Daniel P. Gross

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Daniel P. Gross is an assistant professor of business administration in the Strategy Unit. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Business School and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Professor Gross studies topics in the economics of innovation, with a research program focused on technological innovation and the management of creative workers within organizations. In recent work, he has studied the effects of competition on individuals' creative production, the drivers of technology diffusion, and the impacts of technology standards on economic activity. A common theme throughout Professor Gross' work is how competition shapes strategic choices in innovation, and the resulting implications for firms, consumers, and policymakers. His research has been featured in The New York Times.

Professor Gross received his PhD in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a graduate fellow of the National Science Foundation, the University of California, and the Economic History Association, and where he won awards for his research and teaching. Prior to graduate school, he worked in policy research, management consulting, and at a high-growth startup that went on to achieve a successful exit.

Working Papers

  1. Creativity Under Fire: The Effects of Competition on Creative Production

    Daniel P. Gross

    Though fundamental to innovation and essential to many industries and occupations, the creative act has received limited attention as an economic behavior and has historically proven difficult to study. This paper studies the incentive effects of competition on individuals' creative production. Using a sample of commercial logo design competitions, and a novel, content-based measure of originality, I find that intensifying competition induces agents to explore novel, untested ideas over tweaking their earlier work, but heavy competition drives them to stop investing altogether. The results yield lessons for the management of creative workers and for the implementation of competitive procurement mechanisms for innovation.

    Keywords: creativity; incentives; tournaments; competition; radical vs. incremental innovation; Motivation and Incentives; Competition; Creativity; Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Gross, Daniel P. "Creativity Under Fire: The Effects of Competition on Creative Production." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-109, March 2016. (Revised September 2016.) View Details
  2. Performance Feedback in Competitive Product Development

    Daniel P. Gross

    Performance feedback is ubiquitous in competitive settings where new products are developed. This paper introduces a fundamental tension between incentives and improvement in the provision of feedback. Using a sample of 4,000 commercial logo-design tournaments, I show that feedback reduces participation but improves the quality of subsequent submissions, with an ambiguous effect on high-quality output. To evaluate this tradeoff, I develop a procedure to estimate agents' effort costs and simulate counterfactuals under alternative feedback policies. The results suggest that feedback on net increases the number of high-quality ideas produced and is thus desirable for a principal seeking innovation.

    Keywords: feedback; evaluation; learning; tournaments; innovation; Performance Evaluation; Motivation and Incentives; Rank and Position; Product Development;

    Citation:

    Gross, Daniel P. "Performance Feedback in Competitive Product Development." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-110, March 2016. (Revised June 2016.) View Details
  3. Scale versus Scope in the Diffusion of New Technology

    Daniel P. Gross

    Using the farm tractor as a case study, I show that lags in technology diffusion arise along two distinct margins: scale and scope. Though tractors are now used in nearly every agricultural field operation and in the production of nearly all crops, they first developed with much more limited application, and early diffusion was accordingly limited in scope until tractor technology generalized. The results are consistent with theory and other historical examples, suggesting that the key to understanding technology diffusion lies not only in explaining the number of different users, but also in explaining the number of different uses.

    Keywords: technology diffusion; spatial technology diffusion; farm tractors; R&D; general-purpose technologies; Technology Adoption; Agribusiness; Transportation; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Gross, Daniel P. "Scale versus Scope in the Diffusion of New Technology." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-108, March 2016. View Details
  4. The Ties That Bind: Railroad Gauge Standards and Internal Trade in the 19th Century U.S.

    Daniel P. Gross

    Technology standards are pervasive in the modern economy, and a target for public and private investments, yet evidence on their economic importance is scarce. I study the conversion of 13,000 miles of railroad track in the U.S. South to standard gauge between May 31 and June 1, 1886 as a large-scale natural experiment in technology standards adoption that instantly integrated the South into the national transportation network. Using route-level freight traffic data, I find a large redistribution of traffic from steamships to railroads serving the same route that declines with route distance, with no change in prices and no evidence of effects on aggregate shipments, likely due to collusion by Southern carriers. Counterfactuals using estimates from a joint model of supply and demand for North-South freight transport suggest that if the cartel were broken, railroads would have passed through 50 percent of their cost savings from standardization, generating a 10 percent increase in trade on the sampled routes. The results demonstrate the economic value of technology standards and the potential benefits of compatibility in recent international treaties to establish transcontinental railway networks, while highlighting the mediating influence of product market competition on the public gains to standardization.

    Keywords: railroad gauge; Standards; Integration; incompatibility; trade; United States;

    Citation:

    Gross, Daniel P. "The Ties That Bind: Railroad Gauge Standards and Internal Trade in the 19th Century U.S." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-044, December 2016. View Details