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.

April 30

Using networks to create organizational change

Most organizations are inherently resistant to change. How does an insider work to move the needle to make a difference? A new paper by Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro, "Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change: Strong Ties and Affective Cooptation," suggests scouring your network for "potentially influential organization members who are ambivalent about a change," i.e., fence-sitters. Coopting them increases the probability that the organization will adopt the change, according to the researchers. Look for the results in the April issue of Management Science.

The Internet as crystal ball

A "big data" startup is the subject of a new case by Thomas H. Davenport. The company, Recorded Future, monitors hundreds of thousands of Web sources to make predictions about events, people, and entities. The case, "Recorded Future: Analyzing Internet Ideas About What Comes Next," watches CEO Christopher Ahlberg as he makes key decisions that will shape his own future.

In revolt with the CEO

It's likely that many decisions made by CEOs are unpopular in the organization. In the new case "Wayne Ferrari: iAutomation at a Crossroads," the machine control firm's chief executive is having a bad day as he launches a new pricing model. "On 'go live' day, the sales force 'is up in arms' requesting that their 'special customer deals' be sheltered from this new system," according to the case. It also takes a broader look at Ferrari's past wins and new challenges as iAutomation continues to expand.The case was written by Jim Sharpe and Michael Norris.



  • 2006
  • Harvard Business Review Press

What You're Really Meant to Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential

By: Kaplan, Robert Steven

Abstract—How do you create your own definition of success-and reach your unique potential? Building a fulfilling life and career can be a daunting challenge. It takes courage and hard work. Too often, we charge down a path leading to "success" as defined by those around us-and ultimately, are left feeling dissatisfied. Each of us is unique and brings distinctive skills and qualities to any situation. So why is it that most of us fail to spend sufficient time learning to understand ourselves and creating our own definition of success? The truth is, it can seem so natural and so much easier to just do what everyone else is doing-for now-leaving it for later to develop our best selves and figure out our own unique path. Is there a road map that will enable you to defy conventional wisdom, resist peer pressure, and carve out a path that fits your unique skills and passions? Harvard Business School's Robert Steven Kaplan, leadership expert and author of the highly successful book What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, regularly advises executives and students on how to tackle these questions. In this indispensable new book, Kaplan shares a specific and actionable approach to defining your own success and reaching your potential. Drawing on his years of experience, Kaplan proposes an integrated plan for identifying and achieving your goals. He outlines specific steps and exercises to help you understand yourself more deeply, take control of your career, and build your capabilities in a way that fits your passions and aspirations. Are you doing what you're really meant to do? If you're ready to face this question, this book can help you change your life.

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  • 2006
  • Management Science

Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change: Strong Ties and Affective Cooptation

By: Battilana, Julie, and Tiziana Casciaro

Abstract—We propose a relational theory of how change agents in organizations use the strength of ties in their network to overcome resistance to change. We argue that strong ties to potentially influential organization members who are ambivalent about a change (fence-sitters) provide the change agent with an affective basis to coopt them. This cooptation increases the probability that the organization will adopt the change. By contrast, strong ties to potentially influential organization members who disapprove of a change outright (resistors) are an effective means of affective cooptation only when a change diverges little from institutionalized practices. With more divergent changes, the advantages of strong ties to resistors accruing to the change agent are weaker, and may turn into liabilities that reduce the likelihood of change adoption. Analyses of longitudinal data from 68 multi-method case studies of organizational change initiatives conducted at the National Health Service in the United Kingdom support these predictions and advance a relational view of organizational change in which social networks operate as tools of political influence through affective mechanisms.


Working Papers

Innovation, Reallocation and Growth

By: Acemoglu, Daron, Ufuk Akcigit, Nicholas Bloom, and William Kerr

Abstract—We build a model of firm-level innovation, productivity growth and reallocation featuring endogenous entry and exit. A key feature is the selection between high- and low-type firms, which differ in terms of their innovative capacity. We estimate the parameters of the model using detailed US Census micro data on firm-level output, R&D and patenting. The model provides a good fit to the dynamics of firm entry and exit, output and R&D, and its implied elasticities are in the ballpark of a range of micro estimates. We find industrial policy subsidizing either the R&D or the continued operation of incumbents reduces growth and welfare. For example, a subsidy to incumbent R&D equivalent to 5% of GDP reduces welfare by about 1.5% because it deters entry of new high-type firms. On the contrary, substantial improvements (of the order of 5% improvement in welfare) are possible if the continued operation of incumbents is taxed while at the same time R&D by incumbents and new entrants is subsidized. This is because of a strong selection effect: R&D resources (skilled labor) are inefficiently used by low-type incumbent firms. Subsidies to incumbents encourage the survival and expansion of these firms at the expense of potential high-type entrants. We show that optimal policy encourages the exit of low-type firms and supports R&D by high-type incumbents and entry.

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Abstract—We analyze the incentives for a two-sided intermediary to divert consumers to its favored destinations. Applied to Internet search engines, we investigate a diversion mechanism based on Google's exclusive award of preferential placement to its own services. Using web traffic data from a quasi-experiment involving the introduction of Flight Search, a Google travel search service, we identify and measure the impact of diverting search away from non-paid algorithmic links to competing online travel agencies. Controlling for search intent, we find that Google's differential placement of Flight Search across similar search queries led to an 85% increase in click-through rates for paid advertising and a 65% decrease in click-through rates for non-paid algorithmic search links to competing online travel agencies. As search engines increase monetization of clicks by integrating specialized services into search results, our analysis suggests that exclusive preferential placement disproportionately impacts traffic to top sites most likely relevant to users' requests.

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Diasporas and Outsourcing: Evidence from oDesk and India

By: Ghani, Ejaz, William R. Kerr, and Christopher Stanton

Abstract—This study examines the role of the Indian diaspora in the outsourcing of work to India. Our data are taken from oDesk, the world's largest online platform for outsourced contracts, where India is the largest country in terms of contract volume. We use an ethnic name procedure to identify ethnic Indian users of oDesk in other countries around the world. We find very clear evidence that diaspora-based links matter on oDesk, with ethnic Indians in other countries 32% (9 percentage points) more likely to choose a worker in India. Yet, the size of the Indian diaspora on oDesk and the timing of its effects make clear that the Indian diaspora was not a very important factor in India becoming the leading country on oDesk for fulfilling work. In fact, multiple pieces of evidence suggest that diaspora use of oDesk increases with familiarity of the platform, rather than a scenario where diaspora connections serve to navigate uncertain environments. We further show that diaspora-based contracts mainly serve to lower costs for the company contacts outsourcing the work, as the workers in India are paid about the market wage for their work. These results and other observations lead to the conclusion that diaspora connections continue to be important even as online platforms provide many of the features that diaspora networks historically provided (e.g., information about potential workers, monitoring, and reputation foundations).

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Cases & Course Materials

Recorded Future is a "big data" startup company that uses Internet data to make predictions about events, people, and entities. The company primarily serves government intelligence agencies, but has some private sector clients and is considering taking on more. The CEO, Christopher Ahlberg, is wrestling with several key decisions about where to take the company in the future.

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Management of a company with extensive palm oil tree plantations questions the usefulness to management and investors of IAS41's requirement to value palm oil trees at their fair value.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 313-107

Monique Leroux: Leading Change at Desjardins

Monique Leroux led a major transformation, overcoming resistance, at a large Canadian financial cooperative based in Quebec that competed with top Canadian banks. Leroux was elected in 2008 as Chairman, President, and CEO of Desjardins Group. In order to compete effectively in a demanding and changing financial services industry and survive the global financial crisis, Desjardins needed to integrate, consolidate, and determine how to preserve traditional values while preparing for the future and emerging as a less provincial financial group. In 2012 she reflected on the change efforts and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 813-120

Wayne Ferrari: iAutomation at a Crossroads

Wayne Ferrari has bridged the gap between being an independent entrepreneur and a "professional manager." After selling his business to a Private Equity (PE) firm, Ferrari takes on the role of CEO and with their support implements a roll-up strategy to attain growth through acquisition in the mechanical controls distribution industry. Ferrari received support from the PE firm in negotiating and financing acquisitions but faced the challenging task of integrating them into the core business. Getting all the operations on a common IT platform proves more challenging than he expected. Developing an organization that supports a new strategy of application support for their customer base requires a change in culture and an evolving leadership challenge for the business. The most immediate challenge is to implement a "pricing" model to be used with all customers that takes into consideration a variety of customer specific characteristics to set optimal pricing for quotations. On "go live" day, the sales force "is up in arms" requesting that their "special customer deals" be sheltered from this new system. The case outlines a brief history of the business, the changes over the last six years and details on the challenges Ferrari faces as iAutomation continues to expand.

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