17 Dec 2019

Six Harvard Business School Doctoral Candidates Receive Research Awards

(LtoR): Professor Robin Greenwood, Xiang Ding, Professor David Scharfstein, Michael Thaler, Ravi Jagadeesan, Dafna Goor, J. Peter Scoblic, Amy Edmondson. Not Picture: Leroy Gonsalves.
Photo: Ann Hermes

BOSTON—The Harvard Business School Doctoral Programs and their faculty chair, David Scharfstein, the School’s Edmund Cogswell Converse Professor of Finance and Banking, have announced three recipients of the 2019 Wyss Award for Excellence in Doctoral Research and three winners of the Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics. The prizes are presented each year based on excellence in innovative dissertation research.

Wyss Awards

Leroy Gonsalves (Organizational Behavior)
Gonsalves’s research examines the dynamics of legal and regulatory compliance in organizations. This involves exploring the business-government interface in two main empirical contexts: organizational misconduct, which encompasses how and when performance feedback produces pressure for managers to engage in illegal activities; and corporate political activities, which probes how powerful organizations shape their regulatory environments through lobbying and campaign contributions. Gonsalves also has a second stream of research focusing on social valuation processes in organizations. This research investigates how organizational conditions affect how managers and employees form perceptions of employees’ competence, commitment, and performance.

Dafna Goor (Marketing)
Goor’s dissertation focuses on branding, luxury marketing, and authenticity. Specifically, she examines tensions between status-seeking and self-perception and how brands may create or resolve these conflicts. In one project, she demonstrates that aspirational luxury products may conflict with consumers’ self-views, making them feel inauthentic. Another project shows that upward comparisons in one identity domain may lead consumers to prefer status-enhancing items in an alternative domain, in which they fare more favorably. Goor conducts her research in real-world settings using a mixed-method approach, which combines field and lab studies, analyses of social media consumer-generated content, qualitative interviews, and observational data. This approach allows her to emphasize both internal and external validity while unpacking the underlying psychological mechanisms in the consumers’ experience.

J. Peter Scoblic (Management)
Scoblic researches how managers formulate strategy given the uncertainty of the future. How can they decide what to do today if they do not know what tomorrow will look like? In his dissertation, he explores one possible answer to this question: the use of strategic foresight, defined as the process of considering multiple possible futures in order to improve decision-making in the present and increase adaptability to whatever future comes to pass. Noting that managers make sense of uncertain situations by drawing (often flawed) analogies to past experience, Scoblic argues that imagined futures provide managers with a breadth of artificial analogies that improve judgment by reducing overconfidence in any particular prediction. He finds that strategic foresight enables managers to better sense changes in their environment, identify strategic opportunities, and reconfigure their organizations to more effectively anticipate, shape, and respond to the future.

Martin Awards

Xiang Ding (Business Economics)
Ding’s research examines the aggregate implications of firm behavior in an increasingly globalized and technology-intensive world. His job market paper, “Intangible Economies of Scope: Micro Evidence and Macro Implications,” provides evidence that multi-industry firms like General Electric derive cost advantages from their scope of production. He finds, in US Census microdata, that a positive demand shock to one industry of a firm increases its sales in another industry only when the two industries use the same intangible inputs (e.g. R&D). To quantify these effects, he develops a model where economies of scope are determined by the scalability and rivalry of inputs in production. He estimates that intangible inputs generate economies of scope in US manufacturing and account for 20 percent of the aggregate response of productivity to market size. These estimates imply large spillover consequences of industry shocks (e.g. tariffs), particularly across industries that use more intangible inputs. In his other work, he studies how this internal transformation within firms (from physical towards intangible inputs) contributes to structural change in the United States.

Ravi Jagadeesan (Business Economics)
Jagadeesan studies the design of market-clearing mechanisms and tax systems. His work attempts to clarify the logic behind existing designs, extend their scope, and propose new designs when appropriate. One strand of his theoretical work develops matching-based models of markets for differentiated goods—showing how to incorporate real-world features including frictions and complementarities into the analysis. A second strand of his theoretical work makes progress toward developing new auction designs for settings in which bidders have financing constraints or experience income effects. His more applied work focuses on the design of blockchain-based systems and tax systems. In the context of blockchain-based systems, his work clarifies the economic properties of proposed blockchain designs and the trade-offs that they entail—with a view towards providing concrete recommendations on how to improve the economic efficiency and security of blockchains. In the context of tax systems, his work studies the interaction between growth, investment, and taxation affects optimal tax policy. These interactions are likely to be most relevant to the design of systems to tax capital—especially the portion of the capital stock whose ownership is concentrated among the wealthy.

Michael Thaler (Business Economics)
Thaler’s research seeks to better understand why people form biased and polarized beliefs about the world around them. For instance, in the United States today, people substantially disagree about the answers to factual questions on important issues like immigration, income mobility, and racial discrimination. One explanation for these persistent disagreements is "motivated reasoning": when people receive new information, they distort how they process the information in the direction that they are more motivated to believe. In his job market paper, "The 'Fake News' Effect: An Experiment on Motivated Reasoning and Trust in News," he creates a new experimental design and runs a large experiment in the United States to identify the bias. He finds evidence in support of politically-driven motivated reasoning on eight of nine hypothesized topics: immigration, income mobility, racial discrimination, crime, gender-based math ability, climate change, gun laws, and the performance of other subjects. Subjects also engage in motivated reasoning about their own performance. In the experiment, motivated reasoning leads people's beliefs to become more polarized and less accurate. In further work, he uses this measure of motivated reasoning to back out what types of beliefs people are motivated to hold; he also studies whether learning from negative feedback can induce people to debias themselves.

About the Awards

The Wyss Awards are named in honor of Hansjörg Wyss (MBA 1965), who established the Hansjörg Wyss Endowment for Doctoral Education in 2004. The Wyss Endowment supports a broad range of efforts to strengthen the Harvard Business School Doctoral Programs, including fellowships and stipends for doctoral students, increased support for field research, new doctoral course development, teaching skills training, and the renovation of doctoral facilities on campus.

The Roger Martin Fund for Doctoral Research was established in 2006 through the generosity of Roger Martin (MBA 1981), former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The fund was created in memory of Harvard Business School professor John Lintner, a world-renowned expert in finance and one of Martin’s mentors.

Harvard Business School offers or jointly offers doctoral programs in accounting and management, business economics, health policy (management), marketing, management, organizational behavior, strategy, and technology and operations management. At any given time, approximately 130 HBS doctoral students are completing course work or working on their dissertations at the School.


Cullen Schmitt

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.