Category: Emerging Research
“The Impact of Regulatory Uncertainty on Renewable Energy Investments,” forthcoming in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization
Policy uncertainty—whether concerning the impending “fiscal cliff” or potential carbon taxes—is blamed for reducing investment and restraining economic growth. Does the same logic apply to investment in renewable energy generation?
In a new study, Boston University School of Management’s Kira Fabrizio finds that uncertainty about future regulatory policies does indeed negatively influence firms’ investments in new clean energy assets. Fabrizio is an assistant professor in strategy & innovation, and her paper, “The Impact of Regulatory Uncertainty on Renewable Energy Investments,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization.
Fabrizio’s study focuses on the enactment of state-level Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policies in the US electric utility industry. The policies are designed to encourage investment in renewable electricity generation by requiring utilities to procure a certain percentage of electricity from renewable generation. She finds that, on average, “RPS enactment in a state did generate an increase in investment in new renewable generating assets, but investment increased significantly less in states with a history of regulatory reversal,” a mark of an uncertain policy environment.
With important implications for policy makers, the study suggests that government renewable-energy policy initiatives, when launched in less stable regulatory environments, 1) lead firms to perceive new investment in clean energy projects and assets as more risky, and 2) ultimately create fewer new investments in renewable generation assets, undermining the purpose of the policy.
Fabrizio’s research highlights the importance of regulators’ commitment to policy stability and predictability. Her study holds implications not just for renewable energy investment but other initiatives such as carbon tax/abatement policies, where long-lived investments depend on policies subject to future modification.
The study also touches on strategies for enhancing the credibility of RPS regulatory efforts and their perceived stability, thus reducing the apparent risk of renewable energy investment. These include:
- Regulatory support for investments dependent on renewable energy policies and requirements, whereby regulated utilities could recover the costs of investments in their rates if the value of these investments falls due to policy reversals.
- Adoption of requirements and procedures making the repeal or renegotiation of RPS policies more arduous.
Whatever strategies regulatory agencies undertake, Fabrizio urges, “Until policy makers are able to enact legislation and credibly commit to maintaining the policy they adopt, firms will be less willing to invest in developing and adopting new technologies.”
Banner image courtesy of flickr user daBinsi
Enabling Investors to Capture More of the Upside of Innovation
In a new study titled “Innovation, Competition, and Investment Timing,” Yrjö Koskinen and Joril Maeland bring light to incentives that investors can deploy to limit cost inflation and speed investment time. Koskinen is a faculty member of the Boston University School of Management Finance Department, and Maeland of the NHH Norwegian School of Economics Department of Finance and Management Science.
In their new study, Koskinen and Maeland focus on the crucial role of competition in enabling investors to capture more of the upside of innovation. Using a real options framework, they build on past research about auction theory, optimal VC portfolio size, and investment triggers. They show that when innovators compete for funding, investors have a much better chance of gaining an accurate report of the innovators’ costs (effort and resources invested in the project’s development), thus avoiding falsely inflated prices and even enabling faster investments.
Motivating a Transparent Reporting of Costs
The authors explain the initial problem thus: “An innovator has an incentive to inflate the costs if he thinks he will be awarded the contract,” because by reporting a high output in time, effort, and resources for the project’s development, the innovator “can capture a difference between the declared and the true cost for himself.”
Conversely, if the investor has a choice of innovators vying for their contract and the number of innovators competing, the incentive to inflate costs diminishes dramatically, as competitors who report falsely high cost risk losing the contract to agents who more truthfully reveal a lower cost.
The result: the winner is only compensated for the actual costs, “enabling the investor to capture more of the upside of innovative activity.”
In the traditional model of one investor evaluating one innovator, time-cost becomes another crucial factor: the higher the cost, the more the investment decision is delayed. Since the cost might be artificially inflated, the investor has to delay expensive investments as a way of giving the innovator proper incentives to reveal the real cost.
With the competition model, however, competition for funding reduces these informational costs, because innovators have reduced incentives to inflate costs. When the investor can choose the number of innovators freely, Koskinen and Maeland show, investment options are exercised so that there is never any delay.
Read the entire study “Innovation, Competition, and Investment Timing.”
Ren’s “How to Compete in China’s E-Commerce Market” Appears in Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012
In the most recent edition of Sloan Management Review (SMR), Xin Wang and Z. Justin Ren explore the world’s largest e-commerce market—and the failure of America’s most successful companies to crack it successfully.
Ren is an associate professor of operations and technology management and Dean’s Research Fellow at Boston University School of Management, as well as a research affiliate at MIT Sloan School of Management. Wang is an assistant professor of marketing at Brandeis University International Business School.
On the history of corporations reproducing their domestic successes abroad, Ren comments, “Big e-commerce companies often focus on scalability upon entering foreign countries and tend to undervalue or neglect local specifics that often clash with their business models at home. It is a fine balance they have to strike.”
Ren and Wang address this challenge in their SMR article “How to Compete in China’s E-Commerce Market.” “With more than half a billion Internet users,” the authors write, “China boasts the greatest number of Internet users in the world. Its online shopping market hit 766.6 billion yuan in 2011,” while by 2012, its e-commerce market is expected to be worth 2 trillion yuan, the approximate equivalent today of $320 billion.
“Big e-commerce companies often focus on scalability upon entering foreign countries and tend to undervalue or neglect local specifics that often clash with their business models at home. It is a fine balance they have to strike.” – Z. Justin Ren
So why, they ask, have companies such as Yahoo!, Groupon, and eBay failed to create the same successes in China as they have at home, or in other international markets? “After years of effort and millions of dollars spent, armed with the most sophisticated technology and premium brand names,” the authors write, “these Internet giants have all failed to claim a leadership role in China’s e-commerce.”
Wang and Ren address this market mystery by combining industry analysis, case studies, and insight from leaders in China’s e-commerce industry, with an examination of high-profile entry players in the Chinese e-commerce arena. “We identified four key ways,” they write, “in which U.S. e-commerce companies proverbially hit the Great Wall when they tried to enter the Chinese market.”
These fatal blunders include:
- a failure to modify the business model for Chinese customers,
- insistence on a standard global technology platform,
- a habit of overlooking the competition, and
- an inability to address challenges from Chinese authorities.
Tapping lessons from their research, the authors then offer practical advice to counter these errors and build success in the Chinese e-commerce market.
Banner image courtesy of flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com.
INFORMS Podcast Series Features Chris Dellarocas on Double Marginalization in Performance-Based Advertising
“The Science of Better” Spotlights Dellarocas’s Management Science Article
In his June 2012 Management Science article “Double Marginalization in Performance-based Advertising: Implications and Solutions,” Chrysanthos Dellarocas explores an unexpected consequence of online pay-per-action systems (PPAs), such as the pay-per-click model—research that was recently highlighted by the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) podcast series “The Science of Better.”
Dellarocas is Professor (effective September 2012) and Chair of Information Systems at Boston University School of Management. He is also a widely-cited expert in online reputation, social media, and information economics.
Although the pay-per-click model and other PPA systems in online markets were intended to reduce advertising costs and boost efficiency, Dellarocas reports in his Management Science paper that they “tempt firms to increase the prices of their goods so they generate fewer clicks/sales but make more profit per click and, most importantly, pay fewer commissions to pay-per-click publishers, such as Google.” Such behavior reduces consumer surplus. It can also “reduce publisher revenues relative to pay-per-exposure methods,” creating what the author calls “a form of double marginalization.”
“It’s possible to calculate a system that induces sellers to maintain product price at the levels that would maximize the profits if they bought advertising the traditional way. Ultimately this is to the benefit of the advertisers as well.”
In the podcast posted by INFORMS spotlighting this research, Dellarocas discusses his findings, explaining the phenomenon of double marginalization and offering solutions to improve pricing equilibrium and consumer surplus, as well as to improve publishers’ expected profits in PPA systems.
“One idea is a system of penalties and rewards on top of standard pay-per-clicks,” Dellarocas suggests. “If you buy an ad but nobody clicks on it—because, for example, your price is too high—then the next time you buy an ad from the same place, your cost-per-click would be just a little higher.”
Comparing this model to that of auto insurance premiums, Dellarocas explains, “The objective is to discourage sellers from increasing the prices of their products so they can receive fewer clicks (and, therefore, pay the publishers fewer times) but make more profits when they do.”
This works, Dellarocas argues, because, as he shows in his Management Science paper, “It’s possible to calculate a system that induces sellers to maintain product price at the level that would maximize the profits if they bought advertising the traditional way. Ultimately this is to the benefit of the advertisers as well.”
Listen to the full podcast at the INFORMS site The Science of Better.
SMG’s Kabrina Chang studies what is and isn’t legal in hiring
By Rich Barlow via BU Today
Some of her School of Management students told Kabrina Chang of being asked during a job interview to log on to their Facebook page, their prospective employers hoping to mine useful information in deciding whether to hire them. “I was horrified,” says Chang, a lawyer and assistant professor of business and employment law.
No one knows for sure how many companies do this, and Maryland is the only state that’s banned it, says Chang (CAS’92). Meanwhile, firms like Social Intelligence and Reppify compile reports about, or simple scores of, job seekers, based on the applicants’ information on social networks like Facebook and activities at online sites like Craigslist and eBay, she says, for sale to corporate clients. It’s similar to credit-reporting agencies providing financial background on applicants.
Chang thinks that gathering online information, within reasonable limits, is fine; after all, an employer who hires someone who’s littered the internet with pictures of himself posing with firearms could be liable if the new employee then goes on a rampage. And she cites one study in which 18 percent of responding employers said they’ve hired people with impressive online profiles. But, she argues, the companies that asked her students for their Facebook pages on the spot crossed what should be a legal line. Chang, who has done previous research on social media, presented a paper on the topic at SMG’s second annual faculty research day recently and discussed it with BU Today.
Click here to see Professor Chang’s Q&A.
Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology
New research by Remi Trudel, Boston University School of Management Assistant Professor of Marketing, explores the quest to assert self-control in consumers and dieters, and the role information such as nutritional data can play in amplifying self-regulation.
An article based on this research, “Self-Regulatory Strength Amplification through Selective Information Processing,” co-authored by Trudel and Kyle B. Murray of the University of Alberta School of Business, is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
The paper’s findings have important implications not just for the study of consumerism but also for the growing global concern over rising obesity and the ongoing Congressional debate around the availability of nutritional information.
“The findings have important implications not just for the study of consumerism but also for the growing global concern over rising obesity and the ongoing Congressional debate around the availability of nutritional information.”
Trudel and Murray’s work rests on prior research demonstrating that the strength people require to control their behavior is a limited resource, depleted with use. According to these theories, each act of self-control leaves the individual with less strength to regulate his or her behavior in the future. Simply stated, self-control is exhausting, and exerting self-control in an initial situation makes you weaker and less able to exert self-control when the next situation comes along.
In this research, however, Trudel and Murray demonstrate that although the depletion of self-control strength is common, it is not inevitable. In four experiments, the authors show that under certain conditions, consumers can amplify their strength and, as a result, increase their ability to control their behavior. Looking specifically at the context of eating behavior, Trudel and Murray find that when dieters have access to nutritional information, they are able to increase their self-regulatory strength, perform better on a subsequent physical and cognitive tasks, and control their consumption of a desirable food (such as chocolate). However, in situations where nutritional information is not available, the self-regulatory strength of dieters is more depleted than that of non-dieters and, as a result, they are less able to control their eating behavior.
Hsu Dissertation Honored by Marketing Science Institute
Product recalls: companies hate them; customers get annoyed by them. But how companies handle them makes all the difference in the world.
Liwu Hsu (PhD’12), who will defend his dissertation this spring, won a prestigious honorable mention in the 2011 Alden G. Clayton Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Competition for his dissertation “Can Online Chatter Kill a Giant? Insights into the Role of Brand Equity and Social Media during a Product Recall Crisis.”
According to his doctoral advisor, Professor Shuba Srinivasan, “From 80 submitted papers, 168 marketing scholars selected one winner and four honorable mentions. It’s a great honor for Liwu and the department.” The annual award is given by the Marketing Science Institute. Hsu will begin as an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville College of Business Administration in Fall 2012.
In his study, Hsu looks at how social media can help or hurt a company’s shareholder value in a product recall crisis situation and provides insight into the potential moderators of brand equity. This study builds on brand research previously published by Professor Susan Fournier, one of his doctoral committee members.
In the event of a product recall, when a company denies a problem or even hesitates to acknowledge a rumor of recall, social media gives consumers the power to tarnish a company’s reputation, increasing investors’ concern about future company cash flows. Investors fear the initial costs of product recall and replacement, potential lawsuits, and potential new regulations, and stock value and reputation can take a big hit (even if it’s temporary).
A big brand company can’t readily hide its faults and provide an insurance-like protection of shareholder value. Company denials get countered by user stories and blogs spread the word. That in turn generates more criticism, and generates more ill will. “Negative buzz spreads quickly via social media,” says Hsu, “and worse still, social media enables and encourages consumers to be more critical of companies and their brands. Moreover, it is increasingly difficult for a company to bury or hide from its mistakes on the web.”
Hsu recommends that in a PR crisis, the CEO should respond proactively. Immediate solutions include creating a post, perhaps a video, to air out the problem, and the company’s solution, immediately. “Share information efficiently, completely, and directly with consumers,” he says. In recent years, Hsu explains, marketing dollars have increasingly shifted from traditional communication vehicles towards the Web 2.0 platform. Companies are learning that it is important to be continually communicating online, keeping the channels open for when the need arises.
Recent business scandals demonstrate that it’s better to acknowledge a negative event quickly, admit fault, and then move on. The Internet assures that bad secrets never stay hidden for long.
“Structural Knowledge” Forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal
A new article by the School of Management’s Samina Karim, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Innovation, and co-author Charles Williams (Bocconi University, Milan), studies executives as vehicles for organizational change, particularly in organizations experiencing acquisitions or restructuring. The paper, “Structural Knowledge: How Executive Experience with Structural Composition Affects Intrafirm Mobility and Unit Reconfiguration,” is forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal (June 2012). It explores how executives’ knowledge, gleaned from their experience with different types of business units (e.g. internally developed, acquired, or recombined), affects both their mobility within the firm and the subsequent structural change of units to which they move.
The authors argue that “structural knowledge” (defined as knowledge of the tasks and challenges within units of different “structural composition”) is significantly associated with executives’ horizontal, intrafirm mobility, and thus an important knowledge form, although one that has been little studied to date. Among their findings are the following:
- Executives from internally developed units may ultimately move to any unit, either via a recombined unit that is a combination of acquisitions or one that is a combination of internal developments.
- The same is not true of executives starting with acquisition experience. Their path is more likely to lead them to acquisitions that are combined together and then perhaps to cases where acquisitions are combined with internally developed units.
- Executives who experience the fewest transitions to units of different structural composition are those who start at units that are combinations of acquisitions and internal development. They are most likely reassigned to similar units.
Applying these findings to executives’ personal career strategies, Karim and Williams advise:
Executives should be conscious of the structural composition of units with which they are gaining experience. Our findings show that it is difficult for executives with experience in one type of unit to necessarily make the transition to another type of unit. If the executive wants to specialize in one form of structural composition, the two that predominantly serve similar units are executives from internally developed units (may be reassigned to other internally developed units) and those from units combining acquisitions and internal units. The latter can be limiting in that it is unlikely for this position to be reassigned to other types of units; it may be enabling for those executives who are integration specialists and can apply their specialization in this context
Executives should try to gain experience at internally developed units, as they seem to be where initiators of change reside within the firm with regards to participating in recombinative opportunities. These executives also exhibit the greatest degree of mobility to, ultimately, units of various structural compositions.
Leveraging Executives’ Mobility To Create Firm Value
In exploring how executive mobility can impact organizational transformation, the authors discover that when comparing units receiving simply more transferred executives, executives with recombination experience, and executives from core internal units, the units with greater influx of the latter are those with a greater likelihood of being recombined, “while units receiving executives from previously acquired units will tend to remain unchanged.”
Ultimately, Karim and Williams show how executives serve as “containers of knowledge and know-how,” and how mobility catalyzes both knowledge transfer and creation of new knowledge within the executive through his or her new experience. The study, they write, also “reveals how firms may be leveraging executives’ expertise with structural composition across business units within the firm to create further value.”
Read more about the study “Structural Knowledge: How Executive Experience with Structural Composition Affects Intrafirm Mobility and Unit Reconfiguration” as well as related research in the working papers “Executive Links and Strategic Change: Is Unit Spanning by Executives Associated with Market Entry and Exit?” and “Acquirers’ Goals’ Influence on Acquirer-Target Bilateral Interactions.”
From the January-February 2012 Edition of Harvard Business Review
In a new Harvard Business Review article “A New Approach to Funding Social Enterprise,” Nalin Kulatilaka along with co-authors Antony Bugg-Levine and Bruce Kogut propose increasing investment by unbundling social benefits and financial returns.
Kulatilaka is the Wing Tat Lee Family Professor in Management at Boston University.
The article explores how financial engineering can allow social enterprises to draw investment from the financial markets, rather than from resource-strapped charities, where they have traditionally sought the majority of their support.
Since investors have different appetites for social and financial benefits, the authors argue, social enterprises can use financial engineering to offer different risks and returns to different kinds of investors.
Explains Kulatilaka, “Charities forego private returns for social benefits, while some investors will not sacrifice any below-market financial returns for the sake of social returns. But most investors lie in the broad spectrum in between these two extremes. Our idea is that financial engineering can tailor different mixes of financial and social returns and associated risks to suit investor preferences.”
Financial engineering can tailor different mixes of financial and social returns and associated risks to suit investor preferences.
In an interview about how his recent Harvard Business Review article ties into his ongoing research on the energy and environment sector, Professor Kulatilaka points out that consumers also have different preferences for social versus private benefits arising from the goods and services they purchase: some will pay a premium to buy fair trade goods or “green electricity,” while others are driven purely by low cost. “Recognizing this spectrum of consumer preference could induce more environmentally friendly behavior by firms,” Kulatilaka says.
This, in turn, leads to different challenges that draw on marketing, strategy, and other management disciplines: “It is very difficult to signal the social value of a good to consumers, and it is very hard for consumers to recognize ‘greenwashing’ from the ‘truly green.’ And since consumers cannot actually quantify the social value of a product or service, they frequently can’t decide how much of a premium to pay,” Kulatilaka explains.
See more about “A New Approach to Funding Social Enterprise,” by Antony Bugg-Levine, Bruce Kogut, and Nalin Kulatilaka, at Harvard Business Review.
Weil Is Prominent Scholar on Transparency & Governmental Disclosure
The United States Government’s National Research Council, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, recently appointed Boston University School of Management’s David Weil, Everett W. Lord Distinguished Faculty Scholar and a professor in the Markets, Public Policy and Law Department, to the Committee on a Study of Food Safety and Other Consequences of Publishing Establishment-Specific Data. Along with fellow committee-members, Professor Weil was tasked with exploring the benefits of releasing, through the Internet, US Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) data about meat processing facilities in the United States.
“Information technology, social networking, and growing skepticism about both private and public institutions means that expectations for transparency are growing.”
The committee’s findings and suggestions have now been published in a report titled “The Potential Consequences of Public Release of Food Safety and Inspection Service Establishment-Specific Data.” The report’s recommendations are based on deliberations over six months. The committee sought lessons from academic studies, including past research by Professor Weil (and colleagues Archon Fung and Mary Graham) while also examining the experience of other government agencies in forming their conclusions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s publication of Toxics Release Inventory data, the disclosure of detailed enforcement data by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the public release of data on restaurant hygiene. All of these are systems that Professor Weil has researched and written about in past work.
The challenge of effectively and usefully releasing FSIS data is made clear in the report. “Members expressed different views about the implications of releasing inspection and enforcement data, and the potential adverse consequences of releasing this type of establishment-specific data,” the report explains. Members analyzed concerns ranging from inspector variability to confidentiality issues to the potential for misinterpretation of the data. On the basis of their review, Weil and his co-authors write, “the majority…believed strongly that public access to this type of data could help to identify variability in inspector performance and enforcement outcomes and ultimately facilitate more uniform inspection,” as well as lead, most importantly, to increased transparency and better public health.
The report also notes additional potential advantages arising from greater disclosure. Publishing information about facility-specific findings could yield insights and other benefits that go beyond the regulatory uses for which the data were originally collected, including:
- Incentives to protect brand reputations, enhance customer bases, and boost earnings on the part of food companies due to consumer-fueled economic pressure to improve food safety.
- Better insights into the strengths and weaknesses of both different processing and inspection practices, leading to improvements in food safety methods across the industry, increased consistency of inspector performance, and identification of effective practices in regulated facilities that could then be more broadly adopted.
- Improved public understanding of the efforts made by FSIS and the industry to ensure food safety.
In addition, the publication of facility-specific findings would likely give rise to “a network of third-party analysts who, because of their familiarity with the data and their structure,” the committee writes, “could help FSIS to mine its own data and help individual companies or industry sectors to use the data to improve their practices.”
“The report lays out the issues that need to be carefully weighed in releasing detailed information about what government inspectors find at meat processing facilities.”
Weil and his co-authors also caution, however, that to maximize effectiveness and minimize adverse unintended consequences such as public confusion over the meaning of the information or the context in which it was gathered, any disclosure of data should rely on a well defined strategy—a topic about which Professor Weil has written extensively with Fung and Graham, particularly in their 2007 book Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency. This strategy should include identifying potential users and the differences among them, such as their varying abilities to understand the data in its raw form and the different ways the data might impact their decisions. The wide variation in user abilities to use data underlies the report’s argument that the FSIS should pursue the “broadest possible data release at the most disaggregated level,” since “users can always aggregate data for their analytic needs.”
Any strategy for the public release of data should also include a carefully timed, and well-explained rollout of data, allowing the public, as well as academics, members of scientific societies, and independent auditing agencies, to know what to expect and to provide time for these various users background to allow them to interpret the data accurately.