First Look

October 18, 2016

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

Why phone upgrades promote clumsiness

A new working paper proposes that people become more careless with their dated products, particularly smartphones, when the users become eligible for an upgrade. "Carelessness toward currently owned products and product neglect stem from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful," according to Silvia Bellezza, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino. The paper, 'Be Careless with That!' Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior Toward Possessions, is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Tracking the flow of global talent

Many economies depend on the inflow of talented workers from around the world. Using recent data, researchers spot new trends in where that talent locates and how gatekeepers select migrants for admission. Global Talent Flows was written by Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, Çağllar Özden, and Christopher Parsons.

How the Golden Quadrilateral highway affects Indian manufacturing

One of the largest modern road projects in the world, the 3,633-mile-long Golden Quadrilateral highway in India connects multiple industrial, agricultural, and cultural centers. William R. Kerr and colleagues study the highway's effect on manufacturing activity. Highways and Spatial Location within Cities: Evidence from India is scheduled to be published in a forthcoming issue of World Bank Economic Review.

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

— Sean Silverthorne
  • 2016
  • New York: HarperBusiness

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

By: Christensen, Clayton M., Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan

Abstract—The foremost authority on innovation and growth presents a path-breaking book every company needs to transform innovation from a game of chance to one in which they develop products and services that customers want to buy and are willing to purchase at a premium price. How do companies know how to grow? How can they create products that they are sure customers want to buy? Can innovation be more than a game of hit and miss? Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has the answer. A generation ago, Christensen revolutionized business with his groundbreaking theory of disruptive innovation. Now, he goes further, offering powerful new insights. After years of research, Christensen and his co-authors have come to one critical conclusion: our long held maxim—that understanding the customer is the crux of innovation—is wrong. Customers don't buy products or services; they "hire" them to do a job. Understanding customers does not drive innovation success, he argues. Understanding customer jobs does. The "Jobs-to-Be-Done" approach can be seen in some of the world's most respected companies and fast-growing startups, including Amazon, Intuit, Uber, Airbnb, and Chobani yogurt, to name just a few. But this book is not about celebrating these successes—it's about predicting new ones. The authors contend that by understanding what causes customers to "hire" a product or service, any business can improve its innovation track record, creating products that customers not only want to hire, but that they'll pay premium prices to bring into their lives. Jobs theory offers new hope for growth to companies frustrated by their hit and miss efforts. This book carefully lays down the authors' provocative framework, providing a comprehensive explanation of the theory and why it is predictive, how to use it in the real world and, most importantly, how not to squander the insights it provides.

Publisher's link:

  • 2016
  • Journal of Marketing Research

'Be Careless with That!' Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior Toward Possessions

By: Bellezza, Silvia, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino

Abstract—Consumers are often faced with the opportunity to purchase a new, enhanced product, such as a new phone, even though the product they currently own is still fully functional. We propose that consumers act more recklessly with their current products when in the presence of appealing, though not yet attained, product upgrades (not just mere replacements). Carelessness toward currently owned products and product neglect stem from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful. A series of studies with actual owners of a wide range of different goods (e.g., durable, consumable, functional, and hedonic products) and evidence from a real-word dataset of lost Apple iPhones demonstrate how the availability of product upgrades increases cavalier behavior toward possessions. Moreover, we show that product neglect in the presence of attractive upgrades can occur without deliberate intentions. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of these findings.

Publisher's link:

  • forthcoming
  • World Bank Economic Review

Highways and Spatial Location within Cities: Evidence from India

By: Ghani, Ejaz, Arti Grover Goswami, and William R. Kerr

Abstract—We investigate the impact of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway project on the spatial organization and efficiency of manufacturing activity. The GQ project upgraded the quality and width of 3,633 miles of road in India. We use a difference-in-difference estimation strategy to compare non-nodal districts based upon their distance from the highway system. For the organized portion of the manufacturing sector, we find that GQ led to improvements in both urban and rural areas of non-nodal districts located 0–10 km from GQ. These higher entry rates and increases in plant productivity are not present in districts 10–50 km away. The entry effects are stronger in rural areas of districts, but the differences between urban and rural areas are modest relative to the overall effect. For the unorganized sector, we do not find material effects from the GQ upgrades in either setting. These findings suggest that in the time frames that we can consider—the first five to seven years during and after upgrades—the economic effects of major highway projects contribute modestly to the migration of the organized sector out of Indian cities but are unrelated to the increased urbanization of the unorganized sector.

Publisher's link:

  • October 3, 2016
  • Harvard Business Review

Immigrants Play a Disproportionate Role in American Entrepreneurship

By: Pekkala Kerr, Sari, and William R. Kerr

Abstract—No abstract available.

Publisher's link:

Abstract—Since its launch in 2007, Android has become the dominant mobile device operating system worldwide. In light of this commercial success and certain disputed business practices, Android has come under substantial attention from competition authorities. We present key aspects of Google’s strategy in mobile, focusing on Android-related practices that may have exclusionary effects. We then assess Google’s practices under competition law and, where appropriate, suggest remedies to right the violations we uncover.

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Global Talent Flows

By: Kerr, Sari Pekkala, William R. Kerr, Çağllar Özden, and Christopher Parsons

Abstract—The global distribution of talent is highly skewed and the resources available to countries to develop and utilize their best and brightest vary substantially. The migration of skilled workers across countries tilts the deck even further. Using newly available data, we first review the landscape of global talent mobility, which is both asymmetric and rising in importance. We next consider the determinants of global talent flows at the individual and firm levels and sketch some important implications. Lastly, we review the national gatekeepers for skilled migration and broad differences in approaches used to select migrants for admission. Looking forward, the capacity of people, firms, and countries to successfully navigate this tangled web of global talent will be critical to their success.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 517-035

Dwyane Wade

In July 2016, while on his annual China tour to help promote the sportswear brand Li-Ning, basketball superstar Dwyane Wade and his long-time business manager, Lisa Joseph-Metelus, face a decision regarding one of his other business partnerships—that with the American company Stance, known for its colorful socks. Involved with the young company since 2013, Wade quickly established himself as Stance’s most successful brand ambassador. But recently, several younger players had also come on board as endorsers, and Stance had entered into an overall sponsorship deal with the NBA. With his Stance deal coming up for renewal in October 2016, what kind of deal should Wade and Joseph-Metelus propose to Stance? And how would a newly structured partnership fit into Wade’s overall business portfolio—including his plans for after his active basketball career?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 317-019

S'well: The Mass Market Decision

This case tells the story of how Sarah Kauss, a young female entrepreneur, built a premium water bottle brand from scratch. After having built a high-end brand, the key decision in the case is whether to begin expanding the S'well product portfolio to the mass market.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 717-402


The Board of Alere, Inc., a leading medical diagnostic firm, is evaluating the offer made by Ron Zwanziger, the firm’s founder and former CEO, to acquire the company and take it private. The offer arrives at the end of a tumultuous year for the company, which saw Zwanziger fighting and ultimately losing a confrontation with activist investors Coppersmith Capital. How should the board evaluate this offer? Should they reject it, on the basis that Zwanziger’s decision to expand into integrated healthcare solutions was the main reason behind the company’s poor stock performance, as Coppersmith claimed? Or should they once more place their trust in Zwanziger’s leadership and in Alere’s ability to effectively implement his vision?

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