Strategy Forum / Panelist

Jennifer Brown

Eccles School of Business

University of Utah

United States

Professor Brown’s research focuses on platform competition, competitors’ strategies in tournaments, and job seekers’ behavior during the Great Recession. She holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, and previously held appointments at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

Voting History

Statement Response
BP’s decision to dial back plans for cutting oil and gas production shows that short-term financial performance pressure will make it difficult for many firms to transition their strategies toward more sustainable business models. Disagree “BP is neither trending toward bankruptcy nor claiming that its cleaner-energy initiatives will pull the planet back from the brink, so let’s start instead with a generic firm and a glib hyperbole: A bankrupt firm can’t save the world. That is, without sufficient surplus in the short term, the firm cannot pursue long-term projects, and there is no trade-off between the short and long runs. A decision to, for example, produce more oil today may actually allow a firm to transition to more sustainable energy production tomorrow. That said, BP’s constraints today are unlikely to be existential.”
New salary transparency laws will cause companies to increase bonus pay and other nonreportable perks as a share of total compensation. Neither agree nor disagree “It isn’t clear what would change for those at the very top of the firm: Executive compensation is currently widely understood, thanks to existing disclosure laws and the insights of executive rewards consultants. Workers much lower down in the firm, even after being armed with data about the compensation of their peers in other organizations, might not have the leverage to use that new information to their advantage. There may be employees in the middle who can benefit — some with a critical combination of new information and sufficient bargaining power.”
Charging for user verification will lead to increased user engagement and trust on Twitter. Strongly disagree “A fee to be considered for verification might be a way to offset the costs of some real verification process. However, a blue badge in a straight fee-for-check-mark world isn’t going to signal anything beyond a user’s willingness to part with $8 each month.”
Corporate investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion should be expected to generate a monetary return on investment. Agree “Investment in DEI can lead to — in the long run — higher employee satisfaction, a better ability to recruit, and a diversity of perspectives that promotes innovation or better decision-making, all while reducing a firm’s reputational risk. In turn, these consequences may lead to better corporate performance. So should DEI investment be expected to yield positive financial results? I don't know. But can DEI investment yield positive financial results? Absolutely.”
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “The pandemic taught us (prospective students included) that Zoom can replace only some parts of the in-person experience. Yes, online programs give students flexibility over time and space. But genuine, spontaneous human interactions; the energy of rooms filled with peers; unstructured teaching moments in the classroom; the real-time, real-life, sometimes-subtle/sometimes-not feedback from faculty; and social events that bring together employers and their potential hires are impossible to fully re-create online. Top MBA programs — many of which are already tuned around the 360-degree experience — may need to step them up a notch to offset the fixed dimensions of their offerings. Programs that do not provide these uniquely in-real-life benefits or do not provide them in sufficient quantity will suffer.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Disagree “Starbucks’s current offer sends a message to its future workforce. Right now, market wages in retail, food services, and hospitality are high. In this state, unionization may not be especially costly for Starbucks; its wage bill will be high regardless of whether it is through labor shortages or collective bargaining. Similarly (and as emphasized by Starbucks’s offer), unionization may not be especially beneficial to workers. Look forward, though, to some future where market wages are low again. In this state, high union wages might be tempting, but forward-thinking workers will remember what they would likely be giving up when market wages rise again.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Disagree “Management of a public health crisis depends on demand and supply — the tension between the need for testing, treatment, and care and the availability of equipment, doctors, and hospital beds. Urban centers may be harder hit but have more local resources. Rural locations (if hit) may not have the infrastructure to contain a crisis.”
Introducing 5G networks 3-5 years ahead of other countries will give Chinese firms an advantage. Neither agree nor disagree “The advantage here isn’t obvious. Local demand may spur local innovation (and a head start on 5G tech development), but not necessarily in a way that precludes non-Chinese firms from jumping in now or later. Moreover, the international success or failure of Chinese firms may be sensitive to other countries’ tech and security policy three to five years from now.”
A hard Brexit will have a significant negative impact on many businesses, even if they do not have a U.K. or European presence. Neither agree nor disagree “A 101 textbook answer: A weakened GBP could make it harder for U.S. firms to compete with those cheaper imported goods. Moreover, U.S.-based firms that are upstream from hard-hit global firms may feel the shock indirectly. Alternatively, seemingly stable U.S. firms may benefit from investors’ uncertainty about U.K./EU opportunities. The net effect on U.S. firms seems almost as unclear as Brexit itself.”
Amazon’s new $15 per hour minimum wage will force other companies to follow suit. Disagree “Amazon may pitch its new policy as ‘doing the right thing,’ but those headlines don’t disentangle benevolence and a firm’s push to get out ahead of a tightening labor market. After all, turnover may be costly for Amazon — especially if automation has already replaced some of its lowest-skilled workers. Other firms may follow the changing labor market more than they follow Amazon’s policies.”
Restrictions on skilled immigration will cause US firms to to shift more operations overseas. Neither agree nor disagree “This may be true for tech and (some) engineering jobs, but organizations can’t readily relocate many high-skill, user-facing professionals, such as doctors, nurses, professors, etc. Some jobs are simply not mobile.”
Uber has to develop self-driving cars in the next 10 years in order to remain viable. Did not answer
A trade war will be more disruptive to business than to consumers. Neither agree nor disagree “What harms businesses will likely hurt its consumers; what harms consumers will likely hurt the firms from which those consumers demand goods and services.”
Concern over consumer privacy will fundamentally limit businesses’ ability to use big data. Strongly agree “Regulators will face pressure unless consumers understand how their own data create value and see how the value is shared with them. Both big hurdles.”