is not open source production, which lacks the top-down component; it is not a market research survey that offers participants a short list of choices; and it is qualitatively different from predigital open innovation and collaborative production processes, which lacked the speed, reach, rich capability, and lowered barriers to entry enabled by the Internet.

Brabham describes the intellectual roots of the idea of crowdsourcing in such concepts as collective intelligence, the wisdom of crowds, and distributed computing. He surveys the major issues in crowdsourcing, including crowd motivation, the misconception of the amateur participant, crowdfunding, and the danger of “crowdsploitation” of volunteer labor, citing real-world examples from Threadless, InnoCentive, and other organizations. And he considers the future of crowdsourcing in both theory and practice, describing its possible roles in journalism, governance, national security, and science and health.

Business Performance Analysis Using Operations Measures and Tools

Investors and analysts often need to look into a firm’s operations more deeply than traditional financial statements and models allow. This book describes newly developed tools for using operations metrics to discern and influence the valuation of a firm. It is the first to present these techniques from a unified perspective: that of operations forensics, which looks at operations management not from the traditional point of view of a manager but from that of an investor or shareholder.

After a discussion of financial statements and the useful but incomplete insights they provide, the book covers the three components of operations forensics: operational indicators, operations details that can predict future performance; operational due diligence, methods for verifying companies’ claims about operational excellence and valuing their operational assets; and operational turnaround, an innovative approach to buyout and turnaround strategies. The text also offers brief reviews of operations management concepts, real-world examples of operations forensics, and a glossary. The mathematical material gradually increases in sophistication as the book progresses (but can be skipped without loss of continuity). Each chapter concludes with a “Takeaways and Toolkit” section, a brief summary of prior research, and suggestions for further reading.

Operations forensics offers powerful tools and frameworks for financial analysts, private equity firms, managers, and consultants. This book provides a valuable resource for MBA students and practitioners. Downloadable supplementary material for instructors incudes figures form the text and 42 slides that can be used for class presentations.

A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability

McDonald’s promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Unilever has set a deadline of 2020 to reach 100 percent sustainable agricultural sourcing. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. Today, big-brand companies seem to be making commitments that go beyond the usual “greenwashing” efforts undertaken largely for public relations purposes. In Eco-Business, Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister examine this new corporate embrace of sustainability, its actual accomplishments, and the consequences for the environment.

For many leading-brand companies, these corporate sustainability efforts go deep, reorienting central operations and extending through global supply chains. Yet, as Dauvergne and Lister point out, these companies are doing this not for the good of the planet but for their own profits and market share in a volatile, globalized economy. They are using sustainability as a business tool.

Advocacy groups and governments are partnering with these companies, eager to reap the governance potential of eco-business efforts. But Dauvergne and Lister show that the acclaimed eco-efficiencies achieved by big-brand companies limit the potential for finding deeper solutions to pressing environmental problems and reinforce runaway consumption. Eco-business promotes the sustainability of big business, not the sustainability of life on Earth.

How Information Technology Is Reshaping the Economy

A wave of business innovation is driving the productivity resurgence in the U.S. economy. In Wired for Innovation, Erik Brynjolfsson and Adam Saunders describe how information technology directly or indirectly created this productivity explosion, reversing decades of slow growth. They argue that the companies with the highest level of returns to their technology investment are doing more than just buying technology; they are inventing new forms of organizational capital to become digital organizations. These innovations include a cluster of organizational and business-process changes, including broader sharing of information, decentralized decision-making, linking pay and promotions to performance, pruning of non-core products and processes, and greater investments in training and education.

Innovation continues through booms and busts. This book provides an essential guide for policy makers and economists who need to understand how information technology is transforming the economy and how it will create value in the coming decade.

NBC News, Educational Innovation, and Learning from Failure

In 2006, young people were flocking to MySpace, discovering the joys of watching videos of cute animals on YouTube, and playing online games. Not many of them were watching network news on television; they got most of their information online. So when NBC and MIT launched iCue, an interactive learning venture that combined social networking, online video, and gaming in one multimedia educational site, it was perfectly in tune with the times. iCue was a surefire way for NBC to reach younger viewers and for MIT to test innovative educational methods in the real world. But iCue was a failure: it never developed an audience and was canceled as if it were a sitcom with bad ratings. In The More We Know, Eric Klopfer and Jason Haas, both part of the MIT development team, describe the rise and fall of iCue and what it can teach us about new media, old media, education, and the challenges of innovating in educational media.

Klopfer and Haas show that iCue was hampered by, among other things, an educational establishment focused on “teaching to the test,” television producers uncomfortable with participatory media, and confusion about the market. But this is not just a cautionary tale; sometimes more can be learned from an interesting failure than a string of successes. Today’s educational technology visionaries (iPads for everyone!) might keep this lesson in mind.

Essential Practices for Successful Innovation

Innovation is the ruling buzzword in business today. Technology companies invest billions in developing new gadgets; business leaders see innovation as the key to a competitive edge; policymakers craft regulations to foster a climate of innovation. And yet businesses report a success rate of only four percent for innovation initiatives. Can we significantly increase our odds of success? In The Innovator’s Way, innovation experts Peter Denning and Robert Dunham reply with an emphatic yes. Innovation, they write, is not simply an invention, a policy, or a process to be managed. It is a personal skill that can be learned, developed through practice, and extended into organizations.

Denning and Dunham identify and describe eight personal practices that all successful innovators perform: sensing, envisioning, offering, adopting, sustaining, executing, leading, and embodying. Together, these practices can boost a fledgling innovator to success. Weakness in any of these practices, they show, blocks innovation. Denning and Dunham chart the path to innovation mastery, from individual practices to teams and social networks.

Edited by Bruce Kogut

The financial crisis of 2008 laid bare the hidden network of relationships in corporate governance: who owes what to whom, who will stand by whom in times of crisis, what governs the provision of credit when no one seems to have credit. This book maps the influence of these types of economic and social networks--communities of agents (people or firms) and the ties among them--on corporate behavior and governance. The empirically rich studies in the book are largely concerned with mechanisms for the emergence of governance networks rather than with what determines the best outcomes. The chapters identify “structural breaks”--privatization, for example, or globalization--and assess why powerful actors across countries behaved similarly or differently in terms of network properties and corporate governance.

The chapters examine, among other topics, the surprisingly heterogeneous network structures that contradict the common belief in a single Anglo-Saxon model; the variation in network trajectories among the formerly communist countries including China; signs of convergence in response to the common structural breaks in Europe; the growing structural power of women due to gains in gender diversity on corporate governance in Scandinavia; the “small world” of merger and acquisition activity in Germany and the United States; the properties of a global and transnational governance network; and application of agent-based models to understanding the emergence of governance.

The Marketing of Information

We live in an “Information Age” of overabundant data and lightning-fast transmission. Yet although information and knowledge represent key factors in most economic decisions, we often forget that data, information, and knowledge are products created and traded within the knowledge economy. In Gurus and Oracles, Miklos Sarvary describes the information industry--the far-flung universe of companies whose core business is to sell information to decision makers. These companies include such long-established firms as Thomson Reuters (which began in 1850 with carrier pigeons relaying stock market news) as well as newer, dominant players like Google and Facebook. Sarvary highlights the special characteristics of information and knowledge and analyzes the unusual behaviors of the markets for them. He shows how technology contributes to the spectacular growth of this sector and how new markets for information change our economic environment.

Research in economics, business strategy, and marketing has shown that information is different from other goods and services; this is especially true in competitive settings and may result in strange competitive market outcomes. For example, Sarvary points out, unreliable information may be more expensive than reliable information; information sellers may be better off inviting competitors into their market because this may allow them to increase their prices; and competition may lead to increased media bias--but this may benefit consumers who want to discover the truth. In Gurus and Oracles, Sarvary explores the implications of these and other peculiarities for information buyers and sellers.

Most managers leave intellectual property issues to the legal department, unaware that an organization’s intellectual property can help accomplish a range of management goals, from accessing new markets to improving existing products to generating new revenue streams. In this book, intellectual property expert and Harvard Law School professor John Palfrey offers a short briefing on intellectual property strategy for corporate managers and nonprofit administrators. Palfrey argues for strategies that go beyond the traditional highly restrictive “sword and shield” approach, suggesting that flexibility and creativity are essential to a profitable long-term intellectual property strategy--especially in an era of changing attitudes about media.
Intellectual property, writes Palfrey, should be considered a key strategic asset class. Almost every organization has an intellectual property portfolio of some value and therefore the need for an intellectual property strategy. A brand, for example, is an important form of intellectual property, as is any information managed and produced by an organization. Palfrey identifies the essential areas of intellectual property--patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret--and describes strategic approaches to each in a variety of organizational contexts, based on four basic steps.
The most innovative organizations employ multiple intellectual property approaches, depending on the situation, asking hard, context-specific questions. By doing so, they achieve both short- and long-term benefits while positioning themselves for success in the global information economy.

While we have been preoccupied with the latest i-gadget from Apple and with Google’s ongoing expansion, we may have missed something: the fundamental transformation of whole firms and industries into giant information-processing machines. Today, more than eighty percent of workers collect and analyze information (often in digital form) in the course of doing their jobs. This book offers a guide to the role of information in modern business, mapping the use of information within work processes and tracing flows of information across supply-chain management, product development, customer relations, and sales. The emphasis is on information itself, not on information technology. Information, overshadowed for a while by the glamour and novelty of IT, is the fundamental component of the modern corporation.
In Information and the Modern Corporation, longtime IBM manager and consultant James Cortada clarifies the differences among data, facts, information, and knowledge and describes how the art of analytics has all but eliminated decision making based on gut feeling, replacing it with fact-based decisions. He describes the working style of “road warriors,” whose offices are anywhere their laptops and cell phones are and whose deep knowledge of a given topic becomes their medium of exchange.
Information is the core of the modern enterprise, and the use of information defines the activities of a firm. This essential guide shows managers and employees better ways to leverage information--by design and not by accident.

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