Alex Robinson

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On November 26, 2017, Alex Robinson commented on Finding data in the grocery aisle :

Right now, I think the biggest gap in grocery retail is how the existing data gets used. For example, Kroger has their shopper data from loyalty cards, called 84.59, that should be able to answer questions like “when does Joe shop and what does he buy.” However, much of what major retailers do is sell that data back to manufacturers, who then use it to try to influence Kroger’s merchandisers or to inform their own innovation pipelines. The possibility that you point to is a much more extensive integration with the supply chain where individual customer data is not just retrospective on past behavior but is also predictive of future behavior. Such predictive analysis seems particularly relevant in the context of a push to ecommerce, as a retailer such as Kroger may be able to push personalized recommendations for delivery and begin performing the necessary supply chain actions before the customer even makes the purchase. Moreover, such anticipation could allow Kroger to significantly reduce its inventory and its overall footprint, which would help margins that are likely to remain under pressure from lower store traffic.

The quote from Dean Nohria about the Global century raises the question of what Harvard Business School’s objective truly is. While both the article and multiple comments lean towards international campuses as an answer to maintaining global relevance, I worry that the impact would be diffusing the global elements of the HBS experience. I believe that global relevance comes from the experience that students leave with, especially because employers care about access to employees who are prepared to deal with the global business environment. Though FGI is an avenue to enhancing students’ global perspective, it is likely insufficient for the skills that many MBAs will need.

HBS’s core is still the case method. Therefore, a reemphasize on global business starts with the cases that are selected. Rather than a particular situation to be analyzed, being part of or managing a global team should be a significant focus. In addition, HBS should look at its faculty to makeup to ensure that international experience is well represented. By ensuring both international and domestic students gain the global experience necessary to succeed, HBS can continue to lead in the Global century.

On November 26, 2017, Alex Robinson commented on How climate change put Ferrero in a unique position :

I agree with the author that Ferrero should be taking the next step in establishing standards for hazelnuts; as highlighted, the ability to have an upstream impact is key, and Ferrero has demonstrated success in doing so. However, responding to GA’s comment above as well as the author’s prompt, I agree that Ferrero lacks the scale to drive the palm oil debate. However, where Ferrero does have clout is within the confectionery industry. Using its position as a globally recognized, premium chocolate product, as well as one whose hazelnut consumption is well known, Ferrero can push for standards within the industry. Establishing industry standards for palm oil is more likely to have an upstream impact on the supply chain, as suppliers will have stronger incentives to meet RSPO guidelines should more of their customers care. While starting with a standard and then working on suppliers is the opposite order from how Ferrero has approached hazelnuts, the difference reflects the need to adjust their sustainability strategy based on their position in the market.

On November 26, 2017, Alex Robinson commented on Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Digital Education. :

MIT’s course resources are an invaluable tool, and this article demonstrates their leadership in digitizing education; however, I do not believe MIT should grant degrees on the basis of online-only course completion for three reasons:

1) The educational experience at MIT and similar institutions is more than hard skill development. Students learn a significant amount from from their direct engagement with peers and teachers, and from the non-academic piece of the college experience. While employers in certain fields care about certain hard skills, they can screen for those skills more easily than they can test a prospective candidate’s ability to balance the competing demands that MIT students must balance to succeed.

2) Verifying online performance is more challenging. Though most if not all of OCW’s users are using the resources for their own learning, the incentives would shift significantly were MIT to offer online degrees. In particular, weaker students may begin finding stronger students to take evaluations for them, similar to how remote interviews in the college admissions process created a market in certain countries for professional interviewees.

3) MIT’s leadership depends both on its reputation and on the quality of its graduates. While I agree that the scarcity in MIT degrees is at least partially artificial, OCW’s popularity shows how strong the MIT brand is, and selectivity is a component of that brand. An opportunity this suggests is for MIT to use OCW and similar concepts to expand its on-campus student base using a hybrid (e.g. making certain courses primarily online even for students who are on campus), which could create leverage in their professor base and thus open up more spots.

On November 26, 2017, Alex Robinson commented on Climate change, food security, and General Mills :

Consumers have to play a massive role for initiatives like these to be successful because of the impact on shareholders. The trend in CPG over the last several years has been away from the General Mills-like big brands, either in favor of niche offerings on the high end or private label on the low end. Though General Mills could succeed in hitting its emissions target even with decreasing sales, setting the industry standard for food security requires demonstrating a commercial advantage as well. As General Mills undertakes more of these initiatives and truly establishes its leadership position, they should be more active in marketing their actions so that conscientious consumers stop thinking of their big brands as problematic. By translating the sustainability initiatives into increased sales, General Mills will be able to maintain shareholder support, which is a particular concern at a time when CPG companies are focused on cutting costs in the face of flat top lines. Without these initiatives supporting revenue, it will be challenging for General Mills to continue investing in food security without shareholder dissension.

On November 26, 2017, Alex Robinson commented on Can Barclays Thrive in a Post-Brexit London? :

A major point that this article highlights for me concerns the supply of talent. While one of the author’s key insights is that moving quickly (to Frankfurt or elsewhere) can give Barclays a head start on talent acquisition, one of the implicit assumptions concerns how mobile that talent will be. To the extent that Brexit comes with a loss of free movement of people – which seems likely, given the UK’s stance on immigration and its role in encouraging Brexit – British bankers may have a more difficult time relocating than other European bankers have traditionally had when moving to London. This effect would decrease the overall stock of potential bankers in a new European hub, which points to speed’s advantage, but the effect would exist only if existing talent is unable to move. Should that be the case, one risk Barclays (and other banks) face in relocation is the possibility they will have to massively restructure their teams above and beyond the physical relocation.