Give federal workers a voice to break the impasse – Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From The Hill 

One of the most dismaying aspects of President Trump’s speech on Saturday was that he showed total disregard for the federal workers and contractors who are not getting paid even though some of them are required to work, others are not able to go to work and some are neither working nor will ever get paid for the time lost.

It is time for all federal workers and contractors, and indeed for the American public they serve, to stand up and say enough is enough: Stop holding these workers hostage to a political impasse that good faith negotiations could easily resolve.

Federal employees may need to raise their own voices to make this happen. They should demand an immediate end to the shutdown and perhaps tak a play from the Google employees’ playbook and call for a day of action if the shutdown continues.

Moreover, like the Google employees, federal workers should demand a seat at the table in negotiations over how to best solve our border security and immigration problems once and for all.

This would be consistent with a basic principle of employment relations we study and teach and that wise managers and labor leaders know and practice: Those closest to the problem know the most about what additional supports they need to do their jobs well.

So here is an outline of a proposal I would urge the federal workforce to make.

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Taking steps to reduce foreign social-media meddling in our elections – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From Huffington Post

One could almost pity the executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter as they were grilled on Capitol Hill earlier this week by senators upset about Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, via the posting of cleverly worded propaganda ads and messages on social-media sites.

After all, how do you detect – let alone stop – a small group of determined foreign nationals manipulating and taking advantage of what’s supposed to be open, free-flowing Internet platforms idealistically designed to allow billions of people across the globe to voice their thoughts on everything from world politics to the type off pigeons in Trafalgar Square?

Of course, the Facebook, Google and Twitter executives at the Senate hearing earlier this week bowed their heads, expressed remorse and vowed to do better in combating the threat of foreign interference in our democratic elections.

But the question is: Can they do better? Is it possible? Remember: Facebook alone acknowledges that it received only about $100,000 in paid ads by those it later learned were tied to various Russian groups, but those ads were still seen by about 10 million people, according to media reports.

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When selling virtual products abroad, don’t put prices on autopilot — Joey Conway and Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Assoc. Prof. Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Assoc. Prof. Catherine Tucker

From TechCrunch

If you have a physical product that you want to sell in more than one country, determining the price in different markets can be challenging. You might have to open an office in each country, or at least hire a consultant to assess local demand and analyze the competition.

But if you have a virtual product — say an app for a mobile phone — setting the price for it in different countries is easy. Using the individual exchange rate, the app store instantly will convert the price from your home country to any of the world’s many currencies.

This is, very likely, how prices are set for most smartphone applications sold in different countries. As developers prefer to spend time solving technical challenges, it is all too convenient to leave the responsibility of currency calculations and pricing to Apple or Google or some other virtual marketplace.

But is this the best approach when sellinginternationally? Is there a more profitable way to price virtual products sold in different currencies?

We explored these questions in an experiment that was both a real-world business trial and an academic exercise. We wanted to see whether we could boost revenue for a virtualproduct, Root Checker Pro, an app that helps Android users customize their phones. The app is sold through Google Play — the app store for Android devices — in more than 130 countries.

For our experiment, we selected six different currencies — Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, British pound, Mexican peso, Malaysian ringgit and Saudi riyal. Over six months, we charged various prices for the app in each of the currencies to see how sales and revenue would respond.

Read the full post at TechCrunch.

Joey Conway is creator and owner of Android app Root Checker Pro. He received his MBA from the Sloan School of Management in May 2015.

Catherine Tucker is a Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan.  She is also Chair of the MIT Sloan PhD Program.

How a technology-push process led to the reboot of Google Glass — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From Wired

Google Glass exploded into the tech scene in 2012 with the pomp and circumstance of an Apple product unveiling.  It put “wearable technology” into the lexicon of the masses.  Accolades poured in from both the technology world and the fashion world.  Celebrities, politicians, runway models, even Prince Charles wore them in public.  And yet, as of January 2015, Google Glass as we knew it was no more.

There are many great articles that explored what went wrong. I will not repeat the many excellent points made.  Instead, I would like to explore how Google approaches new technology development, and how that approach, together with the initial public relations hype and the lack of a killer app, ultimately led Google Glass down the path of a reboot.

GOOGLE AND THE TECHNOLOGY-PUSH APPROACH

First of all, Google is fundamentally a technology company, run by technocrats. They even make product manager candidates do whiteboard coding during job interviews.  Google does not define and develop products like Proctor and Gamble: through market pull and problem identification.  Instead, Google consistently pursues products as technology pushes.  This approach often results in solutions that are either in search of a problem, or solves a problem in a less-than-effective manner. Think about Google+,Google Wave, Google Health, or other former Google projects which were subsequently shelved.

A technology push process is not necessarily an invalid strategy for Google.  With an R&D spend of $2.18B in Q4 2014 alone, Google can afford to take large-scale risks.  So, they try many things – and some fail.  Project Glass’s first incarnation happened to be one of them.

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Google and the right to be forgotten — Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Assoc. Prof. Catherine Tucker

From Nikkei Business

The European Court of Justice’s ruling that Google must honor individuals’ requests to be removed from search results—the right to be forgotten, as it has come to be known—is a misguided attempt to address one of the more unfortunate aspects of the digital age.

Although digital technology has brought many wondrous advances, it also has spawned problems. Among the most serious is what I call digital persistence or the tendency of information in digital format to last for a very long time—regardless of its accuracy.

In the analog era, if a telephone directory listed a number incorrectly, the result would be missed calls and wrong numbers until a new directory was published a year later. But in the digital world, wrong information gets repeated again and again, often showing up long after the original mistake was made.

While digital technology can perpetuate the mistakes others make about us, it also has the same effect on the mistakes we make ourselves. For example, young people by nature do silly things. Sometimes they take digital photos of themselves doing these silly things. The pictures can resurface years or decades later, when the actions no longer seem so amusing.

An approach that addresses these problems by targeting Google is flawed in several respects. First, while Google may be a handy scapegoat, especially in Europe, the American search giant is far from the only source of digital data that threatens the right to be forgotten. Information persists also in government records, online newspapers, and social media, as well as other search engines. To rein in Google while leaving other major information sources unimpeded will have little effect on the overall problem.

Second, the European Court of Justice’s actions ignore the nature of search engines. They work so well because they are automated. The combination of sophisticated algorithms, high-speed networks, and the Internet’s vast stores of data is what produces Google’s instantaneous and usually on target results. Introduce humans into this formula via requests to be forgotten and Google’s performance will slow to a crawl.

A third problem with the ECJ’s approach is that the process of approving requests to be forgotten can have precisely the opposite effect of what the architects of the policy intended. When someone asks to be removed from search results—say, a politician concerned about rumors of an illicit affair—the request itself sparks interest. In the case of the politician combating damaging rumors, reports of a request to be forgotten prompt new speculation and more rumors, even if the politician isn’t mentioned by name.

Digital persistence unfortunately is a problem that will be with us for some time. There are no quick or easy answers. Aiming at one very big target may be a popular move, but it will not bring us any closer to resolution.

Catherine Tucker is the Mark Hyman Jr. Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School of Management.