Archive for August, 2012
| Peter Klein |
Following up an earlier post on the longevity of obsolete technologies, as specialty markets: Francesco Schiavone has a nice paper, “Vintage Innovation: How to Improve the Service Characteristics and Costumer Effectiveness of Products becoming Obsolete,” reviewing the core theory and discussing the case of the analog turntable (little did I know, not being a club DJ, that you can by a “vinyl emulator” to go wacka-wacka-wacka on your MP3s). Francesco’s Vintage Innovation website has more examples. Check it out!
| Peter Klein |
Carpenter’s Strategy Toolbox, named for the late Mason Carpenter, is a terrific resource for teachers in strategic management and related fields. Here’s an advertisement from former guest blogger Russ Coff:
Some of you may be familiar with Mason Carpenter’s old teaching toolkit. I have initiated a new site that includes everything from that site plus quite a few additional exercises and videos. Please check it out at:
You can filter by type of tool (exercise, video, etc.) using the tabs at the top or you can filter by topic (entrepreneurship, 5 forces, RBV, global, alliances, etc.) using the categories on the right side. You should find something useful in no time at all.
Here are links to a few exercises and resources that you might find especially useful (to give you a quick feel):
- Egg Drop Auction is an exercise where profit is determined by finding new uses for materials that others did not anticipate.
- Blue Ocean Strategy summary video (plus several related videos like Cirque Du Soliel).
- Tinkertoy exercise for scenario planning or first mover advantage.
- Entrepreneurship and innovation tool page. This is a listing of the resources that are tagged for entrepreneurship content.
Please help make the site more useful:
- Comment on tools you have used (adding tips, etc.)
- Submit new tools so the resource is always growing
- Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions
| Nicolai Foss |
A new special issue of Managerial and Decision Economics on “the wisdom of crowds” has just been published. It deals with issues of emergence in firms and markets, including capability formation, information aggregation and the like. The editor is Orgtheory.net’s Teppo Felin. The SI is genuinely interdisciplinary with contributions from a physicists, sociologists, political scientists and economists, including Austrian economists, Peter Leeson and Christopher Coyne. I haven’t had time to read more than a few of the paper (including Teppo’s characteristically provocative and broad-ranging introduction), but look forward to peruse it. Enjoy!
| Peter Klein |
Do bosses matter? Stephen Marglin famously argued that management doesn’t affect productivity, just the share of output appropriated by managers. (I’ll take David Landes instead, thank you very much.) Despite a huge management literature on bosses, economists have not quite known how to answer the question. Ed Lazear, Kathryn Shaw (ironically, a former boss of mine), and Christopher Stanton have an interesting new take on this using detailed microdata, showing substantial effects of supervisor on worker productivity:
The Value of Bosses
Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, Christopher T. Stanton
NBER Working Paper No. 18317, August 2012
Do supervisors enhance productivity? Arguably, the most important relationship in the firm is between worker and supervisor. The supervisor may hire, fire, assign work, instruct, motivate and reward workers. Models of incentives and productivity build at least some subset of these functions in explicitly, but because of lack of data, little work exists that demonstrates the importance of bosses and the channels through which their productivity enhancing effects operate. As more data become available, it is possible to examine the effects of people and practices on productivity. Using a company-based data set on the productivity of technology-based services workers, supervisor effects are estimated and found to be large. Three findings stand out. First, the choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team. Using a normalization, this implies that the average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker. Second, boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist. Third, efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.
NB: For some reason, my graduate students are circulating this piece from last week’s WSJ.
| Nicolai Foss |
Journal of Organizational Design is a newly started open-access journal that should be of considerable potential interest to readers of O&M. While I am generally skeptical of open-access journals in social science — “open access” still largely signals “low quality” — JOD seems likely to become a success story. First, organizational design is making much of a come-back as a research field in management research and in economics organizational economics/the economics of the firm is fundamentally about organizational design issues. However, the established organization studies/theory journals do not seem to publish much organizational design research, and perhaps JOD can partially preempt this niche. Second, the editors (Børge Obel and Charles Snow) are assisted by impressive editorial board members and associate editors. Third, the journal is supported by an organized community. In any case, there is much interesting reading in the first two available issues of the journal, such as John Mathews’ interesting article on supra-firm architectures. Enjoy!
To honor Julia Child on her 100th birthday, Lynne Kiesling writes a nice post combining three of my favorite things: cooking, entrepreneurship theory, and Austrian economics. Good cooking is about the combination of heterogeneous resources, it requires experimentation and creativity, and it either works or it doesn’t. Most important:
A system that will yield the most valuable and pleasing combinations of entrepreneurial economic or cooking activities will have low entry barriers (anyone can try to cook!) and a robust feedback-based system of error correction. Low entry barriers facilitate creativity in discovering new useful products from the raw elements, as well as enabling new value creation when some of those raw elements change. Error correction, whether a “yuck, that’s gross!” at home or a lack of profits due to low repeat business at a restaurant, is most effective and valuable when there are feedback loops that can inform the cook-producer about the value that the consumer did or did not get from the dish.
This emphasis on error correction highlights one of my differences with Kirzner’s approach to entrepreneurship. In Kirzner’s system, which emphasizes entrepreneurship as a coordinating agency, the entrepreneur is modeled as “piercing the fog” of uncertainty — hence the familiar metaphor of entrepreneurship as the discovery of preexisting profit opportunities. My approach focuses on action, not discovery, and gives a larger role to uncertainty. What generates coordination, in this approach, is the entrepreneurial selection process, not the “correctness” of entrepreneurial decisions.
Incidentally, Saras Sarasvathy often uses cooking to illustrate her “effectual” approach to entrepreneurial decision-making (i.e., cooks don’t always follow a recipe to produce a known dish, but use the ingredients they have in a sequential, experimental process). And for more on food, see here and here.
| Peter Klein |
Have you been dying to read Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment but haven’t quite found the time? Are you a busy executive waiting for the Summary version? Hoping for an HBO Special? Not to worry, the good folks at HansEconomics are live-blogging the book, and the first chapter is up today. Thanks to John Dellape for doing this.