First Look

October 22, 2013

Language Barriers Fuel Power Contests

It's fairly well understood that power contests disrupt and even destroy teams. But what ignites these tussles for control? Language differences between team members may be a significant contributing cause, according to the research paper "Language as a Lightning Rod: Power Contests, Emotion Regulation, and Subgroup Dynamics in Global Teams." The results, reported by Pamela J. Hinds, Tsedal Neeley, and Catherine Durnell Cramton, are scheduled to be published shortly by the Journal of International Business Studies.

The Jobs Act And Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms received a boost in the United States with the 2012 passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. A new note by Lena G. Goldberg sums up the law and its effects on how emerging growth companies are funded. Is the JOBS Act really the biggest change to US securities laws in 20 years?

An Indian Dairy Looks To The Future

India's Amul Dairy is that country's leading dairy firm, so the choices facing Managing Director Rahul Kumar are critical as he considers future directions to satisfy ever increasing demand. As authors Ray A. Goldberg and Ian McKown Cornell describe the dilemma, "How could he maintain the firm's cooperative structure, address the nutritional needs of all Indians, make use of emerging technology, and navigate the country's dairy policies in the coming years?"

— Sean Silverthorne


  • August 2013
  • PLoS ONE

Prosocial Bonuses Increase Employee Satisfaction and Team Performance

By: Anik, Lalin, Lara B. Aknin, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Michael I. Norton, and Jordi Quoidbach

Abstract—In three field studies, we explore the impact of providing employees and teammates with prosocial bonuses, a novel type of bonus spent on others rather than on oneself. In Experiment 1, we show that prosocial bonuses in the form of donations to charity lead to happier and more satisfied employees at an Australian bank. In Experiments 2a and 2b, we show that prosocial bonuses in the form of expenditures on teammates lead to better performance in both sports teams in Canada and pharmaceutical sales teams in Belgium. These results suggest that a minor adjustment to employee bonuses-shifting the focus from the self to others-can produce measurable benefits for employees and organizations.

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  • August 2013
  • Managing Talent for Success: Talent Development in Law Firms

Effective Teamwork and Collaboration

By: Gardner, Heidi K.

Abstract—The ability to attract, develop, and retain talent has become one of the biggest competitive issues for law firms. But although talent management is now recognized as a business issue of prime importance, law firms often lack the experience, vision, and tools to do it. This practical new handbook explores the various elements required to manage talent effectively. It illustrates how law firms can significantly increase the performance, engagement, and retention of their lawyers by giving them the tools to develop and support the development of others. It also describes the need to align HR and law firm strategy through talent management and adapt leadership and talent management best practices to law firm structures and challenges. Chapters cover all of the important aspects of strategic talent management and provide practical guidance from law firm talent management experts internationally to help managing partners, talent management managers, and lawyers seeking to build strong and aligned talent management strategies in their firms to stand and win the competition. This book will also be of interest to lawyers seeking to understand what is required for them to take ownership of their professional development.

  • August 2013
  • Journal of International Business Studies

Language as a Lightning Rod: Power Contests, Emotion Regulation, and Subgroup Dynamics in Global Teams

By: Hinds, Pamela J., Tsedal Neeley, and Catherine Durnell Cramton

Abstract—Through an ethnographic study comprised of interviews with and observations of 96 globally distributed members in six software development teams, we propose a model that captures how asymmetries in language fluency contribute to an us vs. them dynamic so common in global teams. Faultlines, formed along the dimensions of asymmetries in the degree of fluency of team members, location, and nationality, were associated with subgrouping in some, but not all of the teams. Our findings suggest that divisive subgroup dynamics only occurred in teams that also suffered from power contests, suggesting power contests activate otherwise dormant faultlines. Language asymmetries further acted as a lightning rod such that team members' emotional responses to them were constant reminders of subgroup differences on these teams, which further fueled negative emotions. Our findings extend theory on subgroup dynamics in global teams by adding language as a potential faultline, showing how power struggles activated faultlines and were, in turn, reinforced by them, and documenting the emotion regulation processes triggered by subgrouping and enacted through language-related choices and behaviors.


Cases & Course Materials

  • Harvard Business School Case 313-137

Innovation at the Boston Consulting Group

This case describes how the Boston Consulting Group has approached innovation from its founding to the present day. It discusses the role of the firm's talent market and client market in developing these innovations.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 313-091

The JOBS Act of 2012

This Note summarizes the potential of the Jobs Act of 2012 to change the way in which emerging growth companies, or EMGs, access capital markets. Described as among the most significant change to U.S. securities laws in over 20 years, the Jobs Act may reduce the burdens associated with going public while at the same time making it easier for EMGs to remain private. In addition to the so-called "IPO On-Ramp" and "crowdfunding," the Note briefly discusses the changes to general solicitation and general advertising rules, the private holder cap, and mini-public offerings.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 914-405

Amul Dairy

In 2013, Rahul Kumar, the managing director of Amul dairy, India's leading dairy firm, had to decide how to position his firm for the future in light of India's growing population and demand for dairy. How could he maintain the firm's cooperative structure, address the nutritional needs of all Indians, make use of emerging technology, and navigate the country's dairy policies in the coming years?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 513-067

Rodan + Fields Dermatologists

The case focuses on issues involved in managing the direct multilevel marketing sales consultants who sell R+F skin care products. The company is frustrated with the inconsistent and highly variable recruitment behavior of the sales force, i.e., the degree to which existing consultants recruit new consultants. The company utilizes a range of periodic incentives for recruitment but hopes to build a system of salesforce compensation and management that relies more on intrinsic rewards and less on these periodic incentive programs. The case forces students to address principles of compensation system design, as well as more fundamental issues around what they believe motivates this "volunteer" (i.e., non-employee) sales force.

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