Competitiveness

43 Results

 

A Playbook for Small-Business Job Creation

Karen Mills left her post as SBA Administrator for a joint fellowship at Harvard to tackle a question she's faced her whole career: How can the United States drive innovation and turn it into jobs? Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Management Practices, Relational Contracts, and the Decline of General Motors

What led to General Motors' decline? Long regarded as one of the best managed and most successful firms in the world, its share of the US market fell from 62.6 to 19.8 percent between 1980 and 2009, and in 2009 the firm went bankrupt. The authors argue that the conventional explanations for GM's decline are seriously incomplete. They discuss a number of causes for the firm's difficulties, and make the case that one of the reasons that GM began to struggle was because rival Toyota's practices were rooted in the widespread deployment of effective relational contracts--agreements based on subjective measures of performance that could neither be fully specified beforehand nor verified after the fact and that were thus enforced by the shadow of the future. GM's history, organizational structure, and managerial practices made it very difficult to maintain these kinds of agreements either within the firm or between the firm and its suppliers. The authors also argue that at least two aspects of GM's experience seem common to a wide range of firms. First, past success often led to extended periods of denial: Indeed a pattern of denial following extended success appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. Second, many large American manufacturers had difficulty adopting the bundle of practices pioneered by firms like Toyota. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of this history for efforts to revive American manufacturing. Read More

Heterogeneous Technology Diffusion and Ricardian Trade Patterns

The principle of Ricardian technology differences as a source of trade is well established in the theory of international economics. This theory argues that countries can focus on producing products in which they have comparative productivity advantages; subsequent exchanges afford higher standards of living in all countries than are possible without trade. While a key theory, economists have struggled to quantify the empirical importance of comparative technology advantages and their link to trade. This is especially difficult given the high degree to which technology states of countries and industries can be correlated with other traits about countries that could also promote trade. This study contributes to scholarship on Ricardian advantages through the development of a substantially larger dataset than previously utilized and the study of changes in technology/trade over time. Even more important, the study provides a tool for isolating relative technology growth in exporting countries across industries. The foundation for this identification is the modeling of Ricardian advantages through differences across countries and their industries in terms of their access to the U.S. technology frontier. The differences arise due to historical migration patterns (e.g., Chinese migration to San Francisco versus Hispanic migration to Miami). The study analyzes how technologies flow differentially to countries and industries based upon the historical settlement patterns of migrants from countries and the spatial development of new technologies in the United States (i.e., which technologies flourished in San Francisco versus Miami). The study finds that these differential technology flows are powerful enough to influence world trade patterns, and in the process, they provide new identification to an age-old theory. Read More

Skilled Immigration and the Employment Structures of US Firms

The immigration of skilled workers is of deep importance to the United States, particularly in occupations closely linked to innovation and technology commercialization. Appropriate policies and admissions levels for skilled workers remain bitterly debated in the popular press. The authors analyze how the hiring of skilled immigrants affects the employment structures of US firms. This focus on the firm is both rare and important, since economists typically study immigration through the conceptual framework of shifts in the supply of workers to a labor market; yet substantial portions of the US immigration framework have been designed to allow American firms to choose the immigrants that they want to hire. Young workers account for a large portion of such skilled immigrants; for example, 90 percent of H-1B workers are under the age of 40. Given this context, the authors look specifically at the role of young skilled immigrants within more than 300 large employers and major patenting firms over the 1995-2008 period. The evidence suggests that increased employment of young skilled immigrants 1) raises the overall employment of skilled workers in the firm, 2) increases the immigrant share of these workers, and 3) reduces the older worker share of skilled employees. The latter effect is evident even among natives only. Overall, these results provide a multifaceted view of how young skilled immigration shapes the employment structures of US firms. There are significant implications for the competitiveness of American firms, the job opportunities of natives and immigrants employed by these firms, the larger national innovative capacity of the United States, and much beyond. Read More

The Long-Term Fix to US Competitiveness

Participants at a Harvard Business School event were urged by professors Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin to chart a new path forward to improve US competitiveness. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

Making America an Industrial Powerhouse Again

President Obama's funding of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation is a needed step to get the country building again, says Professor Gary Pisano. Closed for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Can We Bring Back the “Industrial Commons” for Manufacturing?

Summing Up: Does the US have the political will or educational ability to remake its manufacturing sector on the back of an 'industrial commons?' Professor Jim Heskett's readers are dubious. Closed for comment; 26 Comments posted.

US Competitiveness at Risk

America's declining global competitiveness—it ranks No. 7 this year in one respected survey—began long before the current recession took hold. Harvard Business School Professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin discuss causes and possible solutions. From Harvard magazine. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Customer-Driven Misconduct: How Competition Corrupts Business Practices

Competition is typically thought to generate many positive outcomes including lower prices and higher productivity. But competition can also lead firms to increase quality for their customers in ways that are both illegal and socially costly. This paper examines the impact of competition on the vehicle emissions testing market, and finds that firm misconduct increases with competitive pressure and the threat of losing customers to rival firms. These results have serious implications for policy makers and managers. This paper is among the first to empirically demonstrate that increased competition can motivate firms to provide illicit quality to avoid losing business. Read More

Nitin Nohria: Why US Competitiveness Matters

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria discusses the multidimensional quality of the American competitiveness problem, and why it matters to all. Read More

Kodak: A Parable of American Competitiveness

When American companies shift pieces of their operations overseas, they run the risk of moving the expertise, innovation, and new growth opportunities just out of their reach as well, explains HBS Professor Willy Shih, who served as president of Eastman Kodak's digital imaging business for several years. Open for comment; 32 Comments posted.

Immigrant Innovators: Job Stealers or Job Creators?

The H-1B visa program, which enables US employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers for three years, is "a lightning rod for a very heated debate," says Harvard Business School professor William Kerr. His latest research addresses the question of whether the program is good for innovation, and whether it impacts jobs for Americans. Closed for comment; 37 Comments posted.

While Waiting for Japan’s Recovery, Let’s Enhance Supplier Competitiveness at Home

The Obama administration and US companies do not have to wait for Japanese suppliers to recover from earthquake damage, argues Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Action can be taken now to ensure that America invests in growing our domestic stock of world-class suppliers. Closed for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Export Competitiveness: Reversing the Logic

While the economic crisis has caused countries to revisit growth strategies, it has also raised serious concerns about whether the traditional strategy of export-led growth is producing the right answer. Harvard Business School's Christian Ketels argues that the focus of debate now needs to be on the actual policies that can increase competitiveness rather than exports per se. Read More

Reputation and Competition: Evidence from the Credit Rating Industry

Credit ratings are a key aspect of the financial system. The quality of these ratings is certainly sustained in part by the reputational concerns of rating agencies, whose paying customers have no inherent interest in the quality of ratings. Competition in this industry has been increasing, and there have been calls for yet more competition. Whether competition will reduce quality or improve it is not yet clear. HBS professor Bo Becker and Washington University in St. Louis professor Todd Milbourn test these conflicting predictions in the ratings industry. Their evidence is more or less consistent with a reduction in credit rating quality as Fitch increased its market presence. Their empirical findings suggest that the system will work better when competition is not too severe. These results have potential policy implications. Read More

Monopolistic Competition Between Differentiated Products With Demand For More Than One Variety

How and when is price competition most significant among firms? This paper develops a theoretical framework for studying price competition between multiple firms. Two examples of markets that fit the description for study are software applications and videogames: There are thousands of software applications as well as games, and different users are interested in different applications and/or games. A given software or game user's tastes may overlap with another's, yet they may have nothing in common with a third's. Thus, although there is a sense in which competition is localized (any given firm competes only with firms whose brands are similar to its own), it is not clear how the fact that consumers are generally interested in purchasing multiple products affects the type of competition waged among firms. Read More

Quantity vs. Quality and Exclusion by Two-Sided Platforms

It is common for two-sided platforms to deny participation to some potential customers, who would otherwise be willing to pay the platforms' access and/or transaction fees. Videogame console manufacturers such as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, for example, restrict access to a select set of game developers and exclude many others by including security chips in their consoles, even though the latter would also be willing to pay the per-game royalties levied by the manufacturers. Apple routinely excludes certain application developers from its highly popular iPhone store. Professor Andrei Hagiu builds a simple model formalizing profit-maximizing two-sided platforms' choice of exclusion policies, which is fundamentally determined by a tradeoff between quality and quantity. Read More

Bank Structure and the Terms of Lending to Small Businesses

Access to "soft information" and the greater sensitivity of decentralized banks to the local institutional environment can have both positive and negative consequences for small firms. Hence there may be a dark side to decentralized bank lending in certain instances. This paper argues that the same ability of decentralized banks to act on soft information also makes them more responsive to the local environment when setting terms of their loans. While this can be beneficial for small businesses in competitive markets, it also implies that the organizational structure of decentralized banks might allow them to better exploit their market power in concentrated banking markets by restricting credit or charging higher interest rates from small businesses. Read More

What is the Future of State Capitalism?

In state capitalism, is the operative word "capitalism"? State capitalism is neither to be applauded nor feared, judging from the tone of responses to May's column. Jim Heskett sums up. Online forum now closed. Closed for comment; 43 Comments posted.

Handicapping the Best Countries for Business

India? South Africa? Russia? Which are the best countries for a firm to invest in? In a new book, Professor Richard Vietor looks at the economic, political, and structural strengths and weaknesses of ten countries and tells readers how to analyze the development of these areas in the future. Read our Q&A and book excerpt. Read More

Tata-Corus: India’s New Steel Giant

By acquiring Anglo-Dutch steel firm Corus, India's Tata Steel is now one of the world's top five steel makers. Professor Tarun Khanna says the fact that the deal is the largest out of India and generated by the private sector makes this a notable event. But now comes the hard part—making the merger work. Can Tata avoid mistakes made by Chinese companies? From The Economic Times/India Times. Read More

American Auto’s Troubled Road

Harvard Business School faculty dissect where U.S. auto makers went wrong, and how they might again get on the road to growth. From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

The Truck Driver Who Reinvented Shipping

Malcolm P. McLean (1914-2001) hit on an idea to dramatically reduce labor and dock servicing time. An excerpt from In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century by Harvard Business School's Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria. Read More

The Rise of Innovation in Asia

Asian countries are no longer just a place to get cheap labor or programming skills. Innovation is on the rise. A report from the Harvard Business School Asia Business Conference. Read More

How Important are Big Ideas?

A couple new books, including most controversially Does IT Matter? focus on sources of competitive advantage. Are management concepts on their own the best way to compete? And, does it matter that new concepts—and their guru practitioners—seem to come from the U.S.? Closed for comment; 21 Comments posted.

Mission to Mars: It Really Is Rocket Science

Do the successful Mars missions mean NASA again has the right stuff? Professor Alan MacCormack dissects the space agency’s "Faster, Better, Cheaper" program. Read More

Where Does Apple Go from Here?

Macintosh market share continues to decline, but the iPod and iTunes are hit products. Where does Apple Computer’s future lie? An interview with HBS professor David Yoffie. Read More

Sometimes Success Begins at Failure

Projects that appear to be duds may have unintended upsides—Viagra started life and failed as a drug for hypertension. Here are tips for turning negative test results into gold. Read More

The Lessons of New-Market Disruption

Teradyne was successful. Hewlett-Packard was not. Professor Clark Gilbert writes about how two companies had such different results with disruptive innovation. Read More

Why IT Does Matter

HBS professors F. Warren McFarlan and Richard L. Nolan respond to the much-discussed assertion by Nicholas Carr that company investments in IT are less and less likely to produce competitive advantage. Read More

XTV: Xerox’s Attempted Recovery From “Fumbling the Future”

Following failures to capitalize on its own innovation, Xerox formed Xerox Technology Ventures to look for spin-off opportunities. Professor Henry Chesbrough outlines the history of XTV in this Business History Review excerpt. Read More

The Secret of How Microsoft Stays on Top

Critics say Microsoft's incredible two-decade run at the top of the computer industry has less to do with innovation than it does with bully tactics. But new research from Harvard Business School professors Marco Iansiti and Alan MacCormack suggest a different reason: the company's ability to spot technological trends and exploit key software technologies. Read More

Understanding the Process of Innovation

Just what is the BIG idea? In this Harvard Management Update piece, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen helps us understand the sources of innovation inside companies and what blocks it. Read More

Disruption: The Art of Framing

Your chief competitor creates a breakthrough technology. Should you frame that event inside your company as a threat or opportunity? The answer in this Harvard Business Review excerpt by HBS professors Clark Gilbert and Joseph L. Bower just may surprise you. Read More

Read All About It! Newspapers Lose Web War

Newspapers saw a threat to their livelihood from the Internet, and aggressively put their own competing products online. Problem is, says Harvard Business School professor Clark Gilbert, they didn't take advantage of the power of disruptive technology. Read More

Healthcare Conference Looks At Ailing Industry

What's plaguing healthcare? Experts including HBS professor Clayton Christensen make the diagnosis on future trends for biology and medicine—and the business opportunities within—at the 2nd HBS Alumni Healthcare Conference. Read More

How One Center of Innovation Lost its Spark

It's no secret that innovation is what has always made places like Silicon Valley and Hollywood so special. Creativity and expertise centered in one location, it seems, spurs yet more innovation at ever increasing speeds. But what happens when the well runs dry? Read More

Angels Face the Innovator’s Dilemma

According to HBS professor Clayton M. Christensen, the venture capital industry—like computers, telephony, and brokerage before it—is susceptible to the same forces that have waylaid many seemingly invincible players. What that means, said the author of the influential bestseller The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, is that the time is ripe for the right people to create new, disruptive forms of financing. Read More

Breaking the Code of Change

How can firms maximize economic value while developing their organizational capabilities? In a corporate environment where change is constant, business leaders are continually challenged by this dilemma. In this excerpt from "Resolving the Tension between Theories E and O of Change," from Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria's Breaking the Code of Change, the authors present a framework toward "an integrative theory of change." Read More

David, Goliath, and Disruption

When introduced with speed and flair, disruptive technologies have the power to boost new companies and lay low other, seemingly invincible incumbents. Technology-savvy experts at Cyberposium considered their own successes and failures with the volatile medium, and passed on a bit of advice, too. Read More

The Dynamics of Standing Still: Firestone Tire & Rubber and the Radial Revolution

In the late 1960s, Firestone was perhaps the best managed company in its industry. But when Michelin introduced the radial tire and shook up the U.S. market, writes HBS professor Donald Sull, Firestone's historical success proved its own worst enemy. Read More

Minding the Muse: The Impact of Downsizing on Corporate Creativity

HBS Professor Teresa Amabile's in-house study of creativity at a high-tech Fortune 500 firm took on new implications when the company began a significant reduction in the size of its global workforce. Expanding the research to measure changes in the creative environment during and after the layoffs, Amabile and colleague Regina Conti of Colgate University showed that downsizing can have surprising effects on the creativity of remaining employees and the company's strategic position in the marketplace. Read More

Growing Pains: Prescriptions for U.S. Health Care

The health care industry may look seriously ill, says HBS Professor Clayton M. Christensen, but it's merely suffering the growing pains of a natural evolution as technology forces change at both the high and low ends of the market. Read More