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RC TOM Challenge 2018

November 13, 2018

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The TOM Challenge provides an opportunity for you to continue exploring organizational learning and innovation through the lens of process improvement and/or product development, the focus of RC TOM’s second module. In this challenge, you will investigate how an organization is grappling with machine learning, additive manufacturing, or open innovation. These megatrends are likely to significantly affect how organizations manage process improvement and product development in the coming years of your career. The TOM Challenge requires you to (1) conduct research and write an essay that examines how one organization is facing a particular aspect of one of these megatrends, and (2) write six comments that share your reflections on some of your section mates’ essays.

Your essay should address four questions in the context of the organization you choose:

  1. Why do you think the megatrend you selected is important to your organization’s management of process improvement and/or product development?
  2. What is the organization’s management doing to address this issue in the short term (the next two years) and the medium term (two to ten years out)?
  3. What other steps do you recommend the organization’s management take to address this issue in the short and medium terms?
  4. In the context of this organization, what are one or two important open questions related to this issue that you are unsure about that merit comments from your classmates?

Your essay should convey facts, analysis, and your recommendations. It should focus on a single organization (e.g., a single company, non-profit organization, or government agency) and a concern related to one megatrend. It is fine if the concern you choose relates to other megatrends that the organization is facing, but that’s not required. Roughly a third of your essay should be dedicated to each of the first three questions, with just a few sentences dedicated to the fourth question. Your essay should be at least 700 words but no more than 800 words, and must conclude with a word count in parentheses (such as 778 words).

When posting your essay to Open Knowledge, be sure to enter “Machine Learning”, “Additive Manufacturing”, or “Isolationism” in the Topics field.

More details on research, sourcing, deadlines, and other matters are provided in the RC TOM Challenge: 2018 noteFor assistance with the Open Knowledge platform during business hours (9:00 am – 5:00 pm M-F), email A short video with instructions on how to post an essay to this platform is available at

Submitted (926)

Is the Future of Food Blockchain?
Lettuce Be Safe
Last modified on November 12, 2018 at 7:14 pm
It seems like every week there is a new food scare. Walmart is trying to fix this using Blockchain!
Can Big Data Save The American Machinist?
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 7:50 am
Paperless Parts harnesses big data to give local machine shops a big boost through rapid quotes and access to an Amazon-like marketplace.
Eli Lilly: Improving R&D Through Open Innovation
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm
Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly uses its open innovation platform to encourage collaboration with the broader scientific community in the early-stage development of new drug therapies.
GO-JEK: Improving Customer Experience with Machine Learning
Melina Anlin
Posted on November 12, 2018 at 11:51 pm
Scaling machine learning in a super-app and its challenges.
Soft robotics – How 3D printing enables technological advancements to explore oceans and save lives
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 5:34 pm
Additive manufacturing enabled soft robotics - Robots exploring the depths of our oceans or performing life-saving surgery: Near-time reality or vision of a far-off future?
TaskRabbit is using open innovation to tap an unrealized labor market, but can it sustain its growth?
Posted on November 12, 2018 at 10:39 pm
TaskRabbit is your new handyman, mover, grocery shopper, and more.  Using open innovation, or “crowdsourcing,” TaskRabbit connects demand for and supply of contractual labor. 
Duolingo: From Hello to Hallo through Machine Learning
Posted on November 12, 2018 at 11:04 pm
Duolingo is using machine learning to help users acquire new lanaguages and verify their current language skills - are broader educational applications for Duolingo's machine learning next?
Printing a Solution to the Global Housing Crisis
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 6:12 am
Non-profit New Story will employ additive manufacturing to provide affordable housing in underdeveloped and disaster-struck regions.
Leveraging Technology for Global Health: 3D printing in Rwanda
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 10:38 am
Photo credit: AA Safaris & Tours The Government of Rwanda (GOR) has registered some of history's most remarkable gains in economic growth, healthcare, and education. As an early adopter of technology, the GOR has welcomed the advent 3-D printing as [...]
Open Innovation in CPG: The Future of HENRi@Nestlé
Hans Gruber
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 8:05 am
Examining Nestle's Open Innovation Program
The Limits of Autonomy
Posted on November 12, 2018 at 5:25 pm
Don't hold your breath for autonomous vehicles. They're much farther out than we expect
Blackrock’s Use of Machine Learning to Deliver Performance
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 6:35 pm
Blackrock, world's largest asset manager, and use of machine learning
The internal-external AI gap: Why the UK’s leading AI healthcare startup refuses to deploy AI internally
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 6:51 pm
“It will soon be seen as ignorant, negligent and maybe even criminal to diagnose disease without using AI”[1] Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon Health   Having launched in 2014 as a telemedicine provider, Babylon quickly pivoted into AI diagnostics, growing [...]
Can Machine Learning Deliver Airbnb’s Next Leg of Growth?
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 5:16 pm
Machine learning has revolutionized the way Airbnb matches guests with hosts. Now, can the company use this technology to maintain its growth and address its growing pains?
Open innovation: Virgin Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 5:28 pm
Hyperloop - most people have an opinion about the technical feasibility of Elon Musk's space-age proposal transportation. Setting this discussion aside for a moment, consider an equally fundamental question: how would you even fund it, much less run one profitably? [...]
Revolutionizing China’s Consumer Lending Industry with Machine Learning
Last modified on November 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm
Machine learning and big data are used by online micro-credit providers to grow China's burgeoning consumer credit industry at record pace. Will these new tools introduced in recent years create or destroy absolute value in the long-term? How will the [...]
Machine Learning in Cybersecurity: CyberArk
Eric Levine
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 7:40 pm
Exploring the role of machine learning in improving cyber defenses in Privileged Account Management
Farmers Business Network: Democratizing agriculture using machine learning
Posted on November 12, 2018 at 8:07 pm
Farmers Business Network (FBN), a HBS grad-founded startup, is disrupting the agriculture sector by crowd-sourcing farmer data. FBN has managed to apply machine learning techniques to aggregated farmer data to generate actionable insights around input use and crop marketing for [...]
Can machine learning take the pain -and cost- out of how we pay for healthcare?
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 7:12 pm
Can machine learning transform the onerous and costly process of medical billing into one that reduces healthcare costs and improves healthcare quality?
Last modified on November 15, 2018 at 6:40 pm
Over the last several decades, apparel retailers have struggled with the complexities of increasingly varied product assortments and changes in long established seasonal shopping patterns. As retailers implement new strategies to stay ahead of the demand for an omnichannel shopping [...]
The London bus is dead. Long live the London bus.
Last modified on November 14, 2018 at 6:37 pm
CityMapper is looking to revolutionise mass bus transport by using machine learning to create adaptive networks in London. Optimising for some, however, could mean everyone loses out.
As 3D printing drugs in rural hospitals becomes a reality, what are the opportunities and threats for AstraZeneca?
Jewon Jung
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 6:58 pm
In rural hospitals, critical drugs are often not in stock. Desperate patients and their families are further pushed into prolonged suffering. Feeling they have nothing to lose, some resort to DIY solutions. As additive manufacturing is applied to drug production [...]
How 3D chocolate printing open up new opportunities for The Hershey Company?
Posted on November 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm
How can additive manufacturing help the US leader of the chocolate industry to address the current challenges facing its industry?
Applying Machine Learning for the Common Good – Is it Always Worthwhile?
Last modified on November 13, 2018 at 2:16 pm
How do we thoughtfully use data to increase efficiency for the greatest amount of people in a sector that has historically and exclusively been driven by human judgement? Where is human oversight non-negotiable?