2017

Stories related to "Inquiry Required".

conversations

Where’s the Optimal Place to Park a Food Truck?

Pursuing a love of food and cooking, I completed the basic pastry certificate at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris the summer before starting the PhD program. So I was thrilled to see a crêpe truck, Paris Ouh La La, serving lunch during the school year. After several good meals at the food trucks on Ellis Avenue, and observing the variation in the trucks parked each day, I started thinking about how the trucks decide where to park. Where you choose to locate a business is a fundamental economic question—one that food trucks must re-answer every day. The classic location choice model was offered by the mathematician and economist Harold Hotelling in 1929. Consider two ice cream vendors who parked their carts on a one-mile stretch of beach. Assuming the venders offer roughly the same treats, beachgoers will naturally choose to walk to the closest cart. The vendor on the left will serve all the beachgoers to its left, and the vendor on the right will serve all the beachgoers to its right.

conversations

Why Is Productivity Stuck in Neutral?

When we talk about the global economy, we tend to turn to automotive metaphors. A recession brings things to a “screeching halt.” Boom times are said to be “in overdrive,” to have “found a higher gear.” And since the recession, one of the major components of the economy has been stuck in neutral. According to the Conference Board, productivity has barely budged since 2007, was flat in 2014 and 2015, and fell last year. We asked professor Chad Syverson, alumnus Matt Tracey, and Executive MBA student Crystal Lam to tell us why it’s stuck and what might kick it into gear. Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics, is the author of “Challenges to Mismeasurement Explanations for the US Productivity Slowdown,” published in the spring 2017 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives: Is productivity stuck in neutral? The short answer is yes. It’s been slow for the last decade—truly slow, not mismeasuredly slow or illusorily slow. The mismeasurement hypothesis says that although productivity has been slow since the mid-2000s, that isn’t real. The hypothesis argues that what’s actually going on is that our ability to measure economic growth has gotten worse. New things that people like and use a lot—Google, Facebook, Snapchat—are all free. We calculate GDP by adding up what people spend money on. Those things don’t show up because they’re free, so it looks like output per worker hour isn’t going up much. In my recent paper I asked, if that’s true, what else would it be true of? The patterns I found were consistent with an actual productivity slowdown rather than with mismeasurement.

conversations

What Is the Business Potential of Blockchain?

Eric Budish is professor of economics and a director of the Initiative on Global Markets at Chicago Booth, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His recent paper on cryptocurrency, titled “The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain,” was published in June: "I’m skeptical that Bitcoin—or other similar cryptocurrencies—will become what cryptocurrency believers fantasize about. Some fantasize it will become the global currency or a global store of value like gold. Some imagine it will become an important part of the global financial system, another currency alongside dollars and euros that moves around the world in serious quantities. My paper is trying to make an argument that’s quite skeptical of these possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, came up with an ingenious way of creating trust in a database without a centralized, trusted party. I respect it as a computer science innovation, but my research shows it’s a really expensive way to generate trust because it’s only as trustworthy as the cost of attacking it. That cost is within the reach of eccentric billionaires, and certainly within the reach of a nation. Elon Musk could not attack the US Federal Reserve system, but he could attack Bitcoin. <br/>

conversations

How Do You Avoid Paralysis by Analysis?

Knowing when to stop looking at data comes up constantly in my Algorithmic Marketing class. In this class, one of the main goals is to be able to develop tools that would help someone make better decisions. Building these tools relies on knowing what exactly the decision is or what the question is. Very often people don’t specify their question in a precise enough form. You need to write down a specific question—it can’t be a vague goal or a vague statement. It’s important to thoroughly articulate your question and your research plan. The more precise your question, the easier time you will have looking for an answer. The question in itself isn’t enough, though. We also need to specify the exact parameters of an acceptable answer. It doesn’t occur to people to write down specs of an answer, but that’s another thing that needs to be done before you get started. You need to give yourself some set of parameters to help you understand when you’re going to stop even before you start. These parameters could be a set of rules you have to satisfy. For example, if I’m looking at how advertising impacts sales, it might be that I am looking for a set of parameters in the context of a particular model. Knowing that helps you look in the right direction. You have to chart out what the ideal answer would be, and you have to chart out what you’re going to be satisfied with in the findings<br/>

conversations

How Do You Manage Millennials?

For the rising ranks of millennials in business, 2015 was a watershed year: they surpassed Gen Xers to become the largest generation present in the US labor force. Yet another milestone is on the horizon—Pew Research predicts the 73 million–strong cohort, born between 1981 and 1996, will overtake baby boomers as the country’s largest living adult generation sometime next year. Though millennials are no more or less a monolith than the generations that came before them, many managers have observed that members of this generation are bringing a markedly different set of values to the office than their predecessors. Millennials may be derided as tech-obsessed, approval-seeking job-hoppers, or praised as creative, adaptable idealists, hungry for personal growth. But one thing’s clear: they’re prompting executives across industries to reevaluate the traditional approach to management. We asked three Booth experts what the future holds. William Osborne, ’01 (XP-70), is senior vice president for global manufacturing and quality at Navistar Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in the Chicago area: Millennial employees take a fundamentally different approach to their professional lives, but they’re not the caricatures people make them out to be. They have a different value system regarding the role of work in their lives—work is one component, and not the centerpiece. They value experiences more than what I would call traditional rewards. For example, I just had an employee, an engineer, recently quit the company and move into a completely different position, in purchasing, with another company. It was a fundamental change, and the main reason he gave was that he lived downtown and the new company was downtown. For him, work was a means to support his lifestyle. <br/>This is not necessarily a bad thing. They’re more creative and more innovative—they look at things differently, and that’s what’s driving change. But they’re less willing to compromise personal growth and development for the sake of the corporation. <br/>

conversations

What Will Your Workplace Look Like in 2028?

Jonathan Dingel, assistant professor of economics and James S. Kemper Foundation Faculty Scholar, teaches Managing the Firm in the Global Economy. If I were looking 10 years out, I would say the changing nature of work will particularly reward talent living in some of the world’s biggest cities. The concentration of college-educated workers is already increasing in big cities, including San Francisco and New York. That contributes to an increasing inequality of life between larger cities and less populated areas. As computerization causes routine work to be automated, certain types of nonroutine, cognitively intensive tasks will offer an even bigger reward. It’s becoming more important for us to interact with other highly skilled people to get innovative results.

conversations

How Do You Help Food Banks Get Exactly the Food They Need?

Feeding America collects truckloads of food from food manufacturers, big-box and grocery stores, and other sources all over the country, and distributes them to 210 regional food banks according to need. In the old system, food banks were ranked based on which needed the most food. One by one, they were told what food they were going to get and how many pounds of it they were going to receive. Even if they had yogurt, for example, they had to take more yogurt or run the risk of those donation sources no longer offering food. That was inefficient and wasteful. Feeding America decided there had to be a better way. The organization came to us: Harry L. Davis [Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management], Robert Hamada [Edward Eagle Brown Distinguished Service Professor of Finance Emeritus], Donald D. Eisenstein [professor of operations management], and me. We proposed a market in which food banks would bid fake money in auctions of all the food that was available. So instead of being handed more potatoes, the Idaho food bank could bid on peanut butter, which is more nutritious and desirable.

conversations

How Can You Take a Smart Approach to Student Loan Debt?

My initial principal loan balance was about $28,000. I didn’t get any correspondence from my loan provider until I was a senior in college. When I got an email that said I had accrued $3,500 in interest, it felt huge to me. I definitely made more than that through on-campus jobs and paid internships during school, and I could have put that money toward my student loans. If the provider had been sending notices, maybe I would have been sending in money sooner. Many students don’t understand that interest is accruing on your loans from your first day of college. Once the grace period expires, that interest is added to your balance, so then you’re paying interest on the interest.<br/>