Author: Chuck Finder


About Chuck Finder

This long-ago graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia returns to the state to lead a talented team of professionals in promoting the university’s efforts via media relations. I arrived here after helping to share news and information about the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, I spent three decades with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Birmingham News and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, though also dabbled as a contributor to numerous outlets — ranging from the former St. Louis-based institution The Sporting News to The New York Times.

Anjan Thakor uses a lightboard to reinforce his lecture points as he conducts an online course.

Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School has climbed to new global heights, joining an elite cohort of triple-accredited business schools, while at the same time adding new degree programs and certifications—including a new online MBA that’s distinguished by its focus on preparing students for leadership in a digitally enabled world.

Olin on April 27 earned accreditation from the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), completing a sweep of all three global accreditation agencies that includes the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). That makes Olin the only highly ranked business school in the United States to earn triple accreditation and places Olin among fewer than 1% of all business schools globally.

Earning triple accreditation puts WashU Olin in the rarified company of some business school powerhouses as INSEAD, London Business School and HEC Paris.

“Olin’s vision is to promote world-changing business education, research and impact. Embracing the process of triple accreditation affirms our progress toward that vision,” said Mark P. Taylor, dean of Olin. “These bodies have held us accountable for the standards we have set for ourselves.”

Advancing through the third horizon

In addition to earning triple accreditation, Olin is announcing several other developments in 2021 as the school marches toward what Taylor has described as “the third horizon” in business education.

As he sees it, the first horizon came in spring 2020 as educators quickly pivoted to accommodate students dispersed by COVID-19. The second came this past fall as the dean encouraged the school to “up its game,” integrating hybrid in-person and online learning amid the pandemic. Now this third horizon arrives as Olin lifts its sights toward a new global normal to business education.

Dean Mark Taylor addresses the latest updates in Olin’s march toward the third horizon.

New mile-markers in 2021 on the road toward that third horizon include:

  • The introduction of three new online graduate business programs allowing students to work toward a specialized masters degree in customer analytics, corporate finance and accounting—while earning certificates along the way.
  • Preparation to launch in January 2022 a separate, online-only MBA program focused on empowering and enabling leaders to harness ever-changing digital technology—such as big data, blockchain, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and more—in the business realm.
  • Raised its global profile with a jump to No. 25 in the most recent Financial Times rankings of the world’s business schools—including a No. 1 global ranking in faculty research.
  • Rescheduling Olin’s global immersion trip for MBA students—nearly six weeks of learning on the ground at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, and in Barcelona, Spain, and Lima, Peru (delayed the past year due to the pandemic). First- and second-year MBA cohorts are now scheduled to travel in spring 2022.

Maintaining our commitment

“We remain committed to the successful MBA global immersion experience that we debuted in summer 2019,” Taylor said. “Fulfilling that commitment, while fully reimagining the future of business education in a global and digitally-enabled world are cornerstone obligations for us as leaders in business education. We simply must scan beyond where we can see, anticipate what we must do in the world’s new version of normal.”

These developments align with Olin’s five-year strategic plan, outlined shortly after Taylor arrived as dean in December 2016.

The enhanced master’s certification and 30-month online MBA came as a result of surveys that included alumni, faculty and even industry representation. Input from such consulting and advising giants as Deloitte, McKinsey and Bain helped to advise Olin administrators that there existed a need to imbue the next generation of business leaders with digital competencies and competitiveness.

“Other online MBA programs offer their MBA program online,” Taylor said. “Our program is custom tailored for business leaders who want to lead in a digitally enabled world.”

For leaders in the digitally enabled business world

For example, the new program is designed for people who are: working in a digitally mature company or environment; looking to improve their digital-business acumen; or seeking to lead a digital transformation in a company or industry, including entrepreneurs.

The online MBA will come at a cost of $75,000 for the total 2½-year duration. While its core courses will remain taught by the same faculty as in Olin’s in-person MBA program, the digital nature will change—particularly in light of the past year’s pandemic-related learning curves. The online approach allows for such changes as enhancing standard case studies with live, online presented cases and an abundance of guest presenters.

The broadcasting base for the online MBA is a state-of-the-art facility stemming from the school’s strategic plan, the Center for Digital Education. With its full-time staff and eight studios, the CDE partners with faculty members, instructional designers and multimedia experts to build their course curriculum for digital delivery, collaborate to coach them using available tools, and create digital assets to present course concepts.

Olin’s accreditation from EQUIS follows a renewal of its earlier accreditation by AACSB, the major accrediting organization for North American schools, and its accreditation by AMBA in March 2020. Little more than 100 schools across the planet have earned inclusion in all three groups.

Pictured above: Anjan Thakor, director of doctoral programs and John E. Simon Professor of Finance, uses a light board to reinforce his lecture points as he conducts an online course.

Panos Kouvelis, director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation and Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management, has been appointed editor-in-chief of Foundations and Trends in Technology, Information and Operations Management.

The appointment becomes effective next Jan. 1. The current editors of the 16-year-old journal are from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Uday Karmarkar and Charles Corbett.

Kouvelis has been a member of the editorial review board at the journal, among various editorial roles on nine journals in and around the supply chain field.

Research and development is the key expertise of Anne Marie Knott, who developed the metric known as the Research Quotient (RQ), the only innovation metric that reliably predicts firm value.

With the new presidential administration announcing its economic-policy intention to invest $300 billion in research and development, there is a key voice offering the caution: Aim for the development end.

Anne Marie Knott

That is the counsel of Knott, the Robert and Barbara Frick Professor in the Olin Business School.

“President Biden has his work cut out for him in ensuring ‘a future made in all of America … where the United States wins … the jobs and industries of tomorrow.’

The most important thing he can do in the short-run is dedicate the $300 billion additional R&D to development (D) rather than research (R), she said.

“This level of investment could indeed bear fruit, but not if targeted at research,” Knott said.

(Research is diligent inquiry or examination to seek or revise facts, principles, theories, applications, etc. Development is about growth and directed change. Essentially, one is the creation of new ideas and the other is the application of them.)

“There has indeed been a dramatic decline in federal R&D support, but the decline is not in research. It is entirely in development.

“In fact, the decline in American R&D productivity tracks the decline in federal development almost perfectly. The decline in federal development is therefore the most likely culprit for the decline in R&D productivity. Thus, investing in research is solving the wrong innovation problem.”

Businesses beware: A price increase for carryout or delivery food means an increase in negative reviews—and a downturn in restaurant reputation, if not demand.

And it’s notable that in these COVID-19 pandemic times, an exponential amount of business is being conducted via carryout or delivery.

A pair of business researchers, from Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University, studied the relationship between price and reputation by looking at online orders through Yelp’s Transaction Platform from its 2013 inception until January 2019, and then the resulting reviews. What they found: Ratings are price-adjusted rather than objective reviews of quality.

Their study showed an effect that is both statistically and economically significant: A price increase of just 1% leads to a decrease of 3%-5% in the average rating — a negative relationship between pricing decisions and reputation. “This effect becomes increasingly important when considering the average price change is about 3-9%,” they write. Their research is forthcoming in Management Science.


“Traditional intuition suggests a positive relation between prices and reputation, usually in the form of a price premium for reputable businesses,” said Oren Reshef, assistant professor of strategy at Olin. “Less attention, however, has been given to the direct impact of price increases on reputation for a focal firm. We find a negative relation when examining different price levels for the same business.”

The researchers used item-level data on all food orders placed via the Yelp Transactions Platform. There, they could detect changes in ratings in response to price changes. They keenly focused on narrow time bands around price changes—just days before and after restaurants updated their menu prices.

To provide further robustness to their findings, they analyzed instances where certain platforms are quicker than others to update the price. Thus, they focus on short time spans in which the same item is sold at different prices, one at the old price and one at the new price.

A new business creed

If nothing else, the study signals a new business creed: Be careful about raising prices, because, in addition to the direct negative effect on sales, down the line it will decrease reputation and, as a result, future business.

“Our results amplify the negative effect of price on sales: higher prices reduce demand today and demand in the long-run due to adverse effect on reputation,” Reshef said. “This is especially prominent in online markets, where consumers rarely know the prevailing prices and the time the review was given. This creates an additional incentive to maintain low prices and perhaps even set lower initial prices in order to establish good reputation.”

Their results hold more generally in the Yelp Star Rating, suggesting that ratings are a function of both quality and price — the cheapest restaurants achieve an average rating of 3.4 while the most expensive on average rate 3.6, less than a quarter standard deviation, despite the fact the latter group is four times as pricey. The researchers interpret this to mean that ratings are price adjusted — or at least adjusted for the expected quality at whatever price.

“The results inform us about the value of rating mechanism and how to interpret them,” Reshef said. “Online rating may not be capturing ‘objective’ quality, but rather the net value or surplus that the service or product generates. We believe that, in order to offer better platforms, managers should take this into account when designing reputation mechanism and recommendation systems on their platforms.”

The authors further attempt to disentangle other mechanisms that might impact consumers’ rating behavior. They discovered the effect is greater for first-time restaurant consumers — suggesting that diners initially respond to prices, which set their expectations for the quality of food they’ve never tasted or ordered before. This also shows that the results are not driven by repeat customers using lower ratings as a punishment for raised prices.

This price-reputation relationship translates to so many other consumer areas, what with the proliferation of Amazon, Airbnb, Taobao in Asia, grocery- and food-delivery services that grew during the pandemic, and more.

And, sorry, they cannot speak to price reductions—mainly because they were so seldom seen in the businesses they studied.

After years of both big-data and granular research about minimum-wage increases and homeownership/mortgages, Radhakrishnan Gopalan knows the pandemic-addled plight of the middle and under classes in America. Gopalan, professor of finance at Olin, also knows any economic plan must be multifaceted and multiyear. In short, this is going to take time. And effort.

“In my view, the Biden administration faces two short-run and three long-run challenges that it has to tackle to get the economy back on track,” he said.

“The two short-run challenges are the rampaging pandemic and the fact that many at the bottom of the pyramid are out of a job with little short-run prospect of getting one and are struggling to make day-to-day expenses,” Gopalan said. The pandemic is a public health issue, involving medical expertise, vaccines, masking, distancing and more. The economic challenge requires a directed stimulus program until COVID-19 is brought under control.

That leaves three long-run challenges, Gopalan said.

  1. Don’t count on household consumption. “While there may be some short-run pent up demand, I fear the household sector will have too much debt and will find it difficult to contribute to demand in the long-run.”
  2. Hospitality and transportation may never regain their lost employees. “This means retraining and repositioning the workers in these sectors.” 
  3. WFH changes everything. “The virus has resulted in many structural changes in the way we work and enjoy leisure, and this would involve refocusing our investment in infrastructure.”

How to tackle the challenges

  1. “I believe the Biden administration will have a plan to tackle the fastest growing source of household debt: student debt. This may involve some debt forgiveness and more liberal eligibility for income-based repayment plans.”
  2. “To both tackle the limited demand from the household and corporate sector, the administration will have an infrastructure bill that would involve green investment and investment in digital as opposed to physical infrastructure — taking into account the transformation in the economy brought about by the virus.”
  3. “The administration may also have some targeted relief to the worst affected sectors of the corporate sector to help them recover and rebuild from the crisis. “
  4. “There are some who argue that one way to increase household demand is to increase the minimum wage. I agree that there is some merit to this argument, so in the medium- to long-term I see the administration increasing the federal minimum wage.” 
  5. “To retrain and refocus workers from the sectors permanently damaged by the virus to the sectors helped by it, there will be investment in worker retraining.”
  6. “Finally, health care is a constant source of concern for all Democratic administrations, and we may see further strengthening of Obamacare marketplaces and Medicaid.”