Strategy Forum / Panelist

Shane Greenstein

Harvard Business School

Harvard University

United States

Encompassing a wide array of questions about computing, communication, and internet markets, Professor Greenstein’s research extends from economic measurement and analysis to broader issues. His most recent book focuses on the development of the commercial internet in the United States. Greenstein is also codirector of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative.

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. Strongly agree “Noncompetes constrain many markets where specialists take professional knowledge from one location to another and make productivity gains in the new location. Nothing is wrong with removing friction from the competition for this type of talent.”
The use of generative AI will restore competition in search. Disagree “Generative AI will make search easier in some areas where conversation improves the user experience or it opens up new avenues of inquiry to users that previously were not present. That is plenty, and the most valuable uses seem likely to emerge in ideation activities and in nuanced search in electronic commerce. The competitive impact will be incremental at best, because so much search takes place on mobile devices, where long explanations have less value. Yes, it might move market share here or there, but I do not expect anything dramatic in the short run.”
Artificial intelligence is reducing wasteful holiday giving (i.e., deadweight loss) by helping online retailers to better match people to presents. Neither agree nor disagree “On the one hand, AI does improve the ability of somebody to find what they are looking for, so it increases the quality of the gift. On the other hand, AI does not enhance the taste of a distant relative who intends to buy a tacky sweater. It makes the tacky sweater easier to find.”
The era of dominance for Tesla in the EV market is coming to an end. Agree “The Prius has been popular for a while. The Ford F-150, the most popular truck in America, will have an electric version and already has a backlog of orders. It took a while, but all the other manufacturers have caught up. It is just a question of whether consumers will find those models attractive. I expect some but not all of them to gain major sales, and that will impact Tesla.”
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “It has already happened. Online and specialized programs fill an important need in the market, but they are not everything. Many two-year MBA programs fill a need too and do just fine.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Disagree “In the present economic environment, there are many pressures to increase wages.”
Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Agree “Blockchain has some novel uses as a public ledger with some smart contracting. It can serve as infrastructure to software application development, and we are just at the start of those. Beyond those, blockchain’s uses are severely restrained by government caution toward, and in some cases, opposition to, its use as currency.”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Disagree “Many firms want to have such policies and for a variety of reasons. It may give them a “warm glow” with their targeted customer base, or it may earn goodwill with their labor force or serve some other goal. If the financial sector adopts these policies, it reinforces those tendencies and provides cover for them. On the other hand, mutual funds are not the most significant actors in this movement, so it can only do so much. One mutual fund’s decision is incremental, at best.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Agree “There are a wide variety of situations, so it should come as no surprise the evidence is mixed. Some offices learned they gained from eliminating commutes and office distractions, and they learned to be comfortable with virtual workforces in any location. Others learned that the watercooler conversations helped in unanticipated ways, and some work needed close supervision. It was a forced experiment, and certainly we have heard the stories. More deeply, experts have not settled on generalities to explain all the variety.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Strongly agree “COVID-19 motivated rethinking of strategy on multiple levels. Many firms, both big and small, have rethought their real estate strategy and their personnel-at-work policies. It has also made many firms aware of vulnerabilities in their digital supply chains and motivated change in approaches. Less widely appreciated, data suggests the pandemic has also coincided with an enormous growth in independent business formation. Those three changes touch much of the economy.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Agree “Many companies, big and small, have engaged in large-scale experiments with working from home. Even places where resistance used to be high. Some of that — certainly not all of it — will remain in place after this pandemic passes.”
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 “There is a lot of ambiguity in this statute. Enforcement/fines are also unclear. Requires practices that most users say they want. Leaves many channels open for targeting. Do not expect we will see an effect for a while, if any.”
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. Disagree “Climate change alters risks in many unpredictable ways — coastal flooding, travel interruption, logistic complications. Some of the risks are difficult to insure against without public coordination and investment — remember the floods of New Orleans?”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Neither agree nor disagree “Antitrust is best at facilitating the potential for entry. It can limit an established firm’s ability to close distribution channels. It can stop said firm from locking up resources from new entrants. ‘Limiting the scope’ of big tech firms might be one of many things antitrust can aim to do as part of these broad aims. However, there are many others as well.”
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 “In some areas, firms will not hesitate to take advantage of relaxed environmental rules ⁠— e.g., if allowed, oil firms will drill anywhere, and pristine wildlife will not deter [them]. In some areas, firms recognize the myopia of giving in, and prefer to hold the line — e.g., that seems to be happening in autos.”
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.
“Organizations whose missions extend beyond maximizing shareholder value tend to provide more satisfying work experiences for employees. Ironically, shareholders tend to get a more productive organization, which is what they want if the organization is not so narrowly focused.”
In the next decade, we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space. Agree “It sure appears as if space tourism — for experiencing weightlessness and for the views — will become a luxury good for some wealthy people.”
Introducing 5G networks 3-5 years ahead of other countries will give Chinese firms an advantage. Strongly agree “There are no compelling applications for 5G yet, but there are many promising prototypes in security, entertainment, and logistics. Give inventive and competent firms time to explore, and they will invent something and figure out how to get revenue from it. More time is a big advantage.”
The increase in stock market volatility that began in 2018 will last for another three to five years. Neither agree nor disagree “Many factors move the stock market. I do not think I can forecast 1% of them, so I do not think I am capable of forecasting volatility that results from their accumulation.”
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 “It will have a significant impact on businesses in the U.K. while all the uncertainty gets sorted out. Outside the U.K., some businesses are exposed to related risks, but I would not guess it is nearly as large.”