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On November 20, 2016, Dean commented on IoT: The Internet of Trenchcoats :


Very interesting post. I typically think of e-commerce as the main digital component of retail; however, this post clearly outlines that digital transformation reaches far beyond online sales. The digitization of the purchase process provides a wealth of data that likely leads to potential improvements in forecasting and inventory management. What impact does the digitization of purchases have on the bottom line for Burberry? I assume the operational efficiency drives significant profit improvement? Additionally, this post shows that the e-commerce arm is growing at a double digit rate. How will this impact the future operating model of Burberry? Will they scale back on brick and mortar stores with large inventory and shift towards digitally equip show rooms? Will they scale back on physical assets and decrease labor force as the online segment goes? How will the retail the luxury quality of the brand as things move increasingly digital?

On November 20, 2016, Dean commented on Opternative: Disrupting Traditional Optometry :

In addition to the question posed above regarding the inability to detect conditions that may be observed when visiting a clinic, how does Opternative ensure adequate quality in their eye exams? Does allowing users to conduct exams online by recognizing shapes at different distances introduce more error into the design? Opternative may be responsible to ensure quality of exam, including user error in conducting the test. Would we want the drivers on our roads to use glasses that were prescribed without seeing a doctor?

How does quality compare with digital exams?

On November 20, 2016, Dean commented on F-35 – Fighter Jet Maintenance in The Age of Data :

The upside potential in operational efficiency is quite impressive. How can this be translated to other systems within our military? In the example provided, we saw how the use of big data can reduce time (and therefore cost) in the supply chain. How would the military shift its operating model to reallocate resource? For example, what would the technicians on the ground do with the multiple hours regained from the plain “self-diagnosing” issues. If this system was widely incorporated in other technologies as well, would we see a reduced demand for resources in the military? Does this translate to less soldiers employed? Furthermore, how can this technology expand into other industries? Will our cars eventually operate on a similar model? The dealership will have data on what is wrong before the customer even brings the car in?

Will be interesting to see how the cyber security concerns are addressed!

On November 20, 2016, Dean commented on Video Games Are the New Football :


This is quite interesting. Do you find that it eSports will ever be able to emulate the broader experience around sports fandom? I find that there are a few aspects of traditional sports that will be tough to replace with eSports – the element of athletes pushing the boundaries of human capability and the broader ecosystem around the game. One of the most captivating aspects of traditional sports is tuning in to watch human body exceed its expected potential. Athletes stretching what is expected to do incredible things. Is this same aspect repeatable with a video game? Do we lose the concept of underdogs pulling of a Cinderella upset? Does the whole physical component of the game dissapear, where differentiation between participants is sheer speed of hand and strategy? Secondly, an NFL game goes so deeply beyond the game or players itself. The ecosystem stretches to traditions, rivalries, tailgating, jersey sales, etc. In my family, the Green Bay Packers are a way of life, not a hobby. Every Sunday is filled with feasts, beer, jerseys and cheeseheads. Will eSports ever be able to cross into this emotional realm? I guess we will see!

On November 20, 2016, Dean commented on Can Digitization Save Healthcare? Athenahealth Thinks It Can :

Very interesting post! As the EHR space is increasingly competitive, is Athenahealth working to make their broader suite of services compatible with other EHR platforms? With systems like EPIC already capturing a large market share in the space, how can Athena continue to innovate in order to maintain a competitive advantage? As mentioned above, Athenahealth allows patients and doctors to access information and communicate “on-the-go”. With they go the next step and provide the ability to meet virtually with a doctor? This may be a second step to maintain differentiation. Additionally, can Athenahealth partner with wearable medical devices that communicate directly with the cloud based platform? Do they currently include feedback to physicians understand accuracy of diagnoses to help drive improvement of outcomes? I expect this to be a dynamic space with continuous innovation as time progresses!

On November 7, 2016, Dean commented on How to feed 10 billion :

This article is quite interesting as it highlights how the pressures of climate change can pose an attractive opportunity for new technologies. Innovation like HydroPotash have the potential to experience high penetration if they can be delivered at a competitive cost post. As such, the potential opportunity for new technologies pressures large corporations to invest to remain competitive as the risk of climate change and its impact receives more attention. I also wonder if we will experience a shift in the public viewpoint of similar technologies. The debate regarding engineering crops and implemented new technologies may shift as the food demand becomes more difficult to fulfill. Industry can be a power stimulant and accelerator of science. Is there a way to accelerate the product development lifecycle in this space? Could government initiatives on big data sharing (similar to the Cancer Moonshot) be implemented to increase awareness and drive innovation in the development process, bringing industry and academia together? The time to act on climate change is now and the technology may be near, but how can we push it to move faster?

On November 7, 2016, Dean commented on Nutella no more? :

Although I resonate with the comments above, I also wonder what the broader environmental impact of hazelnut manufacturing has on climate change. Outside of protecting their own supply chain, is the investment in more sustainable hazelnut production really the best place Ferraro can spend to thwart climate change? The post above mentions Hazlenuts are already more favorable with respect to water footprint than other nuts. I also wonder what the risk to the supply chain really is now that Ferraro has diversified the locations of manufacturing. Can they diversify more to reduce supply chain risk? Are there more locations that will become viable for manufacturing as climate changes? While I respect that any move toward sustainability is helpful to the environment, I wonder if the scale and impact from improving hazelnut production is relevant beyond risk aversion for Ferraro’s sales.

While I agree with Orienne in the short term, I question whether this holds true when assessing long term costs. Certainly, attempting to use recycled material may increase cost that would eat into margins if not passed on to consumers; however, innovation in material or manufacturing processes that mitigates risk to water shortage may decrease the price dependency on external factors. This could put Inditex at a cost advantage relative to its competitors. As mentioned in the article, Inditex is already at an advantage to unpredictable shortages due to the breadth of suppliers and manufacturing locations. Similarly, if Inditex can develop processes that consume less water they may be less susceptible to price fluctuation when water availability changes. On the other hand, innovation bring increase near term costs. This then begs the question of how much Inditex can spend to develop new processes and materials while retaining a margin attractive to shareholders in the near term. Are they able to articulate a long-term vision that may mean less profit today?

Alternative to innovation in materials and process, could Inditex work more actively with suppliers to increase efficiency of water utilization? Reducing the risk of impact from water shortage on suppliers may make for more stable costs of raw materials, which can be attractive to shareholders. This would require an investigation of cost relative to benefit, however reducing risk upstream may prove to be worth the investment in working with suppliers. Inditex could explore cost sharing in development of mitigations that may make for more stable supply downstream.

Another interesting point here is who will provide the capital to drive the reductions in emissions. With the CSR funds of companies as mentioned in the above article be sufficient to drive such a dramatic reduction in emissions? Additionally, provided the capital does exist, do farmers have the capability to implement changes required?

The post above mentions that Olam may hold a competitive advantage by mitigating risk in the supply chain and developing more efficient food production systems. While this is likely true over the long term, does this put Olam at a competitive disadvantage for the short term? With increased costs in these initiatives, will Olam’s ability to serve its customers suffer? How can the government of Nigeria step in to ensure that increased costs in order to decrease emissions does not put companies at risk?

Finally, has Olam explored working with farmers to import genetically modified seeds? While likely more expensive initially, there may be an opportunity to deliver a more consistent yield through genetically modified crops that are more resilient. Olam could share the cost with farmers to ensure a more stable yield and lower supply chain risk. This is also quite controversial.

This post clearly outlines the potential risk of climate change on malaria. The post also outlines some current and future steps towards lowering the risk, including warning systems, mosquito nets, funding and infrastructure to help fight epidemics, etc. When is the time to turn to science and engineering? An extremely controversial area of science with huge potential in this space is gene drive systems. This concept was explored by Heidi Ledford & Ewen Callaway in an article published in Nature in 2015. As described in the article, mosquitoes can be genetically engineered to resist the parasite causing malaria and CRISPR Cas9 technology can be utilized to ensure the genetically engineered components are inserted into both chromosomes and propagated through populations via reproduction (1). This type of engineering could provide massive resistance to mosquito-carried illnesses as climate change increases the incidence and risk. When is the right time to turn to gene drive type technologies? As gene drive has the potential to change entire species rapidly, is this too risk to employ, even if it can save lives? Will we ever begin engineering our ecosystems in such a dramatic fashion?

(1) Ledford, Heidi and Ewen Callaway, “Gene drive’ mosquitoes engineered to fight malaria”, Nature, November 23, 2015,, accessed November 2016.