This week start here:

Spend a few minutes with Kris Johnson Ferreira’s research on predicting demand and pricing for as-yet unreleased products (40 min). In it, she outlines a combination of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics prototyped in field tests with flash retailer Rue La La. From an HBS Working Knowledge piece on the research (5 min):

The researchers used machine learning techniques to estimate historical lost sales (demand of products that had sold out) and predict demand for new products that Rue La La was planning to sell in the future. As a part of the analysis, they realized that the demand for any given item depended on the price of the other items in that product’s category. Because of this, the researchers then developed an efficient multi-product price optimization algorithm to concurrently recommend prices for all products on Rue La La’s site in a given day.

Moreover:

The researchers showed that Rue La La could increase revenue of products in the experiment by approximately 9.7 percent through price changes recommended by the algorithm, with minimal impact on aggregate sales quantity.

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Take a good long look at Reality Editor (4 min) from the MIT Media Lab — something like IFTTT for the physical world. Think of it as a prototype for the kinds of interactions we’ll be taking for granted a decade from now.

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Speaking of what the future looks like — or, at least, used to — Kevin Kelly and Benedict Evans had a terrific exchange (3 min) last week on the inventions we once thought we’d see (and when we’d see them). Absolutely fascinating.

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On the other end of the spectrum: a learning AI to manage Tinder interactions (1 min).

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From Nathan Heller’s fantastic article on generation-z and its fascination with founders (6 min), this:

What’s most notable is not that this generation favored “founders” but that they did so at the tender age of fourteen. How frightened of these young people should we be?

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From an equally compelling piece in the New York Times on brands going to great lengths to connect with customers (4 min), this:

A number of companies stop trying to be businesses and start trying to be friends. But friends have obligations that businesses don’t.

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The economist Elinor Ostrom has published a really thoughtful set of principles that attempt to confront the ‘tragedy of the commons’. Her eight principles for community ownership of resources (5 min) is delightfully succinct and elegant.

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From collective ownership to collective negotiation, prepare to begin hearing a lot about ‘indaba’ (4 min).

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It’s not just you: the data says we all scramble to find last minute gifts for our significant others (1 min).

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Not surprising, but still painful: a new report from the Center for Food Integrity suggests essentially says that the bigger the brand, the less we trust it:

People believe that big is bad. There’s an inverse relationship between the size of an organization and the perception of shared values. Our qualitative and quantitative research shows that the larger the organization / company / farm, consumers are more likely to believe that it will put profit ahead of principle—that it will put its own interests above consumer interests every time.

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You should absolutely read McKinsey’s interview with Facebook’s global Head of Travel Strategy, Lee McCabe (9 min). It’s a fascinating look into how the travel business is changing (and rapidly). This is a staggering observation:

You can order takeout from a local restaurant instead of ordering room service or use your ClassPass to find a great gym a block away instead of relying on the two or three treadmills offered by the hotel. You can send your laundry and dry cleaning outside the hotel, too. So really, all the hotel is left with is Wi-Fi, a bed, and a bath. All I want is a great room in a great location. For everything else, I can still get four- or five-star service, but I get it by using apps on my smartphone.

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Jeff Sauro’s written a pretty great guide to understanding user task completion rates (8 min). Bookmark it, and read later if you must.

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Two ways to improve your consulting-y bona fides: McKinsey’s outstanding brief on organizational agility and the traits that best support it (10 min) and Boston Consulting Group’s key takeaways from the European Lean Summit (6 min). You’ll do no wrong with either (though the former is considerably more pointed).

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Finally, Nick Bilton tackles the phenomenon by which more than 1 in 3 Americans age 18-29 go online ‘almost constantly’ (3 min). That drops to a mere 1 in 5 when you take the full population into account. Sleep well.

Until next week.