Posts Tagged ‘Competition’

Last Tuesday, the Masters in Management class participated in a commercial innovation competition sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as part of our Strategic Analysis module. Over the past couple of weeks, each of the thirty study groups proposed ideas for innovation in the respiratory or oncology diseases areas targeted at the emerging markets, exploring new business models to complement GSK’s existing and future marketed portfolio of products. On Tuesday, six groups, which had been shortlisted by GlaxoSmithKline, presented to a panel of GSK employees. Some of the ideas proposed were:

  • Encrypted codes on GSK drugs in order to fight drug counterfeiting in China
  • Gamified health education on cervical cancer for young women in India
  • Vending machines with smaller packaging of drugs for easier access in India

The panel prodded students to think deeply about the viability of their proposals asking questions about the unique selling proposition, the size of the gaming market in India, and the feasibility of vending machines in India based on health cards when many in India do not have health cards.

The panel deliberated and 30 minutes later during a drinks session, they announced the winner of £2500, the vending machine idea! The top three groups also win a visit and daylong tour of the GSK offices in London.

GSK competition winners

GSK competition winners

I personally believe the industry collaboration on our strategy project was a wonderful experience. I think I, as well as my fellow Masters in Management students, took these innovation ideas more seriously when industry insiders were seriously considering what we were saying. It was informative to hear the questions they asked and the ideas that really impressed them.

I would like to contrast that competition with the competition seen on the front lawn of LBS on the following Sunday afternoon. The Women in Business Club hosted a fundraiser for their volunteer trip to Sierra Lione, which included a BBQ, flowing taps, and games like three-legged race, balloon toss, and mummy race (involving students hopping around the lawn covered in loo paper). Students of all levels: MBA, Masters in Finance, Masters in Management, and even the Dean were seen competing and watching the fierce competition and ensuing water fights unfold on the sunny afternoon.

Three-legged race line-up

Three-legged race line-up

What do these events have in common, you may ask? I think they show the unique selling proposition of London Business School, that is a harmonious mixture of serious and silly all while promoting healthy and friendly competition. Whoever wins, we all win, because we are sharing in knowledge, learning and laughs.

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The LBS Treasure Hunt

Posted by: Karen
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So this is us, all dressed up (well most of us) and ready to head out on our Treasure Hunt around the city. I wont give away too many details about the Treasure Hunt, all I will say is that is was fantastic! A great opportunity to experience the beautiful city (especially since we were fortunate enough to have good weather). It’s also a great opportunity to step back from studying and just have some silly fun. There is so much to do at LBS you sometimes don’t know where to start, it’s simple, start with this!

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I don’t expect there are many inter-school rivalries which are separated not only by country borders but also by large bodies of water and by language. But for LBS, our most competitive sports matches are played only after showing our passports, crossing the English Channel, and mastering the phrase “parlez vous anglais?” For INSEAD is our greatest rival on the field (and possibly off too) and nothing is quite as satisfying as vanquishing these baguette eating, wine swirling opponents.

Perhaps this particular rivalry is merely an extension of the long history shared between Britain and France; a history of Napoleonic proportions. For the 70 men of the LBS Rugby Club who set off from St Pancras and were destined for the INSEAD campus at Fontainebleau, it was certainly a matter of pride in maintaining our dominance over our French neighbours. Now, what goes on tour usually stays on tour. And anything that occurred after the Eurostar rolled out from the St Pancras platform should not be uttered here. But, on this occasion, a tantalising taster should be shared.

The match began with INSEAD lining up opposite us to sing their school song. Or something along those lines. My French is shocking enough that I didn’t understand it. Perhaps that was a good thing though, as I imagine they sang about their expected vanquishing of us.

How wrong they were. They may have come out strong at the start (or was that us playing weakly, still recovering our mojo after the previous night?) and they even had the first opportunity to score points with a penalty kick almost directly in front. But the boys from Baker St valiantly regained their composure and slowly but surely the gears of LBS rugby stirred into dominating action. The result? LBS 51 – INSEAD 7. A resounding victory!

Now, I must say, INSEAD were very gracious in defeat and we joined them that evening for a post match function in Fontainebleau. There’s always something special about sitting shoulder to shoulder with people you’ve just spent 80 minutes trying to tackle to the ground; it was great to actually converse with our MBA brethren there. And we’ll be looking forward to the rematch against the INSEAD lads when they travel past the white cliffs of Dover to do battle with us on our own turf early in the New Year.

It was on this optimistic note that we departed INSEAD for the cultured city of Paris, where we took delight in the pleasures of the Parisian nightlife. Or perhaps it was us who were entertaining the Parisians. By the early hours of the morning the French women were somewhat perplexed by these handsome lads roaming the streets in their navy blazers and straw hats, but they couldn’t get enough. And, so I’ve been told, more than one woman swooned in the presence of these men.

I will stop there before I say too much. Needless to say though, the next day, like the Duke of Wellington in victory at Waterloo, we returned triumphantly to Baker St with pride and success notched on our belts (and possibly elsewhere).

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Business and Biology

Posted by: Kristen

Recently in our Strategy course we evaluated the concept of strategic evolution in addressing the question of how an organization can best structure itself in order to maximize its competitive advantage. As someone with a background in the life sciences, after having spent an intensive month so far covering topics such as management, governance, and finance, I confess I was particularly pleased to come across some old but familiar concepts from studies of biological evolution and ecology. What I found striking was the degree of relevance they had to the business world. In essence, the same problem is posed to any system (whether it be an organism or an organization) that must compete with other systems for limited resources: What is the best way to balance between becoming specialized to a niche to maximize profit and remaining generalized enough to preserve the ability to quickly adapt in case the environment changes? It makes sense to look for lessons from biology, which has had eons to work on this very problem through the process of natural selection.

One well-studied example of this is the story of the peppered moth in the UK. Prior to the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, the peppered moth looked, well, peppered – with sprinklings of light and dark patches on its wings as camouflage to match the lichen-covered trees and stone buildings they lived amongst. Most of these moths had similar light-colored markings; only a small fraction of them born were significantly darker than the others due to natural genetic variability. However, these darker ones were easily spotted amongst the light-colored environment and were typically picked off by predators before they could reproduce.

White-bodied peppered moth

Black-bodied peppered moth

With the industrial revolution, trees and buildings near major cities in the UK became noticeably darkened from the soot emitted by coal-burning factories. The change in the environment favored the dark-colored moths over the light-colored moths. It was now the light-colored moths who stood out amongst the background and were soon picked off by predators, while the darker ones survived to reproduce. By the late 1800’s the majority of the peppered-moths around industrial cities were dark-colored. They had become, through the process of natural selection, highly adapted or “specialized” to their environment.

Now imagine what happened when they eventually cleaned up the soot? The environment quickly became much lighter. Those dark moths that had just a little while ago been so well-adapted and successful now stood out amongst the light marble, stones, and trees of the city. Those that had been the most fit for the environment were again the least fit and their numbers were again reduced by predators and so on.

So, what can the adaptation and survival of the peppered moth tell us about optimal strategies in business?

1. Specialization allows you to thrive but may come at a cost if the environment changes.

2. To reduce those costs, maintain some intrinsic variability in order to adapt as quickly as possible to a new environment.

3. Unfortunately, the optimal amount of intrinsic variability is hard to know. In biology, the answer seems to be “just enough” and is likely a function of the degree of potential change in the environment constrained by the amount physically tolerable by the organism.

4. It doesn’t always work. Although the moths endured, there are plenty of examples of species (and companies) that have gone extinct because environmental changes outpaced their innate ability to adapt.

5. Think ahead. These moths were fortunate to have had enough intrinsic variability to allow them to endure the selective pressures that were put upon them since they weren’t able to predict nor prevent the industrial revolution from happening. While there may be forces beyond our control that will ultimately shape our futures as well, we also have nice big brains that allow us to have, hopefully, a more active role in our own future in the choices we make as individuals, organizations, and as a species. We can stay informed about changes in our environment and find ways to influence and predict them. We can diversify our businesses more or less depending upon the degree of those predicted changes. We can make a best guess. It isn’t easy and there are no guarantees, but that is the challenge of life, both in biology and in business.

Light and dark peppered moths on a healthy tree where the light-colored moth's camouflage is best suited.

For more information and photo sources, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution

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