Archive for November, 2007

The Perils of Microcelebrity

| Peter Klein |

I was pleased to learn that I might be a microcelebrity: someone “extremely well known not to millions but to a small group — a thousand people, or maybe only a few dozen.” This definition comes from Clive Thompson, who suggests in the current issue of Wired that anyone with a blog, a Facebook page, a Flickr account, or a similar web presence can be a microcelebrity in this sense. “Odds are there are complete strangers who know about you — and maybe even talk about you.”

Okay, in my case perhaps “nanocelebrity” is the better term. The broader point, according to Thompson, is that in today’s highly transparent, densely networked, web 2.0 world in which more and more of our personal information ends up preserved for posterity in the Google cache, people may be reluctant to say or do anything that could be controversial.

Blog pioneer Dave Winer has found his idle industry-conference chitchat so frequently live-blogged that he now feels “like a presidential candidate” and worries about making off-the-cuff remarks. Some pundits fret that microcelebrity will soon force everyone to write blog posts and even talk in the bland, focus-grouped cadences of Hillary Clinton (minus the cackle).

As a university professor I worry about this from time to time. Will some off-hand remark made in class end up on a student’s blog? Some students record my lectures on their mp3 players (usually, though not always, with prior permission). Will audio clips — or, heaven forbid, video clips — of me fumbling and stumbling over some difficult concept end up on YouTube?

30 November 2007 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

Was Whole Foods Choking On Their -5% Net?

| David Hoopes |

I’ve used a couple of Ben and Jerry’s cases over the years. One of the interesting things about B&J is that they seem to suffocate under their desire to “do good.” In general, it seems they would have been able to donate a good deal more to charity if they had run their business to be a good business. Then, Ben and Jerry could have taken their salaries or capital gains or dividends and given them to their favorite charities.

Whole Foods, like B&J had a concentrated ownership for quite a while. I don’t know what it’s like now. For a long time John Mackey and his Dad owned 51%. John did not take a large salary. So, giving away Whole Foods’ profits was like he was spending his own money anyway. And, anyone involved with WFM after John got rid of his co-founders knew WFM was John’s thing.

The point with WFM is that it’s an unusual example of corporate charity in part because of concentrated ownership, the marketing benefits of donating money, and the political inclinations of many if not most of its employees (far more left-wing than J. Mackey). Unlike B&J, WFM did not suffocate itself by not paying professional executives. Also, Mackey never felt guilty about turning a profit and is a tried and true capitalist (guilt free).

I worked for Whole Foods when they only had two stores in Austin (oh so long ago). I’m afraid John considered me a pest (I suppose I was).

Did they ever buy Wild Oats? That’s another story.

29 November 2007 at 1:48 pm 2 comments

Pomo Periscope XVI: An Unusually Honest Journal

| Nicolai Foss |

It might be that the most popular category of posts on O&M has the same name as this journal — but, seriously, would you read a journal that is this explicit about its aims, content, readership, etc.? Then again, if you do you might be exposed to nifty little nuggets like this delicately titled piece. Or, you might be able to join a conference where

Researchers, activists and media-artists meet on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Beijing September 11th-20th 2005.

The conference “Capturing the Moving Minds” gathers a pack of people … artists, economists, researchers, philosophers, activists … who are interested in the new logic of the economy, the new form of war against terrorism and in the new cooperative modes of creation and resistance, together in a space moving in time. Spatially moving bodies and bodies moving in time (through the different time zones) creates an event, a meeting that not really ‘is’ but ‘is going on’.

The nonsense continues in the same vein; read the rest yourself. One thing is certain: This will not be the last time that the Periscope zooms in on Ephemera!

29 November 2007 at 8:26 am 4 comments

Bounded Rationality and Economic Organization

| Nicolai Foss |

While many economists and management scholars agree that bounded rationality is important to the understanding of economic organization and there is no shortage of calls for integrating it more with existing theory (e.g., here), how exactly this should be done has been unclear. A problem is that there are so many different conceptions of bounded rationality. Thus, should Ariel Rubinstein´s approach be foundational in attempts to integrate BR with organizational economics? Or the behavioral tradition that stems from Tversky and Kahneman’s research? Or something else?

Moreover, it seems to be notoriously more difficult to work with cognitive assumptions derived from bounded rationality ideas than to doctor utility functions, which may explain why we currently see more research on how alternative specifications of agent motivation (rather than agent cognition) influence economic organization. It is therefore not surprising that to the extent that bounded rationality appears in the organizational economics literature, it is either as a label for “something that makes contracts incomplete” (Williamson, Hart) or as “whatever makes agents commit errors of evaluation” (Sah and Stiglitz) or “whatever makes agents’ information processing speed less than infinite” (team theory). Anything seems to go when it comes to modelling BR, and one is often left wondering what exactly BR is. (more…)

29 November 2007 at 5:32 am 1 comment

Shane Seminar in Entrepreneurship

| Peter Klein |

Scott Shane’s PhD seminar in entrepreneurship takes place twice this summer, 23-27 June and 4-8 August 2008. Two of my PhD students have gone in recent years and each came back with a glowing report. (I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these papers on the reading list, but hey, nobody’s perfect!)

29 November 2007 at 12:35 am 3 comments

Fundamental Questions About Organizations

| Peter Klein |

Our most popular tag here at O&M seems to be ephemera, but occasionally we write a “big think” post (e.g., this one). Today I’ll offer another. A colleague recently asked me to write down, for a research project we’re sketching out, some “fundamental questions about organizations.” He wanted my off-the-cuff response, not a carefully crafted set of ideas. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Does organizational form matter? How much does it really affect performance, however measured? Organizational form might not be that important because (a) its effects on performance are small relative to the performance effects of technical or allocative efficiency; (b) organizational form is easily changed and always chosen optimally to fit the circumstances; or (c) organizational form is merely a legal distinction without any economic significance. (more…)

28 November 2007 at 3:25 pm 9 comments

Integrity and the Academy: Are Academicians in a Position to Preach About Social Responsibility?

| David Hoopes |

Do college faculty — generally untrained in ethics (except for philosophy professors, etc.) — have any business teaching social responsibility and ethics? This question comes from my most recent post.

I interviewed for a job at the Army War College a few years back. I was fortunate enough to hear a high-ranking general speak to the students (mostly lt. colonels). One of things he said is that he stayed in the armed services because of the high integrity of its members. I know in some corners this will be scoffed at. However, I think there is no small amount of truth to this.

I thought, “Cannot say that about academia.” Why so cynical? There are many things one could complain about. There are more passive-aggressive people in the academy than most other place. Academics seem especially prone to speaking with a forked tongue.

The clearest example I can think of is the tenure process. Certainly the tenure process can bring the worst out in people. Beyond that, it is amazing how sexually biased the tenure process seems to be. It is especially amazing to see how entrenched the “old boy” network is among men who fancy themselves liberal or progressive.

I have no proof that the tenure process is sexually biased. Nevertheless, in management it certainly seems easy to think of women getting left out of the loop. Thus, fewer social interactions, fewer coauthored papers, less mentoring. Now part of this may have to do with where I have worked: schools that have had multiple discrimination and harassment charges brought against them.

Yet, I don’t think this is limited to management departments. It’s pretty strange that an institution that fancies itself as being so progressive is so backwards when it comes to mentoring and networking women through the old (or young) boys clubs.

Here is a link that offers some evidence. I found the stuff at the bottom of the page most useful.

27 November 2007 at 5:41 pm 10 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).