Navigating the Post-Crisis Economy
A professor of marketing, he was a chaired faculty member and administrator at Harvard Business School for 21 years. His major research interests are product policy and pricing. He has published widely on these topics in such journals as the Bell Journal of Economics, European Management Journal, Harvard Business Review, Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business, Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, and Sales and Marketing Management
Dean Dolan earned a Ph.D. and an M.S. in management at the University of Rochester and a B.A. magna cum laude in mathematics from Boston College.
Dolan is author or co-author of eight books and numerous case studies. His Managing the New Product Development Process (Addison-Wesley), based on research to develop the New Product Development course in the MBA Program at Harvard, has been adopted at a number of leading business schools. A recent book, Power Pricing: How Managing Price Transforms the Bottom Line (Free Press), was developed for practitioners. Drawing on research and consulting experiences with firms worldwide, the book sets out a program for proactive management of prices for superior profitability. His case studies and notes, published by Harvard Business School, address a wide range of companies and issues, including Black and Decker, BMW, Henkel Corporation, L’Oreal, and Eastman Kodak. More than one million copies of these materials have been sold to date.
A frequent lecturer and consultant, he assists a wide variety of clients on issues of product policy and pricing. He has testified on marketing issues in a number of major litigations and has served on the boards of directors of several publicly traded companies including Knoll Inc., a leading office furniture manufacturer and Precise Software Inc.
Robert Dolan: I think this is one of the important things… an important change for business schools is to really be supporting that kind of activity.
Business is great when you’re creating new products and ideas which are delivering value to consumers. And, I think, what we’ve tried to do is really move away, through our action based learning projects, to really move away from business education, being all about solving problems. And that’s what a typical case study is about. If you pick up any of the case studies; they are typically 15 pages long, it’s a statement of a management problem, here are your options, A, B, and C, which one of those solves the problem?
But on the other hand, what you really want to be developing in your students is not so much a problem solving capability as much as opportunity sensing. And so, that’s why we have moved much more of an action based learning orientation to try to help develop this entrepreneurial ability to sense what other people cannot, to really see what the opportunities are.
So this has really been a focus of ours through both the general management program in the MBA, generally, and also, through our Zell, Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, where we’ve come up with a number of new courses that have really been quite useful for our students.
So we have one course, it’s a commercialization course, where we basically hold up a sign to the rest of the university of Michigan and say, new product ideas, bring them here. And then, our students vet those new product ideas. Most of them would come from either the engineering school or the medical school. And then, through donor support, we are able to actually invest in those companies if we believe that those are the right kind of metrics that they have in place and right sort of opportunities for them.
So I think the idea of a business school really have a role in fostering the innovative capabilities is something which is really important for us. And also, what we’re trying to do is extend the business school’s impact across the university via the course I just mentioned.
And we also offer a course now, that we call MBA Essentials for Entrepreneurs, which we teach the faculty and the graduate students of the other schools at the University of Michigan, other than the business school.
The idea of business school as a force for innovation and entrepreneurial activity is something that we believe in greatly. And it’s really helping us attract some really interesting students who really need for fundamental training in business but then, to really being applied to entrepreneurial activity, I think, is something we’re seeing a big increase in.
Robert Dolan: One of the things that we’ve been trying to do is find ways to make entrepreneurship not be a little company activity. But, in fact, when you think about it, it’s probably going to have some of its biggest impact in the larger company.
We’ve worked in our executive education operation with a number of large companies, trying to share the lessons of entrepreneurship with them. That’s one way. And, I think, another way is really via the projects that we’ve done with a number of large companies, trying to help bring some more entrepreneurial ideas to their environment.
Question: How can business thrive?
Robert Dolan: I think the biggest thing is to really have the attitude that you really; this time is going to require you to reinvent yourself. You know, so many companies that I hear talking about their strategy and it’s basically to say, well, we’re going to kind of honk her down. And when things turn around, we’re going to be really well-positioned. Well, I’m not sure when things turn around. And, that’s really the wrong idea, is to say, okay, we’ve had some strengths. Those strengths are going to be the ones that are valuable in the future as soon as we get out of this little bit of economic difficulty.
My sense is that the better companies are really looking at themselves and saying, okay, we had some historical strengths, but those aren’t necessarily going to be the things that are going to get us anywhere in the future. So we have to really reinvent ourselves in a way to be in touch with the kind of new opportunity.
So I think that sometimes these major disruptions or changes in the markets are really great opportunities because they can unfreeze things. Discussions which would not be taking place in a normal environment, the opportunity to maybe upsize something and downsize something else. I think the really good companies are kind of looking at the current situation and saying, okay, I understand that regulatory environment is changing dramatically. I have to think about how that impacts me.
But the important thing is to understand the new degrees of freedom that the status quo of not being acceptable to anyone anymore. That freedom to really do some things which might not have been possible before, I think, is what the great companies are taking advantage of right now.
Question: What worries you about current economic reform?
Robert Dolan: The one that really concerns me the most is that if we’re going to make a turnaround from our ideas on globalization and the kind of inclusiveness of the American economy to people from around the world. For example, the restriction, right now, on international hiring of international students, I think, is really problematic.
So we are seeing a potential declining interest in the best people from around the world coming to the United States because of this notion that, well, if you’re accepting top money, then you can’t use that to hire anybody who isn’t a US citizen.
So I worry a little bit, that in these times of economic difficulty and increasing unemployment rates, well, I think, we have to do everything we can to provide employment for the citizens of this country.
I don’t think the notion that we should do this by putting up barriers around the country and restricting the employment of really talented people from around the world is the right way to do it.
I think the inclusiveness of the American business society, of business culture has really been one of its great strengths. And I hate to see that lost in this economically difficult time.
Question: What will Wall Street look like in four years?
Robert Dolan: It’s kind of interesting to think about how Wall Street… Wall Street has really been dispersed around the world with… what’s happening with information technology. I mean, it’s going to be an interesting set of global participants rather than the ones who are physically here in New York. And I think that will… that will really increase the extent to which all the businesses is globalized.
Robert Dolan: Two things. Number one is that if you look at the savings rate of the American consumer and see it be 0 or a negative number, I mean, nobody really could’ve thought that was a very good idea. So that will be one particular issue, I guess.
And the second one, I think, is somewhat related; you have to protect yourself against more downside than we, maybe, once thought. I think the idea of the Dow going from 14,000 down to, you know, the 7s, there probably weren’t many people who thought, gee, I really needed to protect myself against that.
So just the whole idea of risk management. I think we all need to be more thoughtful about what really means on an individual consumer basis. And it’s kind of hard, I think, as you saw the returns that one was getting from being all inequities to say, gee, I am getting a little bit older. I know the theory, says I should be jumping out into equities and to fix income things.
But the idea of really being more thoughtful about managing the risk in your life, and not being so tied to current consumption, as we were as a society, I think, are two things that I take away from the last 10, 12 months.
Recorded on: April 13, 2009
Robert Dolan, Dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, describes the economy of the future and reveals who will control it.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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