Yong Suk Lee, Benjamin Cedric Larsen, Michael Webb, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, 14 December 2019

As artificial intelligence becomes more widespread and its performance improves, it will likely have significant long-term consequences for jobs, inequality, organisations, and competition. Regulation may be used to address its risks and possibilities, but little is known about how AI-related regulation might affect firm behaviour. This column examines the impact of actual and potential AI regulations on business managers through a randomised online survey experiment. It finds that exposure to information about regulation decreases managers’ reported intent to adopt AI technologies in their firm’s business processes.

Natasha Agarwal, Magnus Lodefalk, Majken Stenberg, Aili Tang, Sofia Tano, Zheng Wang, 11 December 2019

Export credit guarantees turned 100 this year, yet they have been sparsely studied. This column examines the causal effects of export credit guarantees on firm performance. It concludes by considering whether the provision of guarantees should be rebalanced in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises and by calling for governments to urgently integrate all major countries into a regulated system for export credit guarantees.

Wouter Dessein, Andrea Prat, 25 February 2019

A growing body of empirical work documents how management is a key production factor, both in terms of management practices and managerial talent. This column distinguishes three disparate theories, proposing a new framework that reconciles the insight of each. Contingency theory holds that firms always make optimal decisions, while the organisation-centric and leader-centric approaches hold that firms adopt better management practices, or hire better CEOS, respectively, for unmodeled reasons. The new framework integrates leadership quality and organisational capital, and generates new testable hypotheses.

Sharmin Sazedj, João Amador, José Tavares, 24 December 2018

When appointing a CEO, firms can choose a newcomer or someone who has been at the firm for a long time. Using data on Portuguese firms in the wake of the Global Crisis, this column finds no performance gap between newcomers and experienced CEOs in the period prior to the crisis. During the crisis, however, firms run by newcomer CEOs outperformed those run by experienced insiders. Newcomers attain higher productivity by making different decisions regarding personnel, expenditure, investment, and international trade. 

Mari Tanaka, Nicholas Bloom, Joel David, Maiko Koga, 25 August 2018

What is the effect of firms’ beliefs on their decisions and performance? This column explores this link using a unique survey of Japanese firms’ quantitative forecasts of future GDP growth combined with detailed company accounting data for over 1,000 large Japanese firms over 25 years. Firms’ input decisions and subsequent profit and productivity are found to react strongly to expectations of macroeconomic conditions, while significant heterogeneity in forecast accuracy across firms appears to be related to observable characteristics such as productivity, size, age, and governance structure. The results highlight a key role of firms’ forecasting ability for micro and macro performance.

Dirk Jenter, 12 July 2018

The ways in which the size and nature of a company's board of directors affects its performance are complex. Using a dataset of German firms, Dirk Jenter shows that profitability and stock market valuations decrease as board sizes increase. Ill-designed board size regulations can therefore negatively impact a firm's performance.

Giordano Mion, Luca David Opromolla, Alessandro Sforza, 21 January 2017

Despite the seemingly obvious link between good management and firm performance, establishing a causal link between the two is actually rather tricky. This column examines how Portuguese firms responded to the sudden and unexpected end to the civil war in Angola in 2002, and discovers an immediate spike in export entry rates for firms with at least one manager with previous experience of exporting to Angola. This finding on the impact of acquired knowledge on performance is especially useful for firms looking to operate in foreign markets.

Jan Hanousek, Anna Kochanova, 04 May 2015

The evidence about the effect of bribery on economic growth is mixed. Some find it harmful while others believe it helps via a ‘grease the wheels’ effect. This column argues that the ambiguity can be explained by divergent effects of the mean and dispersion of corruption. A high bribery-mean retards productivity growth of firms, but a high bribery-dispersion facilitates performance of weak firms.

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