BUS 497A: Strategic Management

Selected Case Questions

Case 5: Home Video Game Industry

1. How did Nintendo successfully recreate the home videogame business following the Atari-era boom and bust?

2. How was Nintendo able to capture value from the home videogame business?

3. How was Sega able to gain market share from Nintendo?

4. Evaluate the competitive strategy of 3DO? What flaws can you see in 3DO’s approach?

5. How come the Sony Play Station has succeeded where 3DO failed?

6. What drove Microsoft’s decision to enter the industry with its X-box offering?

7. What lessons can be learnt from the history of the home videogame industry that have been used to help launch the Sony PlayStation II and Microsoft’s X-Box? Do Microsoft and Sony appear to have learned and applied these lessons?


Case 6: Google

1. Analyze the competitive structure of the market for search-based advertising. What are the implications of this structure for the long-run profitability of players in the market?

2. Why did entrepreneurial startups, as opposed to established enterprises, pioneer the paid search market?

3. What explains Google’s success in the paid search marketplace? How sustainable is its competitive advantage? Is the competitive advantage geared toward cost or differentiation? Or both?

4. To what extent is Google’s competitive advantage sustainable?

5. Does the pay-per-click business model pioneered by GoTo.com and Google constitute a paradigm shift? How? What are the implications for other enterprises?

6. What should be the role of Google’s CEO (the strategic manager) at this stage?



Case 8: Amazon.com

1. Analyze the competitive structure of the market for online retailing. What are the implications of this structure for the long-run profitability of players in the market?

2. How does Amazon differentiate its product in the marketplace? Which of these features are imitable?

3. To what extent is Amazon’s competitive advantage sustainable?

4. What are the competencies that Amazon has acquired via its pioneering activities, and is there any business value in these competencies?


Case 9: eBay

1. Analyze the competitive structure of the market for online retailing. What are the implications of this structure for the long-run profitability of players in the market?

2. How is eBay’s business model different from that of its competitors?

3. How is eBay leveraging its auctions-based business model into new businesses?

4. To what extent is eBay’s competitive advantage sustainable?


Case 17: Cola Wars

1. What is the overall economics of the industry? How is the value created by the industry distributed across different parts of the industry?

2. Why isn’t there a winner-take-all mentality between Coke and Pepsi?

3. Who has been losing the cola wars?

4. Coke and Pepsi have created a very profitable industry that has lasted more than a century. What are the likely challenges to the stability of the industry structure in the coming decade? What are the potential drivers of structural change?

5. Will Coke and Pepsi be able to repeat their success with CSD in the water segment, or will a new competitive dynamic emerge?


Case 18: Staples

1.      How would you characterize the office supplies industry in 1985?

2.      What changes were taking place in the retail industry at this time?

3.      What was Staples’ target market? Who else was supplying this market?

4.      What was the basic value proposition and business model of the start-up? What was required to turn that value proposition into a reality? What was the potential source of economic returns that exceeded the cost of capital?

5.      Why was Staples able to raise significant venture capital funds for what was, after all, nothing more than a concept?

6.      What were the managerial and organizational challenges facing the startup? How were these challenges dealt with?

7.      How important were the information systems to the successful execution of the Staples concept?

8.      The Staples concept was quickly imitated, but ultimately, the company emerged from the pack of competitors to become an industry leader. Why?

9.      Does the expansion of Staples into the delivery business make strategic and economic sense?


Case 19: Whole Foods Market

1. What are WF’s distinctive competencies? What are some of the challenges in maintaining these competencies?

2. How has the natural foods industry changed since WF pioneered it?

3. What are the risks to WF’s business model?

4. Outside of acquiring some competitors, what are some other options that WF can pursue to grow faster than the industry?


Case 28: 3M in 2006

1. What are the roots of 3M’s culture of entrepreneurship and innovation? What were the key tenets of this culture as they emerged over time?

2. How has the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation nurtured at 3M from the era of McKnight through to that of DeSimone? How has entrepreneurship been institutionalized within the company?

3. What were the strengths of the organization and culture of 3M during the McKnight to DeSimone era? What were the potential weaknesses?

4. The expansion of 3M into international markets was highly successful. What explains this?

5. What was the drawback with 3M’s international expansion strategy?

6. By the 1990s 3M was starting to develop some problems. What were the causes of these problems?

7. Why did 3M’s board hire an outsider, McNerney, to run 3M after DeSimone. What is McNerney trying to do at 3M? What are the pros and cons of his approach?


Case 29: GE’s Growth Strategy

1.      In 2006, how well is GE doing? What are GE’s distinctive parenting advantages?

2.      2. What are some areas of vulnerability for GE?

3.      3. How did Immelt’s leadership style contribute to his new strategy for GE?