First Look

July 11, 2017

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

Is it better to start with the low-hanging fruit on your task list?

Faced with a pressing to-do list, some people might choose to work on the easy projects first (also called "task completion bias"). New research by Francesca Gino and colleagues finds this strategy can have beneficial short-term results but "hurts performance—as measured both by speed and revenue—in the long run." Task Selection and Workload: A Focus on Completing Easy Tasks Hurts Long-Term Performance.

Fixing meeting misery

In a new article in Harvard Business Review, Leslie Perlow, Constance Noonan Hadley, and Eunice Eun propose that the cure for unproductive meetings and their negative effects on peoples' productivity requires structural change in the organization, not discrete fixes. Stop the Meeting Madness: How to Free Up Time for Meaningful Work.

Do carbon tariffs work?

David Drake finds that carbon tariffs decrease global emissions, but their effects on profits of individual companies vary because of a number of factors. Carbon Tariffs: Effects in Settings with Technology Choice and Foreign Production Cost Advantage.

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

— Sean Silverthorne
  • July–August 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

Finding the Platform in Your Product: Four Strategies That Can Reveal Hidden Value

By: Hagiu, Andrei, and Elizabeth J. Altman

Abstract—Five of the 10 most valuable companies in the world today—Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft—derive much of their worth from their multisided platforms (MSPs), which facilitate interactions or transactions between parties. Many MSPs are more valuable than companies in the same industries that provide only products or services: For instance, Airbnb is now worth more than Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain. However, companies that weren’t born as platform businesses rarely realize that they can—at least partially—turn their offerings into one, say the authors. And even if they do realize it, they often wander in the dark searching for a strategy to achieve this transformation. In this article, Hagiu and Altman provide a framework for doing so. They lay out four specific ways in which products and services can be turned into platforms and examine the strategic advantages and pitfalls of each: (1) opening the door to third parties, (2) connecting customers, (3) connecting products to connect customers, and (4) becoming a supplier to a multisided platform. These ideas can be used by physical as well as online businesses.

Publisher's link:

  • forthcoming
  • The Laryngoscope

Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing to Estimate Cost of Care at Multidisciplinary Aerodigestive Centers

By: Kaplan, Robert S., Jordan A. Garcia, Bipin Mistry, Stephen Hardy, Mary Shannon Fracchia, Cheryl Hersh, Carissa Wentland, Joseph Vadakekalam, and Christopher J. Hartnick

Abstract—Time-driven activity-based costing was used to estimate the cost of care for patients with laryngeal cleft seen between 2008 and 2013 at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Pediatric Aerodigestive Center. Retrospective chart review was performed to identify clinic utilization by patients as well as patient diet outcomes after treatment. Multidisciplinary team-based care for children with laryngeal clefts potentially achieves 20% to 40% cost savings. These findings demonstrate how time-driven activity-based costing can be used to estimate and compare patient costs in multidisciplinary aerodigestive centers.

Publisher's link:

  • July–August 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

Stop the Meeting Madness: How to Free Up Time for Meaningful Work

By: Perlow, Leslie, Constance Noonan Hadley, and Eunice Eun

Abstract—Many executives feel overwhelmed by meetings, and no wonder: On average, they spend nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. What’s more, the meetings are often poorly timed, badly run, or both. We can all joke about how painful they are, say the authors, but that pain has real consequences for teams and organizations. Every minute spent in a wasteful meeting eats into solo work that’s essential for creativity and efficiency. Chopped-up schedules interrupt deep thinking, so people come to work early, stay late, or use weekends for quiet time to concentrate. And dysfunctional meeting behaviors are associated with lower levels of market share, innovation, and employment stability. The authors have found that real improvement requires systemic change, not discrete fixes. They describe a five-step process for that—along with the diagnostic work you’ll need to do in advance.

Publisher's link:

  • forthcoming
  • Academy of Management Proceedings

Affective, Cognitive and Behavioral Trajectories of Change Recipients in Global Organizations

By: Reiche, B.S., T.B. Neeley, and N. Overmeyer

Abstract—Research rarely addresses how change recipients respond to radical change across affective, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions over time. We examined a radical change in a recently acquired subsidiary of a U.S.-based global organization over a two-year period. With the aim to standardize communication across borders, the subsidiary changed its native working language from Spanish to English. External experts were embedded to support the acquisition by ensuring that all employees learn English. Using latent class growth modeling, our results suggest that change recipients followed distinct trajectories in their demonstrated ability, efficacy and affect. Further, we show that affective states—more so than demonstrated ability or efficacy—influence change recipients’ willingness to adopt the change. By contrast, change recipients’ turnover intentions are driven by their levels of demonstrated ability and efficacy rather than their affective states.

Publisher's link:

  • July–August 2017
  • Harvard Business Review

Managing Climate Change: Lessons from the U.S. Navy

By: Reinhardt, Forest, and Michael W. Toffel

Abstract—The U.S. Navy operates on the front lines of climate change. It manages tens of billions of dollars in assets on every continent and on every ocean, which take many years to design and build and then have decades of useful life. This means that it needs to understand now what sorts of missions it may be required to perform in 10, 20, or 30 years and what assets and infrastructure it will need to carry them out. Put another way, it needs to plan for the world that will exist at that time. The navy is clear eyed about the challenges climate change poses. It knows that the effects of a warmer world will expand the geographic scope of its mission and increase demand for its military and humanitarian services. Climate change will also decrease its capacity to deliver those services, as the risk of damage to its bases and ports increases. This article examines the Navy’s approach to climate change and reflects on the implications for business.

Publisher's link:

Abstract—Emissions regulation is a policy mechanism intended to address the threat of climate change. However, the stringency of emissions regulation varies across regions, raising concerns over carbon leakage—an outcome where stringent regulation in one region shifts production to regions with weaker regulation. It is believed that such leakage increases global emissions. It is also believed that leakage can be eliminated by carbon tariffs, which are taxes imposed on imported goods so that they incur the same emissions cost that they would have if they had been produced in the regulated region. Results here contradict these beliefs. This paper demonstrates that carbon leakage can arise despite a carbon tariff, but, when it does arise under a carbon tariff, it decreases emissions. Due in part to this clean leakage, results here indicate that a carbon tariff decreases global emissions. Domestic firm profits, on the other hand, can increase, decrease, or remain unchanged due to a carbon tariff, which suggests that carbon tariffs are not inherently protectionist as some argue. Rather, results here suggest that carbon tariffs improve the efficacy of emissions regulation, enabling it to reduce global emissions in many settings in which it would otherwise fail to do so.

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Task Selection and Workload: A Focus on Completing Easy Tasks Hurts Long-Term Performance

By: KC, Diwas S., Bradley R. Staats, Maryam Kouchaki, and Francesca Gino

Abstract—How individuals manage, organize, and complete their tasks is central to operations management. Recent research in operations focuses on how under conditions of increasing workload, individuals can increase their service time, up to a point, to complete work more quickly. As the number of tasks increases, however, workers may also manage their workload by a different process—task selection. Drawing on research on workload, individual discretion, and behavioral decision making, we theorize and then test that under conditions of increased workload, individuals may choose to complete easier tasks in order to manage their workload. We label this behavior Task Completion Bias (TCB). Using two years of data from a hospital emergency department, we find support for TCB and also show that it improves short-term productivity. However, although it improves performance in the short-term, we find that an overreliance on this task selection strategy hurts performance—as measured both by speed and revenue—in the long run. We then turn to the lab to replicate conceptually the task selection effect and show that it occurs due to the positive feelings individuals get from task completion. These findings provide an alternative mechanism for the workload-speedup effect from the literature. We also discuss implications for both research and the practice of operations in building systems to help people succeed in both the short and long run.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 709-417

Betfair vs. UK Bookmakers

Betting exchanges provide an electronic platform that allows ordinary consumers to not only back teams to win, but also to lay odds for other punters to back. This business model allows punters to cut out the middleman of the bookmaker and leads to a much more efficient two-sided market.'s domination of the betting exchange has threatened to undermine the core of the traditional bookmakers' business model. This case examines two aspects of the industry: (1) What specific choices did Betfair make to become the dominant betting exchange, winning the competitive battle over (2) At what stages do's business model and those of the bookmakers interact? Will naturally come to dominate the industry, and if so, how should the bookmakers react?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-517

Betfair (B)

Buoyed by success in the market for gambling contracts, Betfair attempts to enter the market for financial products using its exchange model.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-518

Betfair (C)

Prompted by a takeover bid from CVC, Betfair reassesses the strengths and weaknesses of the exchange model.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-519

Betfair (D)

Betfair reconsiders its approach to international gambling markets amid regulatory uncertainty.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 817-103

Catalant: The Future of Work?

Catalant, founded in 2013 as an online marketplace where MBAs could bid on consulting projects posted by small- to medium-sized businesses, had expanded by 2016 to provide Fortune 1000 companies with access to over 35,000 independent experts. The founders envisioned extending their matching solutions to help enterprises staff projects with a mix of current employees and external experts, hypothesizing that the “future of work” would involve more flexible employment arrangements. They debated how much to invest in new functionality versus improving their existing marketplace and how to pitch their evolving strategic vision to investors.

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