From Data to Decisions: Lessons from Davos, 2012

We are at the beginning of the Big Data era, and there is widespread anticipation that this will be a huge benefit to companies. I’ve been attending the World Economic Forum in Davos and in my `Data to Decisions’ panel we heard CEOs tell how Big Data can reinvent everything from CRM to internal processes to product design.

We also heard that there are significant challenges in data sourcing, permission agreements, data quality and of course privacy concerns, as most Big Data is personal data about customers. Fortunately these challenges can be addressed by conventional business practices.

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Michael Grubb on FCC "bill shock" plan: It could deliver a new jolt to consumers

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Michael Grubb

The major cell phone companies recently bowed to pressure from consumer activists and the Obama Administration and agreed to warn users via text message when they are about to exceed the limits of their calling plans. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and President Obama himself hailed the agreement. Consumers Union Counsel Parul P. Desai said, “Ultimately, this is about helping people protect their pocketbooks, so we applaud the FCC and the industry for this effort to do right by consumers.”

But would this move to prevent “bill shock”—those big, unexpected charges on monthly bills— really make consumers better off?

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Duncan Simester on customer response: Why guess and get it wrong when you could do a little experimenting and get it right?

MIT Sloan Prof. Duncan Simester

The business pages are filled with examples of companies that have taken big hits to their brands because they’ve made marketing decisions that ran afoul of customer expectations. Take Netflix, and its aborted scheme to divide its streaming and DVD video offerings. Netflix could have avoided its embarrassing reversal if it had experimented on this decision before publically announcing the change.

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Lessons from the automotive world: Building trust to boost sales

Buying an automobile is probably the second largest purchase you’ll make after your home. Not only will you spend tens of thousands of dollars on it, but if you are like most people, you’ll live with it for a long time. Given what a major decision it is, one of the biggest factors when deciding which car to purchase is trust. If you don’t trust a particular company, you certainly aren’t going to invest the time and energy to evaluate its vehicles.

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Trying to solve Canada’s household credit crunch

The numbers are staggering: The average family debt in Canada has increased 78 percent over the last two decades, recently hitting $100,000 per family. In the third quarter of 2010, Canadians’ debt-to-disposable income ratio surpassed the US for the first time since the late 1990s. In my home country – I grew up just outside of Ottawa, Ontario – this is getting a lot of publicity (comparing ourselves to our American cousins is always a popular pastime).

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