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.

June 7, 2011

How organizational structure drives corporate giving … The competitive advantage of flower clusters … A whole lot of talking going on.

Among the fascinating pieces of information flowing from the paper Who Is Governing Whom? Senior Managers, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms is this bit of counter-intuitiveness: "Corporate giving decreases with CEO tenure." It turns out that organizational structure has very strong influences on company philanthropy, including the creation of strong tensions between boards and senior executives. More generally, researchers Christopher Marquis and Matthew Lee look at how directors, senior managers, and organizational structure intertwine to shape strategic decision making.

In addition to other accomplishments, Michael E. Porter is known for pioneering research on the dynamics of clusters, geographic locations such as Napa Valley where various components of an industry cluster together to provide competitive advantage. In the new case The Dutch Flower Cluster," Porter, Jorge Ramirez-Vallejo, and Fred van Eenennaam investigate a network of interconnected flower growers, suppliers, and other value-chain members to illustrate an example of the internationalization of a cluster.

One suspects employees at Hindustan Petroleum might be quite articulate. The case Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.: Driving Change through Internal Communication shows how the company has created a highly innovative culture driven by internal communication, mostly talking. Case protagonists consider whether this conversational management style will continue as the company grows. Written by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind.

— Sean Silverthorne


Transnational Management: Text, Cases and Readings in Cross-Border Management


Transnational Management focuses on the management challenges associated with developing strategies and managing the operations of companies whose activities stretch across national boundaries. The purpose of this book is to provide a conceptual framework showing the interplay between the multinational corporation, the countries in which it does business, and the competitive environment in which it operates. Through text narrative, cases, and readings, the authors skillfully examine the development of strategy, organizational capabilities, and management challenges for operating in the global economy.

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Cognitive Barriers to Environmental Action: Problems and Solutions


We explore interventions at the individual level and focus on recognized cognitive barriers from behavioral decision-making literature. In particular, we highlight three cognitive barriers that impede sound individual decision making that have particular relevance to behaviors impacting the environment. First, despite claiming that they want to leave the world in good condition for future generations, people intuitively discount the future to a greater degree than can be rationally defended. Second, positive illusions lead us to conclude that energy problems do not exist or are not severe enough to merit action. Third, we interpret events in a self-serving manner, a tendency that causes us to expect others to do more than we do to solve energy problems. We then propose ways in which these biases could actually be used to our advantage in steering ourselves toward better judgment. Finally, we outline the key questions on the research frontier from the behavioral decision-making perspective and debunk the myth that behavioral and neoclassical economic perspectives need be in conflict.

Cognitive, Affective, and Special-interest Barriers to Policy Making

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

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Commentary and Future Directions for Negotiations

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

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Naiveté and Cynicism in Negotiations and Other Competitive Contexts


A wealth of literature documents how the common failure to think about the self-interests of others contributes to suboptimal outcomes. Yet sometimes, an excess of cynicism appears to lead us to overthink the actions of others and make negative attributions about their motivations without sufficient cause. In the process, we may miss opportunities that greater trust might capture. We review the research on when people expect too little and or too much self-interest in the intentions of others, as contrasted with rational behavior. We also discuss the antecedents and consequences of these naïve and cynical errors, as well as some potential strategies to buffer against their effects and achieve better outcomes in competitive contexts.


Working Papers

"DEFENSE ACQUISITION REFORM: An Elusive Goal-1960 to 2010

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

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Who Is Governing Whom? Senior Managers, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms


We examine how organizational structure influences strategies over which corporate leaders have significant discretion. Corporate philanthropy is our setting to study how a differentiated structural element, the corporate foundation, constrains the influence of individual senior managers and directors on corporate strategy. Our analysis of Fortune 500 firms from 1996 to 2006 shows that leader characteristics at both the senior management and director levels affect corporate philanthropic contributions. We also find that organizational structure constrains the philanthropic influence of board members, but not senior managers, a result that is contrary to what existing theory would predict. We discuss how these findings advance understanding of how organizational structure and corporate leadership interact, and how organizations can more effectively realize the strategic value of corporate social responsibility activities.

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Cases & Course Materials

Demand Media

John Deighton and Leora Kornfeld
Harvard Business School Case 511-043

Google search had helped Demand Media grow to be a $1.9 billion online publisher. Then, social media and smartphone apps began to change the way people navigated the Internet. How should Demand Media respond? The business ran on a radically new model in which a stable of 10,000 freelance contributors supplied content, the Internet's search engines brought it 75 million readers each month, and advertising generated revenue. It took the guesswork out of content production, with algorithms that indicated which topics were being searched and created content accordingly. Demand treated its 5,000 online articles published per day as an investment, not a cost, a reversal of the traditional media model. In addition to being able to infer consumers' interests with its algorithm, the company had a formula for estimating the lifetime value of each piece of content. As the business models of print and broadcast media declined, Demand had figured out how to leverage digital and social media tools to bring down the costs of creating content and to find an audience. In spring 2011, executives at the five-year-old company were pleased with the company's billion dollar IPO, the biggest Internet IPO since Google's, but changes in consumer behavior on the Internet were obliging a review of the model.

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Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.: Driving Change through Internal Communication

Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind
Harvard Business School Case 411-077

Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL), confronted in 2003 with an urgent need to change how it operated externally, adopted a highly innovative approach to communicating internally. This case, set in 2010, presents an overview of the new, more interactive model of employee communication that HPCL introduced as part of its effort to adapt to increased market competition during the early 21st century. (HPCL, previously a wholly state-owned company within a state-controlled industry, had begun to operate in an increasingly privatized environment.) At the center of the new model was a series of "vision workshops"-structured conversations in which employees at all levels of the company took part in developing strategic and organizational visions for their regional offices, for their business units, and for the company as a whole. The case also discusses HPCL's use of digital technology to enhance employee communication; its leaders' increased emphasis on direct, "one-to-one" interaction with employees; and some of the consequences (both external and internal) of this more conversational model of organizational communication. As of 2010, HPCL was a Fortune Global 500 company, with more than 11,000 employees and with annual revenues of more than $23 billion. The question that company leaders now faced was whether HPCL's novel approaches to communicating with employees were appropriate to its next stage of internal development and external growth.

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Mukti Khaire, Gustavo A. Herrero, and Cintra Scott
Harvard Business School Case 811-059

The case deals with an IT company born in Argentina in 2003 to provide software services to established companies in the developed world. After reaching sales of $57 million in 2010, the company ponders its next steps to achieve $500 million in revenues by 2015.

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The Dutch Flower Cluster

Michael E. Porter, Jorge Ramirez-Vallejo, and Fred van Eenennaam
Harvard Business School Case 711-507

Describes the Dutch flower cluster, or the group of interconnected growers, suppliers, service providers, and flower-related institutions located in The Netherlands. Examines the role of the FloraHolland auction in the value chain. Also describes the flower clusters in China, Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya, the four other major international competitors.

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