Thanks for this post! I have been following the USDS since its creation and hope that it continues to get the funding it deserves in the future. One concern I have always had with the program is top talent recruitment. While it’s nice to say that people would be willing to settle for lower wages for the good of “public service”, I fear that not having the right financial incentives in place will ultimately be a major barrier. Even for top private industry CTOs and CIOs, taken recruitment and retention is one of the biggest top of mind issues: http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/winning-the-battle-for-technology-talent. One of the issues McKinsey addresses in this article is “career staleness.” How do you keep creative and driven people excited about their job? Rotations are one way many companies do this. I could imagine rotational partnerships with the USDS as an effective and impactful way to solve talent acquisition and retention issues in both the private and public sector. Imagine if the best coders at Google were empowered to take a one year sabbatical to work for the USDS. The government would benefit from a constant influx of fresh, innovative thinkers and companies would have a unique value proposition for their employees. Further, the rotation of talent would help USDS avoid the big bureaucratic feelings of other large governmental organizations.
Hey Carl – Thanks for this post! This is an interesting extension of UPS’ business model, and I could see the potentially for significant profits to the company in the short term. One concern that comes to mind however is the impact of a long decline in the price to 3D print. Already, we’ve seen falling prices as the technology has improved (http://www.zdnet.com/article/promising-trend-for-innovators-3d-printer-prices-are-falling/). As with traditional printing, it used to be so expensive that consumers and companies outsourced print jobs. However, as prices fall, and people can acquire a relative fast printer for under $100, the need for a middleman service became irrelevant. This is quite a capital intensive business, I worry deeply about UPS investing too heavily in technology that will soon be outdated to provide a service that will be irrelevant.
Hey Sanchali – Thanks for this post! I am a digital subscriber to NYTimes and have watched as my parents and even grandparents made the transition from print to digital. While the ability to track an individual’s personal interests and tailor content could enhance their value proposition, I also think it could potentially have a dangerous effect on society. Elie Pariser has dubbed this the “You Loop”, in which algorithms defined by what a user clicks and likes only show content that reinforces that user’s worldview in the future. (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/06/the-you-loop-eli-pariser-on-the-dangers-of-the-personalized-internet/239948/) The danger here is clear – if as a reader, I only ever click on news articles related to candidates of one party, or about one political issue, then I will only be fed back material that relates to those imbedded views. I worry about a a world in which every reader experiences a different NYTimes. I know the company keeps certain content standardized at the moment – like it’s front page story – but who knows how far they will take the algorithms in the future. Will we all wake up one day in the future to different headlines?
Hey Nick – Thanks for this post. I have noticed POS software on iPads across restaurants in Boston (including my favorite, Tatte!) so it was interesting to read the above and dive a little deeper into the value proposition. One impact category I would add to the above is “Influencing consumer behavior”. A phenomenon known as “guild tipping” has sprung up as a result of these POS systems. Per Slate magazine, tipping behavior has increased as a result of electronic prompts at checkout. For example, in NYC taxi cabs, gratuities rose from 10% to 22% when they transitioned to an electronic system. You can read more about it here: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/03/starbucks_square_and_e_payments_do_new_point_of_payment_systems_increase.html. I can imagine that these products are also a useful feedback mechanism. I have seen on Square checkout, for example, a forced star rating at checkout. This is a great way to get quick consumer feedback without having to launch an extra surveying effort.
Hey Matt – Thanks for this post. I am a big personal LEGO fan and really enjoyed reading about the new initiatives. While I think the “Lego Dimensions” sounds like a great idea for the company, I worry about the broader implications for society. Doctors and scientists have demonstrated that too much time spent in front of a computer screen can have very detrimental effects on children, including developmental and neurological delays and a lack of interpersonal skills. Many articles have been written on the subject but here is a high-level overview: http://www.livestrong.com/article/85306-negative-effects-computers-children/. As one of the most iconic brands in physical play toys, it feels like Lego is moving down a slipper slope with its integration of gaming software into ints core brick product. If the major toy brands won’t stand firm and promote social play in young children as opposed to digital play, who will?
Hi Brian – with the HBS ski trip on the horizon, this is quite the timely post! Vail’s diversification strategy does seem really encouraging. However, I wanted to dive a little deeper into your mention of artificial snow generation.
Regardless of how much Vail and other resorts diversify, their core offering is of course still skiing. Unfortunately, artificial snow generation is at once necessary for the business model and extremely damaging to the environment. This is not a new issue – in fact, the NYTimes exposed the risks in the 90s.
For some context, it takes about 150,000 gallons of water to make enough snow to cover an acre of ski trail one foot deep. Depleting rivers and streams is very adverse to local fish and other wildlife. (http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/14/us/the-battle-over-artificial-snow.html)
This issue has caused both social and legal tensions. In 2012, 13 American Indian tribes took on the Arizona Snowbowl (and subsequently lost). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/us/arizona-ski-resorts-sewage-plan-creates-uproar.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1349323660-FIZLcXEoYQeoGygy1vR0TA
Although diversification is a short term “band-aid”, these resorts will need to fundamentally reposting their customer value if they are going to ever become truly sustainable.
Hey Varun, thanks for this post. Check out mine if you get a second – Microsoft and Disney are some of the two highest profile companies with a self-imposed carbon tax. It’s really interesting to hear that Microsoft has already achieved its goal of 100% carbon neutral data centers (Disney Parks is on its way to also achieving carbon neutral operations).
To me, the issue of enhancing data center sustainability would be the perfect opportunity for Microsoft, Google, and other major players in Silicon Valley to pool resources and jointly research & prototype. I could imagine a consortium of employees at each company paid to work on this project, funded jointly by the R&D departments of each company.
Hey Matt – What an interesting application of big data. I had never considered farming as a use case. Immediately after reading this post I wondered – what is the price tag? This seems like an amazing tool, but potentially out of reach for most small American farms (which we read in class represent the majority of farms in the US). I see an opportunity here potentially for the USDA to possibly subsidize the cost of this to family farmers.
Thinking more broadly about the food supply chain in the US, I wonder if supermarkets might be able to leverage a tool like this. Perhaps it would help them think more sustainably about their product sourcing, in addition to delivery truck deployment, etc.
Hey Lane – Solar City has always been really interesting to me because of its consumer application. When we are taught in school about solar panels, we are shown images of huge open spaces or industrial buildings roofs glimmering with the reflection of the sun. The thought of being to able to own my own (partially) solar-powered home is really inspiring. One issue that I have always had is SCTY is their lack of reach to the typical American consumer. Although the price tag of Teslas are out of reach for most people (although this is soon to be changed by the Model III), Elon Musk has done an incredible job of diffusing the brand into our culture – through showrooms, free PR, social media, and flashy product reveals. My biggest hope is that Tesla will bring this ingenious marketing strategy to SCTY. The company did $400M in 2015, which is a minuscule piece of America’s annual spend on residential construction & home improvement (http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/scty/financials). The vision of solar panels on homes needs to pervade our culture before people will buy – it’s time to get the word out, Elon Musk!
Hey Kiernan, great post! Disclaimer, I am bias – I grew up with annual family summer vacations at the parks so have a deep emotional connection to their preservation. Sophie’s comments above really resonate with me. NPS has a huge platform and can play a really powerful role in education for the next generation of Americans.
In my opinion, NPS as a travel brand has a major advantage over any other competitor in the family vacation business right now (Marriott, Disney, etc). “Responsible Tourism” is a big industry and growing, estimated at ~$25B globally. (http://www.responsibletravel.org/news/fact_sheets/fact_sheet_-_us_ecotourism.pdf) NPS by nature fits into this category, so by growing demand for its own product, it actually serves as a more eco-friendly substitute to other vacation choices. One demographic that NPS has not yet targeted is the luxury traveler. These are often the most wasteful travelers – staying in oversized accommodations, wasting linens, flying lots of miles (sometimes via private air travel). NPS should target this market and start generating demand at the high end for eco travel. Many of the high end hotel brands like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious (towel reuse programs, LEED certified buildings). However, if a percentage of those vacations could be fully converted to an NPS vacation, the impact would be much more significant.
@ARS – thanks for this post! Very interesting read. The solutions in progress you discussed focus on sustainability efforts on the supply end (H&M energy usage & supply chain) – but H&M strikes me as a brand powerful enough to also influence behavior of the demand side. Could H&M implement a program to encourage clothing “recycling”?
I did a little googling and discovered they actually have a clothing drop-off program in place: https://about.hm.com/en/sustainability/get-involved/recycle-your-clothes.html
This struck me as very surprising – I love shopping at H&M and have been to stores in NYC, Philadelphia, LA, SF, Boston and even Paris. I have never once seen a bin. Either H&M needs to make the bins wider spread, or perhaps just more prominent (maybe I just missed them).
Further, it is imperative that the brand pairs processes with education & incentives. As a customer, I would never think to actually take the effort to go back to a store and recycle a used good. One way to educate customers would be to add in a special “green” label in the clothes, reminding people to recycle their goods. An incentive could be to offer a small discount when a customer recycles a garment ($1 off purchase for each good brought in or 10% off whole purchase).