Transparency and full disclosure are popular notions, especially when applied to consumer product safety. If people have full access to knowledge about product content, then they can decide for themselves whether the product is safe, according to the prevailing view.
But when mandated by public policy, transparency and disclosure can have harmful unintended consequences, I have found in my research. For some consumers, the very fact that government requires disclosure about a product raises a red flag. Individuals will conclude that the government knows something they don’t about the product. Many people will believe the product content that requires disclosure is unsafe and then not consume the product—even if it does not contain any harmful ingredients.
Richard Locke faults a production system geared to speed at all costs
Two decades after Nike faced heat for poor working conditions in its suppliers’ overseas factories, Apple has been responding to a series of scandals – health and safety problems, worker suicides and riots by workers employed at Foxconn, one of its lead suppliers in China. And, once again, consumer activists and others are calling for better standards, more workplace inspections and other steps to prevent such abuse. Read More »
My latest research* has to do with how people express themselves through the brands they consume. It’s a topic that has interested me for some time.
I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of immigrants in a happy but definitely modest household. I didn’t go to a fancy high school — although, living in New York, I was very aware of fashion and labels. In fact, while riding the subway to school, I was regularly exposed to conspicuous consumption — from Wall Street bankers in their custom suits, to fashionistas who sported the latest styles. I got the distinct impression that “when you got it, you flaunt it.” So when I arrived for my freshman year at Harvard — the ultimate ivory tower and in a way itself a luxury brand — I had some pretty clear expectations of how people would signal their status. I had in mind something like Dan Ackroyd’s country club-going character Winthrop in the movie Trading Places. But what I saw got me thinking about what status signals really mean. Read More »
There is a fundamental change underway in the way that companies make decisions. Instead of relying on a leader’s gut instincts, an increasing number of companies are embracing a new method that involves data-based analytics. This ‘Big Data’ revolution is occurring mainly because technology enables firms to gather extremely detailed information from and propagate knowledge to their consumers, suppliers, alliance partners, and competitors.
Companies that use this type of ‘data driven decision making’ actually show higher performance. Working with Lorin Hitt and Heekyung Kim, I analyzed 179 large publicly-traded firms and found that the ones that adopted this method are about 5% more productive and profitable than their competitors. Furthermore, the study found a relationship between this method and other performance measures such as asset utilization, return on equity and market value. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit for companies that are able to use Big Data to their advantage. Read More »