Strategy Forum / Panelist

Petra Moser

Leonard N. Stern School of Business

New York University

United States

Petra Moser is an economic historian whose research investigates the origins of creativity and innovation. Her work exploits historical variation to examine the effects of patents, copyrights, and high-skilled immigration on technological inventions and artistic creativity. Professor Moser has taught microeconomics, economic history, and strategy at MIT, Stanford, and now as an associate professor of economics at NYU Stern.

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 “Since noncompetes limit knowledge spillovers across firms, a ban on noncompetes is likely to increase spillovers. Since most of these spillovers are localized, the ban’s effect will be most strongly felt in existing technology hubs, where more people are moving across firms.”
The diametric experiences of Disney and UEFA illustrate that firms should refrain from making political statements in support of particular stakeholders. Neither agree nor disagree “In most cases, it’s probably OK to stay mum, but on some core issues, silence can be deafening. Many people today want to work for and buy from companies that share their values, especially those that are central to their identity. So sometimes companies may not have a choice but to take a stance.”
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 “Companies may switch to bonus pay if they try to avoid reporting high salaries. But they could also report high salaries to attract the most qualified workers.”
Artificial intelligence is reducing wasteful holiday giving (i.e., deadweight loss) by helping online retailers to better match people to presents. Disagree “Perhaps, but this also misses the point of gift giving: thinking about the other person and what would make them happy.”
Charging for user verification will lead to increased user engagement and trust on Twitter. Strongly disagree “Charging a fee does not build trust or encourage user engagement.”
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Strongly disagree “Students showed a real thirst for in-person classroom interactions last year. Few took advantage of online options when they could come to class. Personal, face-to-face human interactions still matter, to build trust and comfort with peers and faculty. That trust supports learning and the creation of friendships among our students.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Strongly agree “Well, it’s definitely not going to earn them “employer of the year.” While what they are doing may be legal, it may be hugely damaging to their reputation as an employer. And it may hurt them not only in hiring people but also dissuade customers. Fancy coffee is not like oil or gas. If people doubt the ethics of the purveyor of their spiced latte, they may just go somewhere else or forgo it entirely. So yeah, shortsighted.”
Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Disagree “Recording financial transactions in a public ledger creates a level of transparency that may disrupt the financial sector.”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Disagree “I guess it depends on how you define “performance.””
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Disagree “Socially responsible VC or PE funds could certainly help to solve these problems. But mutual funds buy and sell existing shares. They do not provide additional capital to firms.

Most mutual funds also do not get involved in active management, such as putting someone on the board. So, they do not directly influence the behavior of the companies in which they invest.

These mutual funds can help investors to express and signal their preferences, which might influence executives to place greater weight on the environmental and social consequences of their company’s actions. Any effect though would be indirect and therefore probably weak.”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Strongly disagree “No — they should take that money and invest in better security. To the last dime.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Neither agree nor disagree “I’m not sure about productivity, but giving people greater flexibility may improve creativity by giving people more freedom to do their work in a way that is good for them. Creativity requires a certain degree of idleness and freedom, which for knowledge workers, who tend to live in privileged, pleasant environments, may be easier to get at home. Ironically, a lack of supervision may also help give people space to try out new ways of doing things. While none of this helps productivity, it may help firms in the long run. Greater workplace flexibility may also make it easier for firms to retain workers with child care duties, expanding the pool of talent that’s available to the firm.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Strongly agree “The pandemic has permanently changed market demand from consumers and the supply of employees. It has also created a recurring threat to the supply of raw materials and manufactured inputs. To succeed, companies must incorporate these changes in their business strategy and flexibly prepare for future outbreaks. One issue is that valuable employees will seek and need greater flexibility in work arrangements. School closures have saddled workers with childcare responsibilities that disproportionately affect women. Companies will have to find ways to keep qualified women in the workforce or replace them with less-qualified staff.

Companies must also be prepared for future outbreaks in terms of logistics of protecting their supply chain and workers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Disagree “Whether companies decide to flee a large city will depend on that city’s response to the pandemic. The quality of hospitals and transportation infrastructure will be more important. There may (sadly) even be a shift away from cities that rely heavily on public transportation. If we are lucky, some cities will invest in public amenities like green spaces and bike paths (not concert halls).”
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. Strongly disagree “Not being able to sell consumer data won’t prevent companies from developing their own targeted ads.”
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. Neither agree nor disagree “If PG&E is any guide for planning ahead, our future is dark and grim.”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Disagree “Antitrust should intervene if there’s evidence of anticompetitive behavior.”
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. Strongly disagree “Why exactly would they do that? To increase their costs and become less competitive? Pollution is a negative externality, and reducing pollution raises a firm’s cost of production. For each firm individually, it’s best to save those costs, pollute away, and let others pay to save the planet. That’s why we need rules to limit emissions and protect clean water.”
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.
“The section on 'investing in our employee' sounds like Henry Ford introducing the $5/day wage plus other services for employees in 1914. But Ford was trying to retain low-skilled workers engaged in repetitive tasks, whereas today's companies are competing for high-skilled people. Overall, the statement reads like an acknowledgment of larger societal shifts and less [as a] changing force itself.”
In the next decade, we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space. Disagree “Private commercial activity in space within the next decade? Sure. Sustainably profitable? — 99% no. R&D investments are too high and too risky.”