Human behavior and decision-making

Human behavior and decision-making is a featured research topic at Harvard Business School.
Ever since their origins about three decades ago, the Behavioral Science areas of economics, ethics and managerial psychology have been rapidly evolving. In the 1980's and 1990's, early work by Max Bazerman in judgment and negotiation, Matthew Rabin in behavioral economics, and James Sebenius in negotiations was instrumental in shaping research on Human Behavior & Decision-Making. Today, our research focuses on individual and interactive judgment and decision making and explores the role of personal bias, cognition and learning, time, perception, ethics and morality, and emotion.  
  1. Immigration Policy in Germany

    Matthew Weinzierl, Katrina Flanagan and Alastair Su

    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel faced economic and moral pressure to encourage greater immigration from struggling European, and especially Eurozone, countries after the economic downturn that began in 2008. In fact, it was possible that both the Euro currency union and the European political union depended on increasing migration across member countries, including into Germany. But German domestic politics made Merkel’s decision a difficult one.

    Keywords: citizenship; optimal currency unions; Globalized Economies and Regions; Immigration; Germany; European Union;


    Weinzierl, Matthew, Katrina Flanagan, and Alastair Su. "Immigration Policy in Germany." Harvard Business School Case 715-029, March 2015. View Details
  2. Guiding Professional Accountants to Do The Right Thing

    Paul Healy, V.G. Narayanan and Penelope Rossano

    The Ethics Advisory Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) provides training and support for member Chartered Accountants to help them deal with difficult professional situations. Members can seek help through through call centers and in-person meetings with accounting experts in the field to discuss how to best handle difficult situations. In addition, the Ethics Advisory Committee meets regularly to identify new issues that raise questions for professional standards. This case examines professional standards for ICAEW Chartered Accountants and a number of challenging ethical situations that members have faced.

    Keywords: accounting; ethics; professional conduct;


    Healy, Paul, V.G. Narayanan, and Penelope Rossano. "Guiding Professional Accountants to Do The Right Thing." Harvard Business School Case 115-028, March 2015. View Details
  3. Clifford Chance: Women at Work

    Boris Groysberg, Katherine Connolly and Stephanie Marton

    It was October 2013, and global law firm Clifford Chance was coming under fire for the second time in less than a year for reputedly failing to provide a supportive work environment for its female associates. A memo entitled "Speaking Effectively" was just issued to the U.S. offices of the firm and immediately sparked controversy, as some female associates claimed that the gender-specific advice in the memo was condescending and sexist. This controversy came close on the heels of a memo released in November 2012, in which a third-year associate gave her resignation and explained why she was leaving the firm by detailing her unsustainable schedule as both a corporate lawyer and a mother to young children. Both memos were leaked on the internet, prompting bloggers, media outlets, and the public to chime in with their own opinions as to whether the firm was sexist. How should Clifford Chance have responded to these allegations? Was the firm sexist, or were things being taken out of context and blown out of proportion? If the firm determined that it needed to take heed and create a more inclusive culture that better met the needs of its female associates, where should it begin? Finally, how were the lessons learned in this case applicable to corporate America in 2014, where only 5.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16.9% of board members in the United States were women?

    Keywords: women; law; organizational culture; Fairness; Employee Relationship Management; Retention; Human Capital; Organizational Culture; Performance Expectations; Work-Life Balance; Public Opinion; Problems and Challenges; Legal Services Industry; United States;


    Groysberg, Boris, Katherine Connolly, and Stephanie Marton. "Clifford Chance: Women at Work ." Harvard Business School Case 415-038, March 2015. View Details
  4. JPMorgan Chase: Tapping an Overlooked Talent Pool

    Boris Groysberg and Katherine Connolly

    By the spring of 2014, the pilot had come to an end for JPMorgan Chase's ReEntry Program, a program designed for women coming back to the workforce after a period of time away. Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of Asset Management, and her team had to evaluate whether or not the program had been successful. Participants and managers both had provided some anecdotal positive feedback on the program, but Erdoes wanted to know how they could truly calculate the return on investment (ROI). Wall Street was a data-driven place to work, and if they wanted to create something that would survive beyond the tenure of the firm's existing leadership, they had to prove that the time, money and energy invested by the firm was worth it. Calculating ROI would also help them to prepare for subsequent runs of the program and determine in what ways, if any, they should differ from the pilot. What factors should Erdoes and her team consider when calculating ROI? How can they position the program to ensure its survival?

    Keywords: women; training; human capital; diversity; gender; leadership; motherhood; organizational culture; Talent and Talent Management; Experience and Expertise; Diversity Characteristics; Gender Characteristics; Learning; Recruitment; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Human Capital; Management Practices and Processes; Organizational Culture; Programs; Financial Services Industry; United States;


    Groysberg, Boris, and Katherine Connolly. "JPMorgan Chase: Tapping an Overlooked Talent Pool." Harvard Business School Case 415-066, March 2015. (Revised March 2015.) View Details
  5. Nokia's Bridge Program: Redesigning Layoffs (A)

    Sandra J. Sucher and Susan J. Winterberg

    "Not another Bochum." Nokia Board Chairman Jorma Ollila was clear in the goals he set for the 2011 restructuring that Nokia's new CEO, Stephen Elop, had decided was necessary to address the dramatically changed competitive environment the company faced in smartphones and mobile phones. The strategy shift would include transitioning Nokia's phone operating system to Microsoft Windows, and closing phone R&D centers and factories in 13 countries, with layoffs that would eventually impact 18,000 employees. Yet with several important R&D projects still under development, and capacity needed in factories for many more months, Nokia's board and leaders wanted to avoid the mistakes the company had made in a plant shutdown in Bochum, Germany in 2008. EVP of Corporate Relations and Responsibility Esko Aho was mandated to develop a "Nokia way" to implement the restructuring that would reflect the company's values and allow them to maintain morale and commitment among the employees who would eventually lose their jobs. The case describes the development of Nokia's "Bridge" program, a comprehensive approach to helping employees find new employment opportunities and to replacing jobs in communities where Nokia had been a major employer. The case challenges students to make decisions such as when and how to tell employees about a layoff, how to manage local government leaders, and what support to provide in 13 different countries, each with its own legal and regulatory environment, cultural norms, and expectations and needs of employees and local communities.

    Keywords: layoffs; Plant Closure, Outplacement; shared value; Telecommunications Industry;


    Sucher, Sandra J., and Susan J. Winterberg. "Nokia's Bridge Program: Redesigning Layoffs (A)." Harvard Business School Case 315-002, February 2015. View Details
  6. Entrepreneurship and the Cost of Experimentation

    Michael Ewens, Ramana Nanda and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf

    We study how technological change impacts the nature of venture-capital backed entrepreneurship in the US, through its effect on the falling cost of experimentation for startup firms. Using a theoretical model and rich data, we are able to both document and provide a framework for understanding the increased prevalence of investors who "spray and pray" - investing a little money in several startups run by teams of young and unproven entrepreneurs, with a lower probability of following-on their investments. Consistent with the model, we find that these patterns to be strongest in industry segments where technological change has led the cost of starting a business to fall most sharply in recent years.

    Keywords: innovation; venture capital; Investing; abandonment option; failure tolerance; Technological Innovation; Venture Capital; Entrepreneurship; Investment;


    Ewens, Michael, Ramana Nanda, and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf. "Entrepreneurship and the Cost of Experimentation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-070, February 2015. (Revised March 2015.) View Details
  7. Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

    Rebecca Henderson

    Can a business case be made for acting sustainably? This is a difficult question to answer precisely, largely because there is no generally accepted definition of the term "sustainability". Is it acting sustainably to protect the human rights of the firm's workforce? To invest in education in local communities? To switch to renewable power? All of these actions might improve social welfare, and some of them might improve profitability but they are very different, and the business case for each of them is similarly likely to look quite different. Here I begin to explore the issue by focusing on a more limited question, namely whether a business case be made for acting in an environmentally sustainable way, which I define as acting in any way that reduce a firm's environmental footprint.

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Decision Making; Environmental Sustainability;


    Henderson, Rebecca. "Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-068, February 2015. View Details
  8. Solar Geoengineering

    Joseph B. Lassiter III and Stephanie Puzio

    Keywords: climate change; geoengineering; carbon; carbon emissions; energy; nuclear; nuclear energy; de-extinction; Chemicals; Values and Beliefs; Moral Sensibility; Global Range; Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Technological Innovation; Innovation Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Research and Development; Environmental Sustainability; Pollution and Pollutants; Science-Based Business; Weather and Climate Change; Aerospace Industry; Biotechnology Industry; Chemical Industry; Energy Industry; Green Technology Industry; Technology Industry;


    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, and Stephanie Puzio. "Solar Geoengineering." Harvard Business School Case 815-081, February 2015. View Details
  9. Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists

    Joseph B. Fuller and Emilie Billaud

    In 2012, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, co­founders of the Hövding company, reflect on the evolution of their venture and the way forward. Since 2005, Haupt and Alstin had been working on a new type of bicycle helmet—an "airbag for cyclists". What had begun as a thesis had grown into a seven-year journey of research and development, including raising over $5 million of venture capital. The product had been granted Europe's CE certification in 2011 and had been launched simultaneously in Sweden and Norway. Yet, a year later, the company had still not reached the break­even point. To help them establish a commercialization strategy, the Hövding board had prevailed upon the founders to hire a professional CEO. But surrendering management control was an emotional process for Haupt and Alstin, while the CEO struggled to assert his leadership and build the company's commercial capabilities. Should Haupt and Alstin collaborate with their CEO despite their misgivings or should they step away from the company they had dedicated seven years to building?

    Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Transition; Leadership; Conflict Management; Bicycle Industry; Sweden; Europe;


    Fuller, Joseph B., and Emilie Billaud. "Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists." Harvard Business School Case 315-056, February 2015. View Details
  10. Men as Cultural Ideals: How Culture Shapes Gender Stereotypes

    Amy Cuddy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick and Michael I. Norton

    Four studies test whether cultural values moderate the content of gender stereotypes, such that male stereotypes more closely align with core cultural values (specifically, individualism vs. collectivism) than do female stereotypes. In Studies 1 and 2, using different measures, Americans rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas Koreans rated men as more collectivistic than women. In Study 3, bi-cultural Korean Americans who completed a survey in English about American targets rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas those who completed the survey in Korean about Korean targets did not, demonstrating how cultural frames influence gender stereotype content. Study 4 tested generalizability by reanalyzing Williams and Best's (1990) cross-national gender stereotype data across 26 nations. National-level collectivism strongly correlated with viewing collectivistic traits as more, and individualistic traits as less, stereotypically masculine. Together, the four studies show strong support for the cultural moderation hypothesis, qualifying past conclusions about the universality of the content of gender stereotypes.

    Keywords: gender; stereotypes; Gender Characteristics; United States; South Korea;


    Cuddy, Amy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick, and Michael I. Norton. "Men as Cultural Ideals: How Culture Shapes Gender Stereotypes." Paper presented at the 15th Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, February 15, 2014. View Details
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