Author Archives: aje

Country Competitiveness Dashboard

I am an Affiliate Faculty Member of the Microeconomics of Competitiveness program at Harvard Business School, and a big fan of Michael Porter – his work consistently reminds me of the importance of bringing clarity to management practice.

I also like his inclination for frameworks rather than models. If your goal is to interpret and assess, as opposed to measure and predict, a framework is a critical analytical tool. One that I especially like is his explanation for what determines competitiveness. For example, consider the following slide (which I believe originates from here).


I’ve given this framework a lot of thought, but I don’t think it fits as neatly into the Diamond model as is often claimed. For example in this NBER paper Porter (and co-authors) present an enlarged version:


This clearly shows that the Diamond model is intended to be a more detailed view of the “Quality of the National Business Environment” segment. But consider something like nutrient rich soil, or a large natural harbour. One might think that constitutes an endowment. But it is also a relevant “Factor input condition”. Indeed what’s the difference between the “Supporting and Related industries” and “State of Cluster Development”? I suspect this is why Figure 3 above has dropped endowments and clusters, and renamed it a “Foundational Competitiveness Index”. I think this is a shame, because the “What Determines Competitiveness” slide is clearer, and more coherent, than the FCI.

I think Porter’s attempt to force fit the Diamond model into the Competitiveness index creates an opportunity to take the “What Determines Competitiveness” slide in a new direction. Indeed I think it complements nicely the “Growth is Like an iPhone” analogy:

In my attempts to emerge the three level analogy with a template that my students can use in class, and with all appropriate nods to Prof. Porter, this is the “Country Competitiveness Dashboard“:


Rather than viewing the Diamond model as a subset of the “Business environment”, I see it more as a strategic tool that cuts across the whole Country Competitiveness Dashboard. In other words step 1 is to populate the dashboard, and ensure that you are covering all bases. Step 2 is to conduct a Diamond analysis – which is better suited at the cluster level than the national level anyway.

Management reading list

Here are a few recommendations for managers.

  1. Sowell, T., 1987, A Conflict of Visions, William Morrow
    • Sowell makes a distinction between a constrained (i.e. human nature is stable and based on self-interest) or unconstrained (human nature is good or has the potential to be good) “vision”. He argues that most political beliefs fit into one of these categories, and that people’s judgements are often determined by their existing vision.
  2. Schwartz, Peter. (1997) The Art of the Long View: Planning for Future in an Uncertain World, John Wiley & Sons
    • The pioneer of scenario planning provides a user guide to their construction and use, and demonstrates theur relevance for any decision making under uncertainty.
  3. Postrel, V., 1999, The Future and Its Enemies, Free Press
    • Postrel challenges the conventional wisdom that modern society isn’t delivering, and that we need to take coordinated action to change this trend. Instead, she articulates the case for competition and decentralised decision making, and identifies a “dynamism” world view that permits amazing innovation.
  4. Koch, Charles, G., 2007, The Science of Success, Wiley – especially SoS excerpts
    • This book outlines the concept of “Market-Based Management”, the framework that Koch credits as driving the incredible success of the American conglomerate Koch Industries. It attempts to apply the institutions of a free society and market economy within a firm, and provides an excellent case study on alternatives to hierarchical command structures.
  5. Burlingham, Bo, 2005, Small Giants, Penguin
    • A fascinating collection of case studies of companies that chose to be great rather that big. Most of them may be unfamiliar, but they are all inspirational for their pursuit of excellence as they define it.
  6. Cowen, T., 2009, Create Your Own Economy, Dutton
    • This is an eclectic look at how the internet has affected the way we engage with information. We have more choice, and more ability to cultivate our own consumption that ever before. This caters to people with autistic tendencies, and Cowen not only allows us to understand this condition, but also encourage our inner neural diversity.
  7. Deutsch, D., 2011, The Beginning of Infinity, Penguin – in particular “Optimism” (Chapter 9)
    • In a deep, mind bending work Deutsch argues that the enlightenment was built on the search for good explanations (which is different to attempts to test theories), and claims that a rediscovery of this effort will create the beginning of infinity. He touches upon his expertise as a Physicist to explain famous paradoxes and make a convincing argument in favour of the multiverse.
  8. Ridley, M., 2011, The Rational Optimist, Harper
    • Trade and specialisation have meant that things have never been better, and things will continue to be better provided we remain rational and optimistic.
  9. Poundstone, W., 2011, Priceless, Oneworld – especially the chapters on Prospect Theory and Ultimatum Games
    • Entertaining and accessible overview of behavioural economics and its impact on decision making.
  10. Ries, Eric, 2011, The Lean Startup, Penguin – especially the chapter on batches
    • The classic guide to creating a new organisation under conditions of uncertainty, including practical advice on strategy.
  11. Gleick, J., 2012, The Information, Fourth Estate
    • A somewhat daunting but wholly engrossing history of information, explaining critical innovations such as drum banging, Enigma, through to the internet.
  12. Fisman, R. and Sullivan, T., 2013, The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, Twelve – in particular “What Management is Good For” (Chapter 5)
    • A highly readable explanation for why organisations exist, and a defense of the important role they play in coordinating economic activity.
  13. Leighton, W.A., and Lopez, E.J., 2014, Madmen, Intellectuals and Academic Scribblers, Stanford – especially the chapter on Public Choice theory
    • A scholarly level and yet enjoyable look at how ideas shape the world around us, with excellent examples of times when they can overcome vested interests. The authors identify policy entrepreneurs as key change agents and show how social change occurs.
  14. Skarbek, D., 2014, The Social Order of the Underworld, Oxford University Press
    • One of the very best attempts to study how governance emerges without government. Skarbek presents his academic work on how prisons are organised, cutting across all of the social sciences. He draws upon fascinating fieldwork to explain the role of gangs and destroys many myths about why they form and the functions they serve. This is one of the best contemporary examples of the applicability of economic theory to broad social issues and will change how you think about how people associate.
  15. Weiner, E., 2016, The Geography of Genius, Simon and Schuster – in particular his advice to his daughter
    • A tender travel book that combines affectionate tales of interesting journeys, with a sharp identification of what causes certain locations, at certain points in history, to give rise to outrageous spells of creativity.

Business One Pagers

Sometimes I read a book and it leaves a big impression on me, but I worry that it will be transient. I already utilise “One Pagers” for recording brief thoughts on interesting books or articles, but thought I could create a template that focuses on business implications.

Although teachers like myself often think that providing a list of excellent resources is sufficient to aid someone’s learning, genuine learning needs to be reflective. Therefore my advice is to read the book and then write a Business One Pager.

The basic format is as follows:

  • Key information: (i.e. title of the book, name of the company, industry, era, etc)
  • Situation analysis/context
  • Key challenges faced
  • Legal and regulatory context
  • Sources of value creation
  • Successes
  • Failures
  • Lessons I can implement

Of course, this is incomplete and should be treated as a work in progress. But I hope you find it helpful.


Emergency Monetary Policy in Europe


Opportunities and threats from emergency monetary policy in Europe

Session 1: Lecture

  • What is conventional monetary policy?
  • What is emergency monetary policy?

Lecture handout is available here.

Session 2: Small group discussion

  • What are the opportunities and threats from specific examples of emergency monetary policy in Europe?

Session 3: Presentations

Additional slides:

Further reading:


The Krupnik Medal

As an educator it’s a real priviledge to have the opportunity to engage with so many ambitious and intelligent students. My colleagues that teach on PhD programmes tend to have lists of their former students (I even appear on one!) but working in a business school means that I don’t produce future academics. I do, however, look on with pride when I see the achievements of former students in their professional careers.

A Krupnik Medal (🏅) is my way of saying “well done!”

Krupnik Medal holders:

To nominate someone, or reconnect, email me!

Web essays


Last updated: September 2016

I consider myself fortunate that my young adult life coincided with the emergence of the boxset. My aim is to provide recommendations based on how intense you want it (your internal engagement); how exciting you want it (a more external feeling); and how daunted you’re willing to be in terms of the time commitment. The reason Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards don’t feature is that I’m yet to start them. In truth, my main motivation is to promote some older boxsets that many people haven’t seen – i.e. Oz, and The Lakes.

The chart below shows the overall ranking:



The score is = excitement X intensity, although at some point I should weigh it in the direction of intensity. Maybe 40/60. I’m not sure.

Each axis is superficially on a 5 point scale, with minor adjustments around a 0.5 gradation. Crucially, I re-calibrate all of the scores whenever a new series enters the list.

Here’s to the (joint) lead:


I also have a bubble chart, which shows the two axes. But whenever I update it I have to redo the color coding and make sure the labels are visible. But here is an old version:

Boxset Retrospect

Family & personal development


2016 makes my 10 year wedding anniversary and that marriage is the central pillar of my social identity. It is where family and friendship coincides, and the basis upon which the meaningful relationships I have are developed.

I thought that having children would make me more selfish, because I’d be focusing my efforts and attention on propagating my own genes rather than considering humanity as a whole. I realise, however, that being a parent makes me a role model, and this encourages me to become a better person. It means that when I see distant tragedies I feel greater empathy than I did before.

I also thought that the circle of life meant that I care for my children because my parents cared for me. And then my children would care for their children and so on. Upbringing passes from one generation to the next, with the gift of “becoming a grandparent” being sent back in return. That’s not really a circle though, more of a straight line. Indeed recently I’ve seen how much support and care my grandparents required, and how your duties as a child revert back to your parents when they age. Providing grandchildren isn’t your ultimate gift to your parents; it is being there.

I believe that the thread of ancestry to descendants isn’t self-involvement, it’s self-realisation, and this essay discusses some of the books that I’ve read in pursuit of being a better father, husband, and son.

I. Father

“There are parts of the cultural heritage of a society that are more effectively transmitted through the family.” FA Hayek, 1960, p.90

Both of my children have turned three which seems to be a real turning point in terms of their development. At three they can (by and large) – talk; talk to adults; sleep at night; dress themselves; feed themselves; go to the toilet by themselves.

When they were growing up I organised photos of the kids into these categories: Newborn (birth – 2 months old); Baby (2 months – 1 year); and Toddler (1 year – 3 years). When they both turned 3 I went through those albums and made them a printed collection.

When they were younger, my job was to keep them alive. To survive. But increasingly I understand that physical development (i.e. weighing, measuring, testing) has taken a back seat to their emotional and mental development. It’s incredible to watch this all happen on a daily basis. It frightens me that my daughter’s problems will soon go from “Daddy I banged my knee” to “Daddy my best friend has spread a rumour about me and people are calling me names”.

Before having my own children I adhered to Bryan Caplan’s “selfish” school of parenting (which ties nicely into free range kids). The idea is that:

  • Not being stressed is the biggest gift you can give your children
  • If you’re the type of parent who worries about good parenting, you’re probably a good parent
  • Most of the factors that drive children’s future prospects are outside of your direct control

I also think it’s dangerous to view your role as a parent in terms of a debate between the forces of nature and the forces of nature. Really, it’s neither, because:

“we can be active agents who in part control how those interactions play out…it is the individual who is the agent of action” (Mischel, p.278)

Whilst Descartes famously said “I think, therefore I am”; we might say “I think, therefore I can change what I am” (p.278). This ties in nicely with my article, “Only Individuals Choose“.

So I believe in self-improvement, and want to cultivate that in my children. But I also recognise that reading to them every night is largely for my benefit, and my love of books and reading is part of a far broader set of abilities that will impart themselves of my kids in various multifaceted ways.

Just before Hope’s 5th birthday I attempted to do the classic Marshmallow Test (see The Marshmallow Test, by Walter Mischel). Interestingly, I failed! I found it too difficult to leave her on her own, and stopped it after just 5 minutes. I then set up a camera for Tate (he’d turned 3 a couple of months before) and managed to get to 10 minutes. The kids seemed better at it than I was! The test is as follows:

  • Set them up in a quiet room with a bell, a plate with 1 marshmallow on it, and a plate with 2 marshmallows on it.
  • The instructions are: If you want to eat a marshmallow you need to ring the bell to call me back into the room. I will be close by and we can stop whenever you want. However if you don’t ring the bell, and wait until I come back into the room myself, you can have 2 marshmallows.
  • The standard test is for 20 minutes. As I said though, without a monitoring device I found this unbearable!

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 19.59.00The “test” is one of self-control, which is an important prerequisite for independence. But the purpose of the experiment is not really to categorise your child. It’s not about trying to measured the extent of their self-control. It’s more about seeing how they cope with situations that require self-control, and then using that as a basis to develop their skills.

Generally speaking, self-control is easier when we cool the present and heat the future. Being hot makes us react quickly to emotional stimuli, and triggers our feelings. Babies are often “hot” in this sense, responding to immediate and stressful conditions. And from an evolutionary perspective this was very important for dealing with danger. The cool system is slower to operate, more reflective and aids rational and strategic thinking. It is only fully developed in young adults, and is not the natural way to deal with pressure. But in situations where you want to exercise self-control, the crucial thing is to recognise the need to move from hot to cool thinking. Mischel mentions how:

  • Create a distraction (my daughter did this by finding a notepad and drawing a picture)
  • Make the focus of your attention more abstract (i.e. think of the shape, or colour, rather than the feel or taste)
  • Imagine that you’re looking at a picture, rather than the real thing
  • Ask what someone else in your position would do
  • Sing to yourself
  • Have a mantra

Ultimately what these have in common is that you’re generating cognitive distance between yourself and the temptation. You can heat the future by imaging the pleasure you will get from achieving your goal.

Young children do not have well developed causal reasoning, and this is perhaps why negotiations are so fraught. I try to make clear “If/Then” scenarios (e.g. “if you don’t eat your dinner then you won’t get any pudding”, or “if you eat your dinner then you will get pudding”) and then follow through. I find that if a threat isn’t credible (e.g. “if you don’t stop crying then I’ll leave you here” or “if you don’t tidy your room then we won’t go to the zoo”) your bluff will be called. Writing down an “If/Then” scenario makes me more likely to follow through, and generate credibility.1457786562-20160312

Do our children see us being hard on ourselves and exercising delayed gratification? It’s hard, because a lot of our gratification (e.g. a glass of wine and a movie) comes when they’re asleep. But we should demonstrate it. Indeed the main objective is to make good behaviour an intrinsic goal, so we’re not rewarding behaviour but seeing that behaviour as a reward in itself.

“If you aren’t consistent and are tough on your children but lenient with yourself, there is a good chance they’ll adopt the self-reward standards you modelled, not the ones you imposed on them” (Mischel p.225)

Make sure you set tasks that get progressively harder. Yes, it feels good to iron your shirts for the week and you deserve a beer at the end of it. But are you improving? (No!) This is why playing a musical instrument is such a good means of development – as you get better it doesn’t get easier. The same thing applies to games such as Lego.  Do things that have the potential for unlimited growth.

If you have a dilemma and can’t decide which option to take try to pre-live them both. Our instinct is to favour our present self’s opinion of what ones future self should want to do. Rather, we should recognise that our future self will be pretty similar to our present self, and if something wouldn’t be enjoyable today, we shouldn’t commit to doing it down the line. “When my graduate students are fortunate enough to have more than one job offer and are tortured about their decision, I suggest that they imagine, as concretely as they can, living life in each job, one full day at a time, as if the job were happening now” (Mischel, p,133).

I have two concrete examples of advice I acquired from having read Mischel.

  1. Hope was given a speaking role for the school nativity and expressed concerns about having to talk in front of everyone.
    • I showed her some videos of me doing public speaking and explained the process by which I learnt how to do it (i.e. starting off with similar worries in a similar situation)
    • We practiced in front of a smaller audience of adults
    • We spoke about breathing as a way to remain calm
    • In other words the way to deal with phobias is to allow them to watch someone they trust encounter the problem in a calm, step-by-step manner, and then follow them
  2. Tate would often have tantrums where he’d seem unable to calm down by himself
    • I took a photo of him and asked him to explain what he saw. This provided a little distance and engaged the cooler part of his brain.
    • When it comes to tantrums – don’t isolate or punish just try to talk them down and show them how to calm down.

Finally, Mishel (p.251) provides some dimensions for what constitutes character. I think it’s useful to reflect on whether you can find good examples of each

  • Self-control
    • Focus on the goal – “i paid attention and resisted distractions”
    • Temper control – “I remained calm even when criticised or otherwise provoked”
  • Grit – “I finished whatever I began”
  • Optimism – “I stayed motivated, even when things didn’t go well”
  • Zest – “I approached new situations with excitement and energy”
  • Social intelligence – “I demonstrate respect for the feelings of others”
  • Curiosity
  • Gratitude

II. Husband

I think I’m a better husband when I am alert, relaxed, and communicating well. To improve these I find value in the following

  1. Have sleep plan. Nothing prepares you for the tiredness of being a parent, and when we had two children both under two I felt permanently knackered. Being tired makes one irritable and unable to think clearly. This will always be far easier for men to achieve than women (i.e the first responders) but a sleep plan meant that I now enjoy getting up before 8am. It has become a normal part of my routine and this has helped massively.
  2. Mindfulness. The basic principle is highly compatible with being a secular hermit and I try to find time for sporadic meditation. Diet and exercise is also crucial for this.
  3. Susan Cain’s book on introversion has had a big impact on me, and Chapter 10 focuses on the communication gap between different personality types. What I found especially useful is instead of debating which activities to do, talk about what it is about a specific activity you do or do not enjoy. This opens up the potential for modifying an activity in a way that makes it mutually tolerable (or perhaps even beneficial). The example in the book is that Greg is outgoing and Emily is more pensive. He wants regular big dinner parties with lots of guests, and she wants a quiet night in. Their solution is to hold an event only once a month; buffet style food (i.e. not sit down); and Emily isn’t obliged to mingle. A regular date night is a good communication facilitator because it involves alcohol but doesn’t involve children.

III. Son

I highly recommend Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The goal of modern healthcare is to keep the elderly alive and safe but this is usually because we shy away from difficult conversations about what quality of life is important to them, and what tradeoffs they are willing to make. Because we often delay this conversation until it’s too late, we care for the elderly in an intrusive, expensive, and unsatisfactory way. Some steps to mitigate this:

  • Talk early and often about care home desires (my prediction is that “being put in a home” will become less of a problem over time as the elderly in the future will be more likely to associate care homes with university halls rather than a military barracks)
  • Have a living will or advanced healthcare directive.

Updated: April 2016

Economic Freedom 101



This short course provides provides a survey of global poverty and a discussion of the causes of prosperity. Particular emphasis is placed on the institutions required for market exchange, and the importance of economic calculation. As a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula makes clear, socialist planning is literally groping in the dark. We will look at the theoretical reasons behind this claim, and the empirical validation that economic freedom matters.


The course does not rely on any previous study of economics.

Teaching methods

  • Lectures (3 sessions)


The course is designed to tie into Chapters 4 and 12 of the following (amazing) textbook:

The website for the book contains an array of other resources:

An additional reading list is available here:

An edited list of highly recommended articles from The Economist is here:


9am Session 1

Economics matters: The link between economic institutions and global prosperity

In this lecture I will ask some broad and fundamental questions about the application of economic theory to the real world, and the role of the economist as a force for making the world a better place. I will try to convince you that we have a fairly good understanding of what causes economic growth, and how important this is for raising living standards and improving people’s quality of life. In other words, economics matters.

10:45am Break

11:00am Session 2

Groping in the dark: Why socialist calculation is impossible

12:30pm Lunch

2:00pm Session 3

Economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe: Shock therapy or gradualism?

3:30pm Finish

Downloads of the lecture handouts will be available soon.

Online learning

I see four basic models for online learning:

Model 1: Your own pace

Model 2: Virtual classroom

Model 3: Remote classroom

Model 4: The voyeur

It’s not obvious that teachers have the right skillset to create online courses.

The key skillset for a lecturer:

  • Knowledge of the content
  • Personable delivery
  • Ability to grade exams

The key skillset for an online instructor:

  • Ability to curate content (a great source for videos are TED Talks and Learn Liberty)
  • Aptitude with alternative technologies
  • Choice of assessment

I see a major advantage for online courses being the opportunity to crowdsource and aggregate grading into quick, responsive, 360 feedback. My ideal grading system would be:

  • a web form to enter information and then WHAM it converts it into a report.
  • they see each others and vote on which are the best ones
  • or it just prints them all out and I grade them in one batch