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On December 1, 2017, TGD commented on God Save the Bean! :

Fascinating post! As a coffee drinker, this hits close to home. I find it interesting that Illy is partnering with its competitor Lavazza along with Italian universities to sequence the Arabica genome – it illustrates how fundamental this issue is to the whole industry. I agree with the long term approach of developing new cultivars that combine the hardiness of Robusta with the taste of Arabica. It seems like this approach may have the added benefit of introducing greater genetic diversity from wild species into commercialized crops, which suffer from being “in-bred.”[1] Justin Moat, head of spatial analysis at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said that: “Wild species have much greater genetic diversity – anything happening the wild populations is usually amplified in commercial varieties where the genetic diversity is so much less.”[2] As a result, the plants can be highly susceptible to disease.[3] Thus, this research and preservation of genetic diversity should help tackle a number of issues raised by climate change, from disease resistance to the resilience of the plant to varying environmental conditions.

[1] Julian Siddle and Vibeke Venema, “Saving Coffee from Extinction,” BBC, May 24, 2015,, accessed December 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Great post! I agree with considering congestion pricing. Los Angeles could leverage Virginia’s experience with congestion pricing as a potential model – Virginia partnered with Transurban, an Australian-based company, to implement this outside of Washington D.C.[1] In exchange for building and maintaining new lanes on the highway, Transurban receives toll fees less some amount that is dedicated to public transit improvements.[2] I think this type of approach may increase the receptiveness of the public to congestion pricing as there is a corresponding increase in capacity.

That said, I think there are potential concerns with this approach. Because a company is in charge of the tolls and not the government, the company may have an incentive to maximize profit over maximizing social good. For example, it may be profit-maximizing to have a higher price and lower number of cars on the new highway lanes, but traffic flow would be more optimized at a lower price with a higher number of cars. Having driven on these highways, I think this is a real issue – I recall days where the new toll lanes were priced at $15+ and only had a small number of cars on them, while the regular lanes were stop-and-go traffic; at a lower toll price point, traffic flow might have been better optimized on both sets of lanes. If Los Angeles were to pursue this course, they should consider retaining some control over pricing or better aligning incentives to maximize social good.

[1] Martin Di Caro, “Virginia Plans More High-Occupancy Toll Lanes To Ease Suburban D.C. Congestion,” February 28, 2017,, accessed December 2017.
[2] Martin Di Caro, “Virginia Plans More High-Occupancy Toll Lanes To Ease Suburban D.C. Congestion,” February 28, 2017,, accessed December 2017.

This was a thought-provoking post! I was particularly interested in the tension between renegotiating NAFTA with the goal of returning jobs to the U.S. and Ford’s medium-term strategy of reducing labor costs by increasing automation. According to a study by Ball State University, approximately 4.4 million factory jobs have disappeared since 2000 due to increased productivity due to automation.[1] Automation has clearly proven to be effective in cost reduction; for example, BCG has estimated that it costs $8/hour to use a robot for spot welding in the automotive industry versus $25/hour for a worker.[2] Based on this, it seems that it may be largely futile to attempt to bring automotive manufacturing jobs back if they will be automated away in short order.

As an alternative to outright automation, Ford could consider the approach that Toyota is taking, namely using machines to supplement human work, believing that “[m]achines are good for repetitive things, but they can’t improve their own efficiency or the quality of their work. Only people can.”[3] As such, Toyota has focused on using materials more efficiently, reengineering cars to make parts lighter and optimize weight distribution for performance and fuel efficiency, and optimizing their assembly process based on the lean concepts we learned in the Toyota case.[4] This has meant that automation is not replacing jobs but instead is enhancing workers’ ability to complete them efficiently.[5] However, I think this could be challenging for Ford to adopt as Toyota’s approach to continual improvement is embedded deep in the cultural fabric of the company; this would not be a change for Ford to undertake lightly.

[1] Barb Darrow, “The Bright Side of Job-Killing Automation”, Fortune, April 5, 2017,, accessed November 2017.
[2] Mark Muro, “Manufacturing Jobs Aren’t Coming Back,” MIT Technology Review, November 18, 2016,, accessed November 2017.
[3] “At Toyota, The Automation is Human-Powered,” Fast Company, September 5, 2017,, accessed November 2017. Quote from Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Kentucky.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

On November 28, 2017, TGD commented on After Brexit, Barclays Should Exit :

Thanks for this fascinating post! I think you particularly highlight the risks to limiting both free flows of capital and also free flows of people. I think Barclays should be particularly concerned on the point of limiting free flows of people. Barclays chief executive Jes Staley highlighted the same concern, saying that access to talent is “tremendously important” for the financial sector [1]. He went even further to say access to talent is “perhaps the most important thing for the financial industry, perhaps even more important than passporting.” [2] There are estimates that London’s financial sector could lose between thirty and seventy thousand jobs as a result of Brexit, and migration statistics since May 2017 indicate E.U. citizens are already leaving the country, which could threaten Barclays ability to hire and retain talent in the interim until the Brexit terms are finalized [3]. As said by Alex Barker, the Brussels chief of the Financial Times, “We are a hub leaving a network.” [4] I think talent acquisition and retention pose a real challenge for Barclays to consider as it debates its next move.

[1] “Barclays Boss Sounds Brexit Talent Warning,” BBC, April 26, 2017,, accessed November 2017.
[2] “Barclays Boss Sounds Brexit Talent Warning,” BBC, April 26, 2017,, accessed November 2017. Passporting refers to banks’ ability to serve clients across the EU without individual country licenses.
[3] Sam Knight, “Sadiq Khan Takes on Brexit and Terror,” The New Yorker, July 31, 2017,, accessed November 2017.
[4] Sam Knight, “Sadiq Khan Takes on Brexit and Terror,” The New Yorker, July 31, 2017,, accessed November 2017.

On November 27, 2017, TGD commented on Danone: Operating within the Tragedy of the Commons :

Great post! I agree with your assessment of the prisoner’s dilemma as a motivating factor to lobby for stricter regulation. However, I also think Danone may also benefit from taking action sooner than its competitors to shore up its supply chain in response to climate change. Similar to the issues from the IKEA case, there may be higher prices in the short-term, but Danone has to also consider the long-term price implications of climate change given its scale. Responding earlier than its competitors may ultimately end up being a competitive advantage. If Danone integrates vertically into farming (similar to how IKEA ended up purchasing forests) and sets high sustainability standards for itself, I think it may be in a better position to maintain lower prices in the long run.

On November 27, 2017, TGD commented on Flywheel Anywhere: The Digitalization of Flywheel Sports :

Thanks for a great post! I agree with your assessment that Flywheel Anywhere presents both challenges and opportunities:
• In terms of opportunities, there seems to be significant upside in terms of scalability in offering an at-home Flywheel experience. Rather than holding a class with fifty people, Flywheel can now offer classes that reach hundreds or thousands of people at once. The challenge comes in driving bike purchases, which require the customer to make upfront investment to experience Flywheel Anywhere. I think this is where Flywheel can leverage its brand awareness in the marketplace over other competitors to convince customers that their excellent studio experience will translate to a similarly excellent at-home workout.
• As you mentioned in your post, there are meaningful challenges with translating the studio workout experience to a home workout. This includes whether the equipment is properly set up and utilized throughout the workout (for example, is the bike adjusted correctly for the rider) and inherent differences between working out in a studio in a group setting versus at home individually. By offering Flywheel Anywhere, I wonder whether the inherent difference between the studio experience and the at-home workout risks diluting or changing Flywheel’s brand image in the mind of the public.