First Look

October 24, 2017

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

Anti-gay discrimination likely higher than thought

New research finds that the extent of anti-gay sentiment in business is likely underestimated, as is the size of the of the overall LGBT population. “Taken together the results suggest anti-gay discrimination might be a more significant issue than formerly considered, as the non-heterosexual population and anti-gay workplace-related sentiment are both larger than previously measured,” write Katherine Coffman and co-authors. The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment Are Substantially Underestimated.

Launching a happiness movement at Hitachi and beyond

To study how happy his employees are, Hitachi CEO Kazuo Yano developed a happiness sensor that could be worn like a mood ring, with data collected by the organization. In a new case study, Hitachi considers whether this technology good be the springboard of a happiness movement in the market. The case written by Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephanie Marton. Sensing (and Monetizing) Happiness at Hitachi.

This partnership won’t rest

A new case looks at the relationship between two mattress partners—Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm —who had been collaborating for 20 years in retail. But now Steinhoff, a large South African retailer, has made an offer to acquire Mattress Firm. Would the purchase affect relations between the old mattress friends? The case was written by Benjamin Esty and Lauren G. Pickle. Tempur Sealy International.

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

— Sean Silverthorne
  • October 2017
  • Management Science

The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment Are Substantially Underestimated

By: Coffman, Katherine Baldiga, Lucas C. Coffman, and Keith M. Marzilli Ericson

Abstract—We demonstrate that widely used measures of anti-gay sentiment and the size of the LGBT population are misestimated, likely substantially. In a series of online experiments using a large and diverse but non-representative sample, we compare estimates from the standard methodology of asking sensitive questions to measures from a “veiled” methodology that precludes inference about an individual but provides population estimates. The veiled method increased self-reports of anti-gay sentiment, particularly in the workplace: respondents were 67% more likely to disapprove of an openly gay manager when asked with a veil, and 71% more likely to say it should be legal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation. The veiled methodology also produces larger estimates of the fraction of the population that identifies as LGBT or has had a sexual experience with a member of the same sex. Self-reports of non-heterosexual identity rose by 65%, and same-sex sexual experiences by 59%. We conduct a “placebo test” and show that for non-sensitive placebo items, the veiled methodology produces effects that are small in magnitude and not significantly different from zero in seven out of eight items. Taken together the results suggest anti-gay discrimination might be a more significant issue than formerly considered, as the non-heterosexual population and anti-gay workplace-related sentiment are both larger than previously measured.

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Abstract—This paper provides the first estimate of the effect of door-to-door canvassing on actual electoral outcomes, via a countrywide experiment embedded in François Hollande's campaign in the 2012 French presidential election. While existing experiments randomized door-to-door visits at the individual level, the scale of this campaign (five million doors knocked) enabled randomization by precinct, the level at which vote shares are recorded administratively. Visits did not affect turnout but increased Hollande's vote share in the first round and accounted for one-fourth of his victory margin in the second. Visits' impact persisted in later elections, suggesting a lasting persuasion effect.

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  • forthcoming
  • Academy of Management Journal

Discordant vs. Harmonious Selves: The Effects of Identity Conflict and Enhancement on Sales Performance in Employee-Customer Interactions

By: Ramarajan, Lakshmi, Nancy Rothbard, and Steffanie Wilk

Abstract—Across multiple studies, we examine how identity conflict and enhancement within people affect performance in tasks that involve interactions between people through two mechanisms: role-immersion, operationalized as intrinsic motivation, and role-taking, operationalized as perspective-taking. In Study 1, a longitudinal field study of customer service representatives (n=763) who simultaneously identify with multiple brands they represent to customers, we examine the relationships among identity conflict and enhancement, on the one hand, and objective sales performance, on the other. We find independent effects for identity conflict and enhancement on intrinsic motivation, perspective-taking, and performance, such that identity conflict negatively and enhancement positively affect all three variables above and beyond average identification. Intrinsic motivation further mediates the relationships between identity conflict and enhancement on sales in a direction consistent with our theorizing. However, while significant, perspective-taking does not mediate these relationships in the expected direction, because it has a negative effect on sales. In Studies 2a and 2b, both experimental studies, we strengthen causal inference using an experimental moderation-of-process approach (Spencer, Zanna, & Fong, 2005) to constructively replicate and extend our findings. The paper demonstrates how multiple identities within people can have consequences for performance in tasks that involve interactions between people.

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Intermediation in the Supply of Agricultural Products in Developing Economies

By: Ferreira, Kris Johnson, Joel Goh, and Ehsan Valavi

Abstract—Problem Definition: Farmers face several challenges in agricultural supply chains in emerging economies that contribute to extreme levels of poverty. One common challenge is that farmers only have access to one channel, often an auction, in which to sell their crops. Recently, e-intermediaries have emerged as alternate, technology-driven posted-price channels. We aim to develop insights into the structural drivers of farmer and supply chain profitability in emerging markets and understand the impact of e-intermediaries. Academic / Practical Relevance: In practice, much attention has been given to e-intermediaries, and they have often been touted as for-profit social enterprises that improve farmers' welfare. Yet, studies in the operations literature that systematically analyze the impact of e-intermediaries are lacking. Our work fills this gap and answers practical questions regarding the responsible operations of e-intermediaries. Methodology: We develop an analytical model of a supply chain that allows us to study several key features of intermediated supply chains. We complement the model's insights with observations from a numerical study. Results: In the absence of an e-intermediary, auctions cause farmers to either overproduce or underproduce compared to their ideal production levels in a vertically integrated chain. The presence of an e-intermediary with limited market share improves farmers' profits; however, if the e-intermediary grows too large, it negatively impacts both farmers' and supply chain profits. Finally, as the number of farmers increases, farmers' profits approach zero, irrespective of the e-intermediary's presence. Managerial Implications: Our results provide a balanced perspective on the value of e-intermediation, compared to the generally positive views advanced by case studies. For-profit e-intermediaries that also aim to improve farmers' livelihoods cannot blindly operate as pure profit maximizers, assuming that market forces alone will ensure that farmers benefit. Even when e-intermediation benefits farmers, it is insufficient to mitigate the negative effects of supply fragmentation, suggesting that for farmers, market power is more important than market access.

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What Else Do Shareholders Want? Shareholder Proposals Contested by Firm Management

By: Soltes, Eugene F., Suraj Srinivasan, and Rajesh Vijayaraghavan

Abstract—Shareholder proposals provide investors an opportunity to exercise their decision rights within firms, but managers can seek permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to dismiss proposals. We find that managers seek to exclude 39% of all proposals they receive, but the SEC does not permit exclusion in over a quarter of cases. Of the proposals that managers’ contest, but the SEC does not allow exclusion, 21% go on to win shareholder or firm support suggesting that managers often seek to exclude legitimate shareholder interests from their proxy statements. Our analysis illuminates the role that regulators play in mediating differences between firms and shareholders.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 418-019

Sensing (and Monetizing) Happiness at Hitachi

Inspired by research linking happiness and productivity, Hitachi had invested in developing new “people analytics” technologies to help companies increase employee happiness. Hitachi had begun manufacturing high-tech badges that quantify a wearer’s activity patterns. Data from these devices revealed an unusually high correlation between certain patterns of activity and a person’s subjective sense of happiness at work. Unlike mood rings or even facial expressions, both of which were highly unreliable, Dr. Kazuo Yano—the mastermind responsible for bringing "happiness sensors" to market—believed he now had the ability to accurately sense happiness. When combined with other sources of data like Outlook calendars or email, Dr. Yano’s team could pinpoint with scientific precision which activities, events, or even people generated the most happiness in employees at work. With a firm proof of concept in hand, Dr. Yano was ready to push the business model further. He was rolling out an app to provide personalized "happiness" recommendations to employees, and he was considering other ways to automate the model to bring it to scale. He was confident that the new technology had the power to transform employee happiness and the productivity of workforces, in Japan and beyond, if he could only find the right business model to launch such a happiness movement.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-422

Tempur Sealy International (A)

This case explores the long-term relationship between Tempur Sealy (TPX, a mattress manufacturer) and Mattress Firm (MFRM, a bedding retailer and TPX's largest customer). For almost 20 years, the firms enjoyed a mutually beneficial and commercially prosperous relationship. Yet in August 2016, Steinhoff (a large, South African retailer) made an offer to acquire MFRM. Whether this acquisition will affect the symbiotic relationship that had existed between TPX and MFRM was the subject of intense speculation. While some industry observers believed it would increase MFRM's bargaining power vis-à-vis TPX, others argued it would not alter the balance of power, and that the incentives to collaborate would remain intact.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-423

Tempur Sealy International (B)

Analyzes the commercial relationship between Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm following the events discussed in the (A) case.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-424

Tempur Sealy International (C)

Analyzes the commercial relationship between Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm following the events discussed in the (B) case.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 217-040

Sales Razor Technologies

Describes the issues facing a founder-CEO regarding building a board of directors, assembling an executive team, managing tension between co-founders, and outsourcing system development work.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 518-039

Goldman Sachs' Digital Journey

No abstract available.

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The case examines the March 2015 Centerbridge Partners investment decision regarding whether to acquire Great Wolf Resorts, a North American family-oriented indoor water parks and hotel operator, from a private equity (PE) competitor, Apollo Global Management. The case allows for discussion of strategic and financing considerations by Centerbridge, a New York–based investment firm employing a flexible approach across investment disciplines: private equity (PE); credit, distressed strategies, and special situations; and real estate. Students are presented the opportunity to perform valuation analysis and compare two possible forms of financing for the potential acquisition: 1) traditional corporate debt and bond financing and 2) commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) financing. Strategically, the case poses the following questions: Was Centerbridge valuing Great Wolf correctly? Would CMBS be the optimal financing structure, and why had no other firm contemplated this type of financing? Would the company, in partnership with Centerbridge, be able to execute on operational improvements and growth strategy? Was the purchase price multiple of 9.4x warranted in light of the opportunity set? Would an established PE firm like Apollo ever leave enough on the table for a successor private-equity owner to generate gains without necessary multiple expansion?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 818-024

Centerbridge Partners and Great Wolf Resorts (B)

The case examines the aftermath of the March 2015 Centerbridge Partners acquisition of Great Wolf Resorts, a North American family-oriented indoor water parks and hotel operator, from a private equity (PE) competitor, Apollo Global Management.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 318-017

Ardian: Portfolio Company Governance (A)

Leaders of the mid-cap buyout group at Ardian, the Paris-based private equity firm led by Dominique Senequier, have been asked to review and assess the governance model the firm uses for majority-owned companies in its portfolio. The case describes the governance model and then shows how it has worked in practice at two companies: Italy’s orthopedic implant maker Lima Corporate and French chemical company Novacap. For each company, the case describes how Ardian decided on the investment and established a board of directors and details the deliberations around some of the critical decisions made by each board during Ardian’s tenure as majority shareholder. Through the two examples of Lima and Novacap, the case invites students to evaluate Ardian’s approach to corporate governance in its portfolio companies and to recommend possible changes or improvements.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-051

Mexico: 'A Mosaic of Different Realities'

A day after his inauguration as President of Mexico in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto announced a Pact for Mexico—a slate of institutional reforms for education, energy, fiscal policy, telecommunications, banking, and antitrust. These initiatives, enacted over the next several years, were designed to alleviate a host of historic problems that had held back Mexico’s economic development. By 2017, although the President’s popularity was at an all-time low, these initiatives were beginning to affect the economy. The salient questions were (1) whether they would really work and (2) whether the political order would shift radically to the left in 2018.

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