Welcome to My Blogs

I have created a number blogs to publish useful information. One is a Teaching Blog dedicated to providing past, present and future students useful information. I have also created a blog for the Courses I am teaching. 

My Research Blog is dedicated to disseminating useful information to other researchers and scholars.

There is also a blog that has collected all of Charles Tilly’s Writings on Methodology.

Below you find every entry across all my Blogs.

The Global Climate Crisis

The website for An Inconvenient Truth provides the basics facts about the science of climate change.  Watch the trailer for film.

Give the DVD to your friends this holiday season.

Commissioned by the British government, the economist Stern published on October 30th his study evaluating the economic consequences of global warming. He writes: “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response (p. i) ...There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if strong collective action starts now.” (p. xxvii) You can download a summary of his review here. If you don’t have time to read the 27 page summary of the 600 page report, here is a short review of its conclusions in the New Yorker.

Reflections On “The Long Tail” - Give me Good Data!

A few days ago, I came across a very positive review of The Long Tail, a new book by Wired Maganize writer Chris Anderson. The book’s main thesis is that “the future of commerce and culture isn’t in hits, the high-volume head of a traditional demand curve, but in what used to be regarded as misses - the endlessly long tail of that same curve.” The books purports to show that the 80/20 rule (most sales derive from a few products) does not apply any more with internet retailing because internet retaling can stock many more items. This morning Lee Gomez in his Wall Street Journal column trashed Anderson’s analysis, claiming that Anderson’s data was flawed. (You can read the Gomez colum “Long Tail’ May Not Wag the Web Just Yet”  on WSJ.com or through your library’s article database.) Anderson in turn claims that Gomez did not get the data right and wrote a facinating rebutall on his website. What this exchange underlines is that getting good data and working meticulously to draw the correct conclusion often is worth a “fortune” for managers. More broadly, before you adopt a new fashionable business idea, ask yourself what data supports that the idea in fact is going to work. With more data you might have realized that the idea hurts as often as it helps.

Understanding the Strategies of Airbus and Boeing

Boeing and Airbus are pursuing different strategies with their next generations planes (the superlarge A380 and the supereffecient Boeing 787 Dreamliner). A recent article in the New York Times nicely demonstrates that the differences on the two companies’ strategic bet are driven by two different views how passenger travel will develop in the future. In essence, the firms tried to create strategies that fit with the perceived future environments of airplane travel.

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery

David Warsh tell the story of how the idea of increasing returns that was already present in Adam’s Smith’s Wealth of Nations transformed academic economics in the 1980s. Read Paul Krugam’s review in the New York Times.

The World’s Most Innovative Companies

Rachael Powell (Cohort A2) brought to my attention an interesting article from Business Week. From a methodological point, it would have been nice if the BW staff had looked at companies that were not innovative and confirmed that these firms did not do any of the practices that characterize the most innovative companies.  Read Article.

Wesfarmers: Interview with Former CEO Michael Chaney

In the spirit of “Where are the Now”, here is an interview with the outgoing CEO of Wesfarmers, Michael Chaney, before he became chairman of the National Australian Bank (NAB).

Malcom Gladwell Reviews Charles Tilly’s New Book “WHY”

Gladwell writes: In “Why?” (Princeton; $24.95), the Columbia University scholar Charles Tilly sets out to make sense of our reasons for giving reasons. In the tradition of the legendary sociologist Erving Goffman, Tilly seeks to decode the structure of everyday social interaction, and the result is a book that forces readers to reexamine everything from the way they talk to their children to the way they argue about politics. Read the full review in the New Yorker.

The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management

One of the things that made Peter Drucker such a superb writer on management was his intense and wide ranging curiosity about everything in the world and his keen eye for the essential aspects of reality. Unlike many other people who paid with their life for not wanting to see reality, Drucker, for example, extrapolated from what Hitler had said in the years before becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and left for England the moment Hitler rose to power. Drucker died a few days ago at age 95, but many of his insights are as valid as ever. Drucker’s writings have been edited into one book a few years ago, which is available electronically on Kindle. The value of the book lies not so much in giving concrete instructions about what you should do as a manger but in making you think about your own situation. Here are some of the key insights, the foremost being that management is about human beings.

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Even the Best Cannot Predict the Future

It is very useful to recognize that the social world is too complex to predict well what will succeed and what will fail. Those who think they know with great certainty what will succeed run the danger of overinvesting in their pet scenarios. What is the lesson? Just like with stocks, we should always have a portfolio of beliefs about the future, reducing the risk of getting stuck with the wrong scenarios.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
    —Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.”
    —The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

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Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround

In the early 1990s, IBM was in danger of going bankrupt. Loius Gerstner was called in to turn the company around.  Anyone who is trying to change a formerly successful orgazation will benefit from reading Gerstner’s thoughts on change management. Beware: the book starts out slow, turning off many readers. But after the first 20 pages, Gerstner’s training as an organizational consultant provides him the analytic language to lay out what are the key challenges in changing large organizations. Because he was an outsider at IBM, he has no reservations to analyze how IBM got itself into a near death experience.  I highly recommend this book.

The Power of Richness II: Exploring Qualitative Research Methods

Inspired by the large number of participants at the “The Power of Richness: The Why, When, Where and How of Qualitative Research Methods” PDW in Honolulu, Diana Day and I (Peter Murmann) decided to organize a follow-up workshop on qualitative methods at the academy meeting in Atlanta.  The workshop will again have a stellar group of scholars presenting their ideas about how to make qualitative reseach powerful. The confirmed presenters are: Kathy Eisenhardt (Stanford), Mauro Guillen (Wharton-U. of Pennsylvania), Sara Rynes (Editor of AMJ), Nicolaj Siggelkow (Wharton-U. of Pennsylvania), John Wagner (Associate Editor of ASQ), Karl Weick (Michigan). More details about the workshop will as we are getting closer to the event.

When and Where: Friday, August 11, from 1:30 to 4:30 pm at the Atlanta Marriott in International 4

Update March 17,2006: The workshop is being sponsored by virtually all divisions of the Academy: BPS/HR/MED/MOC/MSR/OB/ODC/OMT/ONE/PNP/PTC/SIM/CAR/CM/
ENT/GDO/HCM/IM/MC/ and RM.

Visit the Discussion Forum for the Event where you can now download the presentation slides from the workshop. 

Project on the Competitiveness of Firms in the Global Paper & Pulp Industry, 1805-2005

Together with two Finish scholars, Juha-Anti Lamberg and Jari Ojala, I started a comparative study of the paper and pulp industry. Human beings have been making paper from various raw materials for thousands of years. But in 1804 a Frenchman invented a continous paper machine revolutionized the manufacturing and started the modern paper making industry.

The goal of our project is to study shifts in competitive advantage from one country to the next and from firm to firm during the last 200 years.  We are starting our comparative analysis looking at Britain, Germany, Finland and Sweden. Our long-term plan is to study all the major paper producing countries in the word. If you are interested in participating in this study, contact us.

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The Freedom Tower Case: Why is group decision making not better individual decisions

Individual human beings have limited skills, knowledge,  and expertise can get carried away by emotions when making decisions. One would think that involving multiple people in a decision could overcome the limitations of individual decision making but social psycholgoists have long known that groups have their own limitations. The New York Times published a pertinent article on how a comittee came up with the redesigned Freedom Tower that architectual critics find dissappointing given the grandeur of the originial proposal.

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Five Tips for Strategies for Organizational Change courtesy of Motorola’s New CEO

Tip 1: Don’t go too fast. Recognize it can take several years to build a high-performance company.

Tip 2: Get back to putting the customer first. As simple as that sounds, companies take it for granted.

Tip 3: Don’t let your sales force take no for an answer. They should tell clients: ‘Talk to my boss because I am not authorized to lose this deal.’

Tip 4: Whack yourself before somebody wacks you.

Tip 5: Beware of ‘clogged arteries’ in corporations—like too many vice presidents.
The full articles can be read at WSJ.com

How Business Schools Lost their Way

Warren Bennis and James O’Toole just published an article in the Harvard Business Review that I wholeheartedly agree with. It is very fun to read because they are well-informed and don’t shy away from stating some unpleasant truths.  Good business schools have room for theoreticians, scientific empiricists, and practice oriented scholars.

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Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

Rarely have I seen such a powerful documentary about how ideas shape the world. The film traces the ideas that shaped macro-economic policy making over the course of the 20th century. The film will be eye-opening for people who know very little how economic policy powerfully effects the welfare of societies all over the world. Even if you are a scholar familiar with the history of the 20 century, you will enjoy this fantastic piece of work. One word of clarification. Sophisticated scholars who believe in “free” markets believe in a need for laws. (The film originally aired on PBS and is now available on DVD.)

The Stanley Reiter Lecture 2005

On January 26, 2005 I delivered the Stanley Reiter Award Lecture. The Reiter award is named for Stanley Reiter, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at Kellogg. It is presented to a Kellogg faculty member whose paper is judged by a panel of Kellogg professors across disciplines to be the best paper written in the preceding four calendar years. I received the award for my book Knowledge and Competitive Advantage: The Coevolution of Firms, Technology and National Institutions. You can also read the text of the lecture by clicking on “More” button or by downloading it as a Word file.  Alternatively,  you can watch a video (58 minutes) of the lecture with Real Player here: Lecture Video. If you watch the video, you should download the Slides that I presented during the lecture but which are not visible in the video.

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What Companies do to Make Life Easier for Their Employees

The WSJ in today’s report on leadership published an interesting article on what kind of perks companies provide to boost the morale of people and to make work life easier. “Fun perks didn’t end with the dot-com bust. They just changed,” reports Jennifer Saranow.

Read the full article on WSJ.com.

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Four More Years of Happiness

Harvard pychology professor Daniel Gilbert predicts that most democrats will not be depressed during the next four years of George Bush. Here is the rationale that he offers in today’s New York Times: Research suggests that human beings have a remarkable ability to manufacture happiness. For example, when people in experiments are randomly awarded one of two equally valuable prizes, they quickly come to believe that the prize they won was more valuable than the prize they lost. They are often so surprised by their apparent good fortune that they refuse to believe the prize was awarded randomly, and they are generally unwilling to swap their prizes even when the experimenter offers to sweeten the deal with a little extra cash.

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The Power of Richness: The Why, When, Where and How of Qualitative Research Methods

Participate in the workshop on Qualitative Methods the Academy of Management in Hawaii, Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00, August 5, 2005.  The Panelists are: Robert Burgelman, Diana Day, Deborah Dougherty, Charles Galunic, Johann Peter Murmann, Gabriel Szulanski, and Klaus Weber.

Visit the Discussion Forum for the Event where much additional information will be posted.

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Malcom Gladwell’s Book “Blink” is out!

In my introductory management class I discuss the how cognitive heuristics (rules of thump) help us navigate our complex daily lives and make decisions before it is too late. Malcom Glawell new book describes this quick decision-making capability with many examples. I will review the book during the next couple of months, but in the meantime you can read excerpts from the book on Gladwell’s website.  David Brooks has written a very thoughtful review of the book in the New York Times that you can read here.

Gladwell and Surowiecki Debate How Good Decisions are made

Galdwell and Surowiecki have a new books coming out concerned with good decision making. I am presently reading Surowieki’s The Wisdom of Crowds and have Blink on my reading list. You can read a debate they both had about their books in Slate

Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory

I am a big fan of explanations of social phenomena that set forth the precise causal mechanisms that produce them. This book edited by Peter Hedstroem and Richard Swedberg provides a very good introduction to the approach. The only think I don’t like about the piece its believe that all mechanisms in sociology need to refer to individuals.  You can download the overview chapter here:  Social-mechanism.pdf Click on “More…” for a Table of Contents.

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