Ryan H.

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On November 20, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Disney – Hakuna Matata! Digital ain’t no passing craze :

Thanks for the fun post, Shray! I, like Ana, was most interested in their efforts to involve consumers in their brand, through the Digital Accelerator program. Not only are they engaging customers, but they’re also seeking to become angel investors and mentors to startups at the forefront of digital innovation. My concern is that Disney may be too slow to the party, given the expertise of existing VC funds and the presence of incumbent digital media and tech players, such as YouTube, Facebook Live, and Snapchat. Increasingly, people are digesting media via these alternate channels, creating real risks for Disney’s media presence.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-disaster-response/

Ana – It’s so cool to learn about the partnerships with the ARC has established with leading technology players, such as Facebook. One challenge for ARC that isn’t captured in this post is that its access to data often depends on cellular connectivity and / or internet access – two modes of communication that are often unavailable during times of crisis. A key question for me is how ARC can partner with organizations or invest in new technologies to enable communications among crisis-afflicted populations.

Additionally, it’s interesting to consider what the role of non-profits and for-profit tech firms are in this space: Do you think it’s appropriate for ARC to be directly investing in digital technologies or should it just be waiting to partner with best-in-class tech companies and benefit from their advancements?

[1] https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-disaster-response/

On November 20, 2016, Ryan H. commented on P&G: Bringing CPG into the Digital Age :

HBS2018 – Very interesting perspective on how a CPG firm is using big data to change its internal decision-making processes. I think Robby and Quinn are right on here in highlighting the opportunities for P&G to take this a step further and apply the same approach to customer positioning and targeting. Considering the investments that other major players, such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, are making in their utilization of big data analysis to monitor customer trends, it’s imperative that P&G expand to customers to remain competitive. Specifically, these competitors are using bio-data to understand which products trigger the “excitement” part of consumers’ brains, monitor sale slowdowns caused by stock-outs via Twitter, and build hyper-targeted niche messaging campaigns. Do you know what efforts P&G is taking to apply big data to its marketing efforts and whether it’s efforts are differentiated from competitors?

[1] https://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/Unilever,_Coke_do_big_data_differently_.news?ID=36953
[2] https://hbr.org/2016/09/building-an-insights-engine

On November 20, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Literally :

Alison –

Very interesting to consider how Goodyear can try to differentiate itself in an increasingly commoditized business. However, similarly to “abcdefg”, I worry about how Goodyear could drive adoption among the commercial driver segment, considering that Goodyear’s business model centers around selling to distributors, who then sell to commercial vehicle owners, rather than the drivers themselves. I actually think Goodyear would have to partner with whichever companies own the commercial vehicles, as these stakeholders will bear the costs and benefits of failed tires.

Yet, upon some further research, it seems that Goodyear is actually adapting its business model to cut out distributors and go straight to consumers, since it can garner more data on consumer behavior this way. Specifically, Goodyear is pushing people to buy directly from goodyear.com. The questions still remains, however, of whether consumers would actually change their behavior, particularly if they’re commercial drivers.

[1] http://www.brinknews.com/roadmap-for-navigating-the-frontside-flip-of-tomorrows-digital-supply-chain/

GNG and Milkman – I agree that complacency by teachers in using the platform is definitely a risk, if LCG doesn’t increase the hours of labor / teacher or the total number of teachers in the classroom. Writing 5-6 updates / day for every child likely means spending at least 10 minutes / child / day on updates. With at least 12 students in a class, that easily adds up to 2 2 hours / day or 400+ hours / year on monitor updates. The additional labor hours required to implement this across facilities seems to far outweigh the revenue earned for the service provided. As such, I’d hope that LCG would increase their tuition fees, inclusive of the service, or increase the monthly price for paying parents.

On November 20, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Turning the public into ‘citizen epidemiologists’ :

Thanks for shedding light on how digitization is transforming global disease surveillance – it’s pretty powerful to see how aggregation of thousands of data points and insights could reduce the lag time from disease outbreak to identification by removing steps from the traditional process of surveillance. The one component that I think is missing from this discussion is the challenge HealthMap faces in providing actionable information to key stakeholders. For example, even if HealthMap identifies a disease outbreak, it’s often hard for government agencies and NGOs to then track down where “patient zero” is or what the root causes of the outbreak are. Perhaps as HealthMap gathers more data and continues to lean on “machine learning”, it will be able to get more granular with its data, enabling it to provide more actionable information to stakeholders on the ground. Additionally, it seems that HealthMap is a one-way information flow, with limited ability to understand how exactly its data is used by stakeholders. Do you have any ideas for how digitization could be used by HealthMap to create a better feedback loop from its users and understand the ways in which it’s creating (or not creating) value?

[1] http://www.devex.com/news/we-know-more-about-epidemics-than-ever-before-now-what-88536

On November 6, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Chipotle’s Guacapocolypse :

Pat –

I completely agree that there is huge dissonance between the scientific community and the American public on the health “risks” of GMOs. As you pointed out, many reports have highlighted that there GMOs pose no greater health risk than non-GMOs.

However, I don’t think the problem would be resolved by Chipotle opening up its procurement to GMO avocados, as this is an industry-wide challenge that goes beyond GMO vs. non-GMO. Driven by drought in a grower’s strike in Mexico, the U.S.’s total imports of avocados have fallen, across the board, from 35-45 million avocados / week to 8.5 million / week. [1]

So, there’s no guarantee that Chipotle would be able to address the quantity shortage and price pressure of avocados by expanding to GMO suppliers. However, there is a significant downside to doing so: The company would signal to shareholders that it has opted to compromise one of its fundamental values (whether it’s valid or not), because the company is financially desperate. After all, part of the company’s differentiating position is that it was the first national restaurant to cook only with non-GMO ingredients.[2] By abandoning this position, Chipotle faces a downside of losing trust among shareholders and losing customers that is far higher than an uncertain improvement in short-term prices of avocados.

[1] http://fortune.com/2016/10/25/chipotle-avocado-shortage/
[2] https://chipotle.com/ingredient-statement

On November 6, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Is your fleece made of recycled plastic bottles? :

Hey Ken,

Thanks for highlighting the great work Patagonia has been doing for decades.

I particularly appreciated that you shed light on the core tension Patagonia faces between its business strategy (to generate revenue by selling retail products that are often in excess of consumer’s true needs) and its commitment to reducing environmental impact. When the “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign rolled out, I struggled to believe whether the campaign’s message was genuine or whether it was a ploy to further increase revenue among consumers who will connect with company’s values and feel compelled to go buy new Patagonia products.

If Patagonia truly wanted to reduce impact and get consumers to “not buy their jackets”, why didn’t the company reduce its offerings of new products and shift its positioning to being a re-sale business? Or, why didn’t it increase product prices such that the premium covers the costs of all negative environmental externalities incurred during production and discourages consumers from buying in excess.

Overall, I struggle with how Patagonia can dually exploit consumers’ behaviors to buy in excess of what they need, while also condemning this behavior.

On November 6, 2016, Ryan H. commented on Are Cows the New SUV? :

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Ameg. I completely agree that shifting consumer behavior could catalyze more sustainable practices within the meat industry. However, for this to happen on a meaningful scale, it’s crucial for the US Government to take a leadership role. Specifically, the government needs to review its subsidization of animal feed crops and its aversion from publicly supporting a consumer reduction in consumption of red meat.

From 1995 to 2010, the US Government subsidized the production of US commodity crops (e.g., corn, wheat, rice) by $200 billion, and a sizable percentage of these crops went directly to animal feed. Conversely, growers are fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, receive no direct subsidies. Further, commodity growers who grow fruits and vegetables on the same lands as commodity crops automatically disqualify for direct subsidy payments, restricting availability of land for fresh produce.[1]

By reducing subsidies for commodity crops earmarked for animal feed and increasing subsidies for alternative sources of nutrients and protein (e.g., legumes, tree nuts, fruits, and vegetables), the prices of meat and other alternatives would more accurately reflect the true cost of production. Research has shown that consumers are responsive to price changes of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as beef and pork [3], suggesting that shifting subsidies away from beef and toward fruits, vegetables, and legumes could help shift consumer purchasing behavior.

Second, there’s a complete lack of government advocacy for consumer reduction in meat consumption. Research has shown that people across countries generally believe that it’s the role of the government to lead efforts to educate consumers about the link between meat consumption and climate change. Hence, when governments don’t become a voice in this conversation, it signals to the public that it’s not that big of an issue. [2] Recent dietary guidelines from the USDA in January 2016 highlight the administration’s aversion from taking a stance on red meat and sustainability: A Dietary Guidelines advisory panel made recommendations to the USDA to include sustainability as a criterium for consumers making food choices, which officials rejected. The advisory panel also pushed for a guideline that would reduce consumer intake of red meat. Yet, after the meat industry pushed back, the final guidelines included nothing on the subject.[4]

So, while private company investment in offering a broader range of meat substitutes to consumers is one part of the puzzle, it’s equally important to push the government to take a leadership role and change its positioning in ways that would encourage less red meat consumption.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-touts-fruit-and-vegetables-while-subsidizing-animals-that-become-meat/2011/08/22/gIQATFG5IL_story.html
[2] https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/changing-climate-changing-diets
[3] http://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/aib750/5848_aib750q_1_.pdf
[4] http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/07/462160303/new-dietary-guidelines-crack-down-on-sugar-but-red-meat-gets-a-pass

On November 6, 2016, Ryan H. commented on The cost of climate change: chocolate! :

I also wrote about Mars, so it was great to read a different perspective on how climate change may impact Mars’ business and operating models. Particularly, I hadn’t delved into how changing governmental regulations around emissions would impact their operations, so I liked that you highlighted this risk, with your example of how the Chinese government is increasingly measured around GHG emission reduction targets.

However, I have to disagree that Mars’ cacao supply is in serious risk. At the end of the day, climate change is going to varied impacts on the vulnerability of cacao crops in West Africa. While areas near the forest-savanna line in Nigeria and eastern Cote d’Ivoire are likely to suffer from increased temperatures that reduce or destroy cacao productivity, other regions – namely, the southern parts of Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia will be much less affected. [1] This is likely to result in a geographic shift in cacao production, but not necessarily a decline in the total volume produced. The challenge here is that Mars will likely be okay, but small-holder farmers will be the ones to suffer. One question to consider is: What responsibility does Mars have to support and invest in its current cacao suppliers, whose livelihoods will become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change?

[1] Schroth, Gotz, Peter Laderach, Armando Isaac Martinez-Valle, Christian Bunn, and Laurence Jassogne. “Vulnerability to Climate Change of Cocoa in West Africa: Patterns, Opportunities and Limits to Adaptation.” Vulnerability to Climate Change of Cocoa in West Africa: Patterns, Opportunities and Limits to Adaptation. Science Direct, 15 June 2016. Web. 6 Oct.

While I agree that RDI represents an opportunity for farmers to reduce water usage, with limited impacts to crop productivity, we can’t discount the risks surrounding the implementation and outcomes of the relatively new technology [1]. With regards to implementation, it seems there are still questions around the optimal time of production at which to apply the deficit irrigation method for a given crop and the magnitude at which the deficit should be applied. Regarding the outcomes, there is still uncertainty among the scientific community around the ROI of the technology, particularly when applied to large-scale systems [2].

This uncertainty highlights the importance of Blue Diamond’s role in exploring this technology and then sharing learnings with its farmers, as you’ve highlighted toward the end of your analysis. Rather than pushing farmers to take on the financial risk of deploying a relatively new technology, Blue Diamond should take on the responsibility of testing RDI against a comparable control, with the goal of defining when and how RDI should be deployed by farmers. Moreover, Blue Diamond should then educate farmers around both the benefits and risks of pursuing a technology and provide standard implementation procedures for those who choose to pursue it. Lastly, Blue Diamond should work with the State of California to ensure that low-interest project financing options are available to farmers.

[1] Chai, Qiang et al. “Regulated Deficit Irrigation for Crop Production under Drought Stress. A Review.” SpringerLink. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

[2] Romero, Pascual et al. “Cost–benefit Analysis of a Regulated Deficit-irrigated Almond Orchard under Subsurface Drip Irrigation Conditions in Southeastern Spain.” Irrigation Science. Irrigation Science, 2005. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.