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With so much information competing for your attention, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest developments and ideas in your field—and none more than consulting, where leading firms compete to produce game-changing ideas and insights.
Of course, one of the unfortunate by-products of all that research is that much of it is just not that interesting or relevant. As someone who spends a fair amount of time sifting through that research, I've rounded up a handful of the more noteworthy ideas and pieces of late that may be worth checking out more fully. (Note that this isn't intended to be a ranking, or a comprehensive list—and feel free to share your own thoughts on these pieces, or recommendations for others, in the comments field at the end.)
BCG: Lasting Impact: A Business Leader's Playbook for Supporting America's Schools
Summary: BCG, Harvard Business School and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered in 2013 "to research the role of business in improving the U.S. education system." This first report on that research lays out the group's belief—among other findings—that businesses can play a major role by supporting the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards.
Key Quote: "Working to lay policy foundations is not for the faint-hearted. It requires patience, an ability to build coalitions and craft compromises, and a willingness to take on controversial issues. But the right foundations must be in place for America’s PK–12 education system to be strong yet flexible enough to allow innovation. It is imperative that business leaders—locally and nationally—use their influence to support adoption and implementation of the policies that underpin innovation."
Roland Berger: The Next Challenge for the U.S. Auto Industry
Summary: While U.S. automakers have recovered from the perilous position they occupied in 2008, the industry still has its challenges. This report focuses on the problem of declining profit margins facing dealers and suggests that 200,000 jobs may be at risk by 2020 if a new model is not found.
Key Quote: "We believe that dealer margins will soon come under attack again," says Brandon R. Boyle, Principal with Roland Berger. "It is true that volumes are quickly recovering, but these volumes are less profitable than in the past. We are witnessing an inexorable shift toward smaller, less profitable cars. In addition, service and aftersales revenues are harder to come by as independent shops continue to take a larger share of the pie."
Booz & Co: The Critical Few: Components of a Truly Effective Culture
Summary: Jon Katzenbach, Rutger von Post and James Thomas take a long look at corporate culture and provide some key advice on altering performance by focusing on select elements, rather than the culture as a whole.
Key Quote: "Individuals are simultaneously emotional and rational, so how we feel about something often gets in the way of how we think about it. This is particularly the case when human beings are confronted with complexity. When it comes to changing something important about what we do and how we do it, we crave simplicity so we can navigate the fear of the new and unknown—and it really helps when we can look to peers and colleagues for insight, support, and encouragement, if not positive personal experience. When people we trust and admire clearly model and encourage a few key behaviors, those behaviors spread much more quickly, and they stick."
McKinsey: Why every leader should care about digitization and disruptive innovation
Summary: MIT's Andrew McAfee and McKinsey's James Manyika discuss how executives and policy makers can respond to the challenges of digital transformation—including job loss through outmoding, economic challenges, and the skills required to compete.
Key Quote: "We know that the Internet has created huge benefits for us as consumers. The amount of things we can now search, find, discover, consume, all of that. But the thing about that is that most of those things are things none of us pay for. And the revenue captured by companies is a fraction of the economic surplus that’s come to us as consumers.
As you look at the list of the technologies that we have in our research, many of those have the same characteristic. So if you look at what’s going to happen to cloud computing and what that’s going to do and what the mobile Internet is going to do, much of that is going to end up in consumer surplus."
Capgemini: The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform their Peers in Every Industry
Summary: The title kind of says it all. Joint research by Capgemini and the MIT Center for Digital Business found that companies with high degrees of "digital maturity […] have significantly higher financial performance than their less digitally-mature competitors."
Key Quote: "The pace of technological change is accelerating, and executives in every industry are paying attention. They face a vast set of alternatives for gaining digital advantage.
Unfortunately, they also hear a bewildering barrage of advice—sometimes conflicting and often wrong—about how to move forward digitally. In our two-year study, we discovered that many common perceptions about digital transformation were actually myths […] These myths can lead executives to make unfortunate and costly decisions."
OC&C Consulting: Journeys to the West: The Rise of the Chinese Traveler
Summary: Economic growth in China has led to rapid growth in the number of outbound travelers from the country, for everything from luxury shopping to sightseeing. With the market expected to double from 100 million trips in 2014 to 200 million by 2018, countries and businesses in target destinations have an immense opportunity to benefit, provided they take the right steps.
Key Quotes: "Despite being the third-most desired overseas travel destination, the United States risks missing out on the Chinese traveler opportunity thanks to onerous visa requirements."
"Chinese travelers cite many reasons to shop while abroad, and though price is among them, it is hardly the most important. The number one reason for shopping abroad is genuine products, highlighting the justified suspicions of many Chinese shoppers regarding counterfeits available at home."
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