First Look

August 15, 2017

Among the highlights included in new research papers, case studies, articles, and books released this week by Harvard Business School faculty:

You’ll come around

New research suggests that people tend to believe in a favorable future and think others in the future will share similar views. “Six studies demonstrated this belief in a favorable future (BFF) for political views, scientific beliefs, and entertainment and product preferences,” according to authors Todd Rogers, Don A. Moore, and Michael I. Norton. Furthermore, BFF can influence the decisions we make in the present, such as whether to donate to a political campaign. The Belief in a Favorable Future.

Is a deeply religious business culture prepared for an outside acquisition?

At the start of a new case study by Jeffrey Rayport and Matthew Preble, executives at Prodege LLC, parent company of brand-promotion business Swagbucks, are deciding whether to acquire a Swagbucks competitor. The decision is complicated by Prodege’s strong religious culture—many of the founders were devout ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews—which executives fear could be disrupted by the deal. Swagbucks.

How historians should look at emerging markets

Business historians built their discipline by studying corporate strategies and structures in developed economies. Recent work into emerging markets should not be considered an extension of that earlier research but rather an “alternative business history” reflecting different contexts, according to business historians Gareth Austin, Carlos Dávila, and Geoffrey Jones. Emerging Markets and the Future of Business History.

Other new publications from Harvard Business School faculty are listed below.

— Sean Silverthorne
  • 2017
  • Washington, DC: American Public Health Association

Public Health Preparedness: Case Studies in Policy and Management

By: Howitt, Arnold M., Dutch Leonard, and David W. Giles, eds.

Abstract—This book provides detailed accounts of a range of public health emergencies. Topics range from natural disasters, to infectious diseases, to pandemics, and more. With chapters on Superstorm Sandy, H1N1, the Ebola virus, and bioterrorism, these cases cover major areas in public health preparedness. This book is suited for public health professionals, specialists in related fields, students, and concerned citizens. These case studies strongly portray the challenges that public health faces in our times.

Publisher's link:

  • forthcoming
  • Journal of Human Hypertension

A Retrospective Analysis of Hypertension Screening at a Mass Gathering in India: Implications for Non-communicable Disease Control Strategies

By: Balsari, S., P. Vemulapalli, M. Gofine, K. Oswal, R. Merchant, S. Saunik, G. Greenough, and T. Khanna

Abstract—Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCD) in India. The government’s National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke seeks to increase capacity building, screening, referral, and management of NCDs across India and includes community-based outreach and screening programs. The government in India routinely provides basic care at religious mass gatherings. However, in 2015, at the Kumbh Mela in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar, the state government extended its services to include a hypertension-screening program. We examine here the value and implications of such opportunistic screening at mass gatherings. At the Kumbh, 5,760 persons voluntarily opted for hypertension screening and received a single blood pressure measurement. In all, 1,783 (33.6%) screened positive, of whom 1,580 were previously unaware of their diagnosis. Of the 303 that previously had hypertension, 240 (79%) were prescribed medications, and 160 were compliant (that is, 52.8% under treatment). Fifty-five (18%) had normal blood pressure readings (BP under control). The data also demonstrated higher prevalence (39%) of hypertension among tobacco users compared to non-users (28%) (P<0.001). Poor recording of phone numbers (0.01%) precluded any phone-based follow-up. The low rates of hypertension awareness, treatment, and control underscore the ongoing challenge of both hypertension screening and management in India.

Publisher's link:

  • June 21, 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

Uber Can’t Be Fixed—It’s Time for Regulators to Shut It Down

By: Edelman, Benjamin G.

Abstract—I argue that Uber's intentional malfeasance is its comparative advantage. But having grown through intentional illegality, Uber should face strict enforcement of applicable preexisting laws—penalties that would probably bankrupt the company.

Publisher's link:

  • 2017
  • The Moral Responsibility of Firms

Corporate Moral Agency, Positive Duties, and Purpose

By: Hsieh, Nien-hê

Abstract—A long-standing question in business ethics is whether business enterprises are themselves moral agents with distinct moral responsibilities. To date, the debate about corporate moral agency has focused on responsibility for past wrongdoing that involves violating negative duties (i.e., duties to refrain from certain actions). In this chapter, I explore what we can learn by focusing on positive duties to engage in specific actions, including rescue (e.g., aiding victims of natural disaster), beneficence (e.g., donating medicines), and justice (e.g., strengthening weak legal regimes). The aims of the chapter are twofold. The first is to advance the debate about corporate moral agency by broadening it to include questions about positive duties. The second is examine the case for justifying these sorts of positive duties by attributing moral agency to business enterprises. Such duties are controversial because they may require activities that come at the expense of profits. Attributing moral agency to business enterprises may be thought to avoid this controversy given that most theories of morality recognize positive duties on the part of all moral agents to help others even if at some cost to their own projects. In the end, I conclude that rather than defend such duties by way of assigning moral agency to business enterprises, we would do better to provide an account of the purpose of the for-profit business enterprises that is not simply about the pursuit of profit.

Publisher's link:

  • in press
  • Psychological Science

The Belief in a Favorable Future

By: Rogers, Todd, Don A. Moore, and Michael I. Norton

Abstract—People believe that future others’ preferences and beliefs will change to align with their own. People holding a particular view (e.g., support of President Trump) are more likely to believe that future others will share their view than to believe that future others will have an opposing view (e.g., opposition to President Trump). Six studies demonstrated this belief in a favorable future (BFF) for political views, scientific beliefs, and entertainment and product preferences. BFF is greater in magnitude than the tendency to believe that current others share one’s views (false- consensus effect), arises across cultures, is distinct from general optimism, is strongest when people perceive their views as being objective rather than subjective, and can affect (but is distinct from) beliefs about favorable future policy changes. A lab experiment involving monetary bets on the future popularity of politicians and a field experiment involving political donations (N = 660,542) demonstrated that BFF can influence people’s behavior today.

Publisher's link:

  • April 2017
  • Stanford Law Review

The New Look of Deal Protection

By: Subramanian, Guhan, and Fernan Restrepo

Abstract—Deal protection in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) evolves in response to Delaware case law and the business goals of acquirers and targets. We construct a new sample of M&A deals from 2003 to 2015 to identify four such areas of evolution in current transactional practice: (1) termination fee "creep," which was pervasive in the 1980s and 1990s, seems to have gone away by the 2000s; (2) match rights, which were unheard of in the 1990s, became ubiquitous by the 2010s; (3) asset lockups, which disappeared from the landscape for thirty years, have reemerged, though in a "new economy" variation; and (4) practitioners have begun implementing side agreements to the deal that have a commercial purpose along with a deal protection effect. We offer three recommendations for how the Delaware courts should approach this "new look" to the deal protection landscape. First, courts should clarify that lockups must survive Unocal/Unitrin "preclusive" or "coercive" analysis in addition to Revlon "reasonableness" review. Second, Delaware courts should apply basic game theory to identify the deterrent effect of match rights and new economy asset lockups. And third, Delaware courts should take a functional approach to deal protection, meaning that collateral provisions that have a deal protection effect should be scrutinized under deal protection doctrine, even if these agreements have a colorable business purpose as well.

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Emerging Markets and the Future of Business History

By: Austin, Gareth, Carlos Dávila, and Geoffrey Jones

Abstract—This working paper suggests that the business history of emerging markets should be seen as an alternative business history rather than merely adding new settings to explore established core debates. The discipline of business history evolved around the corporate strategies and structures of developed economies. The growing literature on the business history of emerging markets addresses contexts that are different from developed markets. These regions had long eras of foreign domination and extensive state intervention, faced institutional inefficiencies, and experienced extended turbulence. This working paper suggests that this context drove different business responses than in the developed world. Entrepreneurs counted more than managerial hierarchies, immigrants and diaspora were critical sources of entrepreneurship, illegal and informal forms of business was commonplace, diversified business groups rather than the M-form became the major form of large-scale business, corporate strategies to deal with turbulence were essential, and radical corporate social responsibility concepts were pursued by some firms. Today, emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, and Indonesia are among the largest economies in the world. If business history is to remain relevant as a subject, it must transition as a discipline from being heavily focused on North America, Europe, and Japan to fully incorporating the historical experiences of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 818-025

Bluemercury: Leading High Growth Businesses

No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 317-011

AEEC: Becoming an Innovation Catalyst

No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 317-116

Helena Rubinstein: Making Up the Modern Woman

This case examines the entrepreneurial career of Helena Rubinstein before 1938. Rubinstein is widely considered the single most important female entrepreneur in the United States in the 20th century. She was born in Poland but immigrated to Australia where she started a cosmetics company. She subsequently moved first to Europe, and then to the United States during World War I, where she engaged with relentless competition in the upscale cosmetics market with her rival Elizabeth Arden. The case examines how Rubinstein created a luxury brand and enables a discussion of the impact of such brands on women. Rubinstein articulated the view that cosmetics were liberating for women, but some of her strategies, such as wearing white coats in many advertisements designed to signal that she was scientifically qualified, can be used to support a more critical view of the beauty industry.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-512

Aadhaar: From Voluntary to Mandatory

Approximately 1.1 billion residents of India (99% of the population) had a unique biometric identity—Aadhaar—by 2017. In six years, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had achieved an unprecedented milestone in emerging and developed markets. The stated objective was to create a corruption-proof social security infrastructure that enables the disenfranchised to access benefits without any diversion to middlemen and unscrupulous elements. While initially voluntary, this scheme was made mandatory in 2017 by the GOI (Government of India). What are the positive and negative implications of this, specifically related to economic development of the majority and the privacy of the individual?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 316-068

University of Hong Kong: Bridging East and West

In the early 20th century, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) was established in order to serve as a bridge between mainland China and the British Empire. As an elite institution in the 21st century, HKU continued its role as a bridge, connecting mainland China, Hong Kong, and the world, but in a very different global context. President Peter Mathieson believed that HKU still had an important role to play but knew that HKU needed to adapt to China's growing global presence and the increasing influence of mainland Chinese universities. Mathieson needed to break through institutional complacency and unite HKU's oft-divided students, faculty, and administration behind a plan that would allow HKU to thrive in a landscape in which it competed not only with other institutions in Hong Kong, but also with the increasingly strong key universities in China as well as with leading institutions around the world. Would HKU be able to maintain its position as a top institution linking East and West in an increasingly connected and complex global society?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-068


In early 2016, Chuck Davis, chairman and CEO of Prodege LLC, parent company of the brand promotion business Swagbucks, and Josef Gorowitz, Prodege’s founder and president, must decide whether to acquire MyPoints, a competitor to Swagbucks, after the company’s significant cultural transformation. Over the preceding two years, Davis and Gorowitz had grown Swagbucks from a relatively small venture staffed by people from Gorowitz’s personal and professional networks into a professionally managed and rapidly scaling business. This had been no easy task because Davis had to be careful not to destabilize Prodege’s strong culture, which was built around the deeply held religious beliefs of the company’s founding employees, many of whom were devout ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews, as he introduced change. The culture had resulted in some unique challenges for a growing technology company, such as a requirement that the company shutter its office on Jewish holidays and every week for observance of Shabbat. By 2016, the company was thriving both financially and operationally. Considering the opportunity to acquire MyPoints, which was an established competitor with millions of members, Davis and Gorowitz must determine whether the company’s culture is sufficiently robust to integrate another business and its employees.

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