Strategy Forum / Panelist

Erik Brynjolfsson

Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI

Stanford University

United States

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He is also the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and professor by courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics. Professor Brynjolfsson’s research examines the effects of information technologies on business strategy, productivity and performance, digital commerce, and intangible assets.

Voting History

Statement Response
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s proposed ban on noncompete agreements will impact innovation and entrepreneurship outside of existing technology hubs. Agree “Work by AnnaLee Saxenian and others found that California’s long-standing ban on noncompetes helped fuel Silicon Valley’s innovation and entrepreneurship. It is likely that the FTC’s new rule will have similar results in the rest of the U.S.”
Digital platform companies like Uber and Netflix have lost their first-mover advantage. Disagree “Neither company is executing that well lately, but they each have an installed base that reflects their early-mover advantage. The resulting network effects, switching costs, and fixed-cost investments are costly (but not impossible) for new entrants to overcome.”
The use of generative AI will restore competition in search. Neither agree nor disagree “Generative AI is certainly disruptive for search and many other industries. It won’t necessarily restore more competition in search, but the fact that it’s even a serious possibility is the biggest challenge Google has faced in over a decade.”
New salary transparency laws will cause companies to increase bonus pay and other nonreportable perks as a share of total compensation. Disagree “Pay transparency laws can have large and often unintended side effects. But the bigger story is that even without these laws, both employers and prospective employees increasingly have access to detailed data about pay rates, working conditions, and other factors that are important to hiring decisions, drawing on a variety of new data sources and analytics.”
Artificial intelligence is reducing wasteful holiday giving (i.e., deadweight loss) by helping online retailers to better match people to presents. Agree “Recommender systems are one of the oldest and most successful uses of AI. They are far from perfect, but they’re often better than human store clerks at finding appropriate presents for me to give.”
Charging for user verification will lead to increased user engagement and trust on Twitter. Disagree “There are many good opportunities for charging for enhanced services on Twitter. However, charging for verification is not one of them. Instead, if Twitter wants more high-quality, trustworthy content, it should encourage verification and authenticity, not tax it. Verify almost everyone, with simple automated tools. If anything, users who are not willing to be verified (e.g., spammers, bots, trolls, impersonators) should be discouraged.”
Corporate investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion should be expected to generate a monetary return on investment. Neither agree nor disagree “The effects are likely to vary a lot. Research shows that it is often beneficial to have a more diverse workforce. At the same time, even when there is no easy way to measure the monetary impact, many companies will nonetheless consider promoting equity as an important part of their values and culture.”
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “The key word here is supplant — that is “supersede and replace.” That's too strong a claim. Yes, online education and specialized degrees (many offered by the same B-schools that offer MBAs) will continue to grow substantially, but they will mostly expand the market, reaching new customers. Top-shelf MBA programs may even see growing demand, because there’s no substitute for meeting your peers face to face, while the midtier ones will be forced to sharpen their value proposition, their price point, or both.”
Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Strongly agree “Many companies (and nations) were playing a dangerous game by doing extensive business with regimes like Putin’s. With the invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities there, that has become untenable. Responsible boards and managers will demand closer attention to human rights going forward, for both ethical and business reasons.”
Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Disagree “The blockchain gives entrants a way to work around some of the existing protocols, institutions, and relationships that sustain the major players in the financial sector.”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Agree “Corporate purpose is important to the success of companies but difficult to model rigorously. As a result, academic researchers, especially in economics but also in strategy, haven’t studied it as carefully as they should have (but that’s changing!).”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Disagree “There’s a growing interest among some investors in socially responsible investing. Making ESG investing easier and more salient is likely to drive management to pay more attention to environmental and social problems. That said, this sector is still rife with sloppy metrics and accounting that enable pretenders to mimic firms making real efforts to address these challenges.”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Strongly disagree “Paying ransom provides incentives for more attacks.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Agree “There are too many pros and cons to having physical presence in the office to list in this short comment, and they vary by type of work done and other circumstances. Firms should experiment with new arrangements and explore where there are opportunities for remote work, flexibility, and hybrid workplaces that now make sense.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Strongly agree “I’m going to interpret “business strategy” broadly to include work arrangements. Work-from-home in the U.S. went from 16% before COVID-19 to over 50% at the peak of the pandemic, spurring big changes in the use of digital technologies, the geography of work, and the nature of interactions. After the pandemic, some of these changes will persist.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Agree “Companies have discovered that a lot of the work they do can be done remotely. Digital tools and infrastructure have been put to the test and mostly passed.”
The California Consumer Privacy Act will undermine the targeted advertising market by giving consumers the right to opt out of allowing companies to sell personal data to third parties. Disagree
In the wake of recent climate-related disasters and related events, such as the bankruptcy of PG&E, corporations are now planning for the increased operational risks and potential liabilities caused by climate change. Agree “Most smart corporations are certainly planning for the increased risks of climate change. Are they planning enough? Most certainly are not.”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Neither agree nor disagree “There are novel and disparate challenges for economics and society created by platform technologies. While antitrust policy can be useful in some cases, it is often the wrong tool for addressing other challenges. This is especially true when policy makers don't yet understand the principles of digital, networked, platform economics, which can create unintended outcomes.”
U.S. regulations have been rolled back in a number of areas, including emissions standards and clean water. Companies will decide to voluntarily adhere to rules that closely resemble the original standards. Disagree “Pollution is a classic example of an externality: The costs are paid by others. Therefore, firms don’t have a direct economic incentive to reduce pollution. That justifies intervention, e.g., via government regulations. In some cases, executives will do the right thing anyway — because of their own values or public pressure — but those levers generally fall short of creating the optimal reductions.”