David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

The Role of the Chief Marketing Officer

Question: What are new challenges facing chief marketing officers? Williams: The Chief Marketing Officer has a number of challenges on his or her plate today. First and foremost, it’s about making sure that the marketing organization is viewed as a strategic partner to the business, and therefore it’s imperative that marketing align to the needs of the business and can clearly articulate to the rest of the organization through the communication channels that marketing has control over and the ecosystems that we build up in our organizations as to how marketing supports the alignment of the business. Marketing also plays a strategic role in terms of helping companies, especially those that compete in heavily deregulated industries, how to become more of a marketing led organization, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that marketing leads the organization, but it does mean that competitive differentiation is established, we clearly articulate what makes our company better than another company, and marketing fundamentally has a responsibility of making sure that every employee in the organization can clearly articulate what it is about the company that makes it unique and a leader in its respective industry. So there’s balancing both the strategic aspects of being a partner to the business as well as implementing the very tactical nature of, [either] the market strategies, our campaigns, our communications and really managing a whole system of populations, whether they’re employees, whether they’re your clients and customers, potentially investors, your supply chain partners, whatever the case may be, marketing has the responsibility of really being the glue for the business and bring all of that together in one consistent manner. Question: How do you grow business in a weak economy? Williams: In order to grow a business in a weak economy, the first thing you have to do is have a very strong understanding of what the strengths and weaknesses of your company are, and in many respects it means doubling down on the areas that you feel you’re particularly strong in. There may be client bases that you’ve done a very good job of delivering to, in which case taking extra care of those clients is critical. There may be investments that you’re planning on taking, that may need to change from a time scale perspective because the market isn’t right. You’re capabilities aren’t necessarily lined up to take advantage of that in a weak economy. So it’s really understanding where your core strengths and capabilities are where you’ve had significant success and staying close to that success and potentially identifying adjacent areas of opportunities where you can continue to leverage that strength and stay away from what might be a potentially new, risky venture. Question: How has globalization impacted your work? Williams: Globalization has had a significant impact on the consulting and IT services marketplace. One of the things that we’re trying to take advantage of is tapping into a global resource pool. Arguably, there is a shortage of the type of talent that we’re looking for in our industry, and therefore being able to reach out across the globe and tap into global delivery centers, global employee populations is critical for our business. If we do that successfully, and we have over the last number of years migrated to that model, you can then tap into a better value proposition for clients where in many cases you can [arbitrage] different labor rates across different economies and different societies to provide your clients with a truly high value solution which implies that you’ve been able to moderate your cost across that talent pool. The second advantage is our company happens to be global. We’re headquartered in Europe. We have a tremendous track record of delivering projects for clients around the world, so when it comes time to working with North America companies, we’re in a good position to share with them what the global competitive scene looks like, what we’ve done with some of their global competitors in terms of helping them succeed in that market, and basically enable North America corporations to be more effective as they start to chase the higher GDP associated with the merging markets or international markets. Question: What is an important lesson you’ve learned about business? Williams: I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in my career is to be comfortable with change. Gone are the days where you can go work for a company for 30 years, so being comfortable, making a change, staying true to what really motivates you, not being afraid to operate outside of your comfort zone, and in fact making it a deliberate practice to move out of your comfort zone, whether it’s to move across different functions in an organization, whether it’s to pick up and move geographically, both within the domestic US or across the globe, so being proactive about staying outside your comfort zone will mean that you’re in a position to handle change in a much better fashion than people who might not have done that.

Chris Williams, CMO of Capgemini, explains the expanding role of the chief marketing officer. He says CMOs should help grow the business in a weak economy.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Keep reading Show less

Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
Keep reading Show less

NASA releases first sounds ever captured on Mars

On Friday, NASA's InSight Mars lander captured and transmitted historic audio from the red planet.

Surprising Science
  • The audio captured by the lander is of Martian winds blowing at an estimated 10 to 15 mph.
  • It was taken by the InSight Mars lander, which is designed to help scientists learn more about the formation of rocky planets, and possibly discover liquid water on Mars.
  • Microphones are essentially an "extra sense" that scientists can use during experiments on other planets.
Keep reading Show less

A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."


A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."