Consulting Experience

Here is a sampling of our recent consulting experience:

Fortune 100 financial services company

We advised a large financial services company on the redesign of its corporate strategy and innovation processes. The core issue is that the company operates in mature markets, where incremental improvement will not deliver the growth that investors demand. Yet the company has trouble fostering truly innovative efforts, partly because they seem to be too small to merit much attention from senior management in their early stages. We helped the company understand how to foster its innovative ideas, from their inception all the way through to the point where they will be large businesses.

Fortune 500 financial services company

We helped a multibillion-dollar company assess the failure of a product that had been launched with great fanfare but failed to meet both management hopes and analyst expectations. The product was built around social media, and was intended to leverage existing capabilities while laying a platform for future opportunities. We talked to customers, analyzed dozens of competitors and potential competitors and laid out how the market will likely develop. Drawing on our own expertise and on interviews with technology leaders, we provided context for understanding how social media will evolve. We interviewed executives throughout the company, to make explicit the assumptions that were being made about the product launch. As a result, we helped our client see where it went wrong. Rather than doubling down on a failed bet, the client is pursuing alternative options in that space.

The Federal Communications Commission

We helped the Federal Communications Commission write the National Broadband Plan, which was submitted to Congress in March 2010. The plan taps into market forces to make access to the Internet ever faster, improving our nation’s competitiveness against other countries. The plan also ensures that all citizens will have access to broadband, which is becoming a necessity for daily life in the same way that the telephone did decades ago. The plan has been widely praised and has set in motion developments such as a major increase in the spectrum devoted to wireless broadband.

The Department of Energy

We assisted the Department of Energy in summarizing and telling the compelling story of how it invested more than $35 billion of Recovery Act funds in companies and projects that will make the nation less reliance on foreign oil while creating tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping the environment. The DOE investments will, for instance, lead to the spread of electric vehicles far sooner than most realize. In the process, U.S. car makers will have a chance to retake global leadership in this new generation of vehicles, based on American technology, and an entirely new industry may arise, manufacturing advanced batteries. The investments will also advance the Smart Grid, saving consumers billions of dollars and making the generation of electricity as much as 40% more efficient. The DOE investments will slash costs for solar by as much as 75%, making its use practical throughout the country. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the technology changes being fostered by the DOE could cut imports of foreign oil for transportation by six million barrels a day by 2030—which is the total amount that the nation currently imports.

Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid

We were part of a group that provided an independent review of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic games. The review, commissioned by the Chicago City Council, was to advise the council on whether it could afford to grant a blanket guarantee that the city would cover any financial issues that arose if the games were awarded to Chicago. (While the games would have been privately financed, the International Olympic Committee required a blanket financial guarantee from the host city.) The final report is available at the Civic Federation website.

Large ISP

We advised a large Internet service provider in a potential 2008 acquisition of AOL’s dial-up business.  Working directly with the chief operating officer, we identified red flags about problems that might occur when it came to retaining AOL customers, extracting economies of scale and merging back-office systems. In the end, the potential acquirer decided to pass—and is delighted it did.  It picked off many AOL customers without having to buy the business and deal with messy integration issues.

A major nonprofit

A nonprofit with an international reputation saw an important source of revenue drying up and worried that the problem would diminish its moral authority to speak on certain important issues. The nonprofit decided to augment its revenue by selling certain services. But leaders worried that they might make the same kinds of mistakes that for-profit companies make when they try to move into adjacent markets—mistakes that we describe at length in our book. So, the organization brought us in to facilitate a series of workshops with the leadership team. The workshops and our subsequent report brought to light a number of potential pitfalls, including the need for new skills, the need to minimize up-front costs and the need to stay flexible in a fast-changing market.

Executive Briefings

Here is a sampling of recent management workshops and industry conference presentations on topics related to our work: