Seminar Series

Spring 2009 Schedule

Mondays – 11:30-1 pm (E52-598)


Speaker (Affiliation)

Title and Abstract

Feb. 23rd

Jochen Runde (Judge Business School Univ. of Cambridge)



Recent research on user-innovation has concentrated on changes in the physical form of the objects concerned, to the neglect of changes in their intended use or function. In this paper we advance a theory of the technical identity of a technological object that gives due weight to both its form and its function, and use this theory to categorise different forms of technological change and to unpack some neglected aspects of user-driven innovations in function.

March 2nd

Scott Rockart (Duke) (Strategy)

Decision Rules and Organizational Performance (coauthored with Shane Gary and Elena Vidal)


What forces shape the dynamics of organizational performance and organizational populations?  In their 1982 book, Nelson and Winter argued we could understand a great deal about the dynamics of organizations and industries by focusing on inter-organizational differences in a few key decision rules.  In this paper we look at how much difference exists in firms' decision rules and how those differences can help us to explain differences in the patterns of growth and decline among competing firms.  Using a large data set of German consumer magazines - observed quarterly from 1972 to 2006 - we estimate and compare magazines' decision rules on a few key dimensions: pricing to advertisers; pricing to readers; and the number of editorial pages to be included in the magazine.  We then embed these rules into a dynamic model of magazine operations to evaluate the effect that differences in decision rules have on differences in firm dynamics.

March 9th

Phil Anderson (MIT)



After-sales product support is considered a complementary asset and often viewed as a second class citizen within the high-tech product firm that must continually innovate in a fast-moving industry.  During the Internet age, many product firms amplified the role of services in their business strategy through disruptive and organic measures that resulted in a growing proportion of total revenues coming from services.  This paper explores the evolution of this services phenomenon to show that services are by no means peripheral second class citizens but are in fact a central and growing capability within product-oriented firms.  Using a longitudinal study of firms in the computer industry between 1994 and 2006, this paper begins to explore how a dynamic capability evolved during a period of technological change and how this capability differs by levels of manufacturing intensity.  This paper emphasizes the heterogeneity of service functions beyond basic customer service by proposing a taxonomy of service categories and a product-service coupling continuum tightly coupled, loosely coupled, and uncoupled.

March 16th

Stine Grodal (BU)

Executives’ Use of Market Labels in Emerging Domains of Activity


Market labels are a central symbolic resource that executives use to manage perceptions of their firms.  This paper explores a tension between the market categorization and the symbolic management literature regarding the factors that influence executives’ use of market labels in emerging domains of activity. Our inductive study is primarily based on interviews with 59 executives from firms involved in nanotechnology. The paper provides insight into the factors that influence executive’s propensity to use a market label and the types of labeling techniques employed.  In doing so, we develop a grounded model of executives’ labeling activities. The model suggests that firm-to-label alignmentlabel appeal and institutional pressures influence executives’ propensity to employ a label in emerging domains of activity. Depending on their perceptions of these factors, executives employ three labeling techniques: claiming, hedging and disassociating.  The study hence opens important avenues for further inquiries into the role of labels in emergent domains of activity.

March 23rd

Spring Break


March 30th

Kristina McElheran (HBS)

Productivity Leadership and Strategic Investments in Innovation: The Adoption of E-Business Capabilities


I investigate whether market leadership predicts adoption of innovations and why. My empirical context is the adoption of e-business practices among U.S. Manufacturing plants in early 2000. Using detailed data from the U.S. Census of Manufactures, I construct two measures of market leadership – a conventional one based on market share and a novel one based on productivity – and investigate how leadership influences the probability of adopting I.T.- driven business process innovations. I find evidence that market leadership is, in general, positively correlated with the use of e-business practices; however, there is an important distinction between e-buying and e-selling. In e-buying, the likelihood of adoption is increasing in all measures of leadership. This result is accentuated in more concentrated markets. This empirical finding conforms to theoretical predictions by Athey and Schmutzler (2001) that leading firms will have incentives to invest in technologies that may help them maintain market dominance in oligopolistic settings. By contrast in e-selling, only market share leadership has a positive (and noisy) relationship with adoption. I hypothesize that this difference is consistent with stand-alone benefits of adoption that are increasing in output for both technologies, as well as greater strategic benefits of adopting that arise primarily in e-buying. I also consider the role that adjustment costs might play in differentiating the two settings.

April 6th

Gino Cattani (NYU) (Strategy)

Creative Achievements, Audience Embeddedness and Rewards: A Core-Periphery Perspective (with Simone Ferriani)


Sociological perspectives suggest that creativity is embedded in social systems from which individuals derive both inspiration and endorsement. Building on recent research emphasizing how legitimacy depends on consensus among audiences (gatekeepers) about candidates’ features and activities, we examine the relationship between individuals’ social structures and the recognition of their creative work by audiences. In particular, we argue that the outcome of this process of evaluation in any field, both in art and science, is a function of (1) candidates’ socio-structural position within the field, and (2) the level of audience’s field embeddedness. We situate the analysis in the context of the Hollywood motion picture industry, and test our hypotheses with data about its activity between 1992 and 2004. The theoretical implications of the results are discussed.

April 13th

Tim Simcoe (U. Toronto)

Standard Setting Committees


Voluntary Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs) use a consensus process to create new compatibility standards. Practitioners have suggested that SSOs are increasingly “politicized" and perhaps incapable of producing timely standards. This paper develops a simple model of standard setting committees and tests its predictions using data from the Internet Engineering Task Force, an SSO that produces many of the standards used to run the Internet. The results show that an observed slow-down in standards production between 1993 and 2003 can be linked to distributional conflicts created by the rapid commercialization of the Internet.

April 20th

Michaël Bikard (MIT)

Exploring “Collective Science” in Academia


The boom in collaboration in scientific research in the 20th century is one of the most frequently noted characteristics of modern science. This movement is believed to have deep consequences, not only for individual scientists, but, more importantly, for the general advancement of science and its repercussions on the economy. Significant government money is spent to encourage this trend, the benefits of which are largely taken for granted.  However, it is striking to note how little we know about “collective science.” In this paper, we attempt to open this black box, analyzing more than 25,000 publications produced by MIT faculty in 7 Science and Engineering departments over a 31 year period. Our results stand in sharp contrast to previous literature: instead of a shift in norm, our data shows increasingly diverse modes of collective science. We explore this diversity and its consequences.

April 27th

Prithwiraj Choudhury (HBS)

State Owned Entity Reform in Absence of Privatization: Reforming Indian National Laboratories and Role of Leadership (with Tarun Khanna)


There is relatively less economic scrutiny of performance improvement at state owned entities where privatization may not be a feasible option or may have only been partially implemented. We document evidence of 42 emerging market state-owned laboratories starting from a base of almost no U.S. patenting, collectively being granted more U.S. patents than all domestic private firms combined. The labs are then able to license several of these patents to multinationals to reduce their dependence on government budgetary support. This follows leadership change at labs, an event whose timing is plausibly exogenous being dictated by rigid government employment rules. Also, this commercialization effort does not adversely affect publication quality or quantity. Our empirical analysis is based on hand-collected data from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India from 1993-2006, supplemented by data from CVs of 593 senior scientists.

May 4th

Stuart Graham (Georgia Tech)


May 11th

Alex (Sandy) Pentland (MIT)

Reality Mining for Honest Signals


`Reality mining' of sensor data such as cell phone location or ID badges allows us to measure biologically-based "honest signals," that predict outcomes in situations ranging from job interviews to first dates.   By analyzing these signals we can build quantitative models that allow us to optimize personal and corporate performance, and to reinvent how corporations relate to their customers.  Named by Harvard Business Review as a Breakthrough Idea of 2009, by Newsweek as `The Next Google' and by BusinessWeek as `The Next Net.'

May 18th

Fernando Suarez (BU)

Services and the Business Models of Product Firms: Theory Building and Empirical Testing


This talk will cover two related pieces of work in progress: a theoretical framework to understand the role of services in product firms, and an exploratory empirical analysis to determine the effect of services in the performance of product firms.. Leading management theories consider the role of services only as complementary to products, but in many cases product firms provide services to substitute for products.  Based on the knowledge-view of the firm, we define services in terms of the consumption and use knowledge they create through interactions with customers.  Our taxonomy distinguishes between services that substitute for, enhance, and extend products.  Our empirical work focuses on the pre-packaged software products industry (a sample of approximately 500 firms), and presents one of the first large-sample empirical analyses of the impact of services on the performance of product firms.  We build upon existing and recent literature in technology management, economics, and service operations in order to propose and test hypotheses regarding the relationship between level of service revenues and operating profitability.  We find that services initially are associated with lower profitability but at some point this relationship reverses. We estimate this inflection point to happen when services reach about half of total revenues, and discuss the theoretical reasons behind these results. We also discuss implications for managers in software and other industries as well as avenues for further research.

May 25th

Memorial Day (Holiday)



Seminar Organizers: Chuck Eesley, Michaël Bikard, Phil Anderson

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