First Look

June 9, 2009

Global climate change is a hot topic, most companies agree. But when and why do polluters disclose information about their practices concerning greenhouse gas emissions, such as emissions levels, risks, and reduction opportunities? According to a forthcoming article in Strategic Management Journal, pressure from both shareholder activists and government regulators can be effective for spurring change at the company level in organizational practices. And when one company feels the heat, others in the same industry soon follow, according to HBS doctoral candidate Erin M. Reid and professor Michael W. Toffel, writing in "Responding to Public and Private Politics: Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change Strategies." Also this week, the case "Jieliang Phone Home!" tackles the thorny differences between compensation and motivation. Set in a lean manufacturing facility in southern China, its lessons can be generalized for many other settings in which expectations and assumptions about pay and work are silent but no less powerful.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

Social Influence Given (Partially) Deliberate Matching: Career Imprints in the Creation of Academic Entrepreneurs


Actors often match with associates on a small set of dimensions that matter most for the particular relationship at hand. In so doing, they are exposed to unanticipated social influences because counterparts have more interests, attitudes, and preferences than would-be associates considered when they first chose to pair. This implies that some apparent social influences (those tied to the rationales for forming the relationship) are endogenous to the matching process, while others (those that are incidental to the formation of the relationship) may be conditionally exogenous, thus enabling causal estimation of peer effects. We illustrate this idea in a new dataset tracking the training and professional activities of academic biomedical scientists. In qualitative and quantitative analyses, we show that scientists match to their postdoctoral mentors based on two dominant factors, geography and scientific focus. They then adopt their advisers' orientations toward commercial science as evidenced by the transmission of patenting behavior, but they do not match on this dimension. We demonstrate this in two-stage models that adjust for the endogeneity of the matching process, using a modification of propensity score estimation and a sample selection correction with valid exclusion restrictions. Furthermore, we draw on qualitative accounts of the matching process recorded in oral histories of the career choices of the scientists in our data. All three methods—qualitative description, propensity score estimators, and those that tackle selection on unobservable factors—are potential approaches to establishing evidence of social influence in partially endogenous networks, and they may be especially persuasive in combination.

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Technology Innovation and Diffusion as Sources of Output and Asset Price Fluctuations


We develop a model in which innovations in an economy's growth potential are an important driving force of the business cycle. The framework shares the emphasis of the recent "new shock" literature on revisions of beliefs about the future as a source of fluctuations but differs by tying these beliefs to fundamentals of the evolution of the technology frontier. An important feature of the model is that the process of moving to the frontier involves costly technology adoption. In this way, news of improved growth potential has a positive effect on current hours. As we show, the model also has reasonable implications for stock prices. We estimate our model for data post-1984 and show that the innovations shock accounts for nearly a third of the variation in output at business cycle frequencies. The estimated model also accounts reasonably well for the large gyration in stock prices over this period. Finally, the endogenous adoption mechanism plays a significant role in amplifying other shocks.

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Farsighted Stability for Roommate Markets


Using a bi-choice graph technique (Klaus and Klijn, 2009), we show that a matching-for-a-roommate market indirectly dominates another matching if and only if no blocking pair of the former is matched in the latter (Proposition 1). Using this characterization of indirect dominance, we investigate von Neumann-Morgenstern farsightedly stable sets. We show that a singleton is von Neumann-Morgenstern farsightedly stable if and only if the matching is stable (Theorem 1). We also present roommate markets with no and with a non-singleton von Neumann-Morgenstern farsightedly stable set (Examples 1 and 2).

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The Global Competitive Position of the Baltic Sea Region

Abstract unavailable at this time.

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On Good Scholarship, Goal Setting, and Scholars Gone Wild


In this article, we define good scholarship, highlight our points of disagreement with Locke and Latham (2009), and call for further academic research to examine the full range of goal setting's effects. We reiterate our original claim that goal setting, like a potent medication, can produce both beneficial effects and systematic, negative outcomes (Ordóñez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, & Bazerman, 2009), and as a result, it should be carefully prescribed and closely monitored.

Responding to Public and Private Politics: Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change Strategies


The challenges associated with climate change will require governments, citizens, and firms to work collaboratively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a task that requires information on companies' emissions levels, risks, and reduction opportunities. This paper explores the conditions under which firms participate in this endeavor. Building on theories of how social activists inspire changes in organizational norms, beliefs, and practices, we hypothesize that shareholder actions and regulatory threats are likely to prime firms to adopt practices consistent with the aims of a broader social movement. We find empirical evidence of direct and spillover effects. In the domain of private politics, shareholder resolutions filed against it and others in its industry increase a firm's propensity to engage in practices consistent with the aims of the related social movement. Similarly, in the realm of public politics, threats of state regulations targeted at a firm's industry as well as regulations targeted at other industries increase the likelihood that the firm will engage in such practices. These findings extend existing theory by showing that both activist groups and government actors can spur changes in organizational practices, and that challenges mounted against a single firm and an industry can inspire both firm and field-level changes.

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Cases & Course Materials


Harvard Business School Case 109-092

Areva, the world's market leader in civilian nuclear power, was positioned to take advantage of the resurgence of nuclear power. However, three issues clouded the positive outlook: (1) a 1.7 billion euro loss on the construction of the first next generation nuclear reactor in Finland, (2) the decision of German company Siemens to pull out of its partnership in Areva NP and exercise its 2.1 billion euro put option, and (3) the projected investment budget shortfall of 3 billion euros in 2008. How can Areva best generate cash to finance its investments for 2008 and beyond?

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Corporate Governance in China: Current Practice, Key Problems

Harvard Business School Note 309-058

This note introduces the current corporate governance system in China, identifies its key problems, and assesses recent improvements and future challenges.

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Jieliang Phone Home! (A)

Harvard Business School Case 609-080

At Precision Electro-Tek's mobile phone manufacturing facility in southern China, thousands of operators—bright and capable young men and (mostly) women like Jieliang Hao—are motivated to improve line productivity through small innovations for faster assembly and have discovered many ways to increase their performance. Meanwhile a globally networked team of manufacturing experts led by Marty Cole, the case protagonist, is trying to spread best practice from other sites around the globe. Unfortunately these two processes sometimes inadvertently clash, presenting a management challenge. The case helps students examine the implicit assumptions managers make in organizing work inside a factory. These assumptions reflect theories of worker behavior and motivation in combination with managers' beliefs of what constitutes "best practice." Students are offered an opportunity to dissect these lean manufacturing theories and recognize that in this particular implementation, implementation of best practice without sufficient consideration of the interplay of theories on motivation has led to unexpected outcomes. The case offers an opportunity to explore the link between work design and compensation and to understand the differences between compensation and motivation. The case frames the role of the general manager in setting up work structures and compensation systems in a very traditional and explicit setting, one where linkages should be clearly visible yet assumptions are often deeply buried and implicit. Our expectation is that students will see the lessons generalize to most, if not all, of the organizations where they have worked. There are three cases: the (A) case describes the management view, the (B) case describes the direct labor worker view, and the (C) case details the results of an employee survey that was conducted on two manufacturing lines.

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Kmart and ESL Investments (B): The Sears Merger

Harvard Business School Supplement 209-045

Abstract unavailable at this time.

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