Archive for February, 2011
| Peter Klein |
Congratulations to O&M friend Joe Mahoney for winning the Irwin Outstanding Educator Award for 2011. The Irwin Award is issued each year by the Business Policy and Strategy Division of the Academy of Management to someone who “(1) has demonstrated outstanding teaching capabilities in business strategy over an extended period of time and the ability to enable future strategy scholars to contribute original research as well as teaching effectively; (2) has had an important impact on strategy pedagogy through demonstrated expertise; and (3) cares deeply about the subject of Strategic Management and the development of his or her students.”
Joe has been my friend and colleague for several years and it’s great to see him join such luminaries as Michael Porter, Mike Hitt, Don Hambrick, Jay Barney, Kathy Eisenhardt, Pankaj Ghemawat, Will Mitchell, and Anita McGahan on the list of Irwin winners.
| Peter Klein |
Sometimes, according to Yi Qian in a new NBER Working Paper, “Counterfeiters: Foes or Friends?” In some cases, counterfeiting constitutes advertising that increases sales of the original product. It makes sense; how many buyers of faux Rolex watches or Gucci purses would have bought the authentic items if the fakes were banned? I suppose there’s a negative externality (more fakes means less exclusivity means a lower equilibrium price) that must be taken into account as well. An interesting analysis, in any case. Applications to digital media are left as an exercise for the reader.
Counterfeiters: Foes or Friends?
NBER Working Paper No. 16785
Issued in February 2011
This paper combines a natural policy experiment and randomized lab experiments to estimate the differential impacts of counterfeiting on the sales and purchase intent of branded products of various quality levels. I collect new product-line level panel data from Chinese shoe companies from 1993-2004. Exploiting the discontinuity of government enforcement efforts for the footwear sector in 1995 and the differences in authentic companies’ relationships with the government, I identify heterogeneous effects of counterfeit entry on sales of authentic products of three quality tiers. In particular, counterfeits have both advertising effects for the brand and substitution effects for authentic products. The advertising effect dominates substitution effect for high-end authentic product sales, and the substitution effect outweighs advertising effect for low-end product sales. The positive effect of counterfeits is most pronounced for the high-fashion products (such as women’s high-leg boots) and for the high-end shoes of the brands that were not yet well-known at the time of the entry by counterfeiters. I provide a theoretical framework to generalize such impacts due to counterfeits. Analogous heterogeneous effects of counterfeiting on consumer purchase intent for branded products of three quality tiers are also discovered in lab experiments. Responses in the lab allude to the fact that counterfeits could increase brand awareness as well as steal business.
| Peter Klein |
A film blog I follow, the Mubi Daily Notebook (formerly called The Auteurs Notebook) runs a regular feature called “The Forgotten,” showcasing obscure but important older titles. I propose doing the same thing here. Our first entry is a 1979 article by Dolores Tremewan Martin, “Alternative Views of Mengerian Entrepreneurship” (History of Political Economy 11, no. 2). Martin provides an excellent summary and critique of Menger’s subtle approach to the entrepreneur, one largely ignored in the current entrepreneurship literature, even among Austrian economists. Contrasting Schumpeterian and Knightian views on entrepreneurship, Martin argues that Menger’s position is close to Knight’s (and, hence, that Knight is much closer to the Austrian school than is generally recognized).
As Martin points out, Menger’s entrepreneur (Unternehmer) is a resource-owning, information-acquiring coordinator seeking to acquire and combine undervalued assets (using an “input-computing capacity”). Entrepreneurial activity is scarce, in that it is associated with ownership of scarce capital, but also “unique in that, unlike other goods of higher order, it is not intended for exchange and therefore does not command a price.” There are important differences bewteen Menger and Knight concerning types of uncertainty and the effect of uncertainty on profit. Still:
Menger does not treat the entrepreneur as being the “innovator,” “mover,” or “force of change.” Menger places stress on the entrepreneurial function and the role of uncertainty, not innovation, as giving rise to the possibility for rewards. As Schumpeter [the historian of economic thought] suggests, the economic process viewed by Carl Menger is essentially similar to that of Frank Knight. . . . For Menger (as for Knight) the entrepreneurial activity consists of a more correct — “more rational” — evaluation of goods of higher order. This view contrasts with Schumpeter’s personification of the entrepreneur as the hero of the capitalist drama.
| Peter Klein |
Note that the chart nicely illustrates not only the competition among formats, but the industry’s overall decline. Indeed, “creative destruction” is a good name for the the damage done to the creative arts by the recording industry’s approach to digital media.
| Dick Langlois |
Judge Douglas Ginsburg will be presenting a paper (written with Josh Wright) called “Behavioral Law and Economics: Its Origins, Fatal Flaws, and Implications for Liberty” at Columbia next week. I am on the mailing list for the Law and Economics Workshop at Columbia, so I received a copy of the paper as an email attachment; but the email specifically requests that the paper not be forwarded, so I won’t make it available here. I imagine Josh will post it eventually. But if you’re in NYC, you can hear the paper presented on Friday, February 25, 11:30am-1:00pm, in the Levien Room (Warren Hall, W. 116th near Morningside, across from the main law school building, 10th Floor).
| Peter Klein |
Just to show that econometric models apply anywhere and everywhere, check out this new Barro paper (via Danny Sokol):
Saints Marching In, 1590-2009
Robert J. Barro, Rachel M. McCleary
NBER Working Paper No. 16769
The Catholic Church has been making saints for centuries, typically in a two-stage process featuring beatification and canonization. We analyze determinants of rates of beatification and canonization (for non-martyrs) over time and across six world regions. The research uses a recently assembled data set on numbers and characteristics of beatifieds and saints chosen since 1590. We classify these blessed persons regionally in accordance with residence at death. These data are combined with time-series estimates of regional populations of Catholics, broadly-defined Protestants, Orthodox, and Evangelicals (mostly a sub-set of Protestants). Regression estimates indicate that the canonization rate depends strongly on the number of candidates, gauged by a region’s stock of beatifieds who have not yet been canonized. The beatification rate depends positively on the region’s stock of persons previously canonized. The last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI (the only non-Italians in our sample), are outliers, choosing blessed persons at a much higher rate than that of their predecessors. Since around 1900, the naming of blessed persons seems to reflect a response by the Catholic Church to competition from Protestantism or Evangelicalism. We find no evidence, at least since 1590, of competition between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
| Peter Klein |
Check out the syllabus and join the discussion at ThinkMarkets. I appreciate boat-rocking as much as anyone but am personally in what Mario terms (in his syllabus) the “classical” camp. Still, this is a course I would definitely take. If he’s an easy grader.
| Dick Langlois |
Haven’t read this yet, but it looks interesting. Note also the futuristic publication date.
On the Origins of Vertical Unbundling: The Case of the French Transportation Industry in the 19th Century
European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2013
The paper retraces the origins of the unbundling of infrastructure, which is a monopoly, from services, which are subject to competition. Using the case of the railroad industry in France, I examine how both natural monopoly theorists and legislation dealt with this subject in the 19th century. I argue that the origins of vertical unbundling date to this period with legislation pertaining to inland waterways and railroads. This was particularly the case for the railroad industry due to pricing and competition rationales. I analyze the writings of Dupuit and Walras and show that they both agreed that infrastructure and services had to be unbundled for the inland waterways. In contrast, they expressed different justifications to defend the monopoly for the railroad industry. Following a chronological progression, the first section explores the origins of unbundling in legislation. The second section analyzes how theorists approached the way railroads had to be managed. Throughout, I highlight the interplay between their work and legislation.
| Lasse Lien |
From the British Journal of Management I got this abstract.
The Sublime Object of Desire (for Knowledge): Sexuality at Work in Business and Management Schools in England
This paper explores why and how sexuality intertwines with gender in the organizational context of academic institutions. Drawing on insights from the work of psychoanalyst post-structuralist feminists Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva, we explore the institutionalized abjection of the real and imagined (woman’s) body as the root cause of her relative exclusion from knowledge (creation) and her subordinate position in it. The project is analytical as well as political: it both unravels and opposes the ways gender is superimposed on sexuality and how we as academics might collude, legitimize and perpetuate and gendered sexualized (and therefore exclusionary) ways of organizing in/of society. The findings of an empirical study of a sample of women academics in management and business schools in England are discussed in the light of the proposed theory.
I am not sure I fully get this, but my hunch is that I am guilty and should try to improve — but what, specifically, should I do?
| Peter Klein |
A few years ago Mike Sykuta and I met with Ronald Coase to discuss ways to add contract documents to the CORI library. Limited contract data from secondary sources, like large-company public filings, are readily available, but how to get a larger variety of contract types, such as the long-term supply agreements of particular interest to Coase? Firms are naturally reluctant to make these available to researchers. Coase’s suggestion was to pursue obsolete contracts from company archives. Old contracts, after all, should be as good as current ones for examining hypotheses about contract design and performance, and firms presumably don’t care if they’re made public.
A recent HBR article implores companies to make use of archived datasets, and the advice applies to academic researchers as well. “For example, a retailer that has kept and labeled its old POS data could now subject it to today’s sophisticated analytical techniques, gaining a valuable understanding of long-term consumer trends.” Likewise, revisiting old data with new and better econometrics, more careful attention to research design (e.g., identification), and sharper hypotheses could generate some interesting findings.
In strategy and entrepreneurship research, everybody wants to study the same stuff: pharma and biotech patenting, R&D alliances, technology IPOs, etc. On the margin, a clever study of an old industry, old data, an old problem, could create a lot of value.
| Peter Klein |
According to the current issue of Managerial and Decision Economics, women free ride more than men:
An Experimental Test of Behavior under Team Production
Donald Vandegrift and Abdullah Yavas
This study reports experiments that examine behavior under team production and a piece rate. In the experiments, participants complete a forecasting task and are rewarded based on the accuracy of their forecasts. In the piece-rate condition, participants are paid based on their own performance, whereas the team-production condition rewards participants based on the average performance of the team. Overall, there is no statistically significant difference in performance between the conditions. However, this result masks important differences in the behavior of men and women across the conditions. Men in the team-production condition increase their performance relative to men in the piece-rate condition. However, this gap in male performances across conditions diminishes over the course of the experiment. In contrast, women in the team-production condition show significantly lower performance than the women in the piece rate. As a consequence of these differences, men in the team-production condition show significantly better performance than women in the team-production condition. We also find evidence that men show stronger performance when they are in teams with a larger variation in skill level.
I’m trying to derive implications for firm performance in light of Alchian and Demsetz (1972). But come on, give me the Go-Gos or Bangles over Backstreet Boys or Jonas Brothers any day.
| Peter Klein |
Here is my good friend and colleague Anita McGahan, Professor and Rotman Chair in Management and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School, speaking at a recent TEDx event on the role business schools can play in making the world a better place. Anita is not only a gifted speaker and teacher, and a highly accomplished researcher, but also one of the most thoughtful people in the profession, emphasizing Big Problems as well as the more narrow, technical issues favored by the strategic management literature. Check her out!
| Peter Klein |
Kenneth Olsen, former head of computer-industry pioneer Digital Equipment Corporation, died over the weekend. DEC was probably the most important “minicomputer” firm of the 1970s and 1980s, one that failed to make the transition to the PC era and dropped out of sight. (DEC plays a major role in Tracy Kidder’s 1981 Pulitzer-winning book Soul of a New Machine – a book I read just this last year and which, despite the now-obsolete subject matter, feels surprisingly fresh. DEC was the dominant incumbent and foil to Kidder’s protagonist firm, Data General.)
Despite his many accomplishments — a 1986 Fortune article called him “America’s most successful entrepreneur” — Olsen is remembered today mostly for saying, in 1977, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” This is usually taken to show how the leading mainframe and minicomputer firms failed to see the gale of creative destruction on the horizon, or just to illustrate businessperson cluelessness more generally. (Bill Gates’s 1981 remark that “640K ought to be enough for anybody” falls in the same category.)
Olsen consistently maintained that he was quoted out of context, that he wasn’t talking about the ordinary desktop PC, but a sort of master house computer that would run the home, much like HAL in 2001. According to the useful Snopes.com entry on Olsen, “What Olsen was addressing in 1977 was the concept of powerful central computers that controlled every aspect of home life: turning lights on and off, regulating temperature, choosing entertainments, monitoring food supplies and preparing meals, etc. The subject of his remark was not the personal use computer that is now so much a part of the American home, but the environment-regulating behemoth of science fiction.” As Olsen himself put it: “A long time ago when the common knowledge was that PCs would run our lives in every detail, I said that if you stole something from the refrigerator at night you didn’t want to enter this into the computer so that it would mess up the computer plans for coming meals.” I wouldn’t make that sandwich if I were you, Dave.
What are some other examples of famous quotations taken out of context?
| Lasse Lien |
The American Economic Review is celebrating its 100th anniversary and, to commemorate, Volume 101, Issue 1 names the top 20 papers during its first 100 years as judged by the following committee: Kenneth J. Arrow, B. Douglas Bernheim, Martin S. Feldstein, Daniel L. McFadden, James M. Poterba, and Robert M. Solow. The list and the committee’s justification for including each paper can be found here. The committee admits using a combination of quantitative as well as qualitative criteria, but I cannot see that the list is idiosyncratic in any particular way. A balanced and reasonable canon IMHO:
Alchian, Armen A., and Harold Demsetz. 1972. “Production, Information Costs, and Economic Organization.”American Economic Review, 62(5): 777–95.
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1963. “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care.” American Economic Review, 53(5): 941–73.
Cobb, Charles W., and Paul H. Douglas. 1928. “A Theory of Production.” American Economic Review,18(1): 139–65.
Deaton, Angus S., and John Muellbauer. 1980. “An Almost Ideal Demand System.” American Economic Review, 70(3): 312–26.
Diamond, Peter A. 1965. “National Debt in a Neoclassical Growth Model.” American Economic Review, 55(5): 1126–50.
Diamond, Peter A., and James A. Mirrlees. 1971. “Optimal Taxation and Public Production I: Production Efficiency.” American Economic Review, 61(1): 8–27.
Diamond, Peter A., and James A. Mirrlees. 1971. “Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: TaxRules.” American Economic Review, 61(3): 261–78.
Dixit, Avinash K., and Joseph E. Stiglitz. 1977. “Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity.” American Economic Review, 67(3): 297–308.
Friedman, Milton. 1968. “The Role of Monetary Policy.” American Economic Review, 58(1): 1–17.
Grossman, Sanford J., and Joseph E. Stiglitz. 1980. “On the Impossibility of Informationally Efficient Markets.” American Economic Review, 70(3): 393–408.
Harris, John R., and Michael P. Todaro. 1970. “Migration, Unemployment and Development: A Two-Sector Analysis.” American Economic Review, 60(1): 126–42.
Hayek, F. A. 1945. “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” American Economic Review, 35(4): 519–30.
Jorgenson, Dale W. 1963. “Capital Theory and Investment Behavior.” American Economic Review, 53(2): 247–59.
Krueger, Anne O. 1974. “The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society.” American Economic Review, 64(3): 291–303.
Krugman, Paul. 1980. “Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade.” American Economic Review, 70(5): 950–59.
Kuznets, Simon. 1955. “Economic Growth and Income Inequality.” American Economic Review, 45(1): 1–28.
Lucas, Robert E., Jr. 1973. “Some International Evidence on Output-Inflation Tradeoffs.” American Economic Review, 63(3): 326–34.
Modigliani, Franco, and Merton H. Miller. 1958. “The Cost of Capital, Corporation Finance and the Theory of Investment.” American Economic Review, 48(3): 261–97.
Mundell, Robert A. 1961. “A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas.” American Economic Review,51(4): 657–65.
Ross, Stephen A. 1973. “The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal’s Problem.” American Economic Review, 63(2): 134–39.
Shiller, Robert J. 1981. “Do Stock Prices Move Too Much to Be Justified by Subsequent Changes in Dividends?” American Economic Review, 71(3): 421–36.
| Peter Klein |
The next Coase Institute workshop for young scholars is 15-21 May 2011 in São Paulo. The application deadline is 15 February, so don’t delay!
| Peter Klein |
Every academic and professional discipline has its own specialized vocabulary. In some cases, this brings clarity and precision; in others, it serves mainly to bamboozle the uninitiated. Even architecture studies is no exception:
Other architects, especially those teaching in universities, reacted to the collapse of Modernism by attempting to reinvent the field as a theoretical discipline. The theories did not come from the evidence of the practice of architecture, as one might expect (that was left to Christopher Alexander), but from arcane historical tracts and the writings of French literary critics in hermeneutics, poetics, and semiology. Thus began a new phase in professional jargon.
| Peter Klein |
When the speaker says: I’m pleased to give you this talk this morning because I always enjoy sharing my research with young scientists.
The speaker really means: I was promised a small honorarium.
When the speaker says: First, a little background.
The speaker really means: I am about to show you the only slide in which I have any confidence.
When the speaker says: This has been an incredibly exciting field for us to research.
The speaker really means: Five or six labs in the world care about this. You don’t.
When the speaker says: To be fair, there has been some debate in the scientific community about this point.
The speaker really means: We have a laboratory of mortal enemies at another institution, and they are so very wrong.
When the speaker says: This led us to ask a different question.
The speaker really means: Our grant ran out.
When the speaker says: I’ll just talk briefly about this.
The speaker really means: I will talk about this for at least an hour. I am unaware that time is finite. I am your overlord.
When the speaker says: This result was completely unexpected.
The speaker really means: This result pissed us off. Two postdocs cried.
When the speaker says: At this point, I went back to the literature.
The speaker means: At this point, I instructed my graduate student to go back to the literature.
Although, actually, the speaker really means: At this point, I instructed my graduate student to go back to the literature, but he just used Wikipedia, so I went back to the literature. (more…)
| Nicolai Foss |
Many European business schools praise disciplinary diversity. Some style themselves as “business universities,” rather than “traditional” business schools. Such schools may have a substantial contingent of faculty from the humanities, including historians, literary theorists, and philosophers, as well as sociologists and political scientists. The probability of such faculty subscribing to social constructionism is high. Typically, this perspective is taught to the students in courses on communication, whether intercultural or not, the theory of science, cross-cultural management, and so on. It is pretty much everywhere.
Those in sociology who stress “reflexivity” and “performativity” tell us that our theorizing, as mediated through teaching, influences the objects of theorizing. What may be the performative effect of social constructionist professors? My hypothesis is that the students they teach will end up acting like Hayek’s “constructivist rationalists” on the level of society, that is, managers who believe everything in organizations is malleable, and may therefore do substantial damage to the organizations they manage. The Wiki on social constructionism provides a neat summary of Ian Hacking’s celebrated critique of social constructionism:
Ian Hacking, having examined a wide range of books and articles with titles of the form “The social construction of X” or “Constructing X”, argues that when something is said to be “socially constructed”, this is shorthand for at least the following two claims:
(0) In the present state of affairs, X is taken for granted; X appears to be inevitable.
(1) X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not inevitable.
Hacking adds that the following claims are also often, though not always, implied by the use of the phrase “social construction”:
(2) X is quite bad as it is.
(3) We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least radically transformed.
If this is foundational for you as a manager, you will likely have little respect for what has evolved inside an organization, because “it is not inevitable.” You will be unimpressed by efficiency arguments from economics and functionalist arguments from sociology that explain the presence of a given feature of an organization. Your urge is to change the organization erratically according to your whims, and nourish ongoing turmoil. Psychological/implicit contracts suffer. Negative implications for productivity and firm-level performance follow.
| Lasse Lien |
As previously pointed out, field experiments are rare. Here is another. This one is on the quality of decision making. I guess the authors’ finding that men are more consistent (i.e. rational) decision makers than women will raise an eyebrow or two. I don’t know about other male O&M readers, but I am definitely taking home a copy to show my wife.
Who Is (More) Rational?
Syngjoo Choi, Shachar Kariv, Wieland Müller, and Dan Silvermany
Revealed preference theory offers a criterion for decision-making quality: if decisions are high quality then there exists a utility function that the choices maximize. We conduct a large-scale field experiment that enables us to test subjects’ choices for consistency with utility maximization and to combine the experimental data with a wide range of individual socioeconomic information for the subjects. There is considerable heterogeneity in subjects’ consistency scores: high-income and high-education subjects display greater levels of consistency than low-income and low-education subjects, men are more consistent than women, and young subjects are more consistent than older subjects. We also find that consistency with utility maximization is strongly related to wealth: a standard deviation increase in the consistency score is associated with 15-19 percent more wealth. This result conditions on socioeconomic variables including current income, education, and family structure, and is little changed when we add controls for past income, risk tolerance and the results of a standard personality test used by psychologists.
| Peter Klein |
Industrial conglomerate ITT announced in January a split into three more focused companies, one concentrated in hotels and gaming, one in education (technical training centers), and a slimmed-down ITT Corporation containing the remaining manufacturing businesses. This is the second major restructuring for ITT, once the poster child of the conglomerate movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.
The Wall Street Journal’s article of 13 January contains a nice graphic on the firm’s history, including a picture of Harold Geneen, the quintessential “management by the numbers” CEO (click to enlarge). It also includes ruminations on the conglomerate form more generally, about which I have a continuing research interest. Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld says conglomerates represented “an unholy mix of opportunistic investment bankers, misguided consultants and the vanities of CEOs.” A companion article puts it this way: “Conglomerates blossomed five decades ago, when favorable interest rates made it relatively easy to boost revenue and stock prices with serial acquisitions. But they fell out of favor when the stock increases slowed and investors began to question whether promised efficiencies would materialize.”
But this is not quite right. In fact, the research literature finds little evidence that conglomerate growth was fueled mainly by cheap credit and rising stock prices. (more…)