Thanks for the great analysis, Jaime! While there would certainly be operational efficiency improvements if the nuclear power industry utilized more digital technology, this would also bring significant security risks into the picture. Nuclear power plants are strategic national assets that international adversaries and non-state actors seek to exploit. The industry’s hyper-focus on safety and physical security often overlooks the growing threat from cyber attacks. A 2015 report from Chatham House detailed 50 recent cyber attacks on international nuclear power infrastructure and determined there is a “culture of denial” in the nuclear industry about the cyber threat (1). Critical nuclear power plant components and cooling systems can be compromised via cyber attack, and increasing the use of digital technology would widen these risks.
Alex, I agree with your article wholeheartedly, but I would like to make one additional point. Analyzing this topic with a LEAD lens, I cannot understate how important organizational leadership will be in striving for the changes you outlined in your article. Public libraries are a crucial public good, and their digitization is something that society stands to benefit from greatly. However, the individuals who lead these organizations are not necessarily prepared to lead this transformational change. As most infamously exampled by James Billington, the recently departed ex-chief of the Library of Congress who never fully embraced the power of digital technology in the public library space and whose meager attempts at digital transformation failed miserably, this change process requires bold leadership (1). The Library leaders of today spent their professional careers deeply immersed in the critical tasks and associated culture of physical print libraries, and many of them are hesitant to fully embrace the digitization of libraries. Going forward, the public institutions which nominate and confirm the leadership of public libraries must consider the candidates’ curiosity and willingness to change as part of their evaluation. Candidates from other industries should even be considered, if necessary, to lead the libraries fulfilling this crucial public good.
Great analysis, Anisa. I would argue that the surrounding context of increasing demands for fast food worker pay rises makes these digital innovations even more urgent. As most memorably evidenced by last year’s $15-an-hour pay hike for fast food workers in New York (1), labor costs are expected to rise in the coming years in this industry. That being so, the move to digital ordering described in your article will not only help McDonald’s relationship with its customers, but also help keep its labor costs contained in the evermore competitive food landscape.
Excellent post, Angelo. I really enjoyed learning more about the breakdown of HBS revenues and HBS’s recent digital innovations. That being said, I would argue that digital education and MOOCs have a long way to go before being considered anywhere close to on equal footing with traditional “brick and mortar” education programs. Employers simply still do not weight them equally when evaluating potential candidates (1). At best, online education is viewed as an addition to, rather than a supplement for, traditional education programs. One potential way to overcome this discrepancy would be to pair online education programs with “in-house” internship or other practical learning opportunities within real companies.
As a 10-year customer of USAA, I can also confirm their unparalleled customer service. Their early, aggressive moves into digital banking radically improved the banking experience for their customers. I have served overseas with the U.S. Air Force for a total of four years on four different continents, and I never once experienced a banking or insurance problem that couldn’t be resolved through their smart phone application or a quick 10-15 minute call on their hotline.
However, I would push back on your claim that USAA should quickly move to utilize the blockchain for smart contracts on mortgages and other products. In its recent reporting on the blockchain and smart contracts, The Economist highlighted two significant outstanding issues with this approach: defective code and the immutable nature of the block chain (1). On average, software comes with between 15 and 50 defects per 1,000 lines of code. This number is expected to be even higher with blockchain code, because the technology is still immature. This makes smart blockchain-based contracts “candy for hackers.” Furthermore, smart contracts based on the blockchain are designed to be immutable, so any attempts to correct the defective code would be considered a breach of contract. For these reasons, I would contend that human-based contract are still superior to blockchain-based smart contracts for the foreseeable future, even if the transaction costs are higher.
Parker, thanks for the PSA on this urgent issue. To echo Alex’s thoughts, your article skillfully highlights how GMO crops can be an integral part of a holistic response to climate change. The automatic recoil we often see to GMO crops, especially from European leaders, is simply irrational. GMO crops can provide the resilience and flexibility we will need in a world wracked by climate change. I think its incumbent on business and academia to take a public stand against misinformed public opinion. Maybe Hershey can help lead the way?
In terms of reducing the chocolate portions of its product, it seems to me that Hershey will have to be careful about how it approaches this tradeoff. Reducing the chocolate portion obviously comes at the expense of product quality, so Hershey will need to perform extensive market research with consumers to know how much it can actually reduce the chocolate portion before the quality deterioration turns off its consumers.
Great article, Amir! As your commentary makes clear, architectural choices and building design are critical components to fighting climate change. My question to you is the following: are sustainable building designs affordable enough for widespread adoption? It seems clear that deep-pocketed giants, like Google, can afford to make sustainable architecture choices. But, can small to medium-sized businesses really afford to do the same? How can we help drive adoption through lower cost architectural options?
Great article, Chaewon! I often think how artificial meat could revolutionize our society. One additional benefit I would like to highlight is artificial meat’s benefit to animal rights. Artificial meat will reduce the prevalence of many cruel animal husbandry practices seen in livestock living conditions or slaughter practices. However, consumer taste is a massive barrier to entry for artificial meat. Many consumers will recoil at the idea of eating artificial meat. As you rightly pointed out, there are many ways to mitigate the “ick factor” — I would add that cooperating with governments to distribute educational information about the product and its benefits to the population is a good way to boost consumer awareness and reduce the “ick factor”.
Insightful commentary, Nik! I had never considered the effects of climate change on the Olympic Games before; thank you for raising an important issue for our awareness.
Your article made me think about a bigger question. We typically consider climate change’s direct effect on companies, consumers, cities, the environment, etc. However, why do we rarely discuss the effects of climate change on labor? In this case, you raised the issue of climate change and Olympic athletes, but there are numerous industries that will be turned upside down by the effects that climate change will bring to the human labor component of said industry. I wrote about climate change’s impact on Delta Airlines, but I did not even consider how climate change will directly effect Delta’s labor practices. For example, thinking of it now, I can envision that increased temperatures will greatly deteriorate safety conditions for Delta’s ground crew personnel at airports. Airport runways are already centers of heat, but increased temperatures could likely make these locations inhospitable for human labor.
All in all, your article pushed me to think more holistically about how climate change will affect business — so thank you!
Thank you for the thoughtful article! I have long admired Unilever’s ambitious sustainability goals and it’s full-hearted embrace of this philosophy into its actual operating model. You article inspired me to look up some of the issues they have experienced implementing these changes, and it seems like Unilever still struggles communicating these changes through its marketing (see article below). It’s not clear if consumers actually value sustainability enough to warrant featuring Unilever’s sustainability actions in its marketing campaigns.