Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Manager Decision Making Styles

I said in class today that on Thursday we would talk more about organizational structure from B&D Chapter 3 - 5, but also about management.  For the latter, I plan to make some reference to this paper, which more or less says that middle manages look heads down, but upper level managers look heads up.  That will be a good metaphor for us.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Traffic Helicopter Theory of Management

This is not in the the book (I invented this particular labeling of this sort of managerial behavior).  It is similar to playing the Whip (honest broker) for a committee, except now it pertains to how a little unit interacts with the entire large organizations.

The Traffic Helicopter Theory of Management

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Out with a (big) bang

This has nothing to do with economics, let alone our class, but I thought it was cool and that you'd be interested in it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Midterm 1 from last year

Here is the link to last year's midterm.  It will give you and idea of format and question type for this year's exam.  Content-wise, questions 1 and 3 are stuff that might be on this year's exam.  Question 2, however, is not.  We'll cover that material after the first midterm.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Commenting and Posting - Your Obligation for the Course

This is a reminder that after I have commented on your post I expect you to write a comment in response.  Last week only about half the class did this.  So far very few of you have.

Also, some of you haven't gotten your posts in for this week.  You are late on those.  I will still read them if you get them done by tomorrow.  I will not extend this offer beyond this week.  After this, you simply will not get credit for doing the work.

Something we will talk about on Tuesday

First, we'll briefly mention Atul Gawande's famous essay about infection and hand washing.   It has fundamentally changed how medicine is conducted.  It is not an economics paper at all, but it is a demonstration of how inefficiency manifests in ordinary business practices.

Later we''ll consider this paper by Arthur Okun, which is quite readable by you and gives a good articulation of the implicit contracts view of the labor market as co-insurance based on loyalty between the firm and its employees.

You should have access to this paper if you are on the Campus Network.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Since I reacted to #3 today in class.....

.... you guys might as well see the entire list and apply not just to me but to the other professors you interact with as well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Useful Links for Tomorrow's Class Session/Class Size Distribution 1996

Paul David's paper on QWERTY

Michael Berube's essay from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The SCALE Efficiency Projects.

Something left out from yesterday's class.

I ran out of time and/or my memory failed me to talk about this. issue.  We did spend significant discussion time on monitoring.  In that context we considered my monitoring of your blog posts.  I do monitor them on several fronts.  But I don't monitor for plagiarism.

If you have a reasonable guess as to why, you can post as a comment to this post.  I'm quite curious about what you might come up with.  We'll discuss briefly on Thursday before getting into our main topic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Excel HW Due 9/24 at 11 PM

This homework is about coordination failure and coordination mechanisms. The last two worksheets coincide with material from M&R. Chapter 2 pages 43 - end of chapter on the medical intern matching program and all of Chapter 3. Transfer pricing starts on page 79.

Coordination failures can end up being a big part of a course in macroeconomics.  The twin phenomena known as involuntary unemployment and credit rationing might very well be attributable to coordination failures.  So the concept of coordination failure has interest well beyond our class.

Ultimately we will see that one big role management plays in organizations is to provide coordination and coherence.  For modeling sake, it is easier to consider mechanisms, such as the ones describe in this homework, but much coordination happens by the discretion of management (or it doesn't happen at all).  One of the puzzles is how to achieve both decentralization and coordination.  It is an important topic that we will discuss in class.

Opportunism and the News

Given that the next blog post is supposed to be about opportunism, I thought this piece from NPR apropos.  It is about scientists doing ALS research and how they've responded to a decline in funding across the board.  The answer seems to be ... not very well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Combating HRTP

Some of you may remember a brief discussion about why there might not be efficiency in organizations.  One explanation was participant impatience.  Then you will recall that HRTP is short for high rate of time preference.  For efficiency, people need to value the future more and not be so concerned with immediate reward.

This creates a linkage between economics and psychology.  The psychologists know how to train yourself to be more patient.  One of the heroes of that research is Walter Mischel.  He is famous for his experiments with marshmallows and young kids.  If you haven't heard about those, you'll enjoy reading the linked piece.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

First grade upload into Moodle

This morning I did a grade upload, mainly to verify that I can do it when I need to in the future.  But it also serves as a check for you to make sure you've gotten credit for the work you've done.

There were three columns where there is information.  Two of those are Excel Homework: one is for the Tutorial, the other is for the Homework on Efficiency.  If you did them and submitted your key into the online form you got 10 points per assessment.

The other column is for the Blog Post where you supplied bio information about your alias.  There are no points for that.  What you should see is an "x" in the feedback column.  This indicates that I know you wrote that post.  At mid semester, I will make a grade assessment of your blog posts in the first half of the course.  Until then, however, all I will track is that you've done them.

Professor Arvan

Friday, September 12, 2014

Before Next Tuesday's Class

I have just started to read your posts that are due today.  When you've gotten my comments, please think about them some and then write a response, also as a comment.  Partly, this is to see how you are processing what we've been talking about.

I am deliberately belaboring our discussion on transaction costs, in part because it is the heart of the matter so it would be good for you to have a solid understanding of transaction costs, and in part because the way you learn concepts in other classes may not be a good way to learn them here.  Here you must see whether the concepts make sense to you by applying them to situations you've experienced.

I want to make Tuesday's class a kind of collective response to your posts.  So I don't know yet how we'll proceed then.  I'll try to decide that over the weekend.  In general, the sessions on Tuesdays will very much depend on what you write in your posts before that session.  So the general idea is action (your posts) and then reaction (class discussion).  Therefore one other way to prepare for class might be to read some of the posts by your classmates and the comments there.  Yet at present you have no guide as to which ones to read.  So for this time around it will be hit or miss.

I would also like to foreshadow for you the prompt next week, which is about opportunism.  In the context of classroom exams, cheating is an example of opportunism.  We said that proctoring is an example of a transaction cost, as it aims to deter cheating.   You might consider what other sorts of transaction costs emerge out of a need to discourage opportunistic behavior.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Do You Have A Mentor?

This is from a provocative piece about success factors in the labor market for recent grads.  Ergo the question in the title of this post.  If you do have a mentor, I believe the rest of the class would be curious about how you got one.  If you don't have a mentor, are you doing anything to make that happen?

Excel Homework on A Strategic Approach to Efficiency

I wrote this homework over the last couple of days.  I've proofread it a couple of times.  But there may still be typos or even conceptual errors in it.  If you find what seems like a mistake, please let me know.  It would be good to have a clean version of this assignment.

As with other Excel homework, if you have a question or comment about it, please post that as a comment to this post.  I'm guaranteeing 24 hour turn around time in response, and probably a lot quicker than that.  And if you are reading the comments and think you know how to respond, by all means do.  The more the merrier and this will create a better sense of class participation.

Future Assignments/Tips from class yesterday

We should now be getting into the routine for how work in our class will be done.  Excel Homework will be due Wednesday evenings most weeks.  Blog posts will be due Friday at noon.

The assigned homework will be given in the calendar a week before the due date, so you can get it done well ahead of the deadline.

Note that for Excel homework, there will also be a post on the main site about it, which is there if you have questions.  You can post those as comments to that post.  You might also be interested in reading the questions of your classmates.  Feel free to respond to those, if you feel you can help.

For the blog posts, note that you have the option to write on something other than the prompt - as long as you feel it is relevant to what the class is covering.  It may take you a few posts according to the prompt before you value this option.  But then know it is available to you.  It is always best to write about something that you feel strongly about.  This is meant to encourage you to do just that.

* * * * *

This is just a reminder that in class yesterday I demonstrated the Split tool in Excel.  It is found under the View Menu.  If you mouse over one of the split bars and double click on it, you can remove it that way.  For our homework there may be some advantage to split the pane into an upper and lower view.  There probably won't be an advantage to having a left and right view.  You can also adjust where the split occurs by clicking on the split bar and dragging it.

I also did a quick demo of using the Blogger editor for spell check and to put in hyperlinks in your posts.  Doing both of those things is good practice for any sort of blogging, really for any writing online.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I like the idea behind The Fun Theory though I prefer the term Joie instead

I wonder how many of you have heard of this.  I first learned of it 5 years ago when a student I had then posted something which had the stairs as a keyboard example.  That was cool.  Are there things you think might be done to make our class more enjoyable?  And does one need technology for that?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

CEO Pay - Market Determined or Rigged Game?

We may talk about CEO pay a little near the end of the course.  But it is a topic that fascinates and becomes a topic that is newsworthy from time to time.  So this recent paper that likened college football coaches to CEOs brought all of that out into the open again.

As I write this, the Illini have fallen behind Western Kentucky.  Speaking as a sports fan rather than as an economist ---- OUCH!

Please send me your blog url ASAP

For those who have already sent me the link to your blog and made your first post about your economist, thank you for getting that done.  For those who have not yet done this, please get it done soon.  Your performance in the class will be at jeopardy if you don't have a blog that I can readily monitor.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A little bit of motivation regarding B&D

In class yesterday I lost track of time and we never did get to Chapter 1 of B&D.  So I want to lead with that tomorrow.  To understand why reframing is useful as a thinking tool, consider this quote, one of my favorites.

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
George Orwell

Sometimes, when things don't make sense from one point of view, reframing the issues helps to get the pieces to fall into place.  We will do a bit of that tomorrow, very briefly go over the Four Frames in B&D, and then turn to what was scheduled for tomorrow's session.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Excel HW on Efficiency and Equity Concepts - Due 9/10 at 11 PM

For some of you this homework will be entirely review.  For others, you may not have seen the Edgeworth Box before.  I'd appreciate learning which is your situation by mentioning it in the comments when you submit your key.

As with the other Excel Homework, if you have a question about the substance of what is going on, please post that as a comment to this post.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Setting Up Your Blog for the Class - Part 2

This is the rest of the tutorial.

Setting Up Your Blog for the Class

The instructions below and in the next post are aimed at setting up your blog so that you post under your alias - nobody outside the class will know who you are - and make sure that everybody understands this is a blog of a student, not of the person from whom the alias was constructed.

The video below was made for last year's class.  It is applicable still, though Blogger has changed a bit since.  Also note, that it assumes you are making a new Gmail account just for this use.  As an alternative, you can use your non-university Gmail account equally well, if you are not already using Blogger with it.

The main thing is to use the Blogger Profile, not the Google Plus profile.  The Blogger Profile is what allows you to post under an alias.  See the image below.