Measuring the full impact of digital capital

29. July 2013
McKinsey & Company
Article|McKinsey Quarterly

Although largely uncounted, intangible digital assets may hold an important key to understanding competition and growth in the Internet era.

July 2013| byJacques Bughin and James Manyika

On July 31, 2013, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis will release, for the first time, GDP figures categorizing research and development as fixed investment. It will join software in a new category called intellectual-property products.

In our knowledge-based economy, this is a sensible move that brings GDP accounting closer to economic reality. And while that may seem like an arcane shift relevant only to a small number of economists, the need for the change reflects a broader mismatch between our digital economy and the way we account for it. This problem has serious top-management implications.

To understand the mismatch, you need to understand what we call digital capital—the resources behind the processes key to developing new products and services for the digital economy. Digital capital takes two forms. The first is traditionally counted tangible assets, such as servers, routers, online-purchasing platforms, and basic Internet software. They appear as capital investment on company books. Yet a large and growing portion of what’s powering today’s digital economy consists of a second type of digital capital—intangible assets.

They are manifold: the unique designs that engage large numbers of users and improve their digital experiences; the digital capture of user behavior, contributions, and social profiles; the environments that encourage consumers to access products and services; and the intense big-data and analytics capabilities that can guide operations and business growth. They also include a growing range of new business models for monetizing digital activity, such as patents and processes that can be licensed for royalty income, and the brand equity that companies like Google or create through digital engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Die Krise des Marketings

26. July 2013

Wenn die Marketing Manager so viel Kompetenz haben wie der Autor des Artikels, wundert er mich nicht, dass sie keinen Einfluss in ihren Unternehmen mehr haben. (hfk)


Von Thorsten Hennig-Thurau

Die einstige Königsdisziplin gilt in vielen Unternehmen nur noch als Beiwerk. Schuld sind kurzsichtige CEOs, aber auch die Zunft selbst. Ein Weckruf.

Beginnen wir mit einer recht niederschmetternden Feststellung: Das Marketing ist heute in vielen Unternehmen keine treibende Kraft. Zwei Drittel der Vorstandsvorsitzenden der größten deutschen Unternehmen sind Naturwissenschaftler, Ingenieure oder Juristen, nur jeder fünfte CEO hat zuvor im Marketing gearbeitet. Und es kommt noch schlimmer: Nur 10 Prozent aller CEOs gaben laut einer Fournaise-Studie an, die Arbeit ihrer Marketingmanager zu schätzen. Da scheint es fast schon konsequent, dass einige Firmen wie beispielsweise der US-amerikanische Online-Dienst AOL, der Unterhaltungskonzern Walt Disney und der Unterhaltungselektronikhändler Best Buy Marketing als Vorstandsaufgabe für überflüssig halten. Marketing ist in vielen Unternehmen zu einer Unterabteilung degradiert worden, die gerade mal als Schnittstelle mit der Werbeagentur fungiert oder die operative Preissetzung übernimmt.

Dabei war Marketing doch eigentlich ganz anders gedacht. Wie hat es die Managementlegende Peter Drucker so treffend gesagt: Marketing ist die gesamte Geschäftstätigkeit, betrachtet aus der Ergebnisperspektive – nämlich der des Kunden. Der amerikanische Ökonom Philip Kotler und der Münsteraner Marketingpionier Heribert Meffert haben daraus das Konzept der marktorientierten Unternehmensführung gebaut, nach der nur erfolgreich sein wird, wer sich ganzheitlich an den Wünschen und Bedürfnissen der Kunden orientiert und entsprechende Angebote macht. Mit anderen Worten: Kundenorientierung ist der Dreh- und Angelpunkt für erfolgreiches Wirtschaften, und Kundenzufriedenheit ist die maßgebliche Grundlage für finanziellen Erfolg. Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking twice about price

26. July 2013

Date: 25-07-2013
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

In an age of austerity businesses need to get better at charging more

WHEN bosses promise to make their companies more profitable they usually say they will do so by increasing sales or cutting costs. But a third road to profits is rarely mentioned: putting prices up. Managers often fail to ask how they might do better at plucking the goose to obtain the most feathers with the least hissing. The spiel from the management consultants who advise companies on pricing—whether specialists like Simon-Kucher or giant generalists like PWC—is that it is now more vital than ever to be smart at it. In today’s austere age many businesses cannot depend on rising sales volumes to lift their profits. As for cutting costs, most have already pared them to the bone. Prices are all that is left. And a business can do a lot with clever pricing, to boost its share of the limited spending-power that is out there.

Makers of high-tech products such as smartphones can opt to add whizzy new features and push up prices. In the case of luxury goods, their exclusivity is a large part of their appeal, and this in turn is a function of their price, so firms usually have scope for limiting supply and charging more: Ferrari, a sports-car maker, and Mulberry, a purveyor of posh bags, have both recently signalled that they plan to do just that. But raising prices by making products better or more exclusive is a strategic decision, open to only a few types of business. For all sorts of mundane goods and services there is much that can be done tactically, the consultants say, to charge more for the same thing. Read the rest of this entry »

How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert

23. July 2013

Date: 23-07-2013
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Extroverts are generally happier, studies show. And research shows introverts feel happier when they act extroverted.

Both introverts and extroverts can be adept at public speaking. But whereas an extrovert might afterward want to interact with others in a large group, introverts might feel the need for self-reflection and time alone, such as by taking a walk.

Extroverts, those outgoing, gregarious types who wear their personalities on their sleeve, are generally happier, studies show. Some research also has found that introverts, who are more withdrawn in nature, will feel a greater sense of happiness if they act extroverted.

Experts aren’t entirely sure why behaving like an extrovert makes people feel better. One theory is that being talkative and engaging influences how people respond to you, especially if that response is positive. Others speculate that people get more satisfaction when they express their core self and opinions. Another possibility: Happiness might come simply from having successfully completed a goal, such as giving a speech.

“If you’re introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all about what you do,” said William Fleeson, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. Read the rest of this entry »

The IT cloud: Silver linings

22. July 2013

Date: 22-07-2013
Source: The Economist

Banks big and small are embracing cloud computing

“I’VE only got one IT guy,” says Segun Akintemi, the chief executive of Renaissance Credit, a Nigerian moneylender that opened for business in October 2012 and signed up about 3,000 customers in its first six months. “Whenever I walk past his desk he is surfing the web.” That the firm has just one bored computer specialist is not a sign of backwardness. On the contrary, Renaissance Credit is ahead of its time when it comes to technology. Its information processing takes place in the “cloud”, the term for software and services delivered over the internet.

The emergence of cloud-based banking promises to affect banks big and small. Banks are expected to spend almost $180 billion on IT this year, according to Celent, a consultancy. For the moment cloud-based services make up a tiny fraction of this amount, but by some estimates spending by financial-services firms on the cloud will total $26 billion in 2015. This increase should lower barriers to entry for newcomers, which can rent modern IT infrastructure at monthly fees of less than $10,000 rather than having to invest tens of millions of dollars upfront to build their own secure data centres. And it should also enable big banks to become much more cost-efficient. Read the rest of this entry »

Higher education: The attack of the MOOCs

21. July 2013

Date: 20-07-2013
Source: The Economist

An army of new online courses is scaring the wits out of traditional universities. But can they find a viable business model?

DOTCOM mania was slow in coming to higher education, but now it has the venerable industry firmly in its grip. Since the launch early last year of Udacity and Coursera, two Silicon Valley start-ups offering free education through MOOCs, massive open online courses, the ivory towers of academia have been shaken to their foundations. University brands built in some cases over centuries have been forced to contemplate the possibility that information technology will rapidly make their existing business model obsolete. Meanwhile, the MOOCs have multiplied in number, resources and student recruitment—without yet having figured out a business model of their own.

Besides providing online courses to their own (generally fee-paying) students, universities have felt obliged to join the MOOC revolution to avoid being guillotined by it. Coursera has formed partnerships with 83 universities and colleges around the world, including many of America’s top-tier institutions.

EdX, a non-profit MOOC provider founded in May 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and backed with $60m of their money, is now a consortium of 28 institutions, the most recent joiner being the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. Led by the Open University, which pioneered distance-learning in the 1970s, FutureLearn, a consortium of 21 British, one Irish and one Australian university, plus other educational bodies, will start offering MOOCs later this year. But Oxford and Cambridge remain aloof, refusing to join what a senior Oxford figure fears may be a “lemming-like rush” into MOOCs. Read the rest of this entry »

Quality not quantity: A new way to measure innovation

19. July 2013

Date: 19-07-2013
Source: The Economist

MANY attempts to rank countries by their susceptibility to, and achievements in, innovation fall flat. Places like Switzerland come out on top when things like literacy are lauded; Japan dominates when patents are prized. A new innovation index by Cornell, the French business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) itself innovates in how it measures innovation.

Quality of InnovationInstead of objectively counting the inputs and outputs, it relies on nuance. For example, rather than ranking overall education, it looks at the top three universities, since elite institutions may be more important than the average. Instead of counting each patent, it tracks only those filed in at least three countries, which suggests it is a more valuable technology. And rather than look at scientific journal articles en masse, the index includes how often they are actually cited.

Among the interesting findings are how Japan and South Korea differ in cited articles. And mon Dieu!, France falls below Canada in university ranking. China makes a strong showing—and leads Russia. Last year we questioned WIPO’s overall ranking, based on a less refined methodology. This year’s metric does better at tracking the ins and outs of new ideas.


Brain Exercise Benefits At Any Age

18. July 2013

Date: 18-07-2013
Source: Scientific American

Elderly adults who worked their mental muscles, both early and late in life, remained more intellectually limber than those who didn’t.

A book a day may keep dementia away. Even if you read it as a kid. Because a study finds that exercising the brain, at any age, may preserve memory. The work appears online in the journal Neurology. [Robert S. Wilson et al, Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging]

Previous studies have shown that engaging in brain-building activities is associated with a delay in late-life cognitive decline. But why? Does flexing the old gray matter somehow buffer against age-related intellectual impairment? Or is cognitive loss simply a consequence of the aging brain’s physical decline? Read the rest of this entry »

„Dem Alter begegnen“ – Eine neue Initiative

17. July 2013

WandernZweck der Initiative

Das „Altwerden“ positiv zu entdecken, richtig wahrzunehmen und anzunehmen stellt für viele Menschen eine Schwierigkeit dar. In unserer Gesellschaft ist Alter bzw. „Altwerden“ meist negativ besetzt. Die Initiative „Dem Alter begegnen“ hat vor, das Thema von einem ganz neuen Blickwinkel aus zu erschließen.

Der Prozess des „Altwerdens“ wird ganzheitlich aus verschiedenen Perspektiven betrachtet. Unterschiedliche Aspekte dieser Lebensphase werden miteinander vernetzt und damit neue Impulse für die Zukunft gesetzt. „Heil zu sein“ findet auf mehreren Ebenen statt – in Körper, Geist und Seele. Eine bessere Vermittlung zwischen den Generationen soll möglich gemacht, verloren gegangene Werte und Beziehungen wiederhergestellt und ein Ausstieg aus falschen Bildern zum Thema „Altwerden“ geschaffen werden.

Vision 2020

Die Initiative „Dem Alter begegnen“ hat neue Quellen erschlossen: Alter ist Schönheit, Weisheit (das Wissen, worauf es ankommt) und Erfüllung. Die Akzeptanz jeder Lebensphase – auch des Alterns – in unserer Gesellschaft soll erhöht werden, ganz unpathetisch und unprätentiös. Loslassen zu können, Trost zu finden, Vergebung zu leben und Dankbarkeit zu verspüren sind wesentlich. Dabei spielt auch eine Auseinandersetzung mit der Kunst des Möglichen eine Rolle. Der Umgang mit dem Altern kann generell gelassen und heiter erfolgen.

„Altwerden“ ist keine Ankunft, sondern ein Aufbruch. Read the rest of this entry »

Where thinking is king

17. July 2013

Date: 17-07-2013
Source: The Economist

A more rigorous attempt to dissect the corporate mind and its effect on success

Raynor three rulesThe Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think. By Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed. Portfolio Penguin; 376 pages; $29.95 and £20. Buy from,

NOTHING succeeds in business books like the study of success. The current business-book boom was launched in 1982 by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman with “In Search of Excellence”. It has been kept going ever since by a succession of gurus and would-be gurus who promise to distil the essence of excellence into three (or five or seven) simple rules. The undisputed king of the genre at the moment is Jim Collins, whose “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” can be found piled high in airport bookshops around the world.

“The Three Rules ” is a self-conscious contribution to the genre; it even includes a bibliography of “success studies”. Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed work for a consultancy, Deloitte, that is determined to turn itself into more of a thought-leader and less a corporate plumber. They employ all the tricks of the success genre. They insist that their conclusions are “measurable and actionable”—guides to behaviour rather than analysis for its own sake. They divide companies into three cutely named categories: “miracle worker”, “long runner” and “average Joe”. They even employ the cutest trick of all: the third rule is, “There are no other rules.”

But the authors are also more rigorous than most success-ologists. Mr Peters and Mr Waterman chose the companies that form the heart of “In Search of Excellence” by canvassing McKinsey partners and “a bunch of other smart people” about “who’s cool” and “who’s doing cool work”. Messrs Raynor and Ahmed studied Compustat data on companies that traded on American exchanges between 1966 and 2010—25,000 companies from hundreds of industries over 45 years. It uncovered 344 companies that produced statistically exceptional results. Read the rest of this entry »