Joshua Gans

Rotman School of Management

University of Toronto


While Gans’ research interests are varied, he has developed specialties in the nature of technological competition and innovation, industrial organization, and regulatory economics. He is the Strategy Editor of Management Science. He has written several books including The Disruption Dilemma (MIT Press, 2016) and Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence (HBR Press, 2018).

Voting History

Statement Comments
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Agree “Business strategy is the process by which you choose things. Will that process change? Yes. The pandemic gave rise to lots of forced experimentation, which may lead to changes in choices. The takeaway should be that businesses were doing too little experimentation before. This is what may well change.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Agree “COVID-19 and future pandemics make cities unsafe. To the extent that the benefits of being located in a denser place are marginal, we would expect relocation to be seriously entertained, especially as companies become more familiar with online interactions.”
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 “My guess is that there are ways to get data in any case by self-collection rather than a market. But even so, it is unclear how many consumers will opt out as a result of this law. So in the end, targeted advertising will likely be just fine.”
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 “Regardless of politics, no profit-oriented business is going to take real risks.”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Strongly Disagree “I interpret ‘limiting scope’ as not allowing platforms to enter new markets or otherwise restrict their productive activities. This is bad for competition and innovation. Instead, antitrust should focus on making it easier for anyone to provide better products in any market.”
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 “It is unlikely they want to pollute more if there is no enforcement. To be sure, if they expended fixed costs to adhere, maybe little will change. But operationally, their incentives will be diminished.”
The Business Roundtable’s new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation indicates a shift away from shareholder value maximization as the sole purpose of the corporation and toward a broader view of value creation.
This shift will have material impact on the well-being of U.S. workers.
“I still believe that corporations mostly act in their own self-interest. Even if some other goals come into play, it is unclear whether this would directly impact on workers any more than it may be efficient practice to treat workers a certain way. [Having] broader goals does not imply charity.”
In the next decade, we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space. Agree “The cost of putting objects into space is falling dramatically. When this type of technological change occurs, it spurs entrepreneurial activity. While it is hard to know precisely what type of venture will be profitable, I would be willing to bet there will be at least one by 2030.”
Introducing 5G networks 3-5 years ahead of other countries will give Chinese firms an advantage. Agree “A 5G network that is built earlier in a region moves businesses in that region into the future sooner. They can experiment with new products and services and be further up the learning curve. The cost is that global demand for those services is still far off, which diminishes their relative advantage.”
The increase in stock market volatility that began in 2018 will last for another three to five years. Neither Agree nor Disagree “I see this question as your regular reminder that nothing with regard to the stock market, including its volatility, is predictable over any time period.”
A hard Brexit will have a significant negative impact on many businesses, even if they do not have a U.K. or European presence. Agree “This is the kind of shock that can lead to a worldwide recession. Basically, Europe is big and this move will hit it hard. The flow-on effects to the rest of the world are something to be very concerned about. We have had worse from much less.”
China is no longer the most attractive growth opportunity for Western multinationals. Agree “Right now with China being the focus of a trade war, that is likely the case. But, in reality, it could only be a growth opportunity for so long.”
In the next five years, the blockchain will have a transformative effect on finance in emerging markets. Disagree “This is one of those statements that one hopes would be true, but the cold economics doesn’t really support it. For finance, the speed of processing required really means some form of centralization is needed. There may be contracting areas that are transformative though.”
In the absence of a carbon tax, industry self-regulation can help mitigate the worst fallout from climate change. Strongly Disagree “Climate change is both locked-in and on the higher end of projections by scientists. Industry self-regulation can help some things but is like a drop in the ocean in terms of affecting real change.”
Amazon’s new $15 per hour minimum wage will force other companies to follow suit. Disagree “Amazon, while an important employer in some localities, is not as important for the entire labor market. This will allow them to select better employees more than [it will have any] additional market effects.”
Restrictions on skilled immigration will cause US firms to to shift more operations overseas. Strongly Agree “It’s already happening to the benefit of Canada.”
Uber has to develop self-driving cars in the next 10 years in order to remain viable. Disagree “If that proves to be a thing, they’ll be able to procure the technology.”
A trade war will be more disruptive to business than to consumers. Agree “With global supply chains, tariffs impact again and again on those chains. The cumulative effect can be quite large and force businesses to move bits of production.”
Concern over consumer privacy will fundamentally limit businesses’ ability to use big data. Disagree “Privacy is just a right and consumers waive it easily when there is value (or even not). It may create a few frictions. That's all.”