First Look

First Look summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty. Readers receive early knowledge of cutting-edge ideas before they enter the mainstream of business practice. For complete details on faculty research, see our Working Papers section.

January 9, 2007

The new year's first issue of Harvard Business Review kicks off with a special focus on leadership, and two HBS experts weigh in: Linda A. Hill discusses "Becoming the Boss," while Robert S. Kaplan looks at "What to Ask the Person in the Mirror." Newbie managers will be more successful if they avoid a number of common misconceptions about wielding authority, controlling their direct reports, forging relationships, and making sure everything runs smoothly, says Hill. "Most new managers see themselves as targets of organizational change initiatives, implementing with their groups the changes ordered from above. They don't see themselves as change agents." Yet new bosses can be powerful change agents when they do not define their own formal authority too narrowly.

At the other end of the career spectrum, even stellar managers go through painful stretches now and then. When you look in the mirror during such times, try to step back, get perspective, and develop a new game plan, advises Kaplan. Questions posed in his article may spark your thinking.

Also new this week: business cases including an examination of Symantec and McAfee competing in the consumer anti-virus industry; another on how Teva, Israel's first and largest multinational, gained global dominance in generic pharmaceuticals; and a business history study in Spanish on how agricultural expansion proved central to the development of capitalism in Argentina. "Venture Capital Investment Cycles: The Impact of Public Markets" studied how public market signals affected venture capital investing between 1975 and 1998.


Working Papers

None this week


Cases & Course Materials

Developing Leaders

Harvard Business School Note 407-015

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Merton's Ethos of Science: Excerpts and Summaries

Harvard Business School Note 607-047

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The Pine Street Initiative at Goldman Sachs

Harvard Business School Case 407-053

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Revenue Recognition Problems in the Communications Equipment Industry

Harvard Business School Case 107-025

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Symantec vs. McAfee: Competing in the Consumer Anti-virus Industry

Harvard Business School Case 707-413

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Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.

Harvard Business School Case 707-441

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The Rules of Standard Setting Organizations: An Empirical Analysis


This paper empirically explores the procedures employed by standard-setting organizations. Consistent with Lerner-Tirole (2004), we find (a) a negative relationship between the extent to which an SSO is oriented to technology sponsors and the concession level required of sponsors and (b) a positive correlation between the sponsor-friendliness of the selected SSO and the quality of the standard. We also develop and test two extensions of the earlier model: the presence of provisions mandating royalty-free licensing is negatively associated with disclosure requirements, and when there are only a limited number of SSOs, the relationship between concessions and user friendliness is weaker.

Venture Capital Investment Cycles: The Impact of Public Markets


It is well documented that the venture capital industry is highly volatile and that much of this volatility is associated with shifting valuations and activity in public equity markets. This paper examines how changes in public market signals affected venture capital investing between 1975 and 1998. We find that venture capitalists with the most industry experience increase their investments the most when public market signals become more favorable. Their reaction to an increase is greater than the reaction of venture capital organizations with relatively little industry experience and those with considerable experience but in other industries. The increase in investment rates does not affect the success of these transactions adversely to a significant extent. These findings are consistent with the view that venture capitalists rationally respond to attractive investment opportunities signaled by public market shifts.

Becoming the Boss


Even for the most gifted individuals, the process of becoming a leader is an arduous, albeit rewarding, journey of continuous learning and self-development. The initial test along the path is so fundamental that we often overlook it: becoming a boss for the first time. That's a shame, because the trials involved in this rite of passage have serious consequences for both the individual and the organization. For a decade and a half, the author has studied people—particularly star performers—making major career transitions to management. As firms have become leaner and more dynamic, new managers have described a transition that gets more difficult all the time. But the transition is often harder than it need be because of managers' misconceptions about their role. Those who can acknowledge their misconceptions have a far greater chance of success. For example, new managers typically assume that their position will give them the authority and freedom to do what they think is best. Instead, they find themselves enmeshed in a web of relationships with subordinates, bosses, peers, and others, all of whom make relentless and often conflicting demands. "You really are not in control of anything," says one new manager. Another misconception is that new managers are responsible only for making sure that their operations run smoothly. But new managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes—some of them in areas outside their purview—that will enhance their groups' performance. Many new managers are reluctant to ask for help from their bosses. But when they do ask (often because of a looming crisis), they are relieved to find their superiors more tolerant of their questions and mistakes than they had expected.

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What to Ask the Person in the Mirror


Every leader gets off track from time to time. As leaders rise through the ranks, they have fewer and fewer opportunities for honest and direct feedback. Their bosses are no longer monitoring their actions, and by the time management missteps have a negative impact on business results, it's usually too late to make course corrections that will set things right. Therefore, it is wise to go through a self-assessment, to periodically step back from the bustle of running a business and ask some key questions of yourself. Author Robert S. Kaplan, who during his 22-year career at Goldman Sachs chaired the firm's senior leadership training efforts and co-chaired its partnership committee, identifies seven areas for self-reflection: vision and priorities, managing time, feedback, succession planning, evaluation and alignment, leading under pressure, and staying true to yourself. The author sets out a series of questions in each of the areas, illustrating the impact of self-assessment through vivid accounts of real executives. Although the questions sound simple, people are often shocked—even horrified—by their own answers. Executives are aware that they should be focusing on their most important priorities, but without stepping back to reflect, few actually know where they are allocating their time. Kaplan advocates writing down what you do every working hour for a week and checking how well your actions match up with your intentions. As for feedback, managers should ask themselves whether they're getting truthful evaluations from their subordinates. (In all likelihood, they aren't.) It takes time and discipline to persuade your employees to tell you about your failings.

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Innovation and Incentives: Evidence from Corporate R&D


Beginning in the late 1980s, American corporations began increasingly linking the compensation of central research personnel to the economic objectives of the corporation. This paper examines the impact of the shifting compensation of the heads of corporate research and development. Among firms with centralized R&D organizations, a clear relationship emerges: more long-term incentives (e.g., stock options and restricted stock) are associated with more heavily cited patents. These incentives also appear to be associated with more patent filings and patents of greater originality. Short-term incentives appear to be unrelated to measures of innovation.

The Design of Patent Pools: The Determinants of Licensing Rules


Patent pools are an important but little-studied economic institution. In this paper, we first make a set of predictions about the licensing terms associated with patent pools. The theoretical framework predicts that (a) pools consisting of complementary patents are more likely to allow members to engage in independent licensing and (b) that the requirement that firms license patents to the pool (grantbacks) should be associated with pools that consist of complements and allow independent licensing. We then empirically examine the terms of 63 pools, and show that licensing rules are consistent with these hypotheses.

Comercio y credito agrario: Un estudio de caso sobre las practicas y logicas crediticias de comerciantes de campana a comienzos del siglo XX en el Territorio Nacional de La Pampa


Durante la segunda mitad del siglo XIX y el primer tercio del XX la expansion agraria desempeñó un papel central en la formación del capitalismo argentino. Articulando este proceso se desarrollaron una serie de mecanismos de intermediación, encargados de canalizar la producción de la campaña hacia los puertos además de proveer una serie de insumos, maquinarias, alimentos y financiación a los productores. Los almacenes de ramos generales -surgidos de la adaptación que implicó la reconversión de los anteriores comercios o pulperías- fueron unos de los más significativos empresarios comerciales y desempeñaron múltiples funciones en el proceso de incorporación de las economías locales al mercado internacional. En este artículo se presentan nuestras conclusiones alrededor de los mecanismos crediticios -directos e indirectos-, los costos, prácticas y lógicas halladas en el estudio del ejercicio habilitador de los intermediarios comerciales. Para avanzar en el análisis de estos temas fue necesario reducir la escala de observación y concentrarse en estudios de caso de empresas dedicadas al ejercicio minorista en áreas rurales.

Bankers, Industrialists, and Their Cliques: Elite Networks in Mexico and Brazil during Early Industrialization


The historiographies of Mexico and Brazil have implicitly stated that business networks were crucial for the initial industrialization of these two countries. Recently, differing visions on the importance of business networks have arisen. In the case of Mexico, the literature argues that entrepreneurs relied heavily on an informal institutional structure to obtain necessary resources and information. In contrast, the recent historiography of Brazil suggests that after 1890 the network of corporate relations became less important for entrepreneurs trying to obtain capital and concessions, once the institutions promoted financial markets and easy entry for new businesses. Did entrepreneurs in Brazil and Mexico organize their networks differently to deal with the different institutional settings? How can we compare the impact of the institutional structure of Mexico and Brazil on the networks of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial finance in general? We explore these questions by looking at the networks of interlocking boards of directors of major joint stock companies in Brazil and Mexico in 1909. We test whether in Mexico businessmen relied more on networks and other informal arrangements to do business than in Brazil. In Brazil, we expect to find less reliance of businesses on networks given that there was a more sophisticated system of formal institutions to mediate transactions and obtain capital and information. Our hypothesis is confirmed by three related results: 1) the total number of connections (i.e., the density of the network) was higher in Mexico than Brazil; 2) In Mexico there was one dense core network, while in Brazil we find fairly dispersed clusters of corporate board interlocks; and most importantly, 3) politicians played a more important role in the Mexican network of corporate directors than their counterparts in Brazil. Interestingly, even though Brazil and Mexico relied on very different institutional structures, both countries grew at similar rates of growth between 1890 and 1913. However, the dense and exclusive Mexican network might have ended up increasing the social and political tensions that led to the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).