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 2020-2021 Wyss Award for Excellence in Doctoral Research and one winner of the Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics. The prizes are presented each year based on excellence in innovative dissertation research.
Wyss Awards for Excellence in Research
Ximena Garcia-Rada (Marketing)
Countless decisions that consumers make, ranging from small purchases (e.g., bringing soup to a sick friend) to large ones (e.g., buying a house with a partner), require them to consider and incorporate not only their own feelings and preferences, but also the feelings and preferences of their loved ones. Ximena’s dissertation focuses on understanding how consumers make decisions involving close others: for example, how do consumers choose products they will use to take care of their families? And what kind of products and experiences do they select to share with relationship partners? These are the type of questions that Ximena explores using a wide range of tools including laboratory experiments, field studies, in-depth interviews, and analysis of archival data. For example, in one project, Ximena examines how consumers respond to products that are designed to make it easier to take care of close others—ranging from pre-made meals to robo-cribs that automatically rock babies back to sleep. Across a series of studies, she finds that consumers perceive themselves negatively when using effort-reducing product for caregiving purposes because they feel they are taking “an easy way out” and not showing they deeply care about their loved ones. Overall, Ximena’s research highlights opportunities to understand how consumers make decisions that impact their well-being and their close relationships.
Sourobh Ghosh (Technology and Operations Management)
Sourobh studies how firms use digital experimentation to drive product innovation and strategy. In one study, he shows that as the cost of experimentation has declined, firms are running more experiments but on lower value opportunities. The result is that firms are inadvertently underinvesting in high potential experiments. In another study, Sourobh demonstrates how adopting Agile project management—a widely practiced framework for using experimentation to innovate—may cause decision-makers to prioritize short-term value over novelty in products. Overall, Sourobh’s research illustrates that it is important to measure and manage the experimentation process to ensure that it is delivering results that are consistent with the long-run strategic objectives of the firm.
Alexa Scherf (Accounting and Management)
Alexa studies disclosure in a variety of contexts using large sample statistical analysis and field interviews. In one study, she shows that the online publication of public officials’ financial disclosures supports anti-corruption enforcement. Specifically, she finds that online publication of these disclosures increases detection and prosecution of local corruption. Through field interviews of state ethics commissions, federal prosecutors, and journalists, she determines that these enforcement benefits are likely driven by reduced investigation costs and increased public awareness of financial conflicts. In another project, Alexa documents that there is considerable variation in the ways firms prepare corporate disclosures. She shows that these differences have significant implications for the style and tone of corporate disclosures in 10-Ks and conference calls.
Martin Award for Excellence in Research
Francesca models the financial and macroeconomic implications of behavioral biases that affect how individuals learn information and form their beliefs. Economic theory is traditionally based on the assumption that individuals perfectly understand the world they observe, and this allows them to learn the right information from it. Her work departs from this unrealistic assumption and instead examines what happens if individuals infer the wrong information from the outcomes they observe because they misunderstand what generates them. She develops a notion of “Partial Equilibrium Thinking,” whereby individuals fail to realize that everyone else may be thinking and behaving just like them, influencing the outcomes they are trying to learn from. In the context of financial markets, Partial Equilibrium Thinking leads individuals to attribute any price change they observe to new information alone, when in reality part of the price change is due to the buying or selling pressure of other traders. As a result, Partial Equilibrium Thinking leads individuals to over-react to news, and can help explain asset price bubbles and crashes, as well as several features of credit cycles.
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.