Strategy Forum / Panelist

Jin Li

HKU Business School

Hong Kong University

Hong Kong

Jin Li is a professor of management and strategy, with joint appointment in economics, at Hong Kong University. Professor Li’s main research area lies at the intersection of the economics of organizations, personnel, and labor economics, focusing on the dynamics of informal relationships. Previously, he taught at Kellogg School of Management and London School of Economics.

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. Neither agree nor disagree “The ban influences innovation and entrepreneurship through various opposing factors. From an ex ante perspective, it deters employers from investing in their employees’ skills and knowledge, negatively impacting innovation. However, it simultaneously motivates workers to invest in their own development, fostering innovation. From an ex post perspective, it creates a powerful incentive for employees to participate in innovative activities and entrepreneurial ventures. Additionally, it empowers stakeholders, like venture capitalists, to support and promote innovation. It is difficult to assess empirically which forces are more important.”
Digital platform companies like Uber and Netflix have lost their first-mover advantage. Disagree First-mover advantage is a broad and vague term because it is not specific about what specific type of value — from the supply or demand side — the firm gains. The demand advantage, in particular, can arise both from the switching cost of the existing customers and from the brand recognition that attracts new customers. In both dimensions, Uber and Netflix still retain these advantages (even if there are no obvious network effects). These demand advantages also feed into the cost-side advantage (via the economy of scale) for both firms.”
The use of generative AI will restore competition in search. Agree “With the integration of ChatGPT into Bing, the competition has already started. However, how the competition will evolve is still being determined. One possibility is that generative AI will make the network effect less important — that is, the number of searches will become less critical for the accuracy of the search engine. In this case, many competitors might emerge. The competition will put more weight on data privacy, advertising, etc.”
New salary transparency laws will cause companies to increase bonus pay and other nonreportable perks as a share of total compensation. Agree “It is only natural that companies react to law changes. These responses will probably weaken the intended goals of the transparency laws, and it will be interesting to see how much pay inequality gets reduced.”
Charging for user verification will lead to increased user engagement and trust on Twitter. Disagree “The amount charged is relatively modest, implying that the users will not feel that they have skin in the game and engage more. But by imposing a monetary payment, Twitter may change how users interpret the nature of the platform. As a result, the users’ relationships with Twitter may become less communal and more transaction-based, hurting engagement and trust.”
The era of dominance for Tesla in the EV market is coming to an end. Disagree “There are at least two reasons that support the continued dominance of Tesla, one internal and one external. The internal reason has to do with Elon Musk. At the very least, by generating enough publicity, he saves on marketing costs for Tesla. The external reason has to do with the competition. The existing major players are likely to be burdened by their history/main line of business and, therefore, be unable to allocate sufficient resources to EVs to compete effectively.”
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “There are a number of reasons why this is less likely to happen. For a more objective/value-enhancing aspect, face-to-face interaction still better builds trust and allows for deeper bonds to be developed among the students. For a more subjective aspect, two-year full-time MBA degrees, for better or worse, have achieved a certain legitimacy as the service provider for future business leaders. In other words, this degree is “the signal” to send to business communities. Changing that is challenging.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Neither agree nor disagree “The future is hard to predict. If the plan fails to stop the spread of unionization, then it will clearly backfire. It breeds animosity and hurts collaboration when two types of workers do similar work but are paid differently. But even if it stops the unionization movement, the plan will have an important impact on its future culture. The effect of the plan depends on how it is interpreted, either as pro-customer or anti-worker. It is hard to predict which version of the narrative will dominate because this depends a lot on other activities Starbucks carries out to frame the narrative of this plan (and on how the public perceives this event).”
Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Disagree “The concerns of the multinational companies are probably more geopolitics-related rather than about human rights directly. Human rights protections matter only because totalitarian regimes have worse records on this. To the extent that some sort of decoupling might take place (or accelerate), one does expect more significant changes in supply chains for multinational companies.”
Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Agree “According to Doug North, the two key sources of transaction costs are measurement costs and enforcement costs. While it is difficult to predict the future, blockchain has the potential to reduce the enforcement costs and possibly the measurement costs as well. The reduction in these fundamental costs may lead to new infrastructure that spurs future innovation.”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Agree ““Overlook” is probably too strong a word. The importance of corporate purpose has been widely acknowledged. But the reason that there are relatively few studies on this topic may have more to do with supply than demand. Data on corporate purpose may be difficult to collect. Hopefully, the recent advances in machine learning tools (NLP) may change this and encourage more studies on this topic.”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Neither agree nor disagree “The marketing component is likely to be present, but there are also fund managers who genuinely care about ESG issues. They also believe that companies with superior ESG performance may better avoid regulation risks and generate higher returns. The beliefs of these managers can therefore push companies to better deal with environmental and social problems.”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Disagree “The decision probably depends on the situation. One concern for paying the ransom is that this may encourage more data hostage-taking in the future. Even if such data hostage-taking is directed at other companies, this is harmful to society as a whole.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Disagree “Rules exclude activities, and the exclusion of some activities forces employees to channel their attention and effort to other activities, which can be crucial for firm performance. Of course, if these activities can be motivated via other instruments (such as incentive pay), rules need not be used in the first place. One purpose of rules (by forcing employees to be at the workplace) is precisely to encourage activities (such as helping coworkers and learning more about them for further collaboration) that are valuable but are hard to measure and motivate. This is the rationale of Holmström and Milgrom that views the proper provision of incentive as the reason why firms exist. By ruling out some activities (staying at home), firms provide incentives for other valuable activities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Disagree “COVID-19 will change the business strategies of many firms. It will facilitate digital transformation and possibly change the way firms manage their workforce. But COVID-19 does not change the way these firms should think about business strategy. The basic elements of business strategy — differentiation, cost leadership, and so on — remain the same.”