Profs: Most Admired Companies

Learn about Georgia State's Alok Saboo's perspective on most admired companies (MBA)

Georgia State’s Alok Saboo

Another feature of firms favored by up-and-coming business professors is an eye towards user experience. For example, Stanford’s Szu-chi Huang, an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford, commends Renova for surveying their customers and using those insights to make consumer interactions with their product —toilet paper — more positive than competitors. Sebastien Betermier, who teaches finance at McGill University, cites Dropbox for its “excellent user experience, which he describes as “intuitive, efficient, and exactly fits the need it was designed for.” At Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, Mohammad Saifur Rahman points to Google being an example of form and function producing an unintended result — and one that bedevils and eludes nearly ever marketer. “The versatility of its products and the way it ensures that users are happy to use the services has reached a point where they don’t worry about letting Google learn about them!”

When it comes to user experience, it is hard for most companies to compete with Disney, however. Its entertainment empire stretches from motion pictures to theme parks. While Disney success starts with imagination and design, its excellence is amplified by executing on a strategy that integrates several built-in synergies. That’s what it makes it the favorite company of Georgia State’s Alok Saboo, a former engineer who serves as an assistant professor of marketing at the school. “It is one of the few that has excelled in creating wonderful experiences for its customers over the last half a century,” he shares. “The Walt Disney Company is a master at both value creation (in terms of developing new characters) and appropriation (in terms of exploiting them through movies, merchandising, and theme parks).”

GOOGLE EXCELS AT CULTURE

Learn about NYU Stern's Nate Pettit and his perspective on the most admired companies (MBA)

NYU Stern’s Nate Pettit

This bias for continuous innovation and design excellence is rooted in perhaps the most critical and all-encompassing feature of any organization: culture.  In this area, Google is the undisputed leader among the’ 40 Under 40.’ Forget the free gourmet food and massages. Those are just the perks. Instead, Google is a place where the best minds collide, learn from each other, and work on future forward projects ranging from artificial intelligence to flying cars. As a result, Google has developed a culture that is, in the words of London Business School’s Alex Edmans, centered around “constant innovation, open-minded thinking, and the flexibility they give to their workers.” That has fostered an internal dynamic that is both deeply independent yet intimately collaborative. “Google is exceptional in empowering its employees and even customers to boost creativity,” adds Dong Liu, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, who further describes the firm as a “role model.”

In the end, it is perhaps those organizations that never lose sight of the fundamentals that business professors admire most. That is the case with Sebastian Schuh, an assistant professor of management at CEIBS, who lists the SAS Institute in North Carolina as a company that performs well across the dimensions he prizes. “I respect companies that manage to be successful over an extended period of time, he emphasizes. “And successful means financially sound, innovative, with satisfied customers, and engaged employees.”

In contrast, Nate Pettit, an assistant professor of management and organizations at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is careful not to tip his preferences. However, he is quite transparent about what he looks for in a successful organization. “I appreciate any organization that isn’t afraid of change and challenges the status quo, that pushes its employees to take responsible risks, and helps them learn through failure.” For Pettit, the true test for any company is whether its message matches its manners. “It’s easy to espouse these values, and I most admire the people and organizations that actually live them.”

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