First Look

October 13, 2010

As President George Bush's point man in Iraq, Paul Bremer cut an unmistakable figure--who could forget photos of Bremer clad in impressive suits and dust-covered combat boots? A recent case looks at the challenges and pressures he faced as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, in charge of both rebuilding the country and handing over sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. Readers will diagnose leadership strategies employed in a crisis situation. "Paul Bremer at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq" was written by Professor Robert Steven Kaplan and Nicholas Taranto (HBS MPA/MBA 2010).

Over a 25-year period, advertising agencies have increasingly "unbundled" services such as copywriting and media placement, moving away from the traditional one-stop-shop model. The transformation was not unexpected but took longer than predicted. The researchers analyze this trend from 1982 through 2007 and consider how it may be interpreted by the economic theory of bundling. One finding: Agency unbundling is tied to the firm's size and age. The research was conducted by Harvard Business School's Alvin J. Silk and coauthors Mohammad Arzaghi (American University of Sharjah), Ernst R. Berndt (MIT), and James C. Davis (National Bureau of Economic Research).

HBS professors Lauren H. Cohen and Christopher J. Malloy have spent years studying connections between Wall Street analysts/portfolio managers and the schools they attended. Now their work on old school ties is further explained in the October issue of Harvard Business Review. "Our results reveal a strong pattern, in both stock holdings and returns: U.S. mutual fund portfolio managers placed larger concentrated bets on companies to which they were connected through an education network. And the fund managers performed significantly better on those connected positions than they did on nonconnected ones, to the tune of 7.8 percent a year." To which we say, boola boola!

— Sean Silverthorne


Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down


You've got a good idea. You know it could make a crucial difference for you, your organization, your community. You present it to the group but get confounding questions, inane comments, and verbal bullets in return. Before you know what's happened, your idea is dead, shot down. You're furious. Everyone has lost: Those who would have benefited from your proposal. You. Your company. Perhaps even the country. It doesn't have to be this way, maintain John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead. In Buy-In, they reveal how to win the support your idea needs to deliver valuable results. The key? Understand the generic attack strategies that naysayers and obfuscators deploy time and time again. Then engage these adversaries with tactics tailored to each strategy. By "inviting in the lions" to critique your idea—and being prepared for them—you'll capture busy people's attention, help them grasp your proposal's value, and secure their commitment to implementing the solution. The book presents a fresh and amusing fictional narrative showing attack strategies in action. It then provides several specific counterstrategies for each basic category the authors have defined—including the following:

  • Death-by-delay: Your enemies push discussion of your idea so far into the future it's forgotten.
  • Confusion: They present so much data that confidence in your proposal dies.
  • Fearmongering: Critics catalyze irrational anxieties about your idea.
  • Character assassination: They slam your reputation and credibility.

Smart, practical, and filled with useful advice, Buy-In equips you to anticipate and combat attacks-so your good idea makes it through to make a positive change.

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The Power of Alumni Networks

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

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Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?


Financial development is critical for growth, but its micro-determinants are not well understood. We test leading theories of low demand for financial services in emerging markets, combining novel survey evidence from Indonesia and India with a field experiment. We find a strong correlation between financial literacy and behavior. However, a financial education program has modest effects, increasing demand for bank accounts only for those with low levels of education or financial literacy. In contrast, small subsidies greatly increase demand. A follow-up survey confirms these findings, demonstrating that the newly opened accounts remain open and in use two years after the intervention.

Business Groups in Emerging Markets: Paragons or Parasites?

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

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Shadow of the Contract: How Contract Structure Shapes Inter-Firm Dispute Resolution


This paper investigates how contract structure influences inter-firm dispute resolution processes and outcomes by examining a unique dataset consisting of over 150,000 pages of documents relating to 102 business disputes. We find that the level of contractual detail affects the type of dispute resolution approach that is adopted when conflict arises, and that different approaches are associated with different costs for resolving the dispute. We also find that the effect of contract structure on dispute resolution approach is moderated by the degree of coordination required in the relationship, and that the effect of dispute approach on resolution costs is moderated by the degree of power asymmetry between the parties. Thus, even after controlling for various attributes of the exchange relationship and the dispute, the choice of contracting structure has important strategic implications.

Preferring Balanced vs. Advantageous Peace Agreements: A Study of Israeli Attitudes Towards a Two-State Solution


The paper extends research on fixed-pie perceptions by suggesting that disputants may prefer proposals that are perceived to be equally attractive to both parties (i.e., balanced) rather than one-sided, because balanced agreements are seen as more likely to be successfully implemented. We test our predictions using data on Israeli support for the Geneva Accords, an agreement for a two-state solution negotiated by unofficial delegations of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2003. The results demonstrate that Israelis are more likely to support agreements that are seen favorably by other Israelis, but—contrary to fixed-pie predictions—Israeli support for the accords does not diminish simply because a majority of Palestinians favors (rather than opposes) the accords. We show that implementation concerns create a demand among Israelis for balance in the degree to which each side favors (or opposes) the agreement. The effect of balance is noteworthy in that it creates considerable support for proposals even when survey respondents are told that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians oppose the deal.

Leveraging Consumer Psychology to Make It Easier to Eat Less

An abstract is unavailable at this time.


Working Papers

Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal


This research provides the first support for a possible psychological universal: human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others (prosocial spending). Analyzing survey data from 136 countries, we show that prosocial spending is consistently associated with greater happiness. To test for causality, we conduct experiments within two very different countries (Canada and Uganda) and show that spending money on others has a consistent, causal impact on happiness. In contrast to traditional economic thought—which places self-interest as the guiding principle of human motivation—our findings suggest that the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts.

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The Unbundling of Advertising Agency Services: An Economic Analysis


We address a longstanding puzzle surrounding the unbundling of services occurring over several decades in the U.S. advertising agency industry: What accounts for the shift from bundling to unbundling of services and the slow pace of change? Using Evans and Salinger's (2005, 2008) cost-based theory of bundling, we develop a simple model of an agency's decision to unbundle as a tradeoff between the fixed cost to the advertiser of establishing a relationship with an agency and pecuniary economies of scale available from providing media services. The key predictions of the model are supported by an econometric analysis of cross-sectional and pooled data from the quinquennial U.S. Censuses conducted between 1982 and 2007. Agencies are more likely to unbundle with increasing size and diversification but are less likely to do so with increasing age. Longitudinal growth in unbundling is partially explained by increases in media prices over time.

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Crashes and Collateralized Lending


This paper develops a parsimonious static model for characterizing financing terms in collateralized lending markets. We characterize the systematic risk exposures for a variety of securities and develop a simple indifference-pricing framework to value the systematic crash risk exposure of the collateral. We then apply Modigliani and Miller's (1958) Proposition Two (MM) to split the cost of bearing this risk between the borrower and lender, resulting in a schedule of haircuts and financing rates. The model produces comparative statics and time-series dynamics that are consistent with the empirical features of repo market data, including the credit crisis of 2007-2008.

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Cases & Course Materials

Discovering Hidden Gems: The Story of Daryl Morey, Shane Battier, and the Houston Rockets (A).

Frances X. Frei and Matthew Perlberg
Harvard Business School Case 610-038

As NBA Commissioner David Stern approached the podium, silent anticipation gripped the 4,000 Houston Rockets fans gathered at the Rockets Draft Party. "With the 8th pick in the 2006 NBA draft," Stern began, "the Houston Rockets select Rudy Gay from the University of Connecticut." The 4,000 Rockets faithfully erupted into euphoric cheers. Rudy Gay was a highly touted college prospect who some analysts projected could have been one of the top three selections in the draft. To be able to select him in the eighth spot seemed like a steal for the Rockets and their newly hired assistant general manager, Daryl Morey. Moments later, the assembled crowd's jubilation turned to horror as television analysts covering the draft announced breaking news. The Rockets traded the rights to Rudy Gay along with another Rockets fan favorite, Stromile Swift, to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shane Battier. Jeers of frustration rang from the Rockets fans. How could the Rockets trade Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift for Shane Battier?

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Hiring Professionals in China: A Practitioner's Guide

Heidi K. Gardner
Harvard Business School Note 411-029

This note outlines how leading professional service firms operating in China revise their standard hiring practices to fit local challenges and customs. Based on interviews with professionals in a number of established accounting, strategy consulting, and executive search firms presently operating in China, it explores best practices they use to hire exceptional professionals who will succeed in building high quality client relationships, delivering appropriately innovative thinking, and helping their firms grow and improve performance—all within China's unique political and cultural context.

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Hiring Successful Professionals: One Process—Multiple Goals

Heidi K. Gardner
Harvard Business School Note 411-028

The best hiring practices help professional firms attract successful employees, equip newcomers with critical support networks, increase the firm's diversity, and enhance its reputation. This Note delineates how leading firms manage these multiple objectives throughout the entire process of forecasting, sourcing, and onboarding top talent. It also expands on potential misalignments that can arise and tradeoffs firms face in building and executing an integrated hiring strategy.

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Paul Bremer at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq

Robert Steven Kaplan and Nicholas Taranto
Harvard Business School Case 411-010

Since becoming the President's envoy responsible for post-war Iraq, Paul Bremer endured many sleepless nights, struggling with the decision of how to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Despite daily assassination attempts, tribal warfare, growing violence, and political pressure—at home in Washington, D.C. and abroad—the CPA undertook the difficult task of handing over power to an Iraqi civil society that was simultaneously being rebuilt from the ground up.

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HOYA Corporation (A)

W. Carl Kester and Masako Egawa
Harvard Business School Case 209-065

In 2007, HOYA of Japan must decide whether to change its friendly exchange offer for Pentax into a hostile cash tender offer. A surprising sequence of events had caused a friendly merger agreement to fall apart, resulting in a boardroom coup at Pentax and the intervention of the Sparx Group, an indigenous activist Japanese hedge fund. The case raises issues about corporate valuation, corporate governance, shareholder activism, takeover deal tactics, and the Japanese market for corporate control.

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The Political Economy of Carbon Trading

Forest Reinhardt, Gunnar Trumbull, Mikell Hyman, Patia McGrath, and Nazli Zeynep Uludere
Harvard Business School Case 710-056

Global climate change is an increasingly prominent political and business problem. Design of market-based systems to reduce carbon emissions has proven difficult. More broadly, national attempts to comply with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol present both governments and firms with significant challenges. The design of international institutions that will be useful for managing change after the Kyoto period is a challenge both for Kyoto ratifiers and for countries like the United States that have not ratified the agreement. Creation of a post-Kyoto treaty on climate change requires agreement by China and the United States, the world's largest carbon emitters. The case summarizes the science and economics of climate change and encourages readers to contemplate the strategic and risk management problems that it presents to government officials and to business leaders in developed countries and in the developing world.

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Forest Reinhardt, Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, and Hyun Jin Kim
Harvard Business School Case 711-020

Patagonia was deeply committed to the environment. This commitment, at times, conflicted with the company's goal to create the most innovative products in its industry. Patagonia's founder and executives welcomed imitation of both its environmental commitment and its culture. The question remained whether Patagonia's model would work well for a wide range of companies. In 2003, Patagonia executives were considering which products and markets would fit best into their portfolio of product lines, which included alpine, skiing, snowboarding, fishing, paddling, rock climbing, surfing, kayaking, and mountain biking. There was a tradeoff between alienating its core customers and achieving growth via entry into new product markets.

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Aspen Skiing Company (A)

Michael W. Toffel and Stephanie van Sice
Harvard Business School Case 611-002

Having begun improving the environmental performance of its own operations, Aspen Skiing Company is considering "greening" its supply chain and lobbying for greenhouse gas regulations. A world renowned ski resort vulnerable to global climate change, Aspen's activities often garner media attention, which can promote its causes. But these initiatives, which attempt to compel other firms to improve their environmental performance, risk a public relations backlash and charges of "greenwashing" given that Aspen's ski resorts are themselves environmentally intensive operations.

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