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 14

Lessons from 'The Great Negotiator'

Tommy Koh, ambassador of Singapore, was recently named recipient of the 2014 Great Negotiator Award, presented by the Program on Negotiation consortium. In a working paper, James K. Sebenius and Laurence A. Green explore Koh's career and several of his greatest triumphs including leading the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

J.C. Penney's controversial strategy

A new case, "J.C. Penney's 'Fair and Square' Strategy," by Elie Ofek and Jill Avery, explores the decisions of CEO Ron Johnson as the retailer enters a crucial selling season. The abridged case wonders, "Were these changes enough to turn things around? Should Johnson stay the course on the other elements of his repositioning efforts? Is Johnson's experience in setting up Apple stores helping or hurting him as he tries to achieve his goal of making J.C. Penney "America's favorite store?"

Collaborative helping at IDEO

Especially in knowledge work, a culture of collaborative helping is essential for employees to do their best, write Teresa Amabile, Colin M. Fisher, and Julianna Pillmer in the Harvard Business Review article, "IDEO's Culture of Helping." It's not easy work. "A help-friendly organization has to be actively nurtured … because helpfulness among colleagues does not arise automatically," the authors note.

 

Publications

  • January 2014
  • Harvard Business Review

IDEO's Culture of Helping

By: Amabile, Teresa, Colin M. Fisher, and Julianna Pillemer

Abstract—Leaders can do few things more important than encouraging helping behavior within their organizations. In the highest-performing companies, it is a norm that colleagues support one another's efforts to do the best work they can. That has always been true for efficiency reasons, but collaborative helping becomes even more vital in an era of knowledge work, when positive business outcomes depend on high creativity in often very complex projects. A help-friendly organization has to be actively nurtured, however, because helpfulness among colleagues does not arise automatically: competition, pride, or distrust may get in the way. The trickiness of this management challenge-to increase a discretionary behavior that by definition must be inspired-makes all the more impressive what the design firm IDEO has already achieved. Its help-seeking and help-giving culture is behind the firm's success. But how has IDEO managed to make helping the norm? To answer this question, the authors spent two years observing, interviewing people, and conducting surveys at one office of the firm. They discovered four keys to building a help-friendly organization that leaders of other organizations could learn and apply to similar effect.

Publisher's link: http://hbr.org/2014/01/ideos-culture-of-helping/ar/1

  • January 2014
  • Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education

Leveraging Crowdsourced Peer-to-Peer Assessments to Enhance the Case Method of Learning

By: Avery, Jill

Abstract—Many marketing educators use the case method to help their students strengthen their decision-making skills. Rigorous class participation is essential to achieving learning objectives in case method learning. One challenge for case method instructors is the assessment of students' class participation, particularly in large classes. This article offers a solution that mines the practices of peer-to-peer feedback and crowdsourcing to enhance the assessment of learning and student-to-student interactions in face-to-face class sessions. The article outlines a technique used in an MBA marketing course for crowdsourced peer-to-peer assessment of class participation during case discussions and empirically validates how crowdsourced peer-to-peer assessment compares to students' self-assessment and to the instructor's assessment of class participation performance, based on five years of data (n=7,025) across ten sections. The article demonstrates that crowdsourced peer-to-peer assessment (unlike self-assessment) offers ratings that are highly correlated with instructor assessment and demonstrate strong inter-rater reliability. Results show that crowdsourced peer-to-peer assessments are perceived as fair and accurate. Educators can leverage peer-to-peer sharing to enhance the assessment of class participation during face-to-face case discussions.

  • January 2014
  • Harvard Business Review

Can a Strong Culture Be Too Strong?

By: Garvin, David A.

Abstract—The article presents a case study of a business enterprise with high employee turnover that is considering adopting a personnel management innovation, referred to as People Support, involving a group of managers whose role is to listen to and help resolve employees' work-related problems. It offers perspectives from two business experts who have opposing viewpoints on a family like corporate culture and on whether the People Support plan is advisable.

Publisher's link: http://hbr.org/2014/01/can-a-strong-culture-be-too-strong/ar/1

  • January 2014
  • MIT Sloan Management Review

Strategic Decisions for Multisided Platforms

By: Hagiu, Andrei

Abstract—Multisided platforms such as eBay and Facebook create value by enabling interactions between two or more customer groups. But building and managing a winning platform isn't easy.

Publisher's link: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/strategic-decisions-for-multisided-platforms/

  • January 2014
  • Harvard Business Review

The New Patterns of Innovation

By: Parmar, Rashik, Ian Mackenzie, David Cohn, and David Gann

Abstract—The search for new business ideas-and models-is hit-or-miss at most firms. Tackling the problem systematically, of course, will improve the odds of success. Traditional ways of framing this search examine competencies, customer needs, and shifts in the landscape. This article proposes adding a new IT-based framework. It involves asking the following question: how can data and analytic tools be used to create new value? The authors have explored that question with many clients. In their work, they've seen IT create new value in five patterns: using data from sensors in objects to improve offerings (think smart energy meters); digitizing physical assets (such as health records); combining data within and across industries (to, say, coordinate supply chains); trading data (as mobile providers do with information on users' whereabouts); and codifying best-in-class capabilities (such as online expense management) as services. Drawing on examples from their own experience and their clients', the authors walk readers through each of the five patterns and how to apply them. They also provide advice and questions that will help executives get started on their own searches.

Publisher's link: http://hbr.org/2014/01/the-new-patterns-of-innovation/ar/1

  • January 2014
  • Journal of Labor Economics

Skilled Immigration and the Employment Structures of U.S. Firms

By: Pekkala Kerr, Sari, William R. Kerr, and William F. Lincoln

Abstract—We study the impact of skilled immigrants on the employment structures of U.S. firms using matched employer-employee data. Unlike most previous work, we use the firm as the lens of analysis to account for a greater level of heterogeneity and the fact that many skilled immigrant admissions are driven by firms themselves (e.g., the H-1B visa). OLS and IV specifications find rising overall employment of skilled workers with increased skilled immigrant employment by firm. Employment expansion is greater for younger natives than their older counterparts, and departure rates for older workers appear higher for those in STEM occupations compared to younger workers.

Publisher's link: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/14-040_96933ceb-3097-4432-97d1-0b32625889f9.pdf

  • January 2014
  • Harvard Business Review

Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy

By: Ready, Douglas A., Linda A. Hill, and Robert J. Thomas

Abstract—When most of the world's financial services giants were stumbling and retrenching in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the asset management firm BlackRock was busy charting a course for growth. Its revenues, profits, and stock price all performed consistently through this tumultuous period. The authors looked at BlackRock and other game-changing companies-the Mumbai-based global conglomerate Tata Group and Envision, an entrepreneurial alternative energy company based in China-and found significant commonalities. These three companies demonstrate the essential attributes of a game-changing organization: they are driven by purpose, oriented toward performance, and guided by principles. In the process of conducting interviews with these companies, the authors discovered a fourth thread that weaves them even more tightly together: each is supported by a game-changing talent strategy. But, they write, the path to such a strategy seems rife with complexity and ambiguity. How can both strategy and execution be consistently superior? How can they support a collective culture yet enable high potentials to thrive as individuals? How can the strategy be global and local at the same time? And how can its policies endure yet be agile and constantly open to revitalization? BlackRock's approach provides the answers.

Publisher's link: http://hbr.org/2014/01/building-a-game-changing-talent-strategy/ar/1

  • January 2014
  • Harvard Business Review

Blame Me

By: Sharer, Kevin

Abstract—The author looks at the psychological side of management, discussing his realization that thinking about and acknowledging his own contributions to organizational underperformance or other work problems is critical to getting employees to improve and generating positive business results. He notes his approach reduced his employees' defensiveness and says it is valuable in personal as well as work relationships.

Publisher's link: http://hbr.org/2014/01/blame-me/ar/1

 

Working Papers

Price Coherence and Adverse Intermediation

By: Edelman, Benjamin G., and Julian Wright

Abstract—Suppose an intermediary provides a benefit to buyers when they purchase from sellers using the intermediary's technology. We develop a model to show that the intermediary will want to restrict sellers from charging buyers more for transactions it intermediates. We show that this restriction can reduce consumer surplus and welfare, indeed sometimes to such an extent that the existence of the intermediary can be harmful. Specifically, lower consumer surplus and welfare result from inflated retail prices, over-investment in providing benefits to buyers, and excessive adoption of the intermediary's services. Competition among intermediaries intensifies these problems, increasing the magnitude of their effects and also broadening the circumstances in which they arise. We discuss applications to travel reservation systems, payment card systems, marketplaces, rebate services, search engine advertising, and various types of brokers and agencies.

Download working paper: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2373671

Abstract—In 2008, the boundaries of national and state electoral constituencies in India were redrawn for the first time in three decades. We use detailed demographic and electoral data to construct measures of the extent of redistricting in a given constituency. We find the redistricting process to be politically neutral for the most part, though a few politicians who were advisory members for the redistricting process were able to avoid unfavorable redistricting outcomes for their specific constituencies. Incumbents whose constituencies became reserved for members of specific communities are significantly less likely to run for reelection following redistricting.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/download.aspx?name=14-051.pdf

Abstract—Regulations aimed at curbing the entry of large retail stores have been introduced in many countries to protect independent retailers. Analyzing a planning reform launched in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, I show that independent retailers were actually harmed by the creation of entry barriers against large stores. Instead of simply reducing the number of new large stores entering a market, the entry barriers created the incentive for large retail chains to invest in smaller and more centrally located formats, which competed more directly with independents and accelerated their decline. Overall, these findings suggest that restricting the entry of large stores does not necessarily lead to a world with fewer stores, but one with different stores, with uncertain competitive effects on independent retailers.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/download.aspx?name=12-044.pdf

Abstract—Significant negotiation-related achievements from the career of Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore are highlighted in brief form along with elements of his background and career. In light of these accomplishments, Koh was selected as the recipient of the 2014 Great Negotiator Award, presented by the Program on Negotiation, an interuniversity consortium of Harvard, MIT, and Tufts that is based at the Harvard Law School. Summaries of several of Koh's negotiations are presented in order to stimulate further research and analysis. Among numerous other activities, the episodes described include his leadership in forging the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), the development and ratification of a charter for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the resolution of territorial and humanitarian disputes in the Baltics and Asia, and successful chairmanship of two unprecedented global megaconferences: the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea and the U.N. Conference on the Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/download.aspx?name=14-049.pdf

Abstract—We conduct an empirical investigation of the impact of two different queue management systems on throughput times. Using an emergency department's (ED) patient-level data (N = 231,081) from 2007 to 2010, we find that patients' lengths of stay (LOS) were longer when physicians were assigned patients under a pooled queuing system, compared to when each physician operated under a dedicated queuing system. The dedicated queuing system resulted in a 10% decrease in LOS-a 32-minute reduction in LOS for an average patient of medium severity in this ED. We propose that the dedicated queuing system yielded shorter throughput times because it provided physicians with greater ability and incentive to manage their patients' flow through the ED from arrival to discharge. Consistent with social loafing theory, our analysis shows that patients were treated and discharged at a faster rate in the dedicated queuing system than in the pooled queuing system. We conduct additional analyses to rule out alternate explanations, such as stinting on care and decreased quality of care. Our paper has implications for health care organizations and others seeking to reduce throughput time, resource utilization, and costs.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/download.aspx?name=14-050.pdf

 

Cases & Course Materials

  • Harvard Business School Case 314-011

Americhem: The Gaylord Division (A-1)

The Gaylord Division of Americhem, a large chemical company, is in the midst of the first use of a new zero-base budgeting system. The general manager of the division leading the process is experiencing disagreement and conflict among the members of the senior management team. This case describes a difficult meeting. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/americhem-the-gaylord-division-a-1/an/314011-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 714-433

Intuit QuickBooks: From Product to Platform

This case focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced by a successful incumbent organization attempting to transform a large portion of its business from a traditionally product-centric operating mode to a platform-based one that leverages network effects to create durable competitive advantage. Strategic questions include the extent to which the organization should invest in platform initiatives, the appropriate resource allocation among various product and platform offerings, and the most beneficial business model for each of a few candidate multi-sided platform initiatives.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/intuit-quickbooks-from-product-to-platform/an/714433-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 814-038

Fred Khosravi and AccessClosure (B.)

It was January 2013, and Fred Khosravi, chairman of the board of AccessClosure Inc., wondered what the new year had in store for him and AccessClosure, the company he founded in late 2002. Khosravi was cautiously optimistic-the Mountain View, California-based medical device company had been cash flow positive for seven consecutive quarters with annual revenues over $70 million. Since 2007, it had shipped well over 1.5 million of its vascular closure device (VCD), the Mynx, which was stocked in more than 1,200 catheter labs worldwide. However, a 2008 patent infringement lawsuit filed by St. Jude Medical, the VCD market leader, loomed large. The case was on appeal, and a three-judge panel would hear arguments in March 2013. If AccessClosure lost its appeal, it faced a $27.1 million judgment for patent infringement and a permanent injunction from selling its Mynx family of VCDs, its sole source of revenue.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/fred-khosravi-and-accessclosure-b/an/814038-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 814-036

AngelList

In early 2010, Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi posted a list of angel investors on the Venture Hacks blog as a resource for founders looking for funding prior to seeking venture capital. The list quickly evolved into AngelList, a separate matchmaking platform for founders and investors to make early stage fundraising more efficient. By June 2013, AngelList had garnered substantial media attention and was used by many high profile angel investors and venture capitalists. It had approximately 100,000 startups and 18,000 accredited investors. Since the site was launched, almost 40 startups on AngelList had been acquired, and over 2,000 startups had been funded. For most entrepreneurs, posting a profile on AngelList had become as commonplace as setting up a personal profile on Facebook or LinkedIn. Most recently, the site added Invest Online, a new product that in partnership with SecondMarket allowed accredited investors to make small investments-as low as $1,000-in startups at the same terms as larger investors. While the cofounders were proud of AngelList's growth, as of June 2013, they were not charging for its use and had not yet determined its business model. Ravikant and Nivi wondered if they should reconsider and have AngelList apply for broker dealer status so it could charge transaction fees, but they were reluctant to enter what they considered a regulatory minefield. The recently passed JOBS Act was expected to relax constraints around crowdfunding, and Nivi and Ravikant knew that would be a logical extension for AngelList as well. Finally, they wondered if they should avoid any potential regulatory issues altogether and instead focus on generating revenue primarily from recruiting and other ancillary services.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/angellist/an/814036-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 514-063

J.C. Penney's 'Fair and Square' Strategy

As he gets ready to release 2nd quarter 2012 results, Ron Johnson, the new CEO of department store J.C. Penney, is reconsidering the dramatic changes he initiated for the business model and brand image of his company. A new pricing scheme he put in place in February, dubbed "Fair and square," was a central component of the new strategy. The scheme initially had three pricing tiers and eliminated typical sales promotions in an attempt to simplify the shopping experience for consumers, thus moving J.C. Penney off its previous high-low pricing practice. Other components of the new strategy included a new store layout, the inclusion of several well-known brands, and special lines designed by well-known designers. However, troubling first quarter results that continued into the summer months seemed to indicate that J.C. Penney shoppers, accustomed to receiving JCP Cash coupons and circulars advertising the week's specials, were slow to embrace the new pricing format and began leaving the retailer in droves. Under enormous pressure to turn things around as the all-important back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons were imminent, Johnson decided to make adjustments to the initial pricing scheme that were set to go into effect August 1. Were these changes enough to turn things around? Should Johnson stay the course on the other elements of his repositioning efforts? Is Johnson's experience in setting up Apple stores helping or hurting him as he tries to achieve his goal of making J.C. Penney "America's favorite store?" This is an abridged version of the original case, "J.C. Penney's 'Fair and Square' Pricing Strategy," 513-036.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/j-c-penney-s-fair-and-square-strategy-abridged/an/514063-PDF-ENG

The case discusses the origins and development of the European Integration process from the post-war period up to 2007, focusing particularly on the efforts of the Lisbon agenda under way since 2000 to enhance Europe's competitiveness. It discusses the different policy areas that have been approached at the European level over time and provides background on the architecture of European institutions. The case enables students to understand how European integration has affected competitiveness across the continent. It provides a platform to discuss the impact of collaboration across countries in large geographies on competitiveness and the lessons that the European integration experience might hold for other world regions.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/european-integration-meeting-the-competitiveness-challenge/an/714405-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 114-023

Wal-Mart Lobbying in India?

In 2012, as part of a routine disclosure under U.S. law, Wal-Mart revealed it had spent $25 million since 2008 on lobbying to "enhance market access for investment in India." This disclosure, which came weeks after the Indian government made a controversial decision to permit FDI in the country's multi-brand retail sector, created uproar in India. Lobbying by multinationals drew strong emotions in India, evoking images of the millions spent by Enron in the 1990s to "educate Indians"-a suspected euphemism for bribery. Opposition political parties accused Wal-Mart of bribing the Indian government, which, on the eve of a general election, appointed a judicial commission to investigate Wal-Mart. Already under pressure from allegations of bribery in Mexico, Wal-Mart risked becoming embroiled in another embarrassing scandal. How had the company landed in its current situation and how could it respond to the investigation into its India-related lobbying?

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/wal-mart-lobbying-in-india/an/114023-PDF-ENG

  • Harvard Business School Case 212-010

Adaptive Engineering, LLC

The owner and CEO of Adaptive Engineering was facing an important decision: should he focus on rebuilding its core professional services business, which had generated significant revenue and cash flow over the past several years, or should he focus on developing and marketing licensed software, which had been under development for several years but had yet to become profitable.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/product/adaptive-engineering-llc/an/212010-PDF-ENG