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  Keys to business today to lead tomorrow 

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With some aftereffects of the 2008 crisis still lingering -- and threats of another recession lurking on the horizon -- facing tomorrow's business challenges head on is more relevant than ever.

Escaping the clutches of another sovereign debt crisis, optimizing service operations and improving decision-making skills are among the key topics taken on by IESE faculty this academic year. Here's a roundup of some recent research hightlights:

A bird's eye view
To understand how the global economy really works, it's essential to be fluent in the fundamentals of macroeconomics. Although the subject is often seen as an indecipherable morass of concepts, theories, mathematical formulas and data, Javier Díaz-Giménez explains it in a simple and straightforward way. His book, Macroeconomics for Almost Everyone, is now available for download at any price you decide you'd like to pay.

At the same time, a human-centered approach to management is both ethical and helps assure long-term prosperity. That is according to Adrian Caldart, Joan Enric Ricart and Alejandro Carrera in their book General Management in Latin and Ibero American Organizations: A Humanistic Perspective. This text focuses on business practices in Spain, Portugal and the countries of Latin America, but the lessons in humanism for general managers are applicable the world over.

While contemplating the big picture, we shouldn't lose sight of the increasingly important role of the world's big cities, where local policies impact millions of people and businesses each day. The best practices of the globe's most intelligent cities offer many promising opportunities, as seen in the latest IESE Cities in Motion report, led by Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart.

The role of regulation
Good governance contributes decisively to economic health, although regulations can sometimes have unintended consequences. According to an investigation by Pietro Bonetti, Miguel Duro and Gaizka Ormazábal, the European Union's 2004 Transparency Directive may have added requirements -- and costs -- which were seen to discourage takeovers. This research, which was awarded the FEF Antonio Dionis Soler Award, is particularly relevant because an efficient and dynamic M&A market has been linked with more optimal performances from publicly traded companies.

While some regulations may overreach, others may need to go a step further for the common good, as suggested by a paper published in the Journal of Finance, which was recognized by the Jerry S. Cohen Award for Antitrust Scholarship as well as the IESE Alumni Association's Research Excellence Award this year. Co-authored by José Azar, this research first caused a stir as a working paper, with its evidence that index funds have a dark side. That is to say, Azar et al. found that because index funds encourage common ownership in public companies, they may end up undermining healthy market competition. For example, in the airline industry, shared ownership by powerful mutual funds is associated with higher ticket prices, even when passenger numbers dwindle. Such anticompetitive pressures aren't good for consumers nor for the economy as a whole.

Sharing this year's Research Excellence Award from the Alumni Association was another article on a hot topic now: how to avoid a credit crunch similar to what happened after Europe's sovereign debt crisis of 2009-2011. According to the study, co-authored by Christian Eufinger, the disappearance of new bank loans led to an alarming uptick in unemployment as well as a decline in investment in the subsequent years. This paper offers advice to help free up credit if something similar happens again.

Meanwhile, a more recent study on bank regulation, co-authored by Xavier Vives, analyzes the achievements of financial regulations over the past decade and looks to the future. Notably, Vives et al. point out that there is still no framework for dealing with shadow banking and new digital competitors remain outside the scope of existing regulation. What's more, the report signals that new regulations are making entry difficult and increasing the potential for market concentration, which may aggravate the problem of banks that are "too big to fail."

Keys to improve, day by day
In addition to taking on a bird's eye view and analyzing wide-ranging rules and regulations, IESE professors have delved into the daily operations of companies from many angles.

The book Wonderful Decisions, by Roberto García-Castro and Miguel Ángel Ariño, identifies the most common decision-making biases that can trip us up and provides a model to improve executives' decision-making process.

Promoting good governance practices at the corporate level is the goal of the recently created IESE Center for Corporate Governance (CCG), with Jordi Canals serving as president and Gaizka Ormazabal as academic director. This center aims to provide evidence-based research to advance both the theory and practice of corporate governance and engage in open dialogue with practitioners. It joins the 28 chairs and 11 excellence centers that already existed at IESE.

In the context of the ever-growing importance of e-commerce, Eduard Calvo has led a practical study on the effectiveness of disclosing product availability online and when it may help persuade clients to click "buy." This research received an honorable mention from the Manufacturing and Service Operations Management journal's M&SOM Practice-Based Research Competition, which has also awarded Eduard Calvo a Meritorious Service Award this year.

Albert Valentí and coauthors have also been recognized for their research's practical applications. A Gary L. Lilien ISMS-MSI Practice Prize, awarded by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), went to their paper about L'Occitane's multichannel marketing campaigns. Valentí et al. find that the company shouldn't dedicate too much of its marketing budget to its best customers.

Beyond marketing and sales
Although sales are always essential, running a company optimally is also critical factor for success. With real world examples and very practical advice, the book How to Get Things Right, by Beatriz Muñoz-Seca, is a guide to achieve excellence in service delivery based on Muñoz-Seca's Service Problem Driven Management (SPDM) model.

Innovation is another touchstone -- a broad subject tackled by several concrete studies on corporate venturing, open innovation and technology transfer, to name a few highlights of the work carried out this year by IESE's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC).

And we must not forget the transformative role of technology, which can boost the agility of companies' top management teams. That is what Marta Elvira and Carlos Rodríguez-Lluesma found in their paper on "thriving at the top in the digital era," which was a finalist for a recent best-paper award from the Academy of Management.

Especially during this time of the year, when many professional changes occur, Guido Stein's book And Now What? A Guide to Leadership and Taking Charge in Your New Role becomes particularly useful. In it, Stein advises managers on how to deal with the inevitable gap between their expectations and reality -- and how to start a new position off on the right foot. The practical guide was awarded this year's "best book" recognition by the IESE Alumni Association.

More personal acknowledgments
In addition to those above, a few more personal recognitions bear mention -- such INFORMS' MSOM Young Scholar Prize, which was awarded to Víctor Martínez de Albéniz for his "outstanding contributions to scholarship in operations management" before age 40. In the same age bracket, Christian Eufinger was recognized by the popular MBA website Poet & Quants as one of 2019's "Best 40 under 40" professors for his research and teaching skills. And for his multiple contributions to a prestigious academic journal, The Journal of International Business Studies award its silver medal to Sebastian Reiche. Meanwhile, Nuria Chinchilla was inducted to the Real Academia de Ciencias Económicas y Financieras (RACEF).

For more research by IESE faculty, look to IESE Insight's knowledge portal, where you can find articles, infographics, podcasts and videos relevant to today's fast-changing business world.
This article is based on:  Keys to business today to lead tomorrow
Year:  2019
Language:  English