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Cold Call

Cold Call distills Harvard Business School's legendary case studies into podcast form. Hosted by Brian Kenny, the podcast airs every two weeks and features Harvard Business School faculty discussing cases they've written and the lessons they impart.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Can the “Cummings Way” Live on After the Founder Retires?

After 50 years at the helm of Cummings Properties, billionaire and philanthropist Bill Cummings is winding down his roles at both the family business and foundation that he built. How should the management team move the company forward? Harvard Business School professor Christina Wing and protagonist Bill Cummings discuss the case, “Bill Cummings: The Cummings Way.”

30mins

26 May 2020

Rank #1

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IDEO Is Changing the Way Managers Think About Thinking

IDEO’s human-centered design thinking is a systematic process used to help create new products and services. And, the best part? They are open about the process and how to adopt it. Harvard Business School professor Ryan Buell explores this process through the example of Cineplanet, the leading movie cinema chain in Peru. The company hired IDEO to help them determine how to better align their operating model with the needs of its customers. Like Buell, this case, entitled “IDEO: Human-Centered Service Design,” may change the way you think about thinking.

18mins

3 Mar 2017

Rank #2

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Can Mark Zuckerberg Rebuild Trust in Facebook?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a “crucible moment,” a point in his life that would test him and potentially shape him as a leader, in March 2018 when it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica had accessed data from 87 million Facebook accounts. Harvard Business School professor, and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Bill George discusses his case, “Facebook Confronts a Crisis of Trust” — why Zuckerberg handled the crisis as he did, the importance of earning and keeping user trust, the role of companies in protecting privacy, and the pros and cons of regulation.

19mins

3 Apr 2019

Rank #3

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Pursuing Precision Medicine at Intermountain Healthcare

What happens when Intermountain Healthcare invests resources in an innovative precision medicine unit to provide life-extending, genetically targeted therapies to late-stage cancer patients? Harvard Business School professors Richard Hamermesh and Kathy Giusti discuss their case — entitled “Intermountain Healthcare: Pursuing Precision Medicine” — and its connections to their work with the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator.

26mins

26 Feb 2019

Rank #4

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How Chase Sapphire Made Credit Cool for Millennials

The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card was one of the hottest product launches in 2016 enthusiastically received by millennial consumers, a group that had previously eluded JPMorgan Chase and its competitors. Harvard Business School professor Shelle Santana discusses her case, “Chase Sapphire: Creating a Millennial Cult Brand” — how protagonists Pam Codispoti and Eileen Serra shifted their focus to retaining customers attracted by the one-time signup bonus of 100,000 reward points and on acquiring new customers now that the bonus had been reduced.

19mins

13 Jun 2018

Rank #5

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Can Khan Academy Scale to Educate Anyone, Anywhere?

Khan Academy is an online global education nonprofit launched in 2006 by Sal Khan with the mission to “provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” After a dozen years, expansion into 40 class subjects, and more than 15 million monthly visitors from 190 countries, Ginny Lee (formerly of Intuit), joins the company to help balance Sal Khan’s aspirational vision with the company’s short-term need for greater focus and prioritization. Harvard Business School professor Bill Sahlman discusses collaboration, balance, and tradeoffs in his case, “Khan Academy 2018.”

29mins

18 Jun 2019

Rank #6

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Can Miguel McKelvey Build the “Culture Operating System” at WeWork?

How deeply does the culture of a startup matter? Can it be shaped? Harvard Business School professor Jeffrey Rayport discusses his case “WeWork” regarding cofounder Miguel McKelvey’s innovative role in building a company culture to support rapid growth.

26mins

9 Jan 2019

Rank #7

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Does Le Pliage Help or Hurt the Longchamp Luxury Brand?

Longchamp’s Le Pliage is one of the fashion world’s most successful products, a cultural icon across the globe. But managing the low priced, nylon handbag is challenging as Longchamp tries to move its brand upmarket into higher priced, luxury leather goods. Harvard Business School professor Jill Avery discusses her case, “Longchamp” regarding the balancing act of cherishing the heritage of an established brand against the need to look forward and grow in the face of a rapidly changing industry.

18mins

22 Aug 2017

Rank #8

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How Wayfair Built a Furniture Brand from Scratch

Wayfair has been around since the early days of ecommerce. But where it now exists as a single, popular brand, it was once an unaffiliated collection of 240 websites selling very different things. Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira takes listeners on a journey through the rise of internet sales and search engine marketing, and into the minds of the company’s executives as they built an online furniture giant from scratch. Teixeira is the author of the case entitled “Building an e-Commerce Brand at Wayfair.”

22mins

7 Dec 2016

Rank #9

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Would You Live in a Smart City Where Government Controls Privacy?

Toronto is experimenting with smart city concepts envisioned by Google spin-off Sidewalk Labs. Harvard Business School professors Leslie John and Mitch Weiss discuss the tradeoffs of using technology to improve modern city life at potential costs to digital privacy from their case, “Sidewalk Labs: Privacy in a City Built from the Internet Up.” Is it worth it?

24mins

16 Apr 2019

Rank #10

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How to Monetize Happiness

Inspired by research linking happiness and productivity, the Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi Ltd, invested in developing “people analytics” technologies like high-tech badges (so-called “happiness sensors”) to help companies monitor and increase employee happiness. Harvard Business School professor Ethan Bernstein discusses his case entitled “Sensing (and Monetizing) Happiness at Hitachi” — how to find the right business model — as well as the ethics of collecting and sharing employee happiness data and whether a happier workplace is truly a more productive one.

14mins

3 Jan 2018

Rank #11

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Making the Case for a New Kind of Classroom

There are no grade levels, no official start times, and teachers get stock options. Is AltSchool the school of the future? Harvard Business School professor John Kim discusses his case entitled “AltSchool: School Reimagined.”

9mins

19 Sep 2016

Rank #12

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The Controversial History of United Fruit

Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey Jones, an expert in business history, discusses the overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954 in a U.S.-backed coup in support of the United Fruit Co. (now Chiquita Brands International). Jones examines the impact and role of the company in the Guatemalan economy in his case, “The Octopus and the Generals: The United Fruit Company in Guatemala” (co-author: Marcelo Bucheli).

20mins

2 Jul 2019

Rank #13

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Leading Your Team to the Top of Mt. Everest

What does it take to successfully lead a team to the top of the highest peak in the world? First-year students find out as they participate together in, “Everest: A Leadership and Team Simulation.” Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson talks about the choice to use Mt. Everest as the backdrop for this academic exercise, designing the simulation, and what students learn about teamwork along their way “up the mountain.”

10mins

2 May 2017

Rank #14

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Black Business Leaders Series: John Rogers and the Importance of Hiring Minority-Owned Services Firms

The African American CEO of a money management firm publicly criticizes the Fortune 500 for paying lip service to diversity. His board urges him to stop. What should he do? Harvard Business School professor Steven Rogers and protagonist John Rogers discuss Rogers’ new case, “John Rogers Jr. — Ariel Investments,” about the risks of speaking up, and the importance of black empowerment in the investment sector.

22mins

13 Feb 2018

Rank #15

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Why JPMorgan Chase is Investing Millions in Detroit

JPMorgan Chase is working with local economic- and workforce-development organizations, small businesses, philanthropies, and the mayor. The goal? To put in place a series of investments to help turn around the struggling city. Harvard Business School professor Joseph Bower and JPMorgan’s head of corporate responsibility, Peter Scher, discuss why businesses should create philanthropic programs of their own. Bower is the author of the case study, “JPMorgan Chase: Invested in Detroit.”

16mins

25 Apr 2018

Rank #16

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The Transformation of Microsoft

In early 2015, Amy Hood, CFO of Microsoft, and the rest of the senior leadership team faced a set of fundamental choices. The firm had opportunities to serve customers in ways that would be associated with higher growth but lower margin. Harvard Business School professor Fritz Foley discusses his case entitled “The Transformation of Microsoft” — how leaders faced these difficult decisions, and worked to get investors and employees on board.

18mins

10 Jul 2018

Rank #17

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In the Platform Economy, Upwork Searches for Better Matches in the Cloud

Stephane Kasriel, the CEO of Upwork, the leading platform for freelance labor, considers different pricing solutions and ways to improve the matching process as part of a business model redesign. Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie discusses his case, “Upwork: Creating the Human Cloud” and is joined by Michael Cusumano of MIT Sloan School. Along with Annabelle Gawer, they co-authored the book, The Business of Platforms: Strategy in the Age of Digital Competition, Innovation, and Power.

48mins

25 Jun 2019

Rank #18

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Faber-Castell Doubles Down on the Pencil

Faber-Castell is a 255-year-old company that makes pencils. How does an established company like this think about innovation, particularly if and when to adopt a new technology? Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli’s research looks at established companies that produce beloved products and how they manage technological shifts in their industry and in the world. This case — entitled “Faber-Castell” — explores Faber-Castell’s “companion for life” strategy and its bet to double down on the pencil.

15mins

5 Sep 2017

Rank #19

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Israel Turns 70: Does It Need a Rebrand?

Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary in May of 2018, but its brand image internationally was less than ideal. Market research revealed that many people associated Israel only with military conflict. Harvard Business School professor Elie Ofek discusses efforts to rebrand the country, and whether these efforts to shift perceptions are starting to show success, in his case: “Israel at 70: Is it Possible to (re)Brand a Country?”

28mins

4 Jun 2019

Rank #20