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Why Genius Leads to Adversity: Experimental Evidence on the Reputational Effects of Task Difficulty Choices

  • Elena Katok

    ()

    (Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802)

  • Enno Siemsen

    ()

    (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455)

We use a behavioral laboratory experiment to study how agents with reputation concerns select the difficulty of their tasks. Drawing upon existing theory, we subjected participants in our study to a context in which they had to convince a principal of their capability to reap financial benefits. Our results show that participants tended to increase the difficulty of their task to enhance their reputation. In addition, we provide evidence that performance rewards reduce a less capable agent's tendency to choose a more difficult task, whereas a highly capable agent's pattern of choices is unaffected by performance rewards. Although the productivity of agents in our experiment therefore decreased if they had to convince a principal of their capability, we show that these detrimental performance implications can to some degree be overcome for less capable agents through performance rewards or by ensuring that the principal can interpret the agent's choice. This paper was accepted by Christoph Loch, R&D and product development.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1331
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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 57 (2011)
Issue (Month): 6 (June)
Pages: 1042-1054

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:57:y:2011:i:6:p:1042-1054
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  1. Alexander K. Koch & Albrecht Morgenstern & Philippe Raab, 2009. "Career concerns incentives: An experimental test," Economics Working Papers 2009-01, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
  2. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Irlenbusch, Bernd & Sliwka, Dirk, 2006. "Career concerns in a simple experimental labour market," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 147-170, January.
  4. Raul O. Chao & Stylianos Kavadias & Cheryl Gaimon, 2009. "Revenue Driven Resource Allocation: Funding Authority, Incentives, and New Product Development Portfolio Management," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(9), pages 1556-1569, September.
  5. Henry Sauermann & Wesley M. Cohen, 2010. "What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(12), pages 2134-2153, December.
  6. Alexander K. Koch & Albrecht Morgenstern & Philippe Raab, 2009. "Career concerns incentives: An experimental test," Post-Print hal-00693820, HAL.
  7. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
  8. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  9. J├╝rgen Mihm, 2010. "Incentives in New Product Development Projects and the Role of Target Costing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(8), pages 1324-1344, August.
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