Thanks for your comment, Meredyth! You bring up a few great points, and I’ve particularly thought a lot about the singles vs. pairs question. My take on this isn’t that the Russian model is less applicable to singles, but rather that its specific benefits (mind you, it has a lot of shortcomings) are that much more important for pairs. The consistency and full control that’s exerted over athletes in this model takes away a lot of the intrinsic challenges in training a pair of athletes. First, it takes a LONG time for a pair to start working well together. There is a huge element of trust given the danger of competitive elements – the athletes really are responsible for one another’s lives on a daily basis. In Russia, coaches can literally identify two people to be paired up, and have them grow up together throughout their training. No searching for a partner, no getting used to a new partner, no break-ups. Second, to bring it back to the operations context, if you consider one human athlete as an asset that can have a certain level of variability, that variability is amplified when you try to put two of them together. In this instance, a model that excels at reducing variability will win.
Really appreciate your insight into the operations of higher education, especially give your expertise in the industry! Reading your post, I became curious about what it means to be in steady state for an institution like Pomona. You mentioned that several other liberal arts colleges have had to close their doors because enrollment declined. Pomona has been able to avoid a similar fate through the rising quality (and the perception of this high quality) of its offerings, but it seems that a decline in enrollment actually wouldn’t be quite so fatal. Pomona’s steady state seems to depend instead on its endowment. Based on the numbers you cite, tuition revenues are less than break-even, and more than half of all students don’t even bring in that amount. So to maintain steady state, Pomona needs to maintain its endowment. Presumably, endowment growth is helped greatly by perceptions of prestige, which are fueled by educational quality, which is of course what contributes to high admission yield. Has Pomona found the secret sauce of steady state?
Great insight into the Soylent business model! I’ve been a Soylent consumer for about 6 months now, and have benefited greatly from the efficiency it brings to nutrition. As a pioneer in its space, Soylent has spent a lot of time developing the flavor and texture of its offerings while optimizing for nutritional completeness. I’d be curious to know more about how it has managed this innovation aspect of its operations. In this post, you aptly point out that Soylent’s goal in terms of taste is broadest appeal (or at least lack of repulsion). How is this optimized in the course of development operations? How can things like taste be quantified or tested at scale?
I’ve just recently learned about ASOS and purchased two dresses after reading this post. Aside from needing some New Year’s Eve finery, your post’s keen insight regarding the intersection between operational efficiency (reducing cost through sustainable materials) and customer value proposition (young customers tend to care more about waste reduction; they also appreciate extra cost benefit) motivated me to give this company my business. My take on this is that if organizations are able to not only find but also effectively highlight to their customers the areas where what’s good for the organization is also good for its customers, they are that much better able to operate at scale.