What Knowledge is Useful? > Industries and Context
Walter J. Salmon on BBR
And so there was this burden of writing each year, I think, three different industry reports. One was a report on the department store industry. A second was a report on the fruit industry. And a third was a report on the variety store industry.…
The data was collected under the auspices of a woman by the name of Rose [Kaneznic?]. She was, quote, “the head of the Bureau of Business Research,” and she was a terror. If you didn’t get along with Rose, you were in deep trouble.
But she got the data together. It was collected on each of these industries—their last years’ operating results. And the purpose of these discussions was to put these data together, usually grouped by size of company. Maybe by other characteristics, but by size of company. So any company could compare its figures to the industry norms, and the industry superior performance, and industry poor performance. Then you were to write commentary about what was different this year than in previous years, and other subjects about what was new this year that wasn’t—what trends were going on in the industry.
So I wrote one of those studies, or maybe more than one of those studies. Bob Buzzell, who was my dear friend, and we started here—I guess I started a little before him—wrote another one of them, as I remember. Others wrote others. So that was one element of research training. I.e., could you take data and convey it to a business population in a way that they could use it? …
And it was good training. Working with Rose was a bit of a burden, but it was darn good training. And then I think the fuel oil people, having seen these data, said, “We’ve got some issues. We’d like to have Harvard study them.” And out of that I developed a thesis on marketing of fuel oil in Greater Boston, if I remember it correctly. And that was also a big learning experience for me.