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.

May 5, 2009

With so many experts on a team, why does the result sometimes prove disappointing? New research by HBS professor Heidi K. Gardner probes the social dynamics of teamwork in knowledge-intensive settings, such as professional service firms, and the accompanying pressure to perform at the highest caliber. Her findings suggest that teams may yield right-of-way to colleagues with higher authority and thus miss out on the potential contributions of lower-status team members who know more about the client's needs.

As Gardner writes in the working paper "Feeling the Heat: The Effects of Performance Pressure on Teams' Knowledge Use and Performance" [PDF], "I find both qualitative and quantitative evidence to demonstrate that teams facing performance pressures tend to default to high-status members at the expense of using team members with deep knowledge of the client, with detrimental effects on team performance. In other words, the more important the project, the less effective the team: performance pressure results in teams reverting to less effective ways of divvying up influence over their end product, in turn leading to lower performance ratings for the whole team."

"Understanding ways to make project teams more effective is thus a crucial question facing practitioners and theorists alike," Gardner concludes.

This week also sees faculty research on using social marketing for treating HIV in developing nations. Cases examine the symptoms prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year and the development and strategy of E Ink to reconfigure the publishing industry.

 

Working Papers

Regional Trade Integration and Multinational Firm Strategies

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effects of the formation of a regional trade agreement on the level and nature of multinational firm activity. We examine aggregate data that captures the response of U.S. multinational firms to the formation of the ASEAN free trade agreement. Observed patterns guide the development of a model in which heterogeneous firms from a source country decide how to serve two foreign markets. Following a reduction in tariffs on trade between the two foreign countries, the model predicts growth in the number of source-country firms engaging in foreign direct investment, growth in the size of affiliates that are active in reforming countries both before and after the tariff reduction, and an increase in the extent to which the sales of affiliates in reforming countries are directed towards other reforming countries. Analysis of firm-level responses to the creation of the ASEAN free trade agreement yields results that are consistent with these predictions.

Download the paper from SSRN ($5): http://papers.nber.org/papers/W14891

Don't Just Survive—Thrive: Leading Innovation in Good Times and Bad

Abstract

Battered by contracting markets and frozen credit, many businesses today are fighting for survival. Indeed, the current global financial crisis provides a mandate for restructuring. But survival is not the end goal. In fact, cost cutting and restructuring are simply the first steps in repositioning and leading a company and industry through the crisis and in defining how business will be conducted in the future. This paper describes how IBM managed to not just survive the crisis it faced in the early 1990s, but to reposition the company to lead the industry. The powerful lesson from the IBM story is that innovation is not a side business to running the real business. Innovation is the business. Breakthrough innovations that change people's lives and the very structure and power dynamics of industries can't be managed as "silos," tucked away in corporate, university, or government research labs, in incubators, or within venture capital funded entrepreneurial start-ups. Access to the marketplace is needed to help speed commercialization and adoption. Emerging opportunities must be nurtured and the transition to high growth must be managed. Once breakthrough innovations catch hold, growth must be funded and managed to exploit the full value of the opportunity. And finally, incremental innovations must ensure that businesses that have passed through the high-growth stage can continue to deliver the resources, capabilities, and platforms needed to fuel the emerging opportunities of the future. This business lifecycle view of innovation requires new leadership and organizational models and new approaches to managing risk and uncertainty.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-127.pdf

Feeling the Heat: The Effects of Performance Pressure on Teams' Knowledge Use and Performance

Abstract

Why do some teams fail to use their members' knowledge effectively, even after they have correctly identified each other's expertise? This paper identifies performance pressure as a critical barrier to effective knowledge utilization. Performance pressure creates threat rigidity effects in teams, meaning that they default to using the expertise of high-status members while becoming less effective at using team members with deep client knowledge. Using a multi-method field study across two professional service firms to refine and test the proposed model, I also find that only the use of client-specific expertise (not the expertise of high-status members) enhances client-rated performance. This paper thus reveals a paradox affecting teams' use of members' knowledge: the more important the project, the less effective the team. This paper contributes to the emerging literature linking team-level expertise utilization (instead of just recognition) with performance outcomes and also adds a novel, team-level perspective to the literature on inter-firm relations.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-126.pdf

Do Friends Influence Purchases in a Social Network?

Abstract

Social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace have witnessed a rapid growth in their membership. Some of these businesses have tried an advertising-based model with very limited success. However, these businesses have not fully explored the power of their members to influence each other's behavior. This potential viral or social effect can have significant impact on the success of these companies as well as provide a unique new marketing opportunity for traditional companies.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-123.pdf

Crafting Integrated Multichannel Retailing Strategies

No abstract is available at this time.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-125.pdf

 

Publications

Multi-Rater Assessment of Individual Creative Contributions to Team Projects in Organizations

Abstract

This study examined the convergent and construct validity of ratings of individual creative contributions in a team context. A sample of 201 employees and supervisors, working on 26 team projects, completed the NEO-Five Factor Inventory and rated themselves and their teammates monthly on a single item measuring creative contributions to the project. The convergent validity of the ratings was supported because there was consistency among other ratings of the same targets and among different types of ratings (peer, supervisor, and self ratings) of the same targets. The construct validity of the ratings was partly supported because there were positive associations between individuals' peer-rated creativity and their extraversion and between individuals' self-rated and supervisor-rated creativity and their openness to experience. From peers and the self, women had lower creativity ratings than men, but other ratings were not influenced by the gender of the judge or the difference in gender of the target-judge dyad. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Colonial Land Tenure, Electoral Competition, and Public Goods in India

No abstract is available at this time.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-062.pdf

Are Self-Service Customers Satisfied or Stuck?

Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of self-service technology (SST) usage on customer satisfaction and retention. Specifically, we focus on disentangling the distinct effects of satisfaction and switching costs as drivers of retention among self-service customers. Our empirical analysis examines 26,924 multi-channel customers of a nationwide retail bank. For each customer, we track channel usage, overall satisfaction, and actual retention over a one-year period. We find that relative to face-to-face service, customers who use self-service channels for a greater proportion of their overall transactions, are either no more satisfied or less satisfied with the service they receive, depending on the channel. However, we also find that these same customers are predictably less likely to defect to a competitor if they are heavily reliant on self-service channels characterized by high switching costs. We demonstrate that when self-service usage promotes retention, it does so in a way that is consistent with switching costs rather than via increased satisfaction. As a robustness check, we examine the behavior of channel enthusiasts, who concentrate transactions among specific channels. Relative to more diversified customers, we find that self-service enthusiasts in low switching cost channels defect with greater frequency, while self-service enthusiasts in high switching cost channels are retained with greater frequency. Managerial implications of these findings are discussed, as well as opportunities for future research.

Putting Patients First: Social Marketing Strategies for Treating HIV in Developing Nations

Abstract

It is more than mere coincidence that the highest rates of HIV occur in the world's poorest countries. Of the over 40 million people currently living with HIV, 95 percent are in the developing world. The first part of this paper explores the economics of HIV and treatment from a social marketing perspective. The second part of the paper uses three specific case histories of successful social marketing organizations in Africa, Asia, and South America to inductively generate a consumer (patient)-centric marketing model. The focal organizations are unique in that they all identify patient needs first, then work backwards to develop economically viable solutions. These solutions are not without flaws, and the future of these programs remains uncertain, but we hope that illuminating these particular cases within the consumer-centric marketing paradigm will shed light on ways in which other organizations may be able to serve the poor profitably.

Compelled to Help: Effects of Direct and Indirect Exchange on Perceived Obligation in Professional Networks

Abstract

This research examines felt obligation to help others in employees' and managers' professional networks using a social exchange perspective. We hypothesize that obligation toward others would follow the norms of both direct and indirect reciprocity. Direct reciprocity predicts that obligation toward network members increases to the extent that one receives resources directly from others. In the case of socio-emotional resources, such as friendship and mentorship, this obligation is mediated by affective closeness. Indirect reciprocity predicts that obligation is felt toward others simply as a function of their inclusion in one's network, implying that obligation increases with the others' degree of embeddedness in the network. Results from two network surveys supported these hypotheses.

 

Cases & Course Materials

AFSCME vs. Mozilo...and "Say on Pay" for All! (A) (Abridged)

Harvard Business School Case 309-101

Richard Ferlauto, director of pensions and benefits policy at the AFSCME, the largest public sector workers union in the U.S., was responsible for protecting the pensions of its members. Because pensions were invested for decades, Ferlauto wanted the companies in which the union invested to be managed for the long-term interests of shareholders. He believed this required good corporate governance and effective oversight by the board of directors. The case explores the history of AFSCME's shareholder activism on this front and particularly its use of shareholder proposals voted on by shareholders at annual meetings. The case then looks at the issue of executive compensation and the idea that excessive compensation is a sign of poor governance. It also discusses the union's "Say on Pay" proposals that sought to allow shareholders an advisory vote on executive compensation. Finally, the case provides details on the rise of Countrywide Financial, its collapse, the role it played in the mortgage financial crisis, and the excessive compensation of its CEO.

Purchase this case:
http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=309101

Barack Obama: Organizing for America 2.0

Harvard Business School Case 709-493

Less than a week before Barack Obama was due to be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, Obama for America (OFA), the president-elect's official campaign organization, announced the formation of a post-election organization, Organizing for America. The new organization would keep the campaign field team offices open after Obama took charge of the country for the express purpose of influencing supporters to back his administration's agenda. The case describes the activities of the Obama for America campaign and asks whether the new president should use social media tools to activate the grassroots, or whether he should abandon these unconventional tools in order not to upset politicians in Washington.

Purchase this case:
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Before the Fall: Lehman Brothers 2008

Harvard Business School Case 309-093

This case examines Lehman Brothers in the months preceding its collapse. Following the announcement of a huge and unexpected second quarter loss, the CFO was removed from her post after only seven months in the job. This case explores the challenges faced by a firm leader as she attempts to manage a situation that threatens the firm's survival. In particular, the case allows for an examination of how changes in a firm's performance and position are communicated to key external stakeholders in an effort to retain their confidence, while market conditions worsen, the balance sheet deteriorates, and the firm's credibility is challenged by a short-selling hedge fund.

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Chronology of the Asian Financial Crisis

Harvard Business School Case 708-001

In July 1997, Thailand became the first Asian "tiger" economy to abandon its fixed exchange rate system in response to speculative attacks on its currency. Investors started to flee Asia, and the crisis rapidly spread to other countries. Central banks spent billions of dollars to try and defend their currencies, only to seek emergency bailouts from the International Monetary Fund. This case presents a chronology of events that unraveled during the Asian financial crisis from 1997 to the end of 1998.

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E Ink in 2008

Harvard Business School Case 709-443

In the fall of 2008, E Ink had positioned itself as a leader in electronic ink technology thanks to the launch of several eBook devices such as Amazon's Kindle. Yet E Ink still faced the question of how to turn its technology into a profitable business amid competing technologies and financial challenges.

Purchase this case:
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Equity International: The Second Act

Harvard Business School Case 209-110

Thomas McDonald, senior vice president of Equity International (EI), is weighing an investment in the Brazilian homebuilder Gafisa. Was this the right country? The right company? The right co-investor? The right time? McDonald would be investing alongside a Brazilian private equity firm, GP Investments, and must decide how to structure the investment. Especially, he must decide how to align his interests with those of GP. GP has recruited EI due to its prior experience with the Mexican homebuilder Gafisa. McDonald must also consider: Is that experience transferable to this investment?

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SAP AG: Orchestrating the Ecosystem

Harvard Business School Case 609-069

Business ecosystems require careful orchestration and strategic choices regarding make/buy/partner decisions and membership access. This case examines the strategic and technological issues related to managing SAP's thriving ecosystem of user communities, software vendors, integration partners, and technology providers. It details how the ecosystem gets developed and the challenges in meeting the needs of the internal organization, large partners, and small up-and-coming firms. SAP executives, in this case, have to make a decision if a relatively small startup firm should be elevated to the highest strategic partnership level, normally reserved for very large firms.

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Skyhook Wireless

Harvard Business School Case 809-119

No abstract is available for this case.

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http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=809119

UBS and Auction Rate Securities (A)

Harvard Business School Case 209-119

No abstract is available for this case.

Purchase this case:
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Purchase Supplement (B), 209-131:
http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=209131

Purchase Supplement (C), 209-135:
http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=209135

URBI and the City Licensee Managers

Harvard Business School Case 209-144

A leading low income housing builder in Mexico decides which prospective new local partner best extends its advantages in managing twin production lines of homes and clients. URBI has built substantial competitive advantage in the technology and culture that matches the outputs of these two production systems. The company has also built extensive expertise in accessing the many mortgage and funding sources in Mexico. To grow, the company is interested in entering other Mexican geographies but faces a choice of doing this with its own staff and buying land for cash, or partnering with local entrepreneurs and local land owners. In evaluating the choices, students must think more deeply about what makes the two production lines work and how to balance the two lines. The discussion can end with comparisons of the Mexican political and government circumstances that encourage this method of producing workforce housing as compared with the U.S., China, India, and other markets.

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http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=209144

U.S. Subprime Mortgage Crisis: Policy Reactions (B)

Harvard Business School Case 709-045

In March 2009, the U.S. economy was in a severe recession not seen since the Great Depression after the subprime mortgage crisis had spiraled out of control. The situation had dramatically changed in one year since the Federal Reserve Board had helped to bailout investment bank Bear Stearns. Deflation, not inflation, had become a top concern. Interest rates were near zero percent. Five million jobs had been lost. The new Barack Obama administration had pushed forward with a $787 billion stimulus package, coupled with various programs to address the frozen credit markets and depressed investors' confidence. Yet the burning question in every policymaker's mind was—how effective would the various plans work to revive the U.S. economy?

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Young Presidents' Organization

Harvard Business School Case 709-444

The board of Young Presidents' Organization needs to decide on the future of its Networks Initiative, designed to connect its geographically dispersed membership base through 60 different interest-based networks. So far, one half of these networks have been considered successful, and now the board needs to decide what to do to make the remainder successful. Two options were considered. The first option, called "broad networks," focused on developing weaker ties and entailed keeping the initiative intact but funding it better, by allowing outside sponsors to provide the funds. The second option, called "deep networks," focused on developing strong ties and entailed scaling down the number of networks and providing them with support to encourage deep network formation, all funded internally.

Purchase this case:
http://hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=709444