Friday, February 5, 2016
I have been on the road a good bit over the past few months. Like Stephen Bainbridge, I greatly prefer driving to flying. On these road trips, I have noticed an increasing number of billboard advertisements for universities (my university included).
When I was in high school, I cannot remember any respectable 4-year universities or graduate schools using billboards to advertise. Maybe they did, and I just did not notice; but I do remember for-profit and community colleges using them. Today, however, I have seen billboard advertisements for schools ranked as high as the top-25 universities in the country, not to mention many solid public (including state flagship) and private universities. The Ivy League schools and their chief competitors seem to still be avoiding billboards, though even some them resort to billboards for their executive programs. (The for-profit schools still use billboards, but have also moved on to things like buying stadium naming rights).
I do wonder what accounts for the shift towards university billboard advertising, if there has been a shift. I also wonder about the costs and benefits of billboard advertising for universities. And I wonder about the comparative costs and benefits of alternative marketing.
Super Bowl ads – costing a record high $5 million for a 30-second spot – are likely a much more significant investment than your average billboard ad, but I imagine most companies that are advertising during the Super Bowl have decided that the costs outweigh the benefits. A few years ago, however, Pepsi decided to withdraw from the Super Bowl advertising frenzy for the first time in 23 years. Instead, Pepsi made more than $20 million in local grants, in the amount of $5,000 to $250,000 each. The local grants included things like buying uniforms for a high school's band. I imagine the local grants were powerful, relatively narrow in impact, and perhaps difficult to tie directly to sales. This year, it looks like Pepsi is back advertising during the Super Bowl where the advertising is much broader, if shallower. (Hat tip to the Coursera and University of Illinois digital marketing course for the link to the Pepsi story).
So maybe the decision for universities to use billboards is similar to the decision of multinational corporations to advertise during the Super Bowl: the ad might not be as personally powerful as something more individualized like local grants, but the ad will reach many more people. While I think the broader reach makes some sense, I do wonder if that will continue to hold true with social media; I imagine some of Pepsi’s local grants, for example, could “go viral” when shared on social media and could possibly rival the reach of a Super Bowl ad.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Sports have had some well-publicized legal and ethical problems over the past few months.
- "IAAF knew of Russian doping scandal, corruption" 1/14/16 (track and field)
- "The Tennis Files: Have top players been paid to lose?" (1/18/16) (tennis)
- "New FIFA indictment is bigger than the first one, and the DOJ isn't done yet" (12/3/15) (soccer)
I hope to look into these scandals more deeply in coming months, but it seems unchecked power and/or loose oversight are at least part of the problem.
As with many of the recent business scandals, I wonder if punishments need to be more severe to curb these problems, or if there is another, more effective, solution waiting to be uncovered.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
From the Faculty Lounge: "Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law seeks an outstanding lawyer/educator/scholar to teach business law and entrepreneurship courses, broadly defined, and to serve as the Faculty Director for The John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship." More information available here.
At this point in the year, I imagine that some, if not many, of the positions on the list may be filled.
Friday, January 22, 2016
I am taking a MOOC from University of Illinois and Coursera on digital marketing. I've been trying to take at least one course a semester. Both the underlying material, and the intricacies of online education have been interesting. I chose this course because I have family members in the digital marketing area, and I am taking (and discussing) this course with them.
Later, I may discuss some of the substantive take-aways from the course --- I have completed about 50% of the course so far --- but in this post I want to discuss business/academic entanglement.
In this digital marketing class, an assignment on co-creation (by firms & their customers) consisted of creating an online account with Starbucks, submitting an idea for consideration, and reporting how the idea was received by commenters. This was a useful exercise and it made the concept come alive, but I couldn't help wondering if Starbucks was somehow involved with University of Illinois and/or Coursera in creating this assignment. To be clear, I have no idea whether Starbucks was or was not involved. But, in any event, with the thousands (and maybe 10s of thousands) of people who are taking this course, this assignment seemed like a win for Starbucks. Well, actually, this idea submission portion of Starbucks' website was not functioning properly, leading to many, many complaints from the students on the course discussion boards, but the assignment could have been a big win for Starbucks. And eventually, a work-around was suggested, and I assume that many, many people still created online accounts with Starbucks when they might not have otherwise. The creation of those accounts, and the simple brand exposure, certainly has some value to Starbucks.
Anyway, my question is this: Are course creators ethically obligated to disclose entanglement or abstain from entanglement between businesses and their educational institutions?
Even if there is no entanglement (I am thinking about direct or indirect payments for the assignment), how should potential benefits to the educational institution be treated? For example, what if the University of Illinois plans to pitch Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on making a contribution toward a new campus building and plans to bring up this assignment? Again, I don't know if there was any entanglement here, and I assume it was just an innocent and useful assignment. But with the increasing corporatization of higher education, I wonder about the appropriate boundaries between businesses and universities.
Thoughts from our readers are welcomed.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Employers and hiring coordinators are busy people. Like law review editorial boards, they get many more qualified submissions than they need for the openings they have. One of our challenges in advising students in the job search game is making their submissions stand out. Of course, personal connections and timing are very helpful in this regard. But résumés and cover letters also are important and may make a real difference in obtaining interviews and getting desired offers of employment.
As we settle into the new semester, my unemployed 3L students have begun to seek help from me in their quest to launch their careers post-graduation. One resource I highlight is the BLPB. Co-blogger Haskell Murray earlier posted some super information about résumés and interviews. I followed, at his suggestion, with a post on cover letters (and then one on following up with firms that have not initially extended an interview invitation). This post adds some new details on cover letters that respond to common mistakes I see and questions I have been asked about my earlier post on that topic.
Specifically, I want to describe better the key personalized part of the cover letter--the body of the letter between the introductory and closing paragraphs. This is the segment of the letter that, if everything else looks and sounds right, calls the applicant out on an individualized basis and holds the promise of positively distinguishing her or him from other applicants. Here's what I said about this section of the cover letter in my original post:
The body of the letter is the most important as a matter of content. It is where you get to show that you have what the employer needs and wants for the position. You should rely on any position announcement you have to write this part of the letter. If there is no announcement or other position description, seek information about or rely on your knowledge of the position to identify the employer's needs and wants. Summarize for yourself from those needs and wants the specific skills and experience being sought by the employer. Then, demonstrate, preferably by example, how you fill these needs and satisfy these wants in a few (no more than three) short paragraphs. Avoid repeating what's on your resume and refrain from using characterizing adjectives and adverbs. Show the reader that you are a good fit and among the most qualified folks for the job. Don't just say it.
There's a lot in that passage! Note also that the comments to that original post add a bit more on some of these (and other) matters. Critical embedded messages in the quoted paragraph include the desirability of:
- presenting customized information that directly addressees the job requirements set forth in the position announcement (or any other manifestations of the prospective employer's needs and wants);
- demonstrating, rather than characterizing, the applicant's "fit" through the information provided;
- avoiding mere repetition of information included in your résumé; and
- avoiding the use of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
I address each in turn below.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Perhaps the most common question I receive from the MBA students in my Decision Making & Negotiation Skill class is - what do I do when the other side is completely unreasonable or evil?
Robert Mnookin (Harvard) explores this question in his book Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate and when to Fight.
I won't attempt to summarize the entire book, but I share a few representative quotes below. (Page numbers correspond to the 2010 hardback edition).
"By 'Devil' I mean an enemy who has intentionally harmed you in the past or appears willing to harm you in the future. Someone you don't trust. An adversary whose behavior you may even see as evil." (pg. 1)
"An act is evil when it involves the intentional infliction of grievous harm on another human being in the circumstances where there is no adequate justification." (pg. 15)
Consider "Interests [of both sides]...Alternatives [of both sides]...Potential negotiated outcomes...Costs...Implementation...What issues of recognition and legitimacy are implicated in my decision" (pgs. 27-34).
"I believe there is reason to be deeply concerned whenever an agent or representative allows personal morality to override a rational analysis favoring negotiation - even with a devil." (pg. 49)
"If you bargain with the Devil, develop alternatives. You will need them if the deal doesn't work out." (pg. 81)
Using "empathy and assertiveness....A good negotiator has to do a lot of both." (pg. 134)
Remember to "listen first, talk second." (pg. 177)
"A common occupational hazard for mediators is getting hooked into taking responsibility for finding a solution....[The mediator's] responsibility is to help the parties better understand each other and their predicament, and then fashion their own solution." (pg. 237)
"'Should you bargain with the Devil?' If I were pressed to provide a one-sentence answer to this question, it would be: 'Not always, but more often than you feel like it.'" (pg. 261)
This is a difficult topic and doesn't fit neatly into bullet pointed format, but Robert Mnookin uses case studies throughout the book to explain his methods. The case studies come from political, business, and family disputes. The wise solutions are fact-dependant, but after reading the case studies you get a better sense of how to deal with difficult negotiations.
Friday, January 8, 2016
In short, temptation bundling is putting something you want to do together with something you should do.
Temptation bundling can make both activities more enjoyable --- you feel better about the want activity because you also accomplished a should activity, and the should activity is less difficult because it is married with a want activity. For example, temptation bundling is what I have been doing with podcast listening; I only listen to podcasts (want) when I workout (should).
Below are a few temptation bundles that might work for professors:
- Drinking caffeinated drinks only while researching;
- Listening to your favorite music only while grading; and
- Eating chocolate only when in faculty meetings.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Western Illinois University is advertising a tenure track legal studies professor opening.
Applications can be completed here. Application screening begins on February 1, 2016.
Details available under the break.
Friday, January 1, 2016
Happy New Year!
Last year I wrote a bit about New Year's resolutions.
As some of you know, I wasn't able to go the full year without checking my e-mail on Saturdays. In fact, that resolution was toast a few weeks into 2015.
One of the problems, I think, was that I had 20 resolutions in 2015. We all have limited self-control, and we can experience overload in January.
I have been doing New Year's resolutions for as long as I can remember, with varied amounts of success, but I am going to try something a bit different this year.
The Cass Sunstein article I included last year gave me the idea. In the article, he states "But how can we ensure that our resolutions actually stick? Behavioral economists have three answers: Make them easy and automatic, make them a matter of habit, and make them fun. A resolution is more likely to work if it is concrete and can be translated into a simple routine."
This year, instead of a long list of resolutions, I plan to focus on forming one habit each month. I hope the habits will continue after that month, but after one month of intense focus, hopefully the habit will have moved into the less laborious System 1.
Interested to see how this works. It may be a more sustainable solution. If you form the right habits, then it is less likely that you will have to continue setting the same goals (like "lose weight" and "save more") each year. For example, my saving-related resolutions are always the simplest to keep because I just change my direct deposit rules and let it run its course. Direct deposit acts a bit like an already formed habit - easy and automatic. Of course, many habits are quite difficult to form, but I think focusing on one a month sounds doable. Whether I can keep all 12 going in December 2016 (and beyond) remains to be seen.
Good luck to all those making resolutions!
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
I have updated my legal studies professor (mostly in business schools) and law professor (in business areas) job lists.
Positions at Western Illinois University and Regent University School of Law are recent additions.
Friday, December 18, 2015
My co-blogger Marcia Narine shared an article on social media this week entitled Lawyers have lowest health and wellbeing of all professionals, study finds. Sadly, this is not new news.
Those results, I am afraid, would be even worse if only members of the nation’s largest law firms (a/k/a “BigLaw”) were surveyed. Deborah Rhode (Stanford) talks about some of the problems in BigLaw, described in her book the Trouble with Lawyers.
Let’s assume, for the sake of this post, that the executive committee of a large law firm wants to improve employee welfare. What could the committee realistically do to improve employee wellbeing? Part of the low score for lawyers, I imagine, is just the nature of BigLaw, but under the break I make a few suggestions for consideration.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Western Carolina University is looking to hire three business law faculty members: two tenure-track and one for a fixed term.
Descriptions of the positions are available under the break. Western Carolina University is one of the few universities in the country with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Law. In the spring of 2014, I presented at WCU. They have thoughtful professors, a beautiful campus, and engaged students.
Amazon Prime Now has debuted in Nashville. Amazon Prime Now offers free two-hour delivery on many items for Prime members. The service is amazing and is already changing the way I shop. I really dislike shopping malls, especially during the busy holiday season, but I also dislike waiting weeks (or even days) for shipments to arrive, so Amazon Prime Now is a perfect solution.
With Amazon Prime Now expanding, I imagine even more brick and mortar retailers will be headed to bankruptcy unless they find a way to differentiate their companies and add more value.
Brick and mortar retailers may find differentiation through community building services. I already see some retailers attempting this. Running footwear and apparel stores are offering free group runs starting from their storefronts and/or group training programs for a fee. Grocery stores are offering group cooking classes. Book stores are offering book clubs. The list goes on.
These brick and mortar retailers are finding it more and more difficult to compete with e-retailers on price and convenience. With the rise in technology, however, face to face community seems to be increasingly rare. Brick and mortar retailers that aid in community building may be able to justify higher prices for their goods, and the fee-based training programs may add another solid revenue stream.
Similarly, in my classes, I consistently ask myself: How am I providing value beyond what students could receive from an online course? I have made changes (like more group work, more case method work, more writing-based assessments, and more face to face advising) in response to this question, and I continue to look for ways to improve. Adapt or die.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Earlier this week, my co-blogger Josh Fershee authored an interesting post about the surprising crowdfunding success of the PicoBrew "Keurig for Beer.” After reading Josh’s post and the embedded links, I have to agree with him; I have no idea how they raised $1.4M for a product that I don’t see being that useful. The product appears to be both overly expensive and overly time-consuming.
I think many venture capitalists would join Josh and me in questioning the wisdom of PicoBrew, at least before it raised $1.4M. But as I wrote in an earlier post, crowdfunding may help overcome biases of venture capitalists. In the days since Josh’s posts, I have heard a few people talk about how excited they were about PicoBrew. These people were all at least 10 years younger than Josh, me, and most venture capitalists. While us “older folks” may not see a use for the product, judging from the crowdfunding results and a little anecdotal evidence here in Nashville, there appears to be significant market demand for PicoBrew. Similarly, on the show Shark Tank, the female “sharks” have accused their male counterparts of largely avoiding companies with products aimed at women; and while I have not run the numbers, it does seem like the sharks' investments skew toward products that they (or maybe their family members) would use. Very few venture capitalists are under 30 years old, so perhaps products aimed at younger people got passed on more often than they should have before online crowdfunding became popular. Of course, crowdfunding can have a dark side as well; crowdfunding may be used not only to uncover good products that were passed over, but could also be used to lure more gullible funders.
Somewhat related, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article entitled “When Recruiting Teenagers, Don't Forget to Question Your Assumptions.” The article is focused on undergraduate recruiting practices and challenges readers to question conventional wisdom. The article notes a disconnect between what universities think applicants want and what applicants say they want. For example, “[a]lthough 30 percent of admissions officials said social media was the most effective way for a college to engage students who had never heard of it, just 4 percent of students said the same. . . . And while 64 percent of admissions officials said a college’s official social-media accounts were important to prospective students after applying, only 18 percent of teenagers said the same.” The article’s main directive appears to be, don’t assume what prospective students want, ask them and use evidence to craft your recruitment programs. Using evidence rather than hunches to make decisions may be obvious to professors, but I wonder how many schools use sophisticated studies in designing their recruiting programs.
Like all of us, venture capitalists and university recruiting staff members have blind spots. Perhaps evidence, from crowdfunding and student surveys, can help these respective groups shrink those blind spots.
Friday, November 27, 2015
I try to read everything Lyman Johnson writes, so my Thanksgiving break reading is his recent book chapter The Reconfiguring of Revlon. The abstract is below:
Three decades later, an irksome uncertainty still impedes a settled understanding of the Delaware Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Revlon, Inc. v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc. For such a towering doctrine, Revlon’s underlying rationales remain controversial, its exact contours and demands continue to be surprisingly unclear, and it holds out scant hope for remedial relief. In spite of these troubling features of today’s Revlon jurisprudence, however, Revlon is slowly being worked back into the larger fabric of Delaware’s fiduciary duty law and away from being a gangling, standalone doctrine. The organizing themes of this judicial project are strong deference in the deal context to decisions made by independent directors without regard to deal structure, the substantially reduced likelihood of equitable or monetary remedies in all types of deal-related lawsuits, and a nascent effort at harmonizing Revlon with Delaware’s more general, and ill-defined, doctrine on corporate purpose.
This chapter discusses the original Revlon decision and its rapid expansion before turning to lingering uncertainties surrounding the reach of Revlon, the decline of Revlon’s remedial clout, and where Revlon stands today in relation to Delaware’s overall fiduciary duty law. Revlon’s sharp focus on immediate value maximization was a breakthrough pronouncement on corporate purpose, a subject of longstanding national debate but one on which the Delaware Supreme Court had been strangely silent. However, grave reservations about whether and when corporate directors should be required to pursue short term goals found useful cover in sustained judicial murkiness over the boundaries of Revlon. Only if Delaware courts resolve the underlying issue of corporate purpose more generally will Revlon either be fitted into the larger body of Delaware law or continue to stand uncomfortably to the side as a doctrinal loner of diminished significance.
Friday, November 20, 2015
This past Sunday afternoon, I attended a screening of the film Poverty, Inc.
The trailer is available here.
I share a few, somewhat disconnected, thoughts on Poverty, Inc. under the page break.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I recently received the following call for papers via e-mail
Law and Ethics of Big Data
Co-Hosted and Sponsored by:
Virginia Tech Center for Business Intelligence Analytics
The Department of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business
The Wharton School
Washington & Lee Law School
April 8 & 9, 2016
Indiana University- Bloomington, IN.
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 17, 2016
We are pleased to announce the research colloquium, “Law and Ethics of Big Data,” at Indiana University-Bloomington, co-hosted by Professor Angie Raymond of Indiana University and Professor Janine Hiller of Virginia Tech.
Due to the success of last year’s event, the colloquium will be expanded and we seek broad participation from multiple disciplines; please consider submitting research that is ready for the discussion stage. Each paper will be given detailed constructive critique. We are targeting cross-discipline opportunities for colloquium participants, and the IU community has expressed interest in sharing in these dialogues. In that spirit, the Institute of Business Analytics plans to host a guest speaker on the morning of April 8.th Participants are highly encouraged to attend this free event.
Submissions: To be considered, please submit an abstract of 500-1000 words to Angie Raymond at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Janine Hiller at email@example.com by January 17, 2016. Abstracts will be evaluated based upon the quality of the abstract and the topic’s fit with the theme of the colloquium and other presentations. Questions may be directed to Angie Raymond at firstname.lastname@example.org or Janine Hiller at email@example.com.
Authors will be informed of the decision by February 2, 2016. If accepted, the author agrees to submit a discussion paper by March 26, 2016. While papers need not be in finished form, drafts must contain enough information and structure to facilitate a robust discussion of the topic and paper thesis. Formatting will be either APA or Bluebook. In the case of papers with multiple authors, only one author may present at the colloquium.
TENTATIVE Colloquium Details:
- The colloquium will begin at noon on April 8th and conclude at the end of the day on April 9th
- Approximately 50 minutes is allotted for discussion of each paper presentation and discussion.
- The manuscripts will be posted in a password protected members-only forum online. Participants agree to read and be prepared to participate in discussions of all papers. Each author will be asked to lead discussion of one other submitted paper.
- A limited number of participants will be provided with lodging, and all participants will be provided meals during the colloquium. All participants are responsible for transportation to Indiana University Bloomington, IN.
Friday, November 13, 2015
Last week I shared my thoughts on REI's #OptOutside campaign and concluded that the campaign appeared, in my opinion, to be more of a marketing ploy than anything truly socially responsible.
I promised to discuss what I think it takes to build a respected socially responsible brand.
In my opinion, respected socially responsible brands are: (1) Authentic; (2) Humble; and (3) Consistent.
These three work together. Authenticity comes, at least in part, from not over-claiming (also seen in humility) and from showing social responsibility in many areas over time (consistency). Authenticity with regard to social responsibility requires some serious sacrifice, at least in the short term. Humble companies admit their imperfections, work to right wrongs, and seek to improve. Building a socially responsible brand takes time, often decades. As Warren Buffett supposedly said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it."
Patagonia's "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign was probably one of the best socially responsible advertising campaigns I have seen. This campaign seemed authentic because of Patagonia's consistent history of social responsibility and because it seemed clear that Patagonia was going to take a serious financial hit from this campaign. Patagonia's add was also humble in admitting the social costs of the goods it produces. Patagonia is not a perfect company, and their executives often admit that, and Patagonia may experience mission drift, but they continue to be one of the most socially responsible companies I know.
Friday, November 6, 2015
REI recently announced that they will close their stores on the busiest day in retail, Black Friday. They are encouraging their customers and employees to spend time outside. REI is also paying their employees on Black Friday even though their stores will be closed.
At first, I was proud of REI for this move; Black Friday can be materialism at its worst.
But I think REI made a poor strategic move by over-promoting this announcement and buying numerous social media advertisements for their #OptOutside campaign. REI's self-congratulatory ads have been following me around the internet for the past few days.
Advertising about your social responsibility is really difficult to do well.
Convincing customers that you are socially responsible through advertising is like trying to convince your friends you are generous through social media posts. Both are likely to backfire. As Wharton professor Adam Grant recently wrote, you shouldn't say "I'm a giver;" that determination is for others to make.
In my opinion, praise of a company's socially responsible behavior should come primarily from its stakeholders. REI received plenty of third-party press regarding their announcement (see, e.g., here, here, and here), but their self-promotion has convinced me that this is primarily a financially-focused marketing ploy, not mainly a move to benefit society at large.
Next week, I will look at some companies that I think do a better job of building their socially responsible brand.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Jill Fisch (Penn) recently posted an essay entitled The Mess at Morgan: Risk, Incentives and Shareholder Empowerment.
The entire essay is worth reading, but I think her argument can be summed up with this quote:
This essay argues that the effort to employ shareholders as agents of public values and, thereby, to inculcate corporate decisions with an increased public responsibility is misguided. The incorporation of publicness into corporate governance mistakenly assumes that shareholders’ interests are aligned with those of non-shareholder stakeholders. Because this alignment is imperfect, corporate governance is a poor tool for addressing the role of the corporation as a public actor. (pg. 651)
Jill Fisch argues that economic regulation may be a better solution to the problem of protecting the public than shareholder empowerment. (pg. 684).
While I acknowledge the essay's mentioned limitations on shareholder empowerment, I don't think economic regulation is the only alternative solution to the problem of protecting public values. As Jill Fisch notes "shareholder empowerment might be defended on the basis that it is less intrusive than direct regulation." Corporate governance mechanisms other than shareholder empowerment may be both less intrusive and more effective than direct regulation. For example, (non-shareholder) stakeholder empowerment may make sense, as I plan to explain in a future article that is currently in its very early stages.