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On November 20, 2016, HR commented on Government Innovation: Not an Oxymoron? :

Great post! I think it is really interesting that the near collapse of and the scandal about veteran health benefits is what it took to motivate a closer look at the value that technology can provide when more fully integrated into government. My understanding of policy making is that it often takes a singular, salient event (like the events you describe) to motivate a policy change. To that end, there are often policy solutions that are drafted and then put on the shelf should the right political circumstances arise to make the policy feasible and politically palatable. Given that policy is often implemented only after these kinds of “focusing events,” [1] perhaps in addition to your suggestion of bringing technologists into specific agencies, the government could create advisory boards of technologists that might propose a range of use-cases for technology in government. Certainly many of their suggestions might not be implementable right away, but if these technology “dream teams” could be used to draft plausible policies, then at least the policies could be ready on the shelf when the political moment to implement them arrives.

References: [1] Birkland, Thomas. “Focusing Events, Mobilization, and Agenda Setting.” Journal of Public Policy (18:1), 1998:53-74.

On November 20, 2016, HR commented on Topps Baseball Cards: A 25-Year Digital Rollercoaster :

Awesome post, Brian! This totally brought me back to my days where my friends and I would sit on the floor in one of our bedrooms and show off our baseball cards and strike deals with one another. (It is where I first began to learn the art of negotiation, so I probably owe my HBS acceptance to my Chipper Jones rookie card). It is interesting to see Topps finding a way to stay relevant with the BUNT app.

Thinking back to what made baseball cards so appealing to me as a kid, I wonder if Topps has or will integrate a social/sharing element into their app. There are so many fora for reading about sports online these day, but not as many social ecosystems for discussing sports, so maybe they could integrate social into their app to drive downloads. The other thing that I was curious about reading your post was how the company thinks about the rarity of cards in the digital space. As a kid, it was always the best when you came across a rare card and could impress your friends and dream about the millions you’d be able to cash it in for down the road. (Turns out there is still a robust market for baseball cards . Has Topps been able to replicate this kind of exclusivity with their move to digital? If not, might that be a way to keep kids engaged in a world where there are now so many more avenues for entertainment competing for their time and interest?

On November 20, 2016, HR commented on Greetings from Hallmark :

I really liked your post, Apeksha! Like Kimberly, I’m surprised to see that Hallmark hasn’t made a bigger move into the e-card space. There are now many companies through which you can send e-cards for free or for a nominal price. Do you have a sense for why they haven’t tried to carve out market share? On the one hand, one might think that moving towards e-cards could cannibalize their printed card revenue, but in fact I don’t think that is the case. Namely, I think that e-cards aren’t true substitutes and that printed cards are likely to remain superior when someone wants to give a card to someone else face-to-face (e.g. at a birthday party, a baby shower, or a wedding.) I imagine Hallmark’s margins on printed cards are orders of magnitude higher than they would be on e-cards, but if Hallmark is serious about “creating a more emotionally-connected world” they need to take a broader approach. I don’t think that customizable cards will alone enable them to ride the digital tide that’s coming to wash them away.

On November 20, 2016, HR commented on Technology in Transit :

Neat post, Matt! Building off Sam’s comment, have you seen any evidence of WMATA or metro authorities in other US cities making any plans to revise their operating models based on the recent uptick in ride sharing? Should a public agency like WMATA see Uber as a competitive threat and consider closing railway lines that are not likely to remain sustainable in the long run as the cost of ride sharing drops, or should WMATA ignore Uber and maintain its current business model of providing the public with access to all parts of the city? What balance should transit authorities strike between anticipating and preparing for the next generation of transportation and maintaining their current offerings?

On November 20, 2016, HR commented on Can Pearson shape the future of Education? :

Interesting post, Nico! I’d love to learn more about how Pearson’s content revenues are distributed across age cohorts. I imagine that the digital revolution in education is likely to impact different age groups at different rates. Specifically, is there any evidence of how much new technology is impacting their elementary, secondary, or higher education segments? While we’ve seen an emergence of digital secondary and higher education with the success of Khan academy, Coursera, and EdX, I imagine that many elementary schools, both in the US and abroad are likely to move much more slowly towards digital. To what extent might the financial resource constraints that many schools at the elementary level struggle with slow the uptake of digital in the classroom?

Awesome post! I certainly scream for ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s offers a fabulous model for what a business with a deep commitment to social impact can accomplish. I for one, am skeptical that anything about their supply chain is driving their efforts in this area, rather I think they see this as an important global issue, they want to be on the right side of history, and it aligns with their customer promise. Given that the brand has been owned by Unilever for more than a decade and a half now, I wonder to what degree the focus on sustainability has filtered out to the rest of the conglomerate. Is the parent company more broadly committed to addressing climate change, or is it using Ben and Jerry’s responsible reputation to achieve a halo effect for the rest of the company?

Interesting post! When I stay at hotels I am increasingly seeing evidence of the industry trying to use their resources more efficiently. Specifically, I’m sure everyone has seen those signs that many hotels place in the rooms encouraging guests to reuse their towels. Thinking about changing norms brings me back to our discussion in Field of behavioral economics and the concept of anchoring. The key question seems to be whether hotels can get their guests to see the norm as reuse, rather than expecting to have their towels and linens replaced daily. While I think this kind of signage is pervasive (at least in American hotels), I wonder to what degree companies in the hospitality industry are really using the best know-how of behavioral science to design their signs and other messaging. It could be an neat avenue to bring social science into the industry to drive lower costs and a more sustainable future for the industry.

Really interesting post, Jordan! As someone who loves meat but is well aware of the environmental impact, I would love to see a more sustainable solution more widely available. A number of years ago, my folks made a commitment to only buy sustainably farmed grass fed meat, but needless to say it still has an environmental impact (and it is expensive enough that it has required us to substantially cut down on our consumption.) I wonder, though, what the right path to expansion for this kind of product is. I take your point quite well that the behemoths like McDonald’s aren’t likely to be leaders in this space, but is Shake Shack the right alternative? Might high-end restaurants (with higher prices and margins) be a better way to change tastes here? Would higher end restaurants do enough volume to put a dent in the demand? I wonder if there are parallels that we could look at historically to see how tastes have evolved over time (i.e. whether tastes tend to evolve in more of a top down or bottom up fashion.)

On November 6, 2016, HR commented on What, No More Wine? :

Not our wine!! Really interesting post, Colleen. I was wondering whether in addition to the mitigation techniques that you discuss in the post, major wine producers have already begun considering purchasing land closer to the poles as a long term investment. I’d be fascinated to see how firms are thinking about climate change as they develop long term investment plans and try to balance the likely success of the mitigation techniques like those you discuss with the potential need to relocate.

On November 6, 2016, HR commented on Coca-Cola: is “opening happiness” sustainable? :

I found KO’s commitments on packaging fairly uninspiring. As you point out, there is an important distinction between what is recyclable and actually gets recycled. Moreover, I wonder what kind of responsibility KO has, as a company that generates so much plastic waste, to be leaders in R&D on biodegradable bottles. Imagine a world where Coke actually made a commitment to be an industry leader and generate a biodegradable plastic bottle that could be produced cost-effectively. Now that would be a real commitment to sustainability. The science is already being developed ( so if the commitment were real Coke could do it.