The Top 10 Cold Call Episodes of 2017
A look back at the year's most popular episodes of the Cold Call podcast, which takes Harvard Business School's famous case method and distills it into podcast form.
19 Dec 2017   Christian Camerota

From Don Draper to Mount Everest to 30,000 feet, Harvard Business School's Cold Call podcast covered a lot of ground (and air) this past year.

Twice monthly, host and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Brian Kenny invites an HBS professor to take listeners behind the scenes of a case he or she has written, probing what inspired the case, exploring how it relates to management practice, and delving into interesting anecdotes that come from researching the case and teaching it in the classroom. The podcast has featured a wide variety of cases covering world-class brands, innovative start-ups, and social enterprises. The most popular of the more than 30 episodes produced in 2017 are listed below.

IDEO’s human-centered design thinking is a systematic methodology used to help create new products and services. The best part: The company is open about how it works and how to adopt it. Professor Ryan Buell explores this process through the example of Cineplanet, a leading movie cinema chain in Peru. The company hired IDEO to help them determine how to better align their operating model with the needs of its customers. This case study may change the way you think about thinking.

Advertising in the digital age bears little resemblance to the Mad Men depiction—the Don Drapers of advertising have been replaced by big data and the people who work with it. Professor John Deighton, the author of the case "WPP: From Mad Men to Math Men (and Women)," and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and group chief executive of WPP and the protagonist in the case, discuss how WPP has been successful in the new advertising world order, where algorithms and robots rule.

Japan’s largest online retailer, Rakuten, is rapidly expanding into global markets. In order to ensure the success of the organization, but also to break down linguistic and cultural boundaries in Japanese society, CEO Hiroshi Mikitani mandates English proficiency within two years for all employees. Professor Tsedal Neeley discusses the thinking behind Mikitani’s mandate and why there’s such a strong connection between language and globalization.

Longchamp’s Le Pliage is one of the fashion world’s most successful products, a cultural icon across the globe. But managing the low-priced, nylon handbag is challenging as Longchamp tries to move its brand upmarket into higher-priced, luxury leather goods. Senior Lecturer Jill Avery discusses the balancing act of cherishing the heritage of an established brand against the need to look forward and grow in the face of a rapidly changing industry.

What’s the value of crowdsourcing technological solutions to societal problems? Could a hackathon help solve the heroin crisis in Cincinnati, Ohio? Professor Mitch Weiss discusses the underlying skepticism and emerging realities that unfold during protagonist Annie Rittgers’ journey to organizing a successful hackathon in his case "Hacking Heroin."

Faber-Castell is a 255-year-old company that makes pencils. How does an old company with a, well, boring product think about innovation, particularly if and when to introduce new technology? Assistant Professor Ryan Raffaelli’s research looks at established companies with mature products and how they manage technological shifts in their industry and in the world. This case explores Faber-Castell’s “companion for life” strategy and its bet to double down on the pencil.

It’s a common challenge for almost every startup: how much and how fast to grow. But Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Indian mobile payments and commerce platform Paytm, knows he wants to take his company to $100 billion and replicate its model in other emerging markets. Professor Sunil Gupta discusses how reaching Sharma’s lofty goal won’t be about technology and finding new solutions, but rather all about finding new use cases for Paytm’s existing solution.

Pal's Sudden Service hamburger chain has developed a unique operating model and organizational culture in the fast food restaurant business. With an emphasis on process control, zero errors, and extensive employee training and engagement, Pal's has been able to achieve excellent performance in an extremely competitive industry. Professor Gary Pisano discusses the company’s strategic challenge of deciding how much to grow and whether its organizational model will scale.

Is it possible to retain brand value after cutting costs and services dramatically just to stay alive? The airline industry has struggled with this question since deregulation in 1979 in the face of economic downturns, changes in market structure, and shifting clientele. Assistant Professor Susanna Gallani discusses a central lesson from her case study (co-authored with Professor Eva Labro), "RegionFly: Cutting Costs in the Airline Industry." The issue is faced by many companies in many industries: How does a leadership team look past pure survival to regain and even exceed market position.

What does it take to successfully lead a team to the top of the highest peak in the world? First-year MBA students find out as they participate together in "Everest: A Leadership and Team Simulation." Professor Amy Edmondson talks about the choice to use Mount Everest as the backdrop for this business management exercise, designing the simulation, and what students learn about teamwork along their way up the mountain.


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