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Behavioural Economics Explains Employee Retirement Savings Choices

Idea posted: October 2017
  • Finance

A groundbreaking 2004 journal article showed how behavioural economics could explain self-defeating retirement savings decisions made by employees. It was an early example of the power of behavioural economics over standard economic theory by the ‘father of behavioural economics’.

Idea #680
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Stopping Tax Evasion: Detection Probability Vs Moral Persuasion

Idea posted: October 2017
  • Finance
  • Operations

The authors of this research teach on the CEMS Masters in Management program at the Norwegian School of Economics - and this Idea is part of our CEMS series.

A large field experiment involving Norwegian taxpayers underreporting foreign income reveals that the probability of detection deters the greatest number of potential non-compliant taxpayers; moral arguments sways fewer non-compliant taxpayers but inspires those who listen to significantly increase their reported income. 

Idea #679
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Impression III, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911 (Courtesy: The Lenbachhaus, Munich)

Behavioural Economics: A Power that Goes Beyond Nudges

Idea posted: October 2017
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

Behavioural economics solutions to societal problems mostly take the form of economic ‘nudges’ — such as defaults to increase retirement plan enrolments. However, the potential for behavioural economics to help resolve societal problems is far greater than the common nudges. A new paper explains how policy makers have failed to take full advantage of behavioural economics solutions.

Idea #677
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Tea pluckers in Darjeeling, 2004 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Economic Initiatives Can Lead to Unexpected Behaviours... at First

Idea posted: December 2015
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Employee behaviour sometimes contradicts standard economic models. A study of a contract change in India, for example, led to greater output when the models called for less output. As the study reveals, however, the conflicting behaviour was only temporary; over time, employee behaviour in this case complied with the models. The study offers a warning to use longer-term data to measure the impact of economic initiatives or a policy change. 

Idea #568
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Beware of Over-Optimistic Investors Skewing High-Risk Stock Prices

Idea posted: September 2015
  • Strategy
  • Finance

Investor sentiment has a, sometimes erroneous, effect on stock market valuations. There is evidence that higher risk stocks become overpriced in periods of optimistic sentiment and undervalued when sentiment is pessimistic. Optimism attracts equity investment by unsophisticated, overconfident, retail investors in risky opportunities while such traders are less active in pessimistic periods. Thus sentiment can wrongly influence company share prices, and both investors and CFOs planning financial strategy should be wary.  

Idea #549
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Dr. Manmohan Singh in 1994, when finance minister. He subsequently became Prime Minister of India (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Modernizing without Westernizing: Social Ties and Indian Business

Idea posted: March 2014
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

The modernization of India’s economy, begun in the early 1990s when Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, introduced a series of reforms, has not reversed centuries-old traditions. Personal affiliations and kinship ties, long the bedrock of Indian society, continue to exert a powerful influence in the financial sector. India’s economy has been liberalized — but not, necessarily, Westernized.

Idea #341
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The Green Investment Gap — And How to Close It

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

Private investment in renewable energy technologies is increasing but remains below the level required to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Solving the problem could depend on a new approach from policy makers. Recently published research on the European market sheds new light on the ‘drivers’ of investment decisions — and suggests that financial factors and government subsidies are not the only drivers.

Idea #243
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Trust, Fraud and the Financial Markets

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Markets cannot function without relationships, and relationships cannot function without trust. But the mechanisms for building trust can be ‘faulty’. Bernard Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, which ruined thousands of investors, depended on a series of ‘trust-producing’ factors that combined to conceal it from victims and the authorities. Understanding these mechanisms can help prevent similar frauds and abuses of trust.

Idea #195
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Brad Pitt, the first male to front a Chanel No. 5 perfume campaign, 2012 (source: The Sun)

Celebrities in Advertising: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Companies pay celebrities large sums of money to endorse their products and ‘star’ in their advertising campaigns. Until recently, however, little was known about the processes that underlie the persuasiveness of fame. Now, research in neuroeconomics (a field that crosses the disciplines of psychology, economics, marketing and neuroscience) is providing insights into the neural effects of celebrity endorsement — and suggesting ways advertisers can best use celebrities to influence consumers and their decisions.

Idea #183
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Officer cadets from Serbia's Military Academy, Belgrade, Serbia, 2010 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Social Influences on Decision-Making: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Decision-making is often strongly influenced by social factors, and research in the nascent field of neuroeconomics (which crosses the disciplines of psychology, marketing, economics and neuroscience) is helping to explain why. ‘In-group conformity’ is mediated by signals in the brain associated with emotion and reward and can be stimulated by the so-called ‘love hormone’, oxytocin. Neurobiological insights like these raise important questions for strategy design — in both the private and public sectors. 

Idea #184
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Exercises in Tábor, 1924, photographed by Šechtl and Voseček (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Co-operative Behaviour: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Co-operation is essential for the functioning of human societies — and several current public policy initiatives, including health and lifestyle and environmental campaigns, depend upon it. Many attempts to persuade people to co-operate and collaborate, however, fail — or succeed for only a limited time. Understanding the neural mechanisms for co-operation can help in developing more effective ways of promoting collective behaviour and in designing policies to achieve societal aims.

Idea #185
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The ladies' egg & spoon race, Picklescott Village Fete & Sports Day 1963 (Source: Picklescott.org.uk)

Motivation by Last Place Aversion

Idea posted: June 2013
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Nobody wants to fail, and being in last place is the worst of failures. New research reveals, however, that the aversion to last place is a powerful driving factor in many decisions, which might offer unexpected opportunities for business.

Idea #155
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The Addams Family. TV series on ABC from 1964-1966, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (Source: Wikimedia)

The Ties That Bind: How Family Businesses Create Value

Idea posted: March 2013
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Operations

Family businesses contribute a significant proportion of GDP to economies worldwide, yet they are not always seen as attractive propositions to investors.

On the one hand, family-controlled businesses are admired and respected for ‘weathering the economic storms’, for adhering to their core values, and for taking a long-term approach. On the other hand, the very thing that knits them together, the family shareholders, can have different priorities to other shareholders, creating a conflict of interest which can be an obstacle to value creation.

How can these companies

Idea #109
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Driving Risk Appetite Higher or Lower: Penalties Vs Rewards

Idea posted: January 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

‘Innovate or die’ we are told. What if an organization’s ability to innovate could be enhanced by managing risk-taking behaviour through monetary incentive schemes and through a culture that tolerates failure? In this Idea we identify the precise levers that shift risk appetite, and show how they can be tweaked to foster innovation.

Idea #059
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