Britain is well known as the site of the world’s first Industrial Revolution, but until recently London – home of the scientific and financial revolutions that preceded industrialization – was rarely considered an entrepreneurial hotspot since then.
London seemed simply not to have captured the kind of world-class, innovation-driven entrepreneurship that has propelled Silicon Valley and Kendall Square to international acclaim.
Seeking to play my role in helping London recapture some of its entrepreneurial tradition, I took up a post in Fall 2012 as a Visiting Scholar at MIT Sloan on behalf of the British Government. For the previous five years, I had been Britain’s Consul General to New England focused on transatlantic business development and had moved the Consulate into One Broadway (aka E70) to deepen the links with MIT, Kendall Square and the high-tech sectors.
Success in business is out of reach to those who aren’t already blessed with plentiful advantage, so goes the conventional wisdom. A similar stereotype in sports is that you either have talent or you don’t. But the story of a once-maligned pitcher’s World Series victory upends both of these stereotypes, and has great lessons for entrepreneurs.
A year ago, the Boston Red Sox would have gladly traded John “Popeye’s Chicken and Beer” Lackey for a bucket of dirty baseballs. Certainly, the fans would have. The pitcher delivered a horrific 6.41 earned run average in 2011, missed the entire 2012 season due to injury, and his clubhouse antics suggested a lack of discipline and focus that would hamper him even when he was healthy. Read More »
With retailers opening ever earlier on Thanksgiving Day and being rewarded with ever longer lines out their doors, it’s no wonder they see the holiday as a bottom-line bonanza that may benefit everyone — except employees who have to spend long hours at work and miss out on time with their families. Opening on Thanksgiving Day is yet another demonstration of how little retailers value their employees. That disregard is a natural result of the way most retailers view their labor force — a large cost that needs to be minimized. The result is millions of bad jobs with poverty-level wages, minimal benefits, very little training, and unpredictable work schedules.
Conventional corporate wisdom is that bad jobs are the only way to keep costs down and prices low. Otherwise, customers would have to pay more or companies would have to make less. But I have been studying retail operations for over a decade and have found that the assumed trade-off between good jobs and low prices is false.
It’s widely believed that uncertainty is bad for business. If you don’t have the right information, you make the wrong decisions. Or you make no decisions at all. We saw this play out during the financial crisis when there was quite a lot of uncertainty and many investors held back.
With that in mind, my colleagues and I recently looked at the effect of having greater financial information available within an industry. Specifically, we studied the impact of public firms on an industry, as public firms are required to disclose large amounts of information. They have to issue quarterly financial statements and provide information on operational details such as business strategy, expected future outlook, and business risk. Financial analysts and the business press provide even more information on those companies. Taken together, that disclosure activity can improve the information environment for firms in that industry by reducing uncertainty.
The research: In a series of experiments, Andy Yap and his colleagues examined the impact that people’s ergonomic environments had on their ethics. The studies tested whether being put into an expansive or a contracted posture would affect people’s honesty. The results showed that subjects in larger workspaces and seats, which encouraged expansive postures, were more likely than other subjects to pocket, rather than return, an overpayment for participating in the study, to cheat on a test, and to break the rules in a driving simulation game.
The challenge: Is the boss a jerk because of the size of his chair? Is that guy running a red light because he’s in a giant SUV? Professor Yap, defend your research.