The sandwich strategy | MBA Learnings

A case study on “The sandwich strategy:”

Federal Express (FedEx) created an overnight delivery service toto compete with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Responding to FedEx’s entry and early success, USPS created a product called Express Mail priced at $8.95, as compared to FedEx’s $12.

FedEx, had it been like most companies, would have reduced price and gone to war with the USPS. But, price is not just a number. It is a way of signaling value and FedEx understood that. So, they responded by redefining their market.

Lessons on branding from Blackbeard the Pirate | MBA Learnings

A brand is simply a network of associations that exist in the minds of customers. Seeing the famous Nike swoosh or the Coca Cola logo triggers associations in our mind.

Brand associations are incredibly powerful because they stick. Malaysian Airlines, for example, is likely to face the consequences of its two tragedies for a very long time. These discussions naturally lead us to other conversations around what companies do with these associations – rebranding, repositioning, etc. We’ll leave those topics for a later time and, instead, learn from one of the early exponents of the power of a brand: Blackbeard the Pirate.

Compound interest and loan sharks | MBA Learnings

We recently discussed a segment on CBS regarding payday loans in our accounting class. CBS discussed a payday loan organization that charged a biweekly interest rate of 15%. They spoke about how outrageous this was. In their estimation, this meant the lender was charging customers an interest rate of 400%.

But let’s look at the numbers.

The first step is to spend a minute understanding compound interest. Every great personal finance book starts with requesting the reader appreciate the beauty and power of compound interest. So, here we go.

Marathon runners and CEOs | MBA Learnings

A Google search for “CEO Marathon study” reveals a slew of articles talking about how marathon running CEO’s lead successful companies.

The study has been quoted in numerous blogs and articles since it was published. Now, let’s take a closer look at the abstract of the study (the first line will do).

This study finds a positive relation between CEO fitness and firm value. For each of the years 2001 to 2011, we define CEOs of S&P 1500 companies as being fit if they finish a marathon. The literature suggests that fitness moderates stress and positively affects cognitive functions and performance. Accordingly, we find the strongest effects on firm value in subsamples where fitness is most important, i.e., for CEOs with high workload, above median age, and above median tenure. Fit CEOs are further associated with significantly higher abnormal announcement returns in M&A bids for large, public, and cross-border targets, concomitant with high stress. Our findings can explain the importance of CEO fitness in the managerial labor market and the trend among CEOs to stay fit.

This is a classic example of the identification error – mixing correlation with causality. Here is an example of the kind of issues that this study might have:

The secret Amazon, Nike and Zappos share | MBA Learnings

In their groundbreaking book, “Discipline of the Market Makers,” Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema argued that outstanding companies typically pick one of the following three disciplines to excel in: operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy.

Their research found that these companies centered themselves around one discipline. Companies that tried to do all of these inevitably didn’t do as well. It is a fascinating insight and has a couple of interesting implications.

The secret to changing team culture | MBA Learnings

My favorite learning from my course on Leadership in Organizations was the link between reward systems and culture.

I have struggled with questions around culture for a long time. In the teams I’ve built over the years, I have found that I have succeeded and failed in equal measure on culture. Leadership definitely influences culture. But, I was always left with the feeling that it isn’t just about leadership.

No more FOMO: Eliminating the fear of missing out | MBA Learnings

Wikipedia describes FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” as a form of social anxiety where one is compulsively concerned they might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or another satisfying event.

FOMO is the sort of problem that can plague us. So, how do we avoid FOMO? Based on my limited experience, here are three thoughts that might help.

What I never expected to learn while getting my MBA | MBA Learnings

First-year student Rohan Rajiv is blogging once a week about important lessons he is learning at Kellogg. Read more of his posts here.

Many of us are in graduate school to learn. There are many interesting things we expect to learn, like how to develop understanding of strategy and marketing, for example, or how learn to work better with teams of diverse people.

I believe the most important thing we are being asked to learn is something we might not have expected: Decision making and trade-offs.