John Smith

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Thank you for providing insight into Unilever’s approach to innovation and crowdsourcing tactics. I was surprised to learn that Unilever outsources their product development process to external partners, and instead has decided to focus on commercializing proven applications. Given that information, I found your question, “is crowdsourcing an enabler or impediment to innovation and what are the constraints?” to be thought provoking.

In response, I would argue that crowdsourcing is an enabler to innovation. The value of crowdsourcing is the ability to generate a large quantity of diverse product ideas. It also allows Unilever to leverage the flexibility of its partners, mainly mature startups, who are focused on developing disruptive products. In addition, by outsourcing this component, it gives Unilever the capacity to pressure test the various ideas it receives while focusing on its core competency, which is bringing products to market on a global scale. While a possible constraint is that this may lead to a less innovative culture at Unilever, I believe this can be avoided as long as Unilever continues to emphasize a partnership structure and collaborative nature with these external third party startups.

Justin, I really enjoyed reading your article as it shed light on a trend in an industry that I was unaware of. I particularly enjoyed your second question, “should established construction companies invest in internal R&D, or should they simply bring the capabilities internally once the technology is proven?” In response, I would argue that construction companies should invest in internal R&D before the technology is proven. If Bouygues Construction were to wait for the technology to be validated, there is a good chance it would lose its competitive edge and would not be able to catch up to its peers, such as D.R. Horton. Taking a risk and incorporating the technology now, either through an acquisition or hiring talent, has the potential to have significant payoffs down the road. I would also argue that being a first mover or early mover in this case is the best way for Bouygues Construction to solidify itself as a 3D printing player in the construction landscape.

I really enjoyed reading this article, and I think your question, “can GM continue to change its innovation culture?” is a good question to be asking. Given the information presented in this article, I would argue that GM has had a shift in mindset regarding technology. Furthermore, the firm has made a verbal commitment to incorporate technology, and more importantly has taken actions to deliver on that promise. GM’s partnership with Autodesk is definitely a step in the right direction, and signals that the Company is dedicated to incorporating technology in a meaningful way. For these reasons, I believe that technology and the use of 3D printing will continue to be a permanent aspect of GM’s strategy going forward.

In response to your question, I do not think that the IKEA acquisition will constrict TaskRabbit to hardware services. Overall, I believe the partnership will be beneficial, as it will allow TaskRabbit incremental access to capital. In addition, there are several synergies that can be leveraged through this acquisition. As mentioned in the case, the TaskRabbit platform has a unique page for “IKEA Services,” which helps instruct IKEA customers on how to get a TaskRabbit to build their furniture. I view this as a positive for both companies, as it will drive incremental business for TaskRabbit while helping to solve a pain point for IKEA – mainly that their furniture can be difficult to assemble. For these reasons, I believe the acquisition will be an inhibitor to TaskRabbit’s future growth. Furthermore, through this partnership IKEA might be able to help TaskRabbit resolve some of its impending wage and labor issues.

I really enjoyed reading this article. In particular, I think that your second question, “will machine learning detract from Glossier’s value proposition of personalized interactions with its consumers?” is thought-provoking and the right question to be asking. In response, I think it is imperative that Glossier continue to listen to and speak directly with its customers. This strategy has proven to be successful for the Company, and I would argue that consumers now expect this level of collaboration from Glossier. That said, I think it is possible for Glossier to continue crowdsourcing and co-developing products with customers, while using ML to automate the processing of feedback from consumers. As the Company scales, it feels unrealistic to assume that data analysts will have the time to parse through comments left on ITG. ML could allow the Company to be more efficient when deploying its crowdsourcing tactics, allowing it to scale while remaining true to its core values.

On November 13, 2018, John Smith commented on Bumble: Is Machine Learning the Future of Online Matchmaking? :

Thank you for shedding light on the role that ML plays in online dating. Your argument that Bumble has the potential to leverage its large amounts of data in order to truly understand an individual’s dating preferences and desires was very compelling. However, as you noted in your article, this argument hinges on Bumble’s ability to continue to collect that data and grow its user base. In addition, it is based on the underlying assumption that the insights from “your swipe pattern, initiation rates of certain conversations, and response time to messages” are correlated and linked to an individual’s romantic feelings for someone else.

That said, in response to your first question, I think that it is a stretch to argue that machines are able to capture the complexity of human sexual and emotional attraction. Even if Bumble was able to analyze your swipe pattern, I am not sure that it would be able to better predict who “the one” is for you. People can be incredibly indecisive and inconsistent in their decision making, particularly when it comes to romance. As a result, I would argue that ML can only take a company like Bumble so far.

On November 13, 2018, John Smith commented on Burberry: Digitizing Luxury Retail with Machine Learning :

Charlotte – I really enjoyed reading this article. It is clear that is has been very beneficial for Burberry to integrate ML into its digital strategy, and you laid out a clear and convincing argument. In response to your second question regarding accelerating the process of data collection vs. maintaining high data quality, I would argue that the Company should prioritize quality at the cost of speed. Given that Burberry is a luxury brand, any perceived deterioration in quality could have a significant negative consequence on its brand image. For this reason, I would encourage the Company to continue to expand its ML applications, but in a slow and controlled manner.

One additional question I had for you is in response to your proposal for the Company to include immersive e-commerce. Do you think creating a digital store where virtual shopping assistants replace the in-store service could have a negative impact on its perceived luxury brand? Do you think the virtual assistants would truly be able to replicate the in-store service currently offered?