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 3

The latest issue of Harvard Business Review features a quartet of articles by the local faculty:

  • In "The Power of Small Wins," Teresa Amabile and independent researcher Steven Kramer make the case that the best way managers can encourage creativity is to allow employees to take a step forward every day.
  • John Gourville, Elie Ofek, and Marco Bertini (London Business School) consider the best names for follow-on products in "The Best Way to Name Your Product 2.0."
  • Your computer's display of a progress bar when downloading files is not the best way to show users that action is occurring on their behalf. In "Think Customers Hate Waiting? Not So Fast..." doctoral student Ryan Buell and Michael Norton offer techniques for easing the pain when customers have to wait.
  • In "The Wise Leader," Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka (Hitotsubashi University) discuss why leaders must capture what Aristotle called phronesis: experiential knowledge.

In other new research posted this week, a working paper looks at the relationship between work environment and productivity. In a recent experiment, Karim Lakhani and Kevin Boudreau (London Business School) used a gathering of elite software programmers to ascertain whether they would be more productive working in an environment of their choosing. The result, detailed in their paper "'Fit': Field Experimental Evidence on Sorting, Incentives and Creative Worker Performance," should be of interest to all people who manage creative types.

 

Publications

The Power of Small Wins

Abstract

What is the best way to motivate employees to do creative work? Help them take a step forward every day. In an analysis of knowledge workers' diaries, the authors found that nothing contributed more to a positive inner work life (the mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that is critical to performance) than making progress in meaningful work. If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it's a good bet that he or she achieved something, however small. If the person drags out of the office disengaged and joyless, a setback is likely to blame. This progress principle suggests that managers have more influence than they may realize over employees' well-being, motivation, and creative output. The key is to learn which actions support progress—such as setting clear goals, providing sufficient time and resources, and offering recognition—and which have the opposite effect. Even small wins can boost inner work life tremendously. On the flip side, small losses or setbacks can have an extremely negative effect. And the work doesn't need to involve curing cancer in order to be meaningful. It simply must matter to the person doing it. The actions that set in motion the positive feedback loop between progress and inner work life may sound like Management 101, but it takes discipline to establish new habits. The authors provide a checklist that managers can use on a daily basis to monitor their progress-enhancing behaviors.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins/ar/1

The Best Way to Name Your Product 2.0

Abstract

Although there's ample research to guide marketers in naming new products, little of it has addressed follow-on offerings, even though these make up the bulk of new products in many industries. Companies have two basic strategies to choose from. They can stick with a name, often adding a sequential indicator (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3), or they can come up with an entirely new name (Nintendo's Wii). Three questions managers should consider when deciding whether brand-name continuation or brand-name change is the best way to go for their next-generation product.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/the-best-way-to-name-your-product-20/ar/1

Think Customers Hate Waiting? Not So Fast...

Abstract

Managers typically look for ways to reduce wait time to increase customer satisfaction. New research suggests there's a better approach: showing customers a representation of the effort, whether literal or not, being expended on their behalf while they wait. (The prototypical example is the travel website Kayak, which shows customers each airline it searches.) Studies show that customers prefer waiting when the work being done is transparent—even when the waits are longer or the results are no better than those obtained with shorter waits.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/think-customers-hate-waiting-not-so-fast/ar/1

Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads

Abstract

The paper seeks to examine major challenges facing MBA programs and to argue that they will have to reconsider their value proposition. It aims to explore effective curricular and programmatic responses as opportunities for MBA programs to innovate. The paper also aims to call for collective action across the business school field to effectively address these challenges.

The Hollow Science

Abstract

The financial meltdown made clear that the executives of many major financial institutions were operating with inadequate or distorted information about the values and risks of their firms' assets. It's fair to say that business scholars bear some responsibility for that. Most of them are neither studying nor teaching emerging best practices in asset valuation and risk management. They need to begin exploring the interior of leading-edge companies to provide detailed, qualitative case studies.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/column-the-hollow-science/ar/1

Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)

Abstract

How do effective managers get employees to act promptly? New research suggests that it's by making their requests at least twice. Though you may think redundancy is unnecessary and even a waste of time, a new study indicates that it helps your message cut through today's information overload.

Read thearticle: http://hbr.org/2011/05/defend-your-research-effective-managers-say-the-same-thing-twice-or-more/ar/1

The Wise Leader

Abstract

In an era of increasing discontinuity, wise leadership has nearly vanished. Many leaders find it difficult to reinvent their corporations rapidly enough to cope with new technologies, demographic shifts, and consumption trends. They can't develop truly global organizations that operate effortlessly across borders. And they find it tough to ensure that their people adhere to values and ethics. The world needs leaders who pursue the common good by striving to create social as well as economic value and who pair micromanagement with big-picture aspirations about the future. The authors, who have studied, taught, and interviewed executives in some of the world's leading companies, assert that such leaders must acquire practical wisdom, or what Aristotle called phronesis: experiential knowledge that enables people to make ethically sound judgments. Wise leaders demonstrate six abilities. They make decisions on the basis of what is good for the organization and for society. They quickly grasp the essence of a situation and fathom the nature and meaning of people, things, and events. They provide contexts in which executives and employees can interact to create new meaning. Phronetic leaders use metaphors and stories to convert their experience into tacit knowledge that others can use. They exert political power to bring people together and spur them to act. And wise leaders use apprenticeship and mentoring to cultivate practical wisdom in others.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/the-big-idea-the-wise-leader/ar/1

Extreme Productivity

Abstract

A veteran top executive at two giant mutual fund companies, the author has also been an attorney, a government official, a law school professor, and a business school professor—sometimes simultaneously. Over the years, he has devised a number of principles and practices to maximize his personal productivity without sacrificing his health or family life. In this article he presents six of them. Know your comparative advantage. Focus not on what you do best but on what your organization most needs from you-and don't spend too much time on operational details. It's not the time you spend but the results you produce. Most executives put a huge amount of time into their jobs, assuming that more hours equal more value added. That's too simplistic. Think first, read or write second. Figure out your argument in advance; then jot down your four or five key points and write the concluding paragraph. Prepare your plan, but be ready to change it. Arrive early for a speaking engagement in order to grasp the mood of your audience and tailor your speech accordingly. Let others own their space. Instead of assigning detailed tasks, present general priorities and let your reports decide how to implement them.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2011/05/managing-yourself-extreme-productivity/ar/1

 

Working Papers

Sustainable Cities: Oxymoron or the Shape of the Future?

Abstract

Two trends are likely to define the 21st century: threats to the sustainability of the natural environment and dramatic increases in urbanization. This paper reviews the goals, business models, and partnerships involved in eight early "ecocity" projects to begin to identify success factors in this emerging industry. Ecocities, for the most part, are viewed as a means of mitigating threats to the natural environment while creating urban living capacity, by combining low carbon and resource-efficient development with the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to better manage complex urban systems.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-062.pdf

'Fit': Field Experimental Evidence on Sorting, Incentives and Creative Worker Performance

Abstract

We present the results of a 10-day field experiment in which over 500 elite software developers prepared solutions to the same computational algorithmic problem. Participants were divided into two groups with identical skills distributions and exposed to the same competitive institutional setting. The "sorted" group was composed of individuals who preferred the competitive regime instead of a team-based outside option. The "unsorted" group had population-average preferences for working in the regime or the outside option. We find this sorting on this basis of institutional preferences doubled effort and the performance of solutions-controlling for skills, monetary incentives and institutional details.

Download the paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1815370

Strategy as Innovation: Emergent Goal Formation in a Nascent Industry

Abstract

Building on research in strategy formation and organizational innovation, this paper reports on a field study of a young company in the sustainable cities industry. We examine how company founders, facing the high ambiguity inherent in very early phases of a new industry, formed a strategic goal. Our data show goal formation as a phased social process. By aggregating previously encountered solutions to known problems, the founding team formed an emergent goal that presented an innovative solution to a new problem and became the basis of the new company's business model. We analyze this process to explain how, under conditions of ambiguity, organizational goals can form through a collaborative social exchange that resembles the innovation process. Our research suggests that, under particular conditions, novel ideas can be generated and ambiguous contexts navigated without great foresight. Instead, entrepreneurs can arrive at innovative ideas through the collaborative integration of disparate local problems and solutions. By illuminating the goal formation process in a nascent industry, we contribute to organizational literatures on strategy, decision-making, and innovation.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-099.pdf

 

Cases & Course Materials

Logoplaste: Global Growing Challenges

Juan Alcácer and John Leitao
Harvard Business School Case 711-411

In 2010, Logoplaste, a top 10 manufacturer of rigid plastic containers, was debating a more dramatic expansion strategy as a means to guarantee the company's continued success. The company, which began with a few plants in Portugal in the 1990s, now had 60 plants across five continents and was a valued partner to large multinational consumer goods companies, many of whom were pressuring Logoplaste to expand.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/711411-PDF-ENG

Google and Earnings Guidance

Francois Brochet and David Kiron
Harvard Business School Case 111-026

The case explores Google's communication strategy with Wall Street analysts. In particular, the case focuses on Google's commitment to a no-guidance policy and provides an overview of guidance practice among major U.S. companies.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/111026-PDF-ENG

Cork'd: Building a Social Network for Wine Lovers

Peter A. Coles
Harvard Business School Case 911-026

Lindsay Ronga and Gary Vaynerchuk are launching Cork'd, an online social network for wine lovers. Despite Gary's status as a celebrity wine connoisseur, the team faces a significant challenge: several other wine social networks are well established and already have large user bases. How can Cork'd gain traction in this crowded space?

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/911026-PDF-ENG

The Online Economy: Strategy and Entrepreneurship—Course Architecture Note

faculty names
Harvard Business School Course Overview 911-069

This note provides an overview of the Harvard Business School course "The Online Economy: Strategy and Entrepreneurship." It covers the framework for the course, key principles within each course module, and a synopsis of each case, along with the lessons the case is meant to convey.

Purchase this note:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/911069-PDF-ENG

Predictive Biosciences

Thomas Eisenmann, Jeffrey J. Bussgang, and David Kiron
Harvard Business School Case 811-015

A small cancer diagnostics start-up is deciding whether to acquire a laboratory to make and sell its bladder cancer test or build its own manufacturing and sales team.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/811015-PDF-ENG

Barceló Hotels and Resorts (A)

John T. Gourville and Marco Bertini
Harvard Business School Case 511-108

Barceló Hotels and Resorts must decide whether to allow its many hotels to continue to undertake separate promotional campaigns or to run, for the first time, a broad corporate-level promotion. Complicating the decision is the fact that the many hotels in its portfolio vary greatly in their character, clientele, positioning, and locations.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/511108-PDF-ENG

Cherie Blair: Inventing Herself

Boris Groysberg, Robin Abrahams, and Lindsay Tanne
Harvard Business School Case 411-021

Cherie Blair was famous, or infamous, in the United Kingdom as first lady from 1997 to 2007. Her marriage to Tony Blair, however, was the result of her own groundbreaking career in law—a career she fought to keep during the 10 years of her husband's tenure as prime minister, even though it meant bringing suit against his government at times. Blair balanced multiple roles and expectations.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/411021-PDF-ENG

BBVA Compass: Marketing Resource Allocation

Sunil Gupta and Joseph Davies-Gavin
Harvard Business School Case 511-096

BBVA Compass, the 15th largest commercial bank in the U.S., is a part of the BBVA Group of Spain, the second largest bank in Spain with $755 billion in assets. In December 2010, Frank Sottosanti, Chief Marketing Officer of BBVA Compass, was reviewing the marketing performance of the company and deciding how to allocate next year's marketing budget across various offline and online channels.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/511096-PDF-ENG

State Bank of India: Transforming a State Owned Giant

Rajiv Lal and Rachna Tahilyani
Harvard Business School Case 511-114

February 2011: O.P. Bhatt reflected contentedly on his five-year term as chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), India's largest commercial bank. He had led SBI on a journey of transformation from an old, hierarchical, transaction oriented, government bank to a modern, customer focused, and technologically advanced universal bank. In 2006, when Bhatt assumed leadership, SBI had been losing market share for over two decades to private and foreign banks. Analysts and industry observers had predicted that at the prevailing growth rates ICICI Bank, a private bank launched in 1994, would overtake SBI in terms of deposits in four years. However, by 2010, SBI had more than doubled its profits, deposits and advances; regained market share and won the Asian Banker Achievement award for the strongest bank in the Asia Pacific region.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/511114-PDF-ENG

MorphoSys AG: The Evolution of a Biotechnology Business Model

Gary P. Pisano, Ryan Johnson, and Carin-Isabel Knoop
Harvard Business School Case 611-046

In the biotech world, the 18-year-old Munich-based company MorphoSys was a rarity: it was profitable. The company achieved this profitability not by developing and selling its own drugs, but by licensing access to its proprietary library of human antibodies. Recently, the company decided to deviate from this model, and attempt to develop its own proprietary products. The case allows analysis of "license vs. vertically integrate" business model decisions, and can be used to teach principles of business model design and the functioning of markets for know-how.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/611046-PDF-ENG

mixi (B)

Mikołaj Jan Piskorski and Mayuka Yamazaki
Harvard Business School Supplement 711-412

Supplements case 709-413.

Purchase this supplement:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/711412-PDF-ENG

Corporate Reform Elements of the Dodd-Frank Act

Robert C. Pozen, Phillip Andrews, and David Lane
Harvard Business School Case Note 311-091

This note summarizes the four major changes affecting corporate governance that were made by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. These changes relate to: advisory notes by shareholders, refinements to board structure, non-disclosure on compensation and tightening up of certain enforcement provisions.

Purchase this note:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/311091-PDF-ENG

Mobile Banking for the Unbanked

V. Kasturi Rangan and Katharine Lee
Harvard Business School Case 511-049

The case describes in detail the workings of two mobile banking operators in Africa—WIZZIT in South Africa and M-PESA in Kenya. It explores the dimensions of strategy that make for success in the market for the unbanked. It raises questions regarding the portability of the model to other countries and settings.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/511049-PDF-ENG

QuikTrip

Zeynep Ton
Harvard Business School Case 611-045

QuikTrip, a large convenience store chain with over 500 stores, was known for its outstanding labor practices and fast, reliable, and friendly customer service. In November 2010, the CEO Chet Cadieux, had to decide how many new locations to open when QuikTrip entered a new market in North Carolina in 2011. Historically, QuikTrip had entered new markets slowly, opening 10 to 12 stores per year. And this slow growth worked well with its "people-first" strategy. For North Carolina, Cadieux was weighing the option of opening new stores at twice the normal pace. About half of employees in these new stores would come from saturated markets where there were few promotion opportunities. Hence, his growth would fulfill QuikTrip's purpose: "provide an opportunity for employees to grow and succeed." But Cadieux was concerned that fast growth might compromise QuikTrip's operations that depended on high performance employees.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/611045-PDF-ENG