Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The rising popularity of social networking and social media leaves me with intriguing questions. There is something apt about a social networking website winning a popularity contest. On March 17th, 2010, Financial Times reported that social networking website Facebook has capped a year of phenomenal growth by overtaking Google’s popularity among US internet users, with industry data showing it has scored more hits than the search engine. Facebook’s membership has crossed 400 million (430.2million, as per comScore) in February 2010 (when it celebrated its sixth birthday). US users spent nearly six-and a-half hours on Facebook compared with fewer than two-and-a-half hours on Google. What does the rising popularity of social networking mean for business? How should companies convert all such users’ time to their advantage? Is it a sign that the web is becoming more sociable than searchable? What does the advent and the (near) ubiquitous presence of blogs, social networking sites, YouTube, LinkedIn, Orkut, Twitter, etc? What do these ‘social’ innovations signify? While some argue that they undermine the social fabric of a society, many epitomize them as harbingers of the end of corporate imperialism. The several ‘social’ media segments – there are various types of online social media from social networks of friends and professionals to microblogging services, to video sharing sites, with informal online network of friends (Facebook, Orkut, QQ), artists (MySpace), visual junkies (YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, Daily Motion for Videos and Flickr, Picasa and Snapfish for photos) and professionals (LinkedIn) – point out to a proliferation and consolidation (either sequentially or simultaneously) in social media segments. Every country has its cliques, whether based on education, social background or spiritual beliefs. In Spain, Italy and Latin America as well as France, business people speak of the influence of Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic lay order which supports a number of business schools. America has its Ivy League alumni groups and Rotary Clubs. Chinese business people often rely on guanxi, or personal connections. How then the (online) social networks are different from the old-style networks?
The social media environment in emerging markets too is heating up. A recent blogworks survey indicates that the blog and social media (SM) environment is evolving rapidly and India is no exception to this. The survey reveals that the SM credibility is on the increase: 90% believe that blogs and SM platforms have an impact on business and marketing; 90% believe that buzz and word of mouth are top deliverables from SM activities;65% think SM can deliver insights and over 46% hope to create better products and services through SM activities. How should companies look at social networking sites – complementary or competitive threats? Experts advocate that the companies articulate and adopt a unique social media strategy to tap into the growing popularity of social media. How should companies go about chalking out social media strategy? What are the critical success factors for getting the power and potential of social media platform right? However, many believe that Web 2.0 has resulted in “Enterprise 2.0”, a term coined to describe efforts to bring technologies such as social networks and blogs into the workplace. However, according to Robert Half Technology’s survey, the executives’ biggest concern was that social networking would lead to social notworking, with employees using the sites to chat with friends instead of doing their jobs. Some bosses also fretted that the sites would be used to leak sensitive corporate information. How should companies draw lines between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable ‘corporate social behavior’? The Internet was built on freedom of expression. Society wants someone held accountable when that freedom is abused. And major Internet companies like Google and Facebook are finding themselves caught between those ideals. They face a public that increasingly is more inclined to blame them for cyber-bullying and online transgressions.

Cognitive Dissonance for New Products

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I wonder how a subject like consumer behavior can be taught? How can real justice be done to all such social-sciences related subjects. The very fact that those subjects deal with social animals / human beings, it becomes all the more intriguing and perplexing. Intriguing because are they sciences or are they art-related? If they are sciences, the subject matter must be universally applicable and universally proved. If they are art-related, they are culture-specific which therefore means that the principles can not be universally applicable and universally proved. It is perplexing because what is once correct for an individual or a group of individuals in a particular context in a particular environment may not be correct the next time. What explains this dichotomy? And that seems the very purpose of social-sciences related subjects - to sensitize the knowledge seekers / students to the inherent and incumbant diversity of behaviors.

One of the very interesting and highly useful concepts in consumer behavior course is the concept of cognitive dissonance? What is cognitive dissonance, after all? Definitions aside, it is co-existence of two diametrically opposite desires. The best example is cigarattes. Every smoker after all knows that smoking is dangerous and at times can be fatal, yet, wishfully expects to live longer with no resultant health issues.You might argue is it not a case of split personality? Yes, it is, but in the mildest form.

How does cognitive dissonance exist for new products? What are the cognitive dissonance levels? How can this be related to consumers' buying decision journey? All such issues are explored in our case study, "Tata Nano: Consumers' Post Purchase Behavior". Explore the case study in detail and surely you would be unravel some of the fundamental buying-behavior myths


Saturday, February 27, 2010

As a teacher, I have always been fascinated with one intriguing question: how do I engage the students? What motivates the students to give in their best? Is it the fear of grading, attendance, etc? Is it the way of teaching? Is it the topic? How to increase the participation levels so much so that they take on the faculty? Over the last two years I have observed (I have heard similar observations from innumerable management faculty fraternity) the following: (a) that the students do not come prepared for the case studies and it's quite frustrating for the faculty. (b) even if they have prepared, the mulling over the case facts, analysis touch points and discussion items has always been less than mediocre.They just don't give their best shot (after all they are expected to take decisions identifying themselves with the protoganist / protoganists of the case study). (c) Interestingly however, whenever they are not given any case reading homework, instead a video was shown and were asked to respond, the reflexes are quite fast.

And that set me thinking: how do I speak their language and yet get them to learn the required insights. Of course, I strongly believe that no one learns from others indeed. I have tried with a variety of video formats - video interviews, executive briefs (essentially video case studies), etc. When the fourth semester was drawing to an end, I was to take up an interesting topic in strategy - going global and the students were "genuinely" buisy with their placements. How do I circumvent the usual case avoidance 'suspects' and get them to hit the ground. I have asked them to see the hollywood movie, "The Other End of the Line" as a precursor to going global case studies. When they were asked to analyze the movie from the point of going global, the resultant discussion, analysis and insights were quite revealing. I at once felt we hit the ground without any glitches. Every bit of going global (strategy topic) and globalization (an economics topics) were dissected from the movie and the students enjoyed the whole exercise.

To take this exercise forward and give the benefit of this pedagogical approach to other business schools' teachers, we set out to develop a distinct movie-based product. The first one, "Coach Carter:The Change Agent" has been prepared after having been tested in the demanding classrooms and the feedback from several blind reviewers has been excellent. We hope to take the flavor of hollywood glamor to the management classrooms. After all, seeing is believing. We at IBSCDC, wish to be the Classroom Innovators.