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Well done, Azeez. Extremely interesting application of a TOM framework.

Others have raised great points about the pedagogical strengths and limitations of personalized, digital curricula. If one agrees with the compelling educational argument that you laid out, then execution becomes the most important thing to consider. I think supporters of your viewpoint need to aggressively pilot their programs and test their hypotheses. In the United States, Rhode Island has been on the cutting edge of doing exactly that. As outlined in The Atlantic article linked below, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act shifted significant power from the federal government to the states, specifically in the area of testing innovation. Rhode Island has used its increased autonomy to explore what possibilities digital, personalized learning might have for its 140,000 K-12 students [1].

While I cannot speak with any expertise as to the Indian political and social context, I imagine it is similar to that in the United States insomuch as an idea as radical as this will need robust evidence behind it. Adoption and promotion will need to be incremental and iterative. This is not a solution to rush to market. Fortunately for supporters of such innovation, that pace likely matches the pace of the underlying technological advancement.

On a separate note, I would not give short thrift to the power of shifting the paradigm on school textbooks. I am convinced that, but for twenty pound backpacks in elementary school, I would be two inches taller. More seriously, the shift to digital textbooks could well serve a dual purpose: long-term cost cutting and promoting technological literacy.

1. “Will Personalized Learning Become The New Normal?” The Atlantic, March 29, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/will-personalized-learning-become-the-new-normal/521061/, accessed December 2017

Thanks, Ivan. This article was an interesting read, and I think your opening observation about consumer trends in eating is spot on.

The Habit seems like a really smart idea, but I share others’ concerns that Campbell’s might not be the right home for it. This is less due to deficiencies in Campbell’s brand and more due to the nature of starting such a business. While DNA testing is certainly no simple thing, it has been available commercially for over decade [1]. Meal-kit services are younger; the U.S. industry started around five years ago [2]. While I doubt that their technology is overly complex, meal-kit services do face daunting marketing and logistical challenges; I believe that their supply chain and delivery processes pose a greater barrier to entry than that of a DNA testing service. In order to have survived this far, it is fair to assume that incumbent meal-kit players have invested heavily in both customer acquisition and the fixed costs necessary to manage their supply chain. The Habit might be best served by partnering with one of these companies and taking advantage of the synergy created; the alternative –recreating the logistical wheel–is costly. I could see The Habit as a very attractive acquisition target for one of the existing meal-kit companies.

I appreciated that you pointed to customer demands as the reason for Campbell’s desire to increase the transparency of their supply chain. Consuelo raises a really good point about how that transparency might only serve to highlight Campbell’s nutritional liabilities. That said, I disagree with her. I am not sure that their goal is to have consumers combing through each product’s supply chain. I would wager that the existence of the website, not its utilization, constitutes the bulk of its value to Campbell’s. People always want transparency; they often do not actually use it.

1. “The Human Story,” National Geographic, https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/, accessed December 2017

2. “Best Meal Kits Value,” Time.com, July 19, 2017, http://time.com/money/4856342/best-meal-kits-value/, accessed December 2017

On December 1, 2017, Y.A. commented on L’Oréal: A Gorgeous Supply Chain Makeover :

Very thoughtful arguments, Darrin. Thank you. I read it having little familiarity with L’Oreal or the broader cosmetics industry; please contextualize my comments as such.

There were two main points that struck me in your essay and in the comments it inspired. First, I very much agree with you, Zoe, and Lisa on the importance of investing in online direct-to-consumer sales. I appreciate Sarah’s caution about the danger of brand conflation, but I wonder if L’Oreal can mitigate that by investing in a basic e-commerce back-end template that allows them to have distinct consumer-facing experiences across all of their brand websites. Vox Media comes to mind; while not in the e-commerce space, they have basically adopted this approach to managing their complex, varied online footprint. Regardless of the specific solution, I do not think L’Oreal can afford to cede so much value to Amazon and others.

Second, I agree with Sarah’s instincts as they relate to increasing SKUs to accommodate regional tastes. I worry about complicating an improving supply chain system, and I wonder if we can achieve the same ends (happy, satisfied customers) by different means. Is L’Oreal’s brand strong enough that marketing could drive demand towards more consistent choices across geographies? I suspect the answer varies by brand; different brands might have different customer promises and, therefore, different pressures to customize regionally.

Thanks, David. You lay out a well written, strong argument, and I think your advice about investing in products and services in spot on. That said, I do not think that complaints about foreign governments subsidizing competition and flawed business strategy are mutually exclusive. In other words, the US3 may both be rightly aggrieved and have strategic deficiencies. I can’t say that I am very familiar with the Open Skies dispute. Taking a step back and looking at trade policy more globally, I am sensitive to the fact that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) pose a serious threat to the competitiveness of U.S. businesses; leveling the playing field for U.S. companies facing such competition is an important (and largely bipartisan, as you note) component of U.S. trade policymaking. In fact, and again not knowing a lot about the Open Skies dispute, I would argue that it is not protectionist or isolationist to seek to ensure a level playing field; it is the same basic reason I think robust environmental and labor standards must be achieved in any trade agreement.

More broadly, you surface two excellent points that I think are worth highlighting (and which are closely connected to one another). First, it is important to always remember that, free market rhetoric aside, many companies champion regulation in the narrow instances where it advantages them. That should shed light on the instances when they rail against it. Depending on your perspective, they might be “right” in some cases and they might be “wrong” in others, but many are consistently inconsistent. Similarly, I very much appreciated you mentioning the anti-competition issue. Last year, the Department of Transportation also took action to spur competitiveness in the industry [1]. I truly hope that rooting out anticompetitive behavior within our domestic industries is an area that can achieve bipartisan support.

1. “U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Enhanced Protections for Air Travelers, Actions to Promote Airline Competition,” Department of Transportation, October 18, 2016, https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-enhanced-protections-air-travelers-actions, accessed December 2016

First off, it was great to read a piece on this topic from an aviation professional’s perspective. I think Alaska Airlines finds itself at the exact intersection of social good and business interest, and I suspect customer demand is a leading motivator. The company is based out of Seattle and has hubs in Anchorage and Portland [1]. Seattle and Portland regularly show up on lists of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country [2]; Washington and Oregon are considered to be amongst the “greenest” states in the country, in part due to government regulation [3]. It stands to reason that the same citizens supporting said public policies are also customers who are likely to reward sustainability efforts from the businesses they patronize.

Your essay has generated a really interesting discussion. I do not know the exact difference between airplane and automobile fuel, but I assume there are similarities and R&D synergies to be had. Autos in the US consumed roughly 15 times more fuel in 2014 than did airplanes [4]; it stands to reason that they will attract more money and brainpower to the development of biofuels. I would love to know more about the overall wisdom of parallel processing this line of research.

I think Erik and Daniel’s points, taken together, might make for an interesting public policy solution. If a disproportionate amount of emission is caused by a certain type of flight, then tightly targeted regulation might be able to influence customer behavior; Amtrak might quickly become more appealing than a regional shuttle. I would be interested to discuss this as a group.

1. Alaska Airlines, “Company Facts,” https://www.alaskaair.com/content/about-us/newsroom/as-fact-sheet, accessed December 2017

2. “Which U.S. City is the Greenest? It Depends on Whom You Ask.” Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-greenest-american-cities, accessed December 2017

3. “10 Greenest States in the U.S.”, Chicago Tribune, April 22, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-2017-greenest-states-20170418-photogallery.html, accessed December 2017

4. The U.S. Department of Treasury Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Fuel Consumption by Mode of Transportation in Physical Units,” https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_04_05.html, accessed December 2017

On November 27, 2017, Y.A. commented on The Grape Depression :

Very interesting essay, Grant. I agree with Berit about the need for a holistic look at California’s longterm viability as a wine producing region. While the bulk of your essay dealt with water management, I appreciated that you touched on increasing temperatures in California wine country. My main takeaway is that it might not matter how efficient CB becomes at water management in California; if it’s too hot to grow grapes, it’s too hot to grow grapes. That’s an existential threat to their current business. The threat is further exacerbated by the fact that climate change may actually improve the prospects of some competing regions [1]. As such, I am skeptical about large scale investments in their California water infrastructure.

CB should look to spin off the part of their grape supply chain that is vertically integrated. While they no doubt enjoy cost savings from operating 13,600 acres on their own, that acreage also exposes them to more climate related risk than might be prudent in the long run. If they believe that California’s climate is changing in a way that will imperil its ability to produce quality grapes, then there is no time like the present to act. That land is likely valued at a premium over what it might be valued at if it were used for other purposes; in other words, it will be quite expensive to transition it “when the time comes.” If CB’s sensitivity to the business ramifications of climate change outpace a good share of possible buyers, which the essay seems to indicate, then the time to sell is now. Even if the longterm ramifications of climate change are already somewhat priced into the value of the land, I would imagine that a degree of uncertainty is also priced in, along with some level of irrational attachment (or vanity driven attachment) to the region. That will change with time.

Moving away from a vertical supply chain makes sense because it makes them nimble; being nimble is only useful if they begin to look at where they might pivot. I think they are wise to diversify their product mix; I also very much agree with your recommendations about looking at acquisitions in geographic areas that may stand to “benefit” from climate change.

1. Bland, Alastair. “An Upside to Climate Change – Better French Wine.” NPR.org, March 21, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/03/21/470872883/an-upside-to-climate-change-better-french-wine, Accessed November 2017