Can the choice of phone bias "big data"?

Much has been said about how Big Data can improve how businesses conduct their operations. The premise is that it improves efficiency and helps managers make better decisions. While I agree with this general assessment, big data can be a double-edged sword. It helps on one hand; but also raises issues on privacy, discrimination and bias on the other. In this post, I give an example of how the choice of the device collecting the data (your phone) can bias big data.

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Taking Stock of Carbon Footprints: A Visual Journey

President Obama, on June 25th, laying out America’s climate policy for the future said: “So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.”

This post is about taking stock of carbon footprint of things big and small – countries, cities, industrial sectors, firms, products, and supply chains. Through an interactive visual, you can get a sense of carbon footprints of things big or small.


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A Day in the Life: JantaKhoj's Tarun Bangari

Tarun Bangari is Founder & CEO, JantaKhoj InfoServices Pvt Ltd.  JantaKhoj (translates to “people search” in Hindi) provides the first and the largest people search portal in India, offering people search and background check services to businesses and individuals. He talks about how JantaKhoj got started, challenges he faces, and his typical workday.

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In Conversation: Human Genome Sciences' H. Thomas Watkins

H. Thomas Watkins is the CEO of Human Genome Sciences Inc. HGS exists to place new therapies into the hands of those battling serious disease. On March 9, 2011, the FDA approved BENLYSTA, a specialized drug to treat Lupus.

He talks about leadership and operational challenges of becoming a fully commercial biopharmaceutical company.

Read and Enjoy!

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Does Filling up a Plane make the Airline Money?

I recently flew Southwest from Baltimore to LaGuardia to meet up with a few friends in Queens, NY (the little less than the $100 for a one-way fare was cheaper, and the 40-minute flight faster than the Acela). The flight was barely half full. I was convinced Southwest was losing money on this flight especially with the cabin seemingly full of tourists likely paying “web only” $100 fares like myself. Really? What my research uncovered surprised me. How much does it cost the world’s major airlines to fly a passenger a mile? How much money do they make from that passenger? How full are their planes? Read on…

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The iPhone 4 Supply Chain

Next time you check email or browse your Facebook page on your iPhone 4, think about this: a symphony of hundreds of parts designed by a multitude of companies from three continents has made it happen.

This post follows the iPhone 4’s supply chain – its part suppliers, fabrication, and assembly. I have included an interactive graphic you can explore and learn more about how your iPhone 4 comes together. Enjoy!

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Does (Retail) Size Matter? $/sq. ft. of Mall Stores

I recently took my daughter to a birthday party at a local mall. Having a couple of hours to kill, I headed to the cramped and crowded Apple Store to checkout the new MacBook Air. After succumbing to the allure of the iPod Touch and a quick coffee stop at Barnes and Noble’s Café, I settled in a comfortable sofa, like many others waiting, listening to the live piano music at the bright and airy Nordstrom that anchors the mall. I could not help wonder that this comfortable space sandwiched between Women’s Shoes and the Make up counters was a lot larger than the Apple store. How large the stores in the mall are and how effectively they use their space? Read on…do the results surprise you?

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A Day in the Life: Pearbudget's Charlie Park

Charlie Park is the founder of two internet startups. One ( is a personal finance web application (see it featured on CBS "The Early Show"). The other ( is still-in-beta-testing, a web application focused on attention management — he describes it as “Ritalin for your computer.” He didn’t set out to be a business entrepreneur when he got his B.A. from William and Mary in 2001. Today he discusses how he got where he is, what has contributed to his success, and what a typical work day is like.

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How Much is a Frequent Flyer Worth?

I recently watched “Up in the Air” and could not help but marvel at Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney’s character) perks as an elite frequent flyer on American Airlines. Out come the Champagne and a visit from the airline’s chief pilot on crossing 10 million miles. While Hollywood has taken its usual liberties with Ryan Bingham, airlines do coddle their most frequent flyers. Dedicated phone numbers, private check-ins, and birthday cakes on the road are all part of the package; in addition to the usual upgrades, lounge access, and priority boarding. Made me wonder why the airlines go through the trouble – its a few passengers after all. It is really worth, for example, holding a 747 an hour for a Bingham-like passenger to make the connection? What is a frequent flyer loyalty worth to an airline?

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5 Products, 5 Supply Chains, 5 Carbon Footprints

Individuals, corporations, even governments have adopted carbon emissions as an indicator of our impact on the environment. As part of the Earth Day 2010 series of articles, this article will explore the “carbon footprints” of 5 common products: Tropicana Orange juice, a Big Mac, iPhone 3GS, Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, and Nika Bottled water.

A carbon footprint of a product measures the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that it produces from “cradle to grave.” This typically includes the amount of CO2 produced in the extended supply chain: from the extraction of raw material, to the manufacture, transport, and use of the product; ending eventually in the disposal and recovery of the product. Read, share, and enjoy (and yes, next time you buy something, take a look at its carbon footprint).

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In Conversation: Smith Barney's James W. Brinkley

In this edition of the Thought Leadership Project, I talk to James W. Brinkley, who is the Vice-Chairman of Smith Barney's Global Private Client Group following Citigroup Inc.'s acquisition of Legg Mason Wood Walker, Incorporated (LMWW). He was previously CEO of LMWW.

He talks about leadership, operational challenges, and gives advice to graduating MBAs. As a professor, I could not resist giving him a quiz: I asked him “Say you were to write a letter to Alexander Hamilton explaining the current state of the financial industry, what will you write about?” Go on, read his wonderful response.

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In Conversation: Saatchi & Saatchi's Bob Seelert

In this edition of the Thought Leadership Project, I talk to Bob Seelert, who for the last 12 years has been the Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world’s leading creative ideas companies. His journey from small-town Connecticut to being CEO of five companies in three different industries, and a member of the board of directors of nine companies in the United States, England and France, reads like a script for “The Great American Success Story.”

He talks about leadership, the importance of excellence in execution, and his favorite brand.

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In Conversation: United Company's James W. McGlothlin

In this edition of the Thought Leadership project, I talk to James W. McGlothlin, the Chairman and CEO of the United Company. The United Company is a diversified business with interests in coal, golf courses, real estate developments, mine mill industrial support companies, pharmaceutical manufacturing businesses, electric furnace steel operations located throughout the U.S. as well as other interests in several miscellaneous companies.

In April 2009 Metinvest acquired The United Coal Company (one of United Company's subsidiaries) for approximately $1 billion.

He gives his insight on leadership, advice to the entrepreneur, and, as a veteran of the coal industry, his ideas on the US energy policy.

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In Conversation: ProLogis' K. Dane Brooksher

In this edition of the Thought Leadership Project, I talk to K. Dane Brooksher who recently retired as the CEO and Chairman of Prologis. ProLogis is a leading global provider of distribution facilities, with more than 475 million square feet of industrial space in markets all across North America, Europe and Asia. He talks about leadership, challenges of growing and going global, operations and sustainability.

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A Day in the life: Steve W. Nerheim Jr.

Steve Nerheim is the First Vice-President of a Financial Services Company. A recent graduate of the Executive MBA program of the Mason School at The College at William and Mary, he talks about his job, his typical day, and how he uses some of the operations tools he learned in school. This is the first in a series called the "Day in the Life" where senior managers let us in on their typical day.

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LifeNet Health: From Death, Hope.

You are 40-something and just completed an Ironman. Good for you. Bad for you, you just damaged your ACL and your surgeon recommends reconstructive surgery. Thanks to LifeNet Health, a leading provider of organ and tissue transplantation located in Virginia Beach, VA, your surgeon can have the necessary tissues available for surgery so you can move on with your life. With more than 6000 lives saved and 1.8 million healed, LifeNet Health is literally as their mission statement says “saving lives, restoring health.”

This article describes LifeNet Helath’s operations. Featured are also interviews with Dick Trowbridge, Vice President of Production and Logistics; Michael Poole, Director of Tissue Operations; and Nancy D’Amico, Supply Chain Manager. This new section of Operations Buzz called “Field Notes” will feature detailed descriptions of business operations from a variety of industries.

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In Conversation: LeggMason's Raymond A. "Chip" Mason

It gives me great pleasure to launch Operations Buzz with a short interview with Raymond A. “Chip” Mason. This interview is first in a series of what I call the “Thought Leadership Project.” The Thought-Leadership project is a conversation with business leaders on what it takes to operate smart and sustainable companies. Some of the questions are on leadership, the business environment, the challenges of running large organizations; and others explore the lighter side of the person that runs the organization. The goal is to explore leadership and its relationship to running smart & sustainable operations from multiple perspectives.

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