Stories and Strategies from Real Life: 10/7/16

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Some of the best learning happens when you read stories about real people and real companies. Read them for ideas, for lessons, and inspiration. This week’s stories and strategies from real life are about Oracle, Gillette, Unilever, Lego, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, and Zume Pizza

From Ben Thompson: Oracle’s Cloudy Future

“Everyone knows the story of how IBM gave away the castle to Microsoft (and Intel): besieged by customers demanding low-powered personal computers the vertically-integrated mainframe-centric company tasked a team in Boca Raton, Florida, far from the company’s headquarters in Armonk, New York, to create something quickly to appease these low-margin requests. Focused on speed and cost said team decided to outsource nearly everything, including the operating system and processor. The approach paid off, at least when it came to IBM’s goals: while IBM’s integrated products normally took half a decade to develop and launch, the Boca Raton team moved from concept to shipping product in only 12 months. However, the focus on standard parts meant that all of the subsequent value in the PC, which massively exceeded the mainframe business, went to the two exclusive suppliers: Microsoft and Intel.”

From Dana Wood: The Cutting Edge

“Presumably, the economics of blade manufacturing was enough to give Unilever pause over the years, even while its archrival – P&G – gobbled-up ever-bigger chunks of the market courtesy of Gillette. Clearly Gillette, which commands at least 50 percent of U.S. shaving-gear sales, is a Procter ‘power’ player, one of the few it didn’t cut loose when it shed some 100 brands in 2014.”

From HBS Working Knowledge : Innovation Under Constraint: Constructing a Turnaround at Lego

“Lego has been helping children piece together dreams and develop imaginations for decades, becoming one of the world’s most popular brands in the process. But the company lost its way in the 1990s and has stood on the brink of bankruptcy a few times since. Professor Jan Rivkin discusses his case study of Lego and how it innovates to meet the changing needs of young users in the digital age.”

From Cara Anthony: A legacy reborn, Madam C.J. Walker hair products are back

“More than a century after her ‘secret formula’ turned Madam C.J. Walker into a self-made millionaire, her iconic brand of beauty products is back. But this time the hair care line is reaching a broader group of consumers.”

From Marisa Kendall: Zume Pizza: Made by robots, baked in delivery truck

“Forget self-driving cars and drones. Inside one Mountain View startup, engineers focus on applying the latest technology to something a bit more delicious — pizza.”

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