First Look

March 14, 2017

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

Is a Facebook 'like' worth anything?

Companies spend large sums trying to win attention on social media, but do those investments pay off? In the current issue of Harvard Business Review, Leslie John and colleagues describe a series of marketing experiments using Facebook. Their conclusion: "Merely liking a brand neither increases purchasing nor spurs friends to purchase more. Supporting likes with branded content, however, can prompt meaningful behavior change." The article is entitled What's the Value of a Like? Social Media Endorsements Don't Work the Way You Might Think.

One company's Brexit strategy

A country's national policies often affect how companies do business inside those borders—just ask thousands of US Health Care firms trying to predict how the American Health Care Act will impact their bottom line. In the United Kingdom, the Brexit vote has caused the same analyses to take place. A new case study follows CEO Alvaro Muñoz as he considers a strategy shift. The case "Muñoz Group Faces Brexit" was written by Forest Reinhardt and Annelena Lobb.

In Japan, 'womenomics' is a national priority

In Japan, a larger involvement of women in the national economy is a necessity for overcoming persistent sluggish growth. The case study Womenomics in Japan profiles Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's several-year effort to create supportive policies around the goal. The case was written by Boris Groysberg, Mayuka Yamazaki, Nobuo Sato, and David Lane.

A complete list of new research and publications from Harvard Business School faculty follows.

— Sean Silverthorne
  • March–April 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader: What to Look For

By: Butler, Timothy

Abstract—Aspiring to be innovative and agile, companies of all shapes and sizes want to recruit entrepreneurial managers. But most firms lack a scientific way to separate the true entrepreneurs from other candidates. To address that problem, Butler compared the psychological testing results of over 4,000 successful entrepreneurs and of approximately 1,800 business leaders who described themselves as general managers but not as entrepreneurs. His analysis uncovered three factors that differentiate entrepreneurs: thriving in uncertainty, a passion for ownership, and unique skill at persuasion. In this article Butler dives deep into the skills, mindset, and traits of entrepreneurs, explaining what the stereotypes about them often miss. For instance, they aren’t always more creative or in love with risk, but they are deeply inquisitive, open to new experiences, and comfortable with the unpredictable. He also offers evidence-based, practical advice for interviews and résumé screening that hiring managers can use to identify entrepreneurial leaders.

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  • forthcoming
  • Critical Finance Review

Inflation Bets or Deflation Hedges? The Changing Risks of Nominal Bonds

By: Campbell, John Y., Adi Sunderam, and Luis M. Viceira

Abstract—The covariance between U.S. Treasury bond returns and stock returns has moved considerably over time. While it was slightly positive on average in the period 1953–2009, it was unusually high in the early 1980s and negative in the 2000s, particularly in the downturns of 2000–2002 and 2007–2009. This paper specifies and estimates a model in which the nominal term structure of interest rates is driven by four state variables: the real interest rate, temporary and permanent components of expected inflation, the "nominal-real covariance" of inflation, and the real interest rate with the real economy. The last of these state variables enables the model to fit the changing covariance of bond and stock returns. Log bond yields and term premia are quadratic in these state variables, with term premia determined by the nominal-real covariance. The concavity of the yield curve—the level of intermediate-term bond yields relative to the average of short- and long-term bond yields—is a good proxy for the level of term premia. The nominal-real covariance has declined since the early 1980s, driving down term premia.

Publisher's link:

  • October–November 2016
  • Harvard Business Review

Let Your Workers Rebel

By: Gino, F.

Abstract—No abstract available.

Publisher's link:

  • 2016
  • Monetary Policy Through Asset Markets: Lessons from Unconventional Measures and Implications for an Integrated World

Forward Guidance in the Yield Curve: Short Rates versus Bond Supply

By: Greenwood, Robin, Samuel Gregory Hanson, and Dimitri Vayanos

Abstract—We present a model of the yield curve in which the central bank can provide market participants with forward guidance on both future short rates and on future Quantitative Easing (QE) operations, which affect bond supply. Forward guidance on short rates works through the expectations hypothesis, while forward guidance on QE works through expected future bond risk premia. If a QE operation is expected to be undone in the near term, then its announcement will have a hump-shaped effect on the yield and forward-rate curves; otherwise, the effect may be increasing with maturity. Humps associated to QE announcements typically occur at maturities longer than those associated to short-rate announcements, even when the effects of the former are expected to last over a shorter horizon. We use our model to re-examine the empirical evidence on QE announcements in the United States.

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  • March–April 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

What's the Value of a Like? Social Media Endorsements Don't Work the Way You Might Think

By: John, Leslie, Daniel Mochon, Oliver Emrich, and Janet Schwartz

Abstract—Brands spend billions of dollars a year on lavish efforts to establish and maintain a social media presence. But do those campaigns actually increase revenue? New research provides an answer to this question, which has vexed marketers ever since social media burst upon the scene. In a series of experiments, the researchers tested four increasingly interactive ways in which Facebook might affect customers’ behavior. First, they explored whether liking a brand—passively following it—makes people more likely to purchase it. Second, they examined whether people’s likes affect their friends’ purchasing. Third, they looked at whether liking affects things other than purchasing (for example, whether it can persuade people to engage in healthful behaviors). And fourth, they tested whether boosting likes by paying to have branded content displayed in followers’ news feeds increases the chances of meaningful behavior change. The results were clear: Merely liking a brand neither increases purchasing nor spurs friends to purchase more. Supporting likes with branded content, however, can prompt meaningful behavior change.

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  • January–March 2017
  • Enterprise & Society

Creating Ecotourism in Costa Rica, 1970–2000

By: Jones, G., and Andrew Spadafora

Abstract—Between the 1970s and the 2000s, Costa Rica became established as the world’s leading ecotourism destination. This article argues that although Costa Rica benefited from biodiversity and a pleasant climate, the country’s preeminence in ecotourism requires more than a natural resource endowment explanation. While previous literature has emphasized the efforts of the government and nongovernment organizations, this article demonstrates the critical role of small entrepreneurs in the co-creation of the industry. Making extensive use of oral history, the article explores the role of tour companies in drawing affluent Western ecotourists to the country, and of the creators of ecolodges and other forms of accommodation in providing them with somewhere to stay. Clustering created positive externalities drawing new entrepreneurs into the industry who could also learn from knowledge spillovers. There were downsides to the new industry. The creation of the national image of a natural paradise enabled many businesses that were not environmentally sustainable to freeride on the green image.

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  • October 10, 2016
  • Harvard Business Review

Why Lincoln Hid His Strongest Feelings from the Public

By: Koehn, Nancy F.

Abstract—No abstract available.

Publisher's link:

Abstract—This article critically examines the origins and evolution of China’s unique land institutions and situates land policy in the larger context of China’s reforms and pursuit of economic growth. It argues that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has strengthened the institutions that permit land expropriation—namely, urban/rural dualism, decentralized land ownership, and hierarchical land management—in order to use land as a key instrument of macroeconomic regulation, helping the CCP respond to domestic and international economic trends and manage expansion and contraction. Key episodes of macroeconomic policymaking are analyzed, with the use of local and central documents, to show how the CCP relied on the manipulation and distribution of the national land supply either to stimulate economic growth or to rein in an overheating economy. China’s land institutions, therefore, share “complementarities” with fiscal and financial institutions and benefit powerful political actors while imposing costs on marginal ones.

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Abstract—Using survey data from a sample of senior investment professionals from mainstream (i.e., not SRI funds) investment organizations, we provide insights into why and how investors use reported environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information. The primary reason survey respondents consider ESG information in investment decisions is because they consider it financially material to investment performance. ESG information is perceived to provide information primarily about risk rather than a company’s competitive positioning. There is no one size fits all, with the financial materiality of different ESG issues varying across sectors. Lack of comparability due to the lack of reporting standards is the primary impediment to the use of ESG information. Most frequently, the information is used to screen companies, with the most often used method being negative screening. However, negative screening is perceived as the least beneficial investment while full integration into stock valuation and positive screening are considered more beneficial. Respondents expect negative screening to be used less in the future, while positive screening and active ownership to be used more.

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Abstract—Cross-boundary teaming, within and across organizations, is an increasingly popular strategy for innovation. Knowledge diversity is seen to expand the range of views and ideas that teams can draw upon to innovate. Yet, case studies of practice reveal that teaming across knowledge boundaries can be difficult, and innovation is not always realized. Two streams of research are particularly relevant for understanding this challenge: research on team effectiveness and research on knowledge in organizations. They offer complementary insights: the former stream focuses on group dynamics and measures team inputs, processes, emergent states, and outcomes, while the latter closely investigates dialogue and objects in recurrent social practices. Drawing from both streams, this paper seeks to shed light on the complexity of cross-boundary teaming, while highlighting factors that may enhance its effectiveness. We develop an integrative model to provide greater explanatory power than previous approaches to assess cross-boundary teaming efforts and their innovation performance.

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Bubbles for Fama

By: Greenwood, Robin, Andrei Shleifer, and Yang You

Abstract—We evaluate Eugene Fama's claim that stock prices do not exhibit price bubbles. Based on U.S. industry returns 1926–2014 and international sector returns 1985–2014, we present four findings: (1) Fama is correct in that a sharp price increase of an industry portfolio does not, on average, predict unusually low returns going forward; (2) such sharp price increases predict a substantially heightened probability of a crash; (3) attributes of the price run-up, including volatility, turnover, issuance, and the price path of the run-up, can all help forecast an eventual crash and future returns; and (4) some of these characteristics can help investors earn superior returns by timing the bubble. Results hold similarly in U.S. and international samples.

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Humblebragging: A Distinct—and Ineffective—Self-Presentation Strategy

By: Sezer, Ovul, Francesca Gino, and Michael I. Norton

Abstract—Self-presentation is a fundamental aspect of social life, with myriad critical outcomes dependent on others’ impressions. We identify and offer the first empirical investigation of a prevalent, yet understudied self-presentation strategy: humblebragging. Across seven studies including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, we identify humblebragging—bragging masked by a complaint or humility—as a common, conceptually distinct, and ineffective form of self-presentation. We first document the ubiquity of humblebragging across several domains, from everyday life to social media. We then show that both forms of humblebragging—complaint-based or humility-based—are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, and compliance with requests. Despite being more common, complaint-based humblebrags are less effective than humility-based humblebrags and are even less effective than simply complaining. We show that people choose to deploy humblebrags particularly when motivated both to elicit sympathy and impress others. Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy, we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 813-184

Kaiser Permanente: Innovating to Transform Healthcare

This case enables discussion of organizational and industry transformation.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-001

Formlabs: Selling a New 3D Printer

Headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, Formlabs manufactures 3D printers used to print everything from prototypes and models to jewelry, dental, and sculpture molds. As Formlabs prepares to ship its latest model, the Form 2, Head of Customer Development and Services Luke Winston wonders which strategy will double sales. Should he focus on direct sales or add more channel partners?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 516-023

Managing Marketing Data at Allstate

No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-083

thredUP: Think Secondhand First

In the fall of 2016, the management team at thredUP, the largest U.S. online retailer of second hand clothing, is deciding whether to expand into international markets. Over the past 12 months the 7-year-old startup, which had raised over $130 million in venture capital, had seen revenue grow 100% and gross margin double. Would moving abroad expand thredUP's total addressable market and help position the company for an IPO? Or would it prove a distraction, derailing momentum in the core U.S. business?

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In November 2014, The Dow Chemical Company was faced with the prospect of a proxy battle with prominent hedge fund and activist investor Third Point Management. The activist had criticized Dow’s recent performance and advocated that the company split itself to maximize its potential. The activist also proposed two director candidates to join Dow’s board. Third Point offered its director nominees what had come to be known as a “golden leash” incentive structure—a significant amount of incentive payment from the investor if the company performed well. Supporters and critics had weighed in on the pros and cons of such incentive schemes for corporate independent directors. Faced with the prospect of a proxy fight, Dow’s board had to decide whether to invite the two directors to join the company’s board knowing they came with the special payment scheme from the hedge fund.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 417-020

BrightStar Care: The Evolution of a Leadership Team

BrightStar Care was a rapidly growing franchise of home health care agencies. Founded by husband and wife team JD and Shelly Sun as a single agency near Chicago in 2002, BrightStar had opened nearly 300 franchises across the United States by 2016, generating over $300 million in revenue. BrightStar was now a very different company from the one Shelly and JD had started during their first year of marriage. Shelly Sun, CEO, had decided to franchise the business in 2004, believing that the franchise model presented a relatively low-risk and high-return approach to growing BrightStar. As franchises began to sell, Sun quickly set about building scalable operations and infrastructure, including a centralized technology function and custom software for franchisees. As more and more locations opened around the United States, she focused on growing BrightStar’s national marketing profile and putting measures in place to distinguish BrightStar’s services as higher quality than those of its competitors. A shifting regulatory landscape and labor shortages posed challenges, but BrightStar continued to grow swiftly. As the company evolved and Sun attempted to spend more time away from headquarters, surveying the field and building relationships, she knew she needed a strong senior management team. Some members of her senior team had been with BrightStar for years, expanding their responsibilities as the company expanded, while others she recruited from outside. In the early 2010s, Sun was close to filling all BrightStar’s crucial executive roles but had to consider whether some longtime leaders were the right fit for the company’s current needs. As she thought through the composition of her senior team, she also revamped her board of advisors and pursued international franchising opportunities and a debt recapitalization. By early 2016, Sun was looking to the company’s next phase of growth while handing management of her executive team to BrightStar’s President and COO.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 417-002

Womenomics in Japan

This case profiles Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's vigorous attempts to revive Japan's economy, specifically by advocating for a larger role for women in the economy—not as a matter of social policy or gender equity per se, but as an essential element of any solution to Japan's persistent low economic growth. Several decades of economic stagnation led Abe to spearhead a multi-faceted reform effort to shake off deflation and come to grips with Japan's large national debt and rapidly aging society. "Womenomics"—the promotion of economic empowerment for women—has been a key element of this effort. Since taking office in late 2012, Abe has advocated for women in myriad ways: through sustained rhetoric at home and abroad, by naming women to key cabinet and party positions, and by setting ambitious numerical targets for expanding their professional ranks. To support these efforts at effecting institutional change, Abe also has overseen rapid growth in daycare facilities for the children of working mothers and has worked intensively to encourage Japan's business associations to increase hiring, promoting, and empowering women among member firms. At issue is how effective such measures have been and whether they can successfully be sustained.

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UC Berkley, long known as one of the leading public universities in both the U.S. and the world, has seen turbulent times recently. While student enrollment and costs have increased steadily in recent years, the school, which has been fiercely proud of its public mission, received ever diminished funding from the state of California. Although Berkeley survived the financial crisis of 2008 under the leadership of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, new Chancellor Nicholas Dirks inherited an ongoing structural deficit and a divided faculty. New controversies arose over the process of strategic planning, the building of a “Global Campus” in neighboring Richmond Bay, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of faculty and administrators. Can Berkeley overcome these challenges and maintain its distinguished reputation with its current governance structure and status as a privately funded public university?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 517-054

QuintilesIMS: Biosimilars Marketing in England

QuintilesIMS was a leading healthcare consulting firm best known for its data and information offerings as well as its market research and management consulting services for life science companies. By 2015, the company was expanding beyond the biopharmaceutical industry, offering analytical services to health care systems, like the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. In June, 2015, QuintilesIMS published a study highlighting inconsistencies in the care of RA patients in England. In particular, the company considered the current use of biologic medications to treat RA in England as well as how the introduction of biosimilar medications might affect costs to the NHS and medication access for patients. Students must use epidemiology, cost, and market share information given in the case to estimate potential cost savings one year after the introduction of biosimilars. The case also explores qualitative questions around the appropriate communication with patients and the role of QuintilesIMS.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-006

Muñoz Group Faces Brexit

In 2016, Muñoz Group, a multifaceted agribusiness company that developed, produced, packed, imported, and exported citrus, flowers, grapes, juice, and ice cream, faced an unexpected new challenge in the British public’s vote for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. The outcome of the vote led to uncertainty around investment conditions, instability in the British pound, growth in anti-immigrant sentiment, and other changes. This created unusual business conditions for Muñoz Group’s CEO, Alvaro Muñoz, who had to decide how to adjust his strategy for the coming years, given that his company was headquartered in the United Kingdom—but did business all over the world.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-034


SST, Inc. offered a subscription-based gunfire detection service, ShotSpotter Flex, to cities across the United States in addition to a few abroad. Over its 20-year history, SST had mostly honed a reliable business-to-government sales model, and the company had been focused on expanding to new cities. But Ralph Clark, President and CEO, was also interested in investigating new services. Mass shootings, in U.S. schools to cities abroad, were consistently followed with calls to his office: “Do you have a solution for us?” Could a ShotSpotter Flex-like service be sold to college campuses and other venues concerned with shootings? Should SST adapt the hardware and the software for indoor applications, like shopping malls and movie theaters? Was the next step in the company’s growth a move towards citywide deployments through smart cities, even to detect gunfire during terrorist attacks? Clark had been cautious about moving the company into new services. However, he was also aware, as were his investors, that the market of U.S. cities with gun-violence problems would eventually cap out. Entering new markets posed a great opportunity but also significant technical and operational challenges. In 2016, Clark weighed the implications.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-031

LabCDMX: Experiment 50

There were probably 30,000 public buses, minibuses, and vans in Mexico City. Though, in 2015, no one knew for certain since no comprehensive schedule existed. This was why el Laboratorio para la Ciudad (or LabCDMX) had spawned an effort to generate a map of the labyrinth system that provided an estimated 14 million rides a day. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the lab’s founder and director, had led her team in a project to crowdsource the routes from volunteer riders in what came to be known as Mapatón CDMX. After four pilots and a two-week “mapping marathon” later, she wondered exactly what to make of the lab’s 50th experiment? Was Mapatón successful?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-013

Airbnb in Amsterdam (A)

In February 2014, Amsterdam became the first city to issue new regulations specifically to allow home sharing. Airbnb's Molly Turner, global head of civic partnerships; her colleagues at the San Francisco–based home sharing platform; and her counterparts in Amsterdam's city leadership now had to make the new rules function well. By the summer of 2014, the question of how exactly to do that remained unsettled. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Airbnb was negotiating with Amsterdam officials to supplement the new home-sharing rules was not materializing. Turner was hearing that the company’s proposed commitments that spanned education on regulations, enforcement assistance, and tax collection might not be enough to secure what would be Airbnb’s broadest partnership with any city anywhere. Nanette Schippers was Amsterdam’s Advisor on the Sharing Economy in its Innovation Office and its lead at the negotiating table that summer. She was worried by the standstill, too. A primary reason for the impasse in the negotiations was that Amsterdam wanted access to Airbnb’s data in order to enforce the new laws more easily, while Airbnb sought to protect user privacy. For Airbnb, privacy, precedents, and platform principles were at stake. For Amsterdam, it was a matter of making sure that the historic city did not become “Venice, or Florence, or ‘Disneyland’”; that it wasn’t overrun by visitors and that locals weren’t crowded out. Could the two parties now find dry land?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-014

Airbnb in Amsterdam (B)

In December 2014, Amsterdam and Airbnb announced an MOU to promote responsible home sharing and to simplify the payment of tourist tax for hosts in the city. It was the most comprehensive agreement that Airbnb had with any city in the world. Its final provision read, “The parties trust that theirs will be a fruitful cooperation.” However, both sides were uncertain about how the agreement would be received. Molly Turner, Airbnb’s global head of civic partnerships, and Tanja de Coster, an Airbnb lawyer in Europe, were unsure how Airbnb’s hosts would react—as were their Airbnb colleagues. Laila Frank, who had been an advisor to the Deputy Mayor in Amsterdam, heralded the reputational gains from the agreement for the city, “We were worldwide news. In that way it worked out really well.” But she acknowledged that there were also skeptical points of view. “The only immediate result was the tax agreement, which we were really happy about. But the rest had to be proven.”

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