Posts filed under ‘Ephemera’

Entrepreneurship and the Established Firm: A Call to Arms

| Nicolai Foss |

Frequent readers of this blog will know that we (well, some more than others [ahem]) tend to obsess about the proper conceptualization of entrepreneurship, such as whether “opportunity” is a useful construct in the context of entrepreneurship research, and whether this, heavily expanding, research field is best off by thinking of entrepreneurship in terms of “opportunity discovery.” In this brief essay, just published in Strategic Organization, Dr. Jacob Lyngsie (Dept of Strategic Management and Globalization, Copenahgen Business School) and I discuss how the emphasis on opportunity discovery in the literature is accompanied by a neglect of entrepreneurship in the established firm and a tendency to think of entrepreneurs as individuals (rather than teams) (similar themes are discussed in the recent Foss and Klein volume, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment). We call for a research effort that systematically deal with how entrepreneurial established firms organize a division of entrepreneurial labor, and on how administrative machinery can be deployed inside firms to foster the motivation, opportunity and ability that drive entrepreneurial behaviors.

26 August 2014 at 11:39 am 5 comments

The Piketty Code

| Dick Langlois |

I was trying to avoid jumping into the fray about Capital in the Twenty-First Century so as not to participate in the mania, as if throwing one more tiny ember into a wildfire would cause measurable additional damage. But I couldn’t resist after seeing an article entitled “How Thomas Piketty Explains American Sports.” Written by someone called Kevin Lincoln in a left-wing mag called Pacific Standard, the article discusses the NBA’s proposal to raise the minimum roster age from 19 to 20, thus reducing the number of one-and-done college players and depriving John Calipari of his livelihood. (Did I forget to mention that UConn won both men’s and women’s national championships this year?) Lincoln correctly points out that such a change is in the interest not only of the D-1 colleges, who get to keep their stars longer, but also of the NBA, since it offloads more player development to the colleges. Sounds perfectly reasonable – exactly the kind of analysis you would expect from, say, a free-market public-choice economist. What on earth does this have to do with Piketty?

The concept of “over-accumulation” was coined by economist David Hershey, and with the ascent of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century into bestsellerdom, it’s something that anyone with even a passing interest in economics is probably familiar with. In our current economy, actors who have gathered large amounts of capital tend to invest it in the creation of further capital for themselves rather than funneling it back into production. In turn, the economy stagnates, with the world’s financial resources concentrating in the hands of the rich with no money left over to raise wages for the working class.

Yes, this scheme will probably raise the wealth (a little) of NBA owners. But it doesn’t have anything to do with the accumulation of capital. For both owners and players, the NBA is all about people getting wealthy from entrepreneurial insight and scarce valuable skills — exactly contrary to Piketty’s predictions.

The author is obviously economically illiterate — how exactly can people “create further capital for themselves” without somehow “funneling it back into production”? Yet the fact that someone smart enough to write a free-lance article would connect the NBA to Piketty speaks, it seems to me, to what the Piketty phenomenon is all about. In my view, we should not be comparing Piketty with Marx or Keynes. We should be comparing him with Dan Brown. Like the Da Vinci Code, Capital is an otherwise unremarkable book that managed to put together a volatile mix of elements. Both books captured some kind of zeitgeist, of course, but they did so in a remarkably precise way. They rely on similar elements: a theory of how the world works that doesn’t stand up to minimal scrutiny but is easy to understand, seems to explain the mysterious and ineffable, and, most importantly, confirms the gut prejudices of its readers. Capital is not as much a conspiracy theory as the Da Vinci Code; it’s a nineteenth-century story about aggregate income shares. But it is also an empty-enough vessel into which readers (especially those who haven’t actually read it) can pour their own conspiracy theories. The NBA is the Opus Dei of capitalist sports.

While we’re on the subject, I also want to mention that, to my mild surprise, the best review of Piketty I have run across is by Larry Summers. He gathers together all the technical criticisms in many other reviews and then adds a few of his own. While he pats Piketty on the back for his wonderful interest in inequality, he leaves the theoretical claims in a tattered pile on the floor.

17 May 2014 at 1:10 pm 4 comments

Friday Fun: The Market Value of Research Topics

[A guest post from Peter St. Onge, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Feng Chia University in Taiwan.]

Is academia the epitome of mankind’s quest for knowledge? Is it an adjunct to the productive forces that drive us ever-closer to a utopia of plenty? Or is it a self-licking ice cream cone? Here are a few data points.

For each keyword or phrase-in-quotes, the first column measures google searches (average ttm, in thousands, reported 5/15/14 on Google Adwords Keyword Planner). The second column measures academic papers on Google scholar between 2012-2013 (as of 5/15/14). The third column measures the ratio of academic papers divided by monthly searches. And the fourth column gives Google Adwords’ “suggested bid” — this suggests what an advertiser might offer for a “click” when somebody enters the search term or phrase, so is roughly the market value of a visitor searching for that term.

These measures are roughly intended to capture popular interest (the quest for knowledge) and market value (adjunct to production) compared to academic interest.

First, some general business terms, with “gender identity” thrown in for fun, ranked by papers-to-search ratios:

Google Scholar Google monthly searches (k) Papers 12-13 (k) Papers/ searches Suggested Bid
management 40.5 785 19.4 $5.25
“gender identity” 8.1 146 18.0 $1.99
“Corporate Strategy” 1.9 20.9 11.0 $10.83
accounting 40.5 343 8.5 $7.66
marketing 60.5 342 5.7 $6.45
entrepreneurship 33.1 80.1 2.4 $4.58
finance 823.0 301 0.4 $8.22

 

The highest ratio of academic vs popular interest? Management. Beating even “gender identity.” And the lowest? Finance, followed by entrepreneurship. The people demand more finance and entrepreneurship papers. Perhaps because they want to learn how to invest and start businesses, but this is conjecture.

What else jumps out here is the overwhelming interest among the public in finance. Indeed, there are more than 4 times more searches for the word finance than all the other terms together. “Finance” is 20 times more popular than accounting or management, and 15 times more than marketing. Perhaps business schools are misallocating their resources unless their departments aren’t at least 80% finance? (more…)

16 May 2014 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Top Ranked Thinkers 2013

| Nicolai Foss |

In management, that is. Here. Hardly surprising that Clay Christensen is #1. But … where is Klein?

12 November 2013 at 12:08 pm 3 comments

The Return of Max Planck

| Dick Langlois |

How failure to proofread can improve the quality of your coauthors. Note the use of “we” in the abstract. I suppose that Penrose’s idea that resources come in discrete bundles is a kind of quantum mechanics of the firm.

26 September 2013 at 10:50 am 2 comments

The Coase Theorem in under 140 Characters

| Dick Langlois |

From the Stanford alumni newsletter:

Goodbye @SUAthletics, Hello @gostanford

Stanford athletics knows how to drive a hard bargain. The department recently traded its longtime Twitter handle, @SUAthletics, to Syracuse University in exchange for a yet-to-be determined order of local goods, including one case of oranges. The fruit will be used to refill Stanford’s 2011 Orange Bowl trophy. Athletics will now tweet as @GoStanford, which had emerged as a more popular choice.

18 July 2013 at 8:41 am Leave a comment

The Pace of Modern Life

| Peter Klein |

Technological advance and economic growth are ruining modern life — people don’t write long letters anymore, they don’t spend time together at meals, they speak quickly, and nobody stops to smell the roses. So said critics starting in 1871. A new entry for our “Nothing New under the Sun” series (via Josh Gans). NB: Some of you will tag 1871 as the start of modernity, for a different reason!

19 June 2013 at 9:49 am 6 comments

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Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

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