Strategy Forum / Panelist

Steve Tadelis

Haas School of Business

University of California, Berkeley

United States

Professor Tadelis’s current areas of research are e-commerce, economics of organization, procurement contracting, theory of the firm and industrial organization, contract theory, and game theory. Tadelis was the Joe Shoong Chair in International Business and the associate dean for strategic planning at the Haas School of Business. Tadelis has also held positions at eBay Research Labs and Amazon.

Voting History

Statement Response
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “What online programs will never be able to replicate is the value of connections and the feel of a tight-knit cohort. I wrote this on Quora a few years ago: https://qr.ae/pvHCNU. It explains the value of a top-program MBA, and I don’t think online programs will quite match that. I do believe that online programs are likely to supplant some more specialized programs and parts of in-person executive education.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Disagree “As long as the unit economics make such a pay raise sustainable, this can help retain employees in an economy where turnover has become the norm rather than the exception. The gig economy has allowed folks to earn more while adding flexibility to their lives, making retention of employees in low-paying jobs harder. Also, people need to feel valued, and wages are one component of that equation. This can help increase employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover. If employees see Starbucks as a viable longer-term employment option, this can help add lots of stability in planning and reduce operational frictions. ”
Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Disagree “Multinationals are driven to grow and maximize profits. Governments are tasked with protecting the well-being of their people. The atrocities and Russian aggression we see in Ukraine were not enough to get Western governments to take significant and immediate actions to choke off the Russian oil and gas market. So if governments have a hard time doing what’s “right,” why expect multinationals to do that?”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Neither agree nor disagree “Being an economist, this is not in my wheelhouse. That said, “corporate purpose” seems like a squishy term that would need to be defined within some measurable boundaries to be studied rigorously.”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Neither agree nor disagree “Not being a finance expert, it seems to me that most folks are just not actively seeking socially responsible mutual funds. Hence, these are unlikely to have a major impact. However, if over time more folks — especially high net worth — select these over traditional mutual funds, they may make a dent eventually. ”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Neither agree nor disagree “It is for the benefit of society that no one pays ransom so that "pirates" find it unprofitable to engage in this behavior. However, each business must take into account its own bottom line, and that may be best served by paying the ransom. It's a sad but understandable tension between the social good and the private good. ”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Strongly agree “As the old saying goes, different strokes for different folks. Anecdotal narratives suggest that introverts thrived being at home and were more productive, while extroverts suffered the lack of social interactions. By allowing employees to self-select into the environment that best suits their needs and style, employees will be more productive and, at the risk of veering outside of economics, happier! This will also allow for more geographical dispersion, where people can live near nature while having an ‘office’ job; or live near family while enjoying a job that suits them best and is not available nearby. I am quite confident that companies that will allow a flexible workforce will reap many benefits. ”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Agree “Companies should be prepared for disruptions, yet few were focused on allowing a flexible workforce that is not tied to a physical office. COVID-19 demonstrated that a flexible workforce has many benefits, and companies must evaluate how well the model works for them as they plan their HR strategy for the coming years. ”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Disagree “Humans are resilient. Lessons will be learned. The benefits from agglomeration will likely exceed any benefits that relocating would provide.”
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 “Consumer behavior suggests that most people give away their privacy for the equivalent of a candy bar. It is very unlikely that a meaningful fraction of people actually opt out of marketing or even put serious restrictions on the use of their personal data.”
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 “By no means do I have any expertise here, but from most of my knowledge vis-a-vis planning, these are the type of contingencies that I suspect most corporations to designate as too far removed from near-term concerns, and hence, they will likely neglect these issues.”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Strongly disagree “Regulators should not ‘intervene more decisively to limit the scope’ of ‘any’ industry without a clear theory of harm — and even more so for emerging technologies that are still developing at a dizzying pace. Large companies should attract the scrutiny of regulators, but these regulators must focus on conduct that inflicts clear harm rather than be concerned with size and scope for their own sake.”
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 “By and large firms are bound to maximize shareholder value, and as such, will aim to maximize free cash flow subject to regulatory constraints. With constraints being removed, firms will have every incentive to avoid adhering to rules that hamper their ability to increase free cash flow.”
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.
Disagree
“Two elements of the statement suggest that change is not imminent. First, the Roundtable has no enforcement ability and cannot dictate behavior. Second, the objectives are very hard to measure, making it difficult to create a clear set of measurable goals. Both of these, together with the fact that most companies are competing in a global economy, make it hard for me to believe in change.”
In the next decade, we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space. Disagree “This sounds more like a question for prophets, and I am no prophet. That said, looking at space progress in the past 50 years, I find it very improbable that we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space in the next decade or two. Aside from mining, which seems decades away to me, I can’t see an obvious profitable space industry in the near future.”
Introducing 5G networks 3-5 years ahead of other countries will give Chinese firms an advantage. Agree “It is typically the case that having access to early technology adoption leads to a leg up on introducing and benefiting from complementary technologies and innovations.”
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 hard Brexit may have countervailing effects. On one hand, it will hit the U.K. hard and that should have a ripple effect. The U.K. is not a huge economy, but it’s still meaningful. On the other hand, a hard Brexit may be a deterrent to other ill-thought-through attempts at leaving the EU, which may act as a stronger glue to keep the rest of the EU together, reducing uncertainty about its stability.”
China is no longer the most attractive growth opportunity for Western multinationals. Disagree “The government’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, together with its already powerful and growing tech industry, have China poised for continued strong growth. Moreover, with close to 1.5 billion people, the domestic market alone is fertile ground for much market-driven innovation.”
In the next five years, the blockchain will have a transformative effect on finance in emerging markets. Neither agree nor disagree “Bitcoin was launched more than three years ago with price swings that were insane. I am not an expert in blockchain (though I have read about it), and there is a lot of hype around it, so I find it impossible to predict the possible impact.”
In the absence of a carbon tax, industry self-regulation can help mitigate the worst fallout from climate change. Strongly disagree “Without enforcement, manufacturers’ incentives to curb pollution do not align with those of society. Carbon emissions is a standard ‘commons’ problem where everyone would be happier with less pollution, but each manufacturer would prefer to pollute in a way that maximizes its own profits, while wishing that others keep cutting back. Consumer boycotts may help, but these also suffer from the commons problem.”