B School Profs looking for “war stories” read McKinsey Quarterly more religiously than the Quarterly Journal of Economics. The stories are just stories because there is no effort at identification and data come from surveys rather than payoff based decision making. This does not make for research in the academic sense. Here is a claim in a recent article (free registration required):
Most executives, the survey found, believe that their companies are too stingy, especially for investments expensed immediately through the income statement and not capitalized over the longer term. Indeed, about two-thirds of the respondents said that their companies underinvest in product development, and more than half that they underinvest in sales and marketing and in financing start-ups for new products or new markets
Why aren’t companies investing? Decision making biases says the survey:
Executives who believe that their companies are underinvesting are also much more likely to have observed a number of common decision biases in those companies’ investment decision making. These executives also display a remarkable degree of loss aversion—they weight potential losses significantly more than equivalent gains.
I wish there was a crisp anecdote (e.g. “When I moved to General Mills, I did not introduce Choco-Honey-Nutto-Organic Cheerios – even though it did great is focus groups – because in my last job I got burned when I okayed perfumed Pampers and it stank in the marketplace.”)