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 14

Hillary Clinton and social change

Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter's new case explores the change process within Hillary Clinton's US State Department as it pursues women's empowerment through partnerships around the globe. One issue raised: Are the alliances sustainable when Clinton leaves office? Purchase the case, "Hillary Clinton & Partners: Leading Global Social Change from the US State Department."

Where is the economic research on digitization?

"In an industry that is all about information, shouldn't the information economy be more measurable?" That question is central to an essay by Josh Lerner, Shane Greenstein, and Scott Stern that points out the critical need for more research on the consequences of digitization on topics ranging from the composition of organizations to the design of copyright. Read "Digitization, Innovation, and Copyright: What Is the Agenda?" in the February 2013 issue of Strategic Organization II.

Innovation at Greylock Partners

The case "Greylock Partners" explores the pioneering initiatives of venture capitalist William Elfers, who started Greylock Partners in 1965. Using a limited partnership structure, Elfers helped create "a new organizational approach to venture capital through mechanisms that deeply reflected New England's financial investment culture," according to authors G. Felda Hardymon, Tom Nicholas, and David Lane. Over three decades, Elfers never lost a general partner or saw a colleague leave to start his own venture capital firm, they note.



Abstract—What's behind the phenomenal success of entertainment businesses such as Warner Bros., Marvel Enterprises, and the NFL-along with such stars as Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and LeBron James? Which strategies give leaders in film, television, music, publishing, and sports an edge over their rivals? In this book, drawing on my case studies and other research on the worlds of media and sports, I explain a powerful truth about the fiercely competitive world of entertainment: building a business around blockbuster products-the movies, television shows, songs, and books that are hugely expensive to produce and market-is the surest path to long-term success. Along the way, I reveal why entertainment executives often spend outrageous amounts of money in search of the next blockbuster, why superstars are paid unimaginable sums, and how digital technologies are transforming the entertainment landscape. Full of inside stories about some of the world's most successful entertainment brands, Blockbusters is aimed at anyone seeking to understand how the entertainment industry really works-and how to navigate today's high-stakes business world at large.

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  • 2006
  • Journal of Economic Perspectives

The Investment Strategies of Sovereign Wealth Funds

By: Bernstein, Shai, Josh Lerner, and Antoinette Schoar

Abstract—This paper examines the direct private equity investment strategies across sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) and their relationship to the funds' organizational structures. SWFs seem to engage in a form of trend chasing, since they are more likely to invest at home when domestic equity prices are higher and invest abroad when foreign prices are higher. Funds see the industry P/E ratios of their home investments drop in the year after the investment, while they have a positive change in the year after their investments abroad. SWFs where politicians are involved have a much greater likelihood of investing at home than those where external managers are involved. At the same time, SWFs with external managers tend to invest in lower P/E industries, which see an increase in the P/E ratios in the year after the investment. By way of contrast, funds with politicians involved invest in higher P/E industries, which have a negative valuation change in the year after the investment.

  • 2006
  • New England Journal of Medicine

Leading Clinicians and Clinicians Leading

By: Bohmer, Richard M.J.

Abstract—More effective models of care delivery are needed, but their successful implementation depends on effective care teams and good management of local operations (clinical microsystems). Clinicians influence both, and local clinician leaders will have several key tasks.

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  • 2006
  • Marketing Science

The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics

By: Chung, Doug J.

Abstract—I measure the spillover effect of intercollegiate athletics on the quantity and quality of applicants to institutions of higher education in the United States, popularly known as the "Flutie Effect." I treat athletic success as a stock of goodwill that decays over time, similar to that of advertising. A major challenge is that privacy laws prevent us from observing information about the applicant pool. I overcome this challenge by using order statistic distribution to infer applicant quality from information on enrolled students. Using a flexible random coefficients aggregate discrete choice model that accommodates heterogeneity in preferences for school quality and athletic success, and an extensive set of school fixed effects to control for unobserved quality in athletics and academics, I estimate the impact of athletic success on applicant quality and quantity. Overall, athletic success has a significant long-term goodwill effect on future applications and quality. However, students with lower than average SAT scores tend to have a stronger preference for athletic success, while students with higher SAT scores have a greater preference for academic quality. Furthermore, the decay rate of athletics goodwill is significant only for students with lower SAT scores, suggesting that the goodwill created by intercollegiate athletics resides more extensively with low-ability students than with their high-ability counterparts. But, surprisingly, athletic success impacts applications even among academically stronger students.

  • 2006
  • Harvard Business Review

The Performance Frontier: Innovating for a Sustainable Strategy

By: Eccles, Robert G., and George Serafeim

Abstract—By now most companies have sustainability programs. They're cutting carbon emissions, reducing waste, and otherwise enhancing operational efficiency. But a mishmash of sustainability tactics does not add up to a sustainable strategy. To endure, a strategy must address the interests of all stakeholders: investors, employees, customers, governments, NGOs, and society at large. To do that, it has to increase shareholder value while at the same time improving the firm's performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) dimensions. This article outlines a process that can be used to execute a sustainable strategy and extend the boundaries of The Performance Frontier.

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  • 2006
  • Management Science

Governance and CEO Turnover: Do Something or Do the Right Thing?

By:Fisman, Ray, Rakesh Khurana, Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, and Soojin Yim

Abstract—We study how corporate governance affects firm value through the decision of whether to fire or retain the CEO. We present a model in which weak governance-which prevents shareholders from controlling the board-protects inferior CEOs from dismissal, while at the same time insulates the board from pressures by biased or uninformed shareholders. Whether stronger governance improves retain/replace decisions depends on which of these effects dominates. We use our theoretical framework to assess the effect of governance on the quality of firing and hiring decisions using data on the CEO dismissals of large U.S. corporations during 1994-2007. Our findings are most consistent with a beneficent effect of weak governance on CEO dismissal decisions, suggesting that insulation from shareholder pressure may allow for better long-term decision making.

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  • 2006
  • Journal of Law, Economics & Organization

Contractual Incompleteness, Contingent Control Rights, and the Design of Internet Portal Alliances

By: Lerner, Josh, and Dan Elfenbein

Abstract—We test theoretical propositions from the literature on information and control in interfirm agreements using a sample of over 100 Internet portal alliance contracts. The literature on information and control in alliances suggests that the use of verifiable performance measures to allocate state-contingent control rights depends (a) on the precision of the information about the realized state and (b) on the level of information asymmetry between the two parties regarding the preferences of each. We test these propositions by looking at how the timing of agreements (a proxy for environmental uncertainty) and exclusivity restrictions (a proxy for incentive conflict) impact the use of a subset of available performance measures. Consistent with a signaling model of the allocation of contingent control rights, we find that contracts involve fewer contingent control rights as industries have matured. Where incentive conflicts are potentially greater, more contingent control rights are used.

  • 2006
  • Strategic Organization

Digitization, Innovation, and Copyright: What Is the Agenda?

By: Lerner, Josh, Shane Greenstein, and Scott Stern

Abstract—This essay discusses the need for research on the consequences of digitization, as well as the impact of alternative policies governing the creation and use of digital information. This agenda focuses on the development of research to investigate the economics of digitization, to analyze the governance of intellectual property in this sector, particularly through copyright, and to pioneer approaches to analyzing measurement of digitization. This agenda overlaps with many related open questions in organizational and strategy research.

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  • 2006
  • Review of Corporate Finance Studies

Bridging the Gap? Government Subsidized Lending and Access to Capital

By: Lerner, Josh, and Kristle Romero-Cortes

Abstract—The consequences of providing public funds to financial institutions remain controversial. We examine the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund's impact on credit union activity, using hitherto little studied U.S. Treasury data. The CDFI Fund grants increase lending at credit unions by 3%. For every dollar awarded, 45 additional cents are loaned out to borrowers in the first year, and up to an additional $1.60 is loaned out within three years. Delinquent loan rates also increase slightly. Our panel results are supported by a broadband regression discontinuity analysis. Politics does not seem to play a role in allocating funding.

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  • 2006
  • Industrial and Corporate Change

Institutions and Venture Capital

By: Lerner, Josh, and Joacim Tåg

Abstract—We survey the literature on venture capital and institutions and present a case study comparing the development of the venture capital market in the United States and Sweden. Our literature survey underscores that the legal environment, financial market development, the tax system, labor market regulations, and public spending on research and development correlate with venture capital activities across countries. Our case study suggests these institutional differences led to the later development of an active venture capital market in Sweden compared with the United States. In particular, a later development of financial markets and a heavier tax burden for entrepreneurs have played a key role.

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  • 2006
  • Boston Review

Can Global Brands Create Just Supply Chains? Promoting Political Mobilization

By: Short, Jodi L., and Michael W. Toffel

Abstract—Codes of conduct indicate that working conditions are improving overall at the factories being monitored by multinational corporations, and that these the codes of conduct also create possibilities for political mobilization that can improve labor conditions more broadly.

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Working Papers

The Impact of Supplier Reliability on Retailer Demand

By: Craig, Nathan, Nicole DeHoratius, and Ananth Raman

Abstract—To set inventory service levels, firms must understand how changes in service level affect customer demand. While the effects of service level changes have been studied empirically at the level of the end consumer, relatively little is known about the interaction between a retailer and a supplier. Using data from a manufacturer of branded apparel, we show increases in service level to be associated with statistically significant increases in retailer orders (i.e., demand, not just sales). Controlling for other factors that might affect demand, we find a 1% increase in historical service level to be associated with a 12% increase in demand from retailers, where historical service level is the type 1 service level performance of the apparel manufacturer over the prior year. Further, we find that retailers that order frequently exhibit a more substantial reaction to changes in service level, an outcome that is consistent with retailers learning about and reacting to changes in supplier service level. Our study not only provides the first empirical evidence of the impact of changes in service level on demand from retailers but also illustrates a method for estimating this relationship in practice.

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Abstract—We analyze the incentives for a two-sided intermediary to divert consumers to its favored destinations. Using a quasi-experiment to control for search intent, we identify and measure the impact of a search engine's exclusive award of preferential placement to its own service. We find that Google's differential placement of its Flight Search service led to a 65% decrease in click-through rates for non-paid algorithmic links and an 85% increase in click-through rates for paid advertising listings of competing online travel agencies. Moreover, the exclusive integration of search engine services into search results disproportionately impacted traffic to popular sites.

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Abstract—Platforms use search diversion in order to trade off total consumer traffic for higher revenues derived by exposing consumers to products other than the ones that best fit their preferences. Our analysis yields three key and novel insights regarding search diversion incentives, which have direct implications for platforms' strategies and empirical predictions. First, platforms that charge positive access fees to consumers have weaker incentives to divert search relative to platforms that cannot (or choose not to) charge such fees. Second, endogenizing the affiliation of products that consumers are not interested in (advertising) leads to stronger incentives to divert search relative to the exogenous affiliation (vertical integration) benchmark, whenever the marginal product yields higher profits per consumer exposure relative to the average product. Third, the effect of platform competition on search diversion incentives depends on the nature of competition. Competition for advertising leads to more search diversion relative to competition for consumers. Both types of competition lead to at least as much search diversion as a monopoly platform. Nevertheless, in the case of competing platforms, the equilibrium level of search diversion increases with the degree of horizontal differentiation between platforms.

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Marketplace or Reseller?

By: Hagiu, Andrei, and Julian Wright

Abstract—An intermediary can choose between functioning as a marketplace, on which suppliers sell their products directly to buyers, or as a reseller, purchasing products from suppliers and selling them to buyers. In our model, this choice comes down to whether residual control rights over non-contractible decision variables are better held by suppliers (the marketplace mode) or by the intermediary (the reseller mode). We focus on a single non-contractible decision variable―the level of demand-enhancing marketing activities. The reseller is better able to coordinate these activities across products, whereas the marketplace mode benefits from allowing independent suppliers to tailor their marketing activities to local information about buyer demand. In the benchmark setting, the marketplace mode is preferred if and only if the variance of local information exceeds the squared value of spillovers from marketing activities across products. We explore several generalizations, showing how the benchmark tradeoff is modified in different settings.

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Cases & Course Materials

  • Harvard Business School Case 413-068

OrganJet and GuardianWings

No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 513-060

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

Four businesses had, by 2012, grown to dominate the infrastructure that all firms rely on to reach online customers. Will the balance of power among the four persist, will one take command at the expense of the other three, or are all four more vulnerable than they seem to outside forces? What are the implications for the pace at which consumers go online? Amara's Law claims that we tend to overestimate change in the short run and underestimate it in the long run.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 813-002

Greylock Partners

In 1965 William Elfers left Georges Doriot's American Research and Development Corporation to found Greylock, his own venture capital firm. Over the ensuing three decades followed a series of eight Greylock partnerships, during which time Elfers never lost a general partner or saw a colleague leave to start his own venture capital firm. Furthermore, each of the investors in Greylock's first fund participated in all succeeding partnerships. Elfers was among the first to pioneer the limited partnership structure of the modern venture capital firm with Greylock being organized as a series of limited partnerships, each of which pooled the investment capital that its general partners and limited partners committed for finite lifetimes. Greylock was established against a long historical tradition of New England financial innovation going back to at least the nineteenth century. In essence Elfers helped to create a new organizational approach to venture capital through mechanisms that deeply reflected New England's financial investment culture.

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As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton acted on a long-standing interest in public-private partnerships to elevate and activate an Office of Global Partnerships reporting directly to her. One major initiative that also addressed her interest in women's empowerment was to create an alliance for clean cookstoves, a significant environmental and public health issue in developing countries. This case examines the change process within the State Department and across the federal government as well as the process of developing partnerships and looks at what happens on the ground to deploy resources. It raises the question of whether the alliances are sustainable when Sec. Clinton leaves office.

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Supplements the (A) case, 412-002.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 813-108


John Gilleland, CEO of TerraPower, returned to his office after a lengthy meeting with potential investors. It was October 2012, and TerraPower was in the process of raising a $200M Series C round to finance the ongoing development of its next-generation nuclear reactor. Though early in the fundraising process, Gilleland noted that this most recent conversation was similar to conversations with other interested cleantech growth equity investors. The conversations circled around a common theme: "This is the biggest idea that's ever been presented at our partners' meeting. We love what you're doing, but it's not right for us as an investment." Outside of raising money from typical growth equity and infrastructure funds, Gilleland could partner with a government and/or form a joint venture with an existing nuclear power player. Reliance Industries as an investor in TerraPower could provide an entry point into the fast growing Indian market. At the same time, Gilleland and Gates had talked with China National Nuclear Corp. about a possible cooperation with TerraPower. Whom should Gilleland call next?

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