Laura Huang - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Laura Huang

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Organizational Behavior

Laura Huang is an associate professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit.  Prior to joining HBS, she was an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  Professor Huang’s research examines early-stage entrepreneurship, and the role of interpersonal relationships and implicit factors in the investment decisions of financiers such as angel investors and VCs. Her work studies the subtle signals and cues that often impact the behavioral perceptions of investors, which can lead to implicit bias in the investing process. Her research has been published in several academic journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has also been featured in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Nature.  She has won a number of awards for her research, and was named one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets & Quants.

Professor Huang earned a PhD in management from the University of California, Irvine; an MBA from INSEAD; and an MS and BSE in electrical engineering, both from Duke University.  Before entering academia, she held positions in investment banking, consulting, and general management, for organizations such as Standard Chartered Bank, IBM Global Services, and Johnson & Johnson, in a variety of global locations.  She has also served as an advisor to several start-ups in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China.

Journal Articles
  1. Worthy of Swift Trust? How Brief Interpersonal Contact Affects Trust Accuracy

    Oliver Schilke and Laura Huang

    Organizational scholars have long underscored the positive consequences of trust, yet trust can also have dysfunctional effects if it is not placed wisely. Though much research has examined conditions that increase individuals’ tendencies to trust others, we know very little about the circumstances under which individuals are likely to make more accurate trust decisions (i.e., neither misplace their trust nor refrain from trusting when doing so would have been beneficial), especially when they must do so rapidly and in the absence of an exchange history. Put simply, we have little understanding of what drives the accuracy of swift trust judgments. Building on relevant literatures, we propose that short episodes of prior interpersonal contact with a partner can increase the accuracy of swift trust decisions. Across two experimental studies, we demonstrate that brief interpersonal contact leads trustors to both (a) become more accurate in their trust decisions; and (b) engage in other-focused perspective taking, which mediates the effect of interpersonal contact on trust accuracy. We then show that it is specifically because of verbal cues, rather than visual cues, that brief interpersonal contact enables other-focused perspective taking, and in turn, trust accuracy (Study 3). We contribute to the literature on trust by examining trust accuracy (rather than mere trust levels), identifying the significant role of brief interpersonal contact, and revealing other-focused perspective taking as a key mechanism in accurate swift trust decisions.

    Keywords: Trust; Interpersonal Communication; Judgments; Perspective;

    Citation:

    Schilke, Oliver, and Laura Huang. "Worthy of Swift Trust? How Brief Interpersonal Contact Affects Trust Accuracy." Journal of Applied Psychology (forthcoming).  View Details
  2. The Role of Investor Gut Feel in Managing Complexity and Extreme Risk

    Laura Huang

    Securing financial resources from investors is a key challenge for many early stage entrepreneurial ventures. Given the inherent uncertainty surrounding a decision to invest in these ventures, prior research has found that experienced investors rely heavily on their investor gut feel—dynamic expertise-based emotion-cognitions specific to the entrepreneurship context. In this paper, I inductively find that rather than based on rapid, nonconscious impulse, as much of prior literature would suggest, what investors call their "gut feel" is an elaborate "intuiting process." This process serves a distinct purpose: it emboldens investors to make investments that would otherwise be considered overly risky and likely to lead to failure. In the theoretical model I present, I delineate how investors are guided by a predisposed stance on risk and uncertainty, which dictates the approach investors take towards managing the complexity of an investment opportunity—and how they cognitively and emotionally reframe investment risk into a compelling narrative that transcends avoidance behavior and leads investors to invest. These findings expand our overall understanding of the complex ways in which investors contend with the risks and uncertainties in entrepreneurial finance.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Finance; Risk and Uncertainty; Complexity; Decision Making;

    Citation:

    Huang, Laura. "The Role of Investor Gut Feel in Managing Complexity and Extreme Risk." Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).  View Details
  3. Gender Bias, Social Impact Framing, and Evaluation of Entrepreneurial Ventures

    Matthew Lee and Laura Huang

    Recent studies find that female-led ventures are penalized relative to male-led ventures due to role incongruity, or a perceived “lack of fit,” between female stereotypes and expected personal qualities of business entrepreneurs. We examine whether social impact framing that emphasizes a venture’s social-environmental welfare benefits, which research has shown to elicit stereotypically-feminine attributions of warmth, diminishes these penalties. We initially investigate this proposition in a field study of evaluations of early-stage ventures, and find evidence of lessened gender penalties for female-led ventures that are presented using a social impact frame. In a second study, we experimentally validate this effect and show that it is mediated by the effect of social impact framing on perceptions of the entrepreneur’s warmth. The effect of social impact frames on venture evaluations did not apply to men, was not due to perceptions of increased competence, and was not conditional on the gender of evaluators. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that social impact framing increases attributions of warmth for all entrepreneurs, but with positive consequences on business evaluation only for female-led ventures, for which increased perceptions of warmth attenuate female entrepreneurs’ gender role incongruity.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Gender; Prejudice and Bias; Framework; Perception; Performance Evaluation;

    Citation:

    Lee, Matthew, and Laura Huang. "Gender Bias, Social Impact Framing, and Evaluation of Entrepreneurial Ventures." Organization Science 29, no. 1 (January–February 2018): 1–16.  View Details
  4. We Ask Men to Win & Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding

    Dana Kanze, Laura Huang, Mark Conley and E. Tory Higgins

    Male entrepreneurs are known to raise higher levels of funding than their female counterparts, but the underlying mechanism for this funding disparity remains contested. Drawing upon Regulatory Focus Theory, we propose that the gap originates with a gender bias in the questions that investors pose to entrepreneurs. A field study conducted on question-and-answer interactions at TechCrunch Disrupt New York City during 2010 through 2016 reveals that investors tend to ask male entrepreneurs promotion-focused questions and female entrepreneurs prevention-focused questions, and that entrepreneurs tend to respond with matching regulatory focus. This distinction in the regulatory focus of investor questions and entrepreneur responses results in divergent funding outcomes for entrepreneurs whereby those asked promotion-focused questions raise significantly higher amounts of funding than those asked prevention-focused questions. We demonstrate that every additional prevention-focused question significantly hinders the entrepreneur's ability to raise capital, fully mediating gender's effect on funding. By experimentally testing an intervention, we find that entrepreneurs can significantly increase funding for their startups when responding to prevention-focused questions with promotion-focused answers. As we offer evidence regarding tactics that can be employed to diminish the gender disadvantage in funding outcomes, this study has practical as well as theoretical implications for entrepreneurship.

    Keywords: Business Startups; Finance; Gender; Prejudice and Bias;

    Citation:

    Kanze, Dana, Laura Huang, Mark Conley, and E. Tory Higgins. "We Ask Men to Win & Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding." Academy of Management Journal 61, no. 2 (April 2018): 586–614.  View Details
  5. Resources and Relationships in Entrepreneurship: An Exchange Theory of the Development and Effects of the Entrepreneur-Investor Relationship

    Laura Huang and Andrew P. Knight

    We develop a theoretical model, grounded in exchange theory, about the process through which relationships between entrepreneurs and investors develop and influence the growth of new ventures. Our theory highlights the multifaceted relationships that entrepreneurs and investors share—comprising both affective and instrumental dimensions—and the bidirectional exchanges of social and financial resources that build these relationships over time. An exchange theory perspective sheds light on the emergence of different patterns of relationship development over time and how different kinds of resource exchange contribute to new venture growth, contingent on the core problems that a venture faces at a given stage of development. We discuss implications of an exchange perspective on resources and relationships in entrepreneurship for theory, research, and practice.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Relationships; Business Startups; Business and Shareholder Relations; Theory;

    Citation:

    Huang, Laura, and Andrew P. Knight. "Resources and Relationships in Entrepreneurship: An Exchange Theory of the Development and Effects of the Entrepreneur-Investor Relationship." Academy of Management Review 42, no. 1 (January 2017): 80–102.  View Details
  6. When Is Traditionalism an Asset and When Is It a Liability for Team Innovation? A Two-Study Empirical Examination

    Laura Huang, Cristina B. Gibson, Bradley L. Kirkman and Debra L. Shapiro

    Team innovation requires idea generating and idea implementing. In two studies, we examine how these team activities are affected by the extent to which members value traditionalism – that is, placing importance on preserving old ways of doing things over breaking precedent and forging new approaches. We proposed that higher average levels of team traditionalism would be negatively associated with idea generating but positively associated with idea implementing. Conversely, we proposed the opposite effects for diversity on team traditionalism. Further, we argued that these effects would be mediated by team process conflict because diversity on team traditionalism might make it more likely that members will debate what to retain versus newly adopt, and team agreement is more likely to occur when team members’ values are shared, rather than discrepant, with one another. Supporting our assertions, we found that whether traditionalism is an asset or liability for team innovation depends on whether (1) the average level (versus diversity) of team traditionalism is examined; and (2) idea generating versus idea implementing is of primary importance. Specifically, idea generating benefits from higher diversity on team traditionalism, whereas idea implementing benefits from higher average levels of team traditionalism. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

    Keywords: Groups and Teams; Innovation and Invention; Diversity; Values and Beliefs; Performance Effectiveness;

    Citation:

    Huang, Laura, Cristina B. Gibson, Bradley L. Kirkman, and Debra L. Shapiro. "When Is Traditionalism an Asset and When Is It a Liability for Team Innovation? A Two-Study Empirical Examination." Journal of International Business Studies 48, no. 6 (August 2017): 693–715.  View Details
  7. Collection, Exploration and Analysis of Crowdfunding Social Networks

    Miao Cheng, Anand Sriramulu, Sudarshan Muralidhar, Boon Thau Loo, Laura Huang and Po-Ling Loh

    Crowdfunding is a recent financing phenomenon that is gaining wide popularity as a means for startups to raise seed funding for their companies. This paper presents our initial results at understanding this phenomenon using an exploratory data driven approach. We have developed a big data platform for collecting and managing data from multiple sources, including company profiles (CrunchBase and AngelList) and social networks (Facebook and Twitter). We describe our data collection process that allows us to gather data from diverse sources at high throughput. Using Spark as our analysis tool, we study the impact of social engagement on startup fund raising success. We further define novel metrics that allow us to quantify the behavior of investors to follow and make investment decisions as communities rather than individuals. Finally, we explore visualization techniques that allow us to visualize communities of investors that make decisions in a close-knit fashion vs looser communities where investors largely make independent decisions. We conclude with a discussion on our ongoing research on causality analysis and new community detection algorithms.

    Citation:

    Cheng, Miao, Anand Sriramulu, Sudarshan Muralidhar, Boon Thau Loo, Laura Huang, and Po-Ling Loh. "Collection, Exploration and Analysis of Crowdfunding Social Networks." Proceedings of the International Workshop on Exploratory Search in Databases and the Web 3rd (2016): 25–30.  View Details
  8. Managing the Unknowable: The Effectiveness of Early-stage Investor Gut Feel in Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions

    Laura Huang and Jone L. Pearce

    Using an inductive theory-development study, a field experiment, and a longitudinal field test, we examine early-stage entrepreneurial investment decision making under conditions of extreme uncertainty. Building on existing literature on decision making and risk in organizations, intuition, and theories of entrepreneurial financing, we test the effectiveness of angel investors’ criteria for making investment decisions. We found that angel investors’ decisions have several characteristics that have not been adequately captured in existing theory: angel investors have clear objectives—risking small stakes to find extraordinarily profitable investments, fully expecting to lose their entire investment in most cases—and they rely on a combination of expertise-based intuition and formal analysis in which intuition trumps analysis, contrary to reports in other investment contexts. We also found that their reported emphasis on assessments of the entrepreneur accurately predicts extraordinarily profitable venture success four years later. We develop this theory by examining situations in which uncertainty is so extreme that it qualifies as unknowable, using the term “gut feel” to describe their dynamic emotion-cognitions in which they blend analysis and intuition in ways that do not impair intuitive processes and that effectively predict extraordinarily profitable investments.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Venture Capital; Risk and Uncertainty; Decision Making; Emotions; Performance Effectiveness;

    Citation:

    Huang, Laura, and Jone L. Pearce. "Managing the Unknowable: The Effectiveness of Early-stage Investor Gut Feel in Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions." Administrative Science Quarterly 60, no. 4 (December 2015): 634–670.  View Details
  9. Where Global and Virtual Meet: The Value of Examining the Intersection of These Elements in Twenty-First-Century Teams

    Cristina B. Gibson, Laura Huang, Bradley L. Kirkman and Debra L. Shapiro

    We review prior research that has examined virtuality in teams (e.g., pertaining to the use of electronic media) or the global nature of teams (e.g., national and cultural differences), demonstrating that very few scholars have examined both simultaneously. Given that the global and virtual elements often coincide in the same team, this is a critical gap in research, particularly because these two features may interact in important ways, amplifying or mitigating the effects of each other. After elaborating on potential interactions, we set forth future research directions, which incorporate both global and virtual elements of teams and in doing so, better address the complexity of working in these increasingly common collaborative forms.

    Keywords: global virtual teams; cultural diversity; electronic communication; computer-mediated communication; Groups and Teams; Global Range; Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Interactive Communication;

    Citation:

    Gibson, Cristina B., Laura Huang, Bradley L. Kirkman, and Debra L. Shapiro. "Where Global and Virtual Meet: The Value of Examining the Intersection of These Elements in Twenty-First-Century Teams." Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 1 (2014): 217–244.  View Details
  10. Investors Prefer Entrepreneurial Ventures Pitched by Attractive Men

    A.W. Brooks, L. Huang, S.W. Kearney and F. Murray

    Entrepreneurship is a central path to job creation, economic growth, and prosperity. In the earliest stages of start-up business creation, the matching of entrepreneurial ventures to investors is critically important. The entrepreneur's business proposition and previous experience are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions. Our research, however, documents other critical criteria that investors use to make these decisions: the gender and physical attractiveness of the entrepreneurs themselves. Across a field setting (three entrepreneurial pitch competitions in the United States) and two experiments, we identify a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneur persuasiveness. Investors prefer pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches made by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same. This effect is moderated by male physical attractiveness: attractive males were particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness did not matter among female entrepreneurs.

    Keywords: Prejudice and Bias; Entrepreneurship; Investment; Gender;

    Citation:

    Brooks, A.W., L. Huang, S.W. Kearney, and F. Murray. "Investors Prefer Entrepreneurial Ventures Pitched by Attractive Men." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 12 (March 25, 2014): 4427–4431.  View Details
  11. Political Skill: Explaining the Effects of Nonnative Accent on Managerial Hiring and Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions

    Laura Huang, Marcia Frideger and Jone L. Pearce

    We propose and test a new theory explaining glass-ceiling bias against nonnative speakers as driven by perceptions that nonnative speakers have weak political skill. Although nonnative accent is a complex signal, its effects on assessments of the speakers' political skill are something that speakers can actively mitigate; this makes it an important bias to understand. In Study 1, White and Asian nonnative speakers using the same scripted responses as native speakers were found to be significantly less likely to be recommended for a middle-management position, and this bias was fully mediated by assessments of their political skill. The alternative explanations of race, communication skill, and collaborative skill were nonsignificant. In Study 2, entrepreneurial start-up pitches from national high-technology, new-venture funding competitions were shown to experienced executive MBA students. Nonnative speakers were found to have a significantly lower likelihood of receiving new-venture funding, and this was fully mediated by the coders' assessments of their political skill. The entrepreneurs' race, communication skill, and collaborative skill had no effect. We discuss the value of empirically testing various posited reasons for glass-ceiling biases, how the importance and ambiguity of political skill for executive success serve as an ostensibly meritocratic cover for nonnative speaker bias, and other theoretical and practical implications of this work.

    Keywords: Spoken Communication; Prejudice and Bias; Competency and Skills; Selection and Staffing; Entrepreneurship; Investment; Decisions;

    Citation:

    Huang, Laura, Marcia Frideger, and Jone L. Pearce. "Political Skill: Explaining the Effects of Nonnative Accent on Managerial Hiring and Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions." Journal of Applied Psychology 98, no. 6 (November 2013): 1005–1017.  View Details
  12. The Decreasing Value of Our Research to Management Education

    Jone L. Pearce and Laura Huang

    For centuries we have expected the best teachers also to be scholars. The practice of scholarship should do more than make scholars more humble teachers; scholarship is expected to be more than an activity done for its own sake. Here we present evidence that our scholarship is increasingly failing us as teachers: The research published in our best scholarly journals has become less actionable over time, and so, less useful to our students. We focused on research that can be used either conceptually or instrumentally as a basis for action, by anyone taking a management course or executive session of any type. We call such research actionable for several reasons. To see if our research has become less useful over time, we selected the two most prestigious management journals that have been published the longest, allowing us to test the changes. We took the most recent complete volume of both journals, and sampled the articles in each of the preceding 10 years through 1960, the first year both were in print using our once-a-decade sampling frame. We collected data to test our suspicion that the scholarly research published in our best management journals has become proportionally less conceptually and instrumentally useful to executives, managers, and others who want to participate in and run organizations more effectively, and so, less useful to us as teachers of management. We found a significant decrease in the proportion of journal articles that generated actionable knowledge from 1960 to 2010. We offered several speculations for the decline in the proportion of actionable research despite the continuing calls for more relevant management research and numerous concrete suggestions intended to foster more useable research over the years. These include the favoring of complex moderator-mediator analyses, and studies demonstrating that abstract economic theories have not been implemented in practice.

    Citation:

    Pearce, Jone L., and Laura Huang. "The Decreasing Value of Our Research to Management Education." Academy of Management Learning & Education 11, no. 2 (June 2012): 247–262.  View Details
  13. After All Is Lost: Meeting the Material Needs of Adolescent Disaster Survivors

    Jill G. Klein and Laura Huang

    This research with teenage tsunami survivors finds that adolescents received little support from relief organizations in their desire to replace lost possessions. The authors suggest ways that marketers can help relief organizations identify the material needs of adolescent survivors, as well as the needs of other underserved or vulnerable segments.

    Citation:

    Klein, Jill G., and Laura Huang. "After All Is Lost: Meeting the Material Needs of Adolescent Disaster Survivors." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 26, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 54–59.  View Details
Working Papers
  1. Mitigating Malicious Envy: Why Successful Individuals Should Reveal Their Failures

    Karen Huang, Alison Wood Brooks, Ryan W. Buell, Brian Hall and Laura Huang

    People often feel malicious envy, a destructive interpersonal emotion, when they compare themselves to successful peers. Across two online experiments and an experimental field study, we identify an interpersonal strategy that can mitigate others’ feelings of malicious envy: revealing one’s failures. People are reticent to reveal their failures—both as they are happening and after they have occurred. However, in two experiments, we find that revealing successes and the failures encountered on the path to success (compared to revealing only successes) decreases observers’ malicious envy. This effect holds regardless of whether the individual is ambiguously or unambiguously successful. Then, in a field experiment set in an entrepreneurial pitch competition, where pride displays are common and stakes are high, we find suggestive evidence that learning about the failures of a successful entrepreneur decreases observers’ malicious envy, increases their benign envy, decreases their perceptions of the entrepreneur’s hubristic pride (i.e., arrogance), and increases their perceptions of the entrepreneur’s authentic pride (i.e., confidence). These findings align with previous work on the social-functional relation of envy and pride. Taken together, our results highlight how revealing the failures encountered on the way to success can be a counterintuitive yet effective interpersonal emotion regulation strategy.

    Keywords: envy; malicious envy; Emotion Regulation; disclosure; Emotions; Perception; Interpersonal Communication; Communication Strategy;

    Citation:

    Huang, Karen, Alison Wood Brooks, Ryan W. Buell, Brian Hall, and Laura Huang. "Mitigating Malicious Envy: Why Successful Individuals Should Reveal Their Failures." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-080, February 2018.  View Details
Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. Cotopaxi: Managing Growth for Good

    Andy Wu and Laura Huang

    Cotopaxi, an innovative outdoor gear business targeting millennials, focuses on profit and social impact. This registered benefit corporation was formed by Davis Smith who coalesced his experiences as a Wharton MBA student along with professional knowledge from an unpaid internship in Peru and his previous e-commerce startups in the U.S. and Brazil. Cotopaxi’s social cause is fighting global poverty; their target is to donate 10% of their profits, but as a new capital-intensive business they give 2% of their revenue. Their income streams are mainly direct-to-consumer sales along with corporate sales and a special experience-based event—Questival. Their direct-to-consumer model lowers costs compared to competitors and allows Cotopaxi to offer lower prices, but they face a challenge in positioning their products as high quality.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; social venture; benefit corporation; B-Corp; retail; consumer products; Apparel; social impact; Social Entrepreneurship; Business Model; Product Positioning; Social Enterprise; Mission and Purpose; Consumer Products Industry; Retail Industry;

    Citation:

    Wu, Andy, and Laura Huang. "Cotopaxi: Managing Growth for Good." Harvard Business School Case 717-488, May 2017. (Revised November 2017.)  View Details
Other Publications and Materials
  1. Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Questions by VCs —and It Affects How Much Funding They Get

    Dana Kanze, Laura Huang, Mark Conley and E. Tory Higgins

    Citation:

    Kanze, Dana, Laura Huang, Mark Conley, and E. Tory Higgins. "Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Questions by VCs —and It Affects How Much Funding They Get." Harvard Business Review (website) (June 27, 2017).  View Details
  2. An Analysis of the Competitive Advantage of the United States of America in Commercial Human Orbital Spaceflight Markets

    Greg Autry, Laura Huang and Jeff Foust

    The “Public/Private Human Access to Space” / Human Orbital Markets (HOM) study group of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has established a framework for the identification and analysis of relevant factors and structures that support a global human orbital spaceflight market. The HOM study group has called for analysis at the national level to be incorporated in their global study.
    This report, commissioned by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transport, provides a review of demonstrated and potential Human Orbital Markets and an analysis of the U.S. industrial supply chain supporting commercial human orbital spaceflight.
    We utilize a multi‐method, holistic approach incorporating primarily qualitative methodologies that also incorporates relevant statistical data. Our methodology parallels the National Competitive Advantage diamond model pioneered by economist Michael Porter.
    The study reveals that while the U.S. currently possesses significant competitive advantage in commercial human orbital spaceflight, there are several areas of note that present a challenge to the sustainability of this advantage.

    Keywords: Air Transportation; Infrastructure; Emerging Markets; Analysis; Competitive Advantage; Aerospace Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Autry, Greg, Laura Huang, and Jeff Foust. "An Analysis of the Competitive Advantage of the United States of America in Commercial Human Orbital Spaceflight Markets." New Space 2, no. 2 (2014): 83–110.  View Details