Joshua Gans

Speech Topics

What happened to once great companies like Nokia, Blackberry, Encyclopedia Britannica and Blockbuster? Gans looks at the “why” of their demise and examines the risks all organizations now face from new technologies and innovations. Rather than simply being an external threat, companies need to have an internal disruptive strategic framework (effective integration, cross boundary product development, and having a highly resilient culture) to continue to survive and prosper in the future.

This talk examines the evolution of business models under the forces of digitization. Gans emphasises the importance of scarce attention when thinking about how to get digital content into the hands of consumers. In particular, when attention is scarce, consumers look beyond price to choose which products to consumer and instead really heavily on referrals and experiences of others. He applies this logic to consider disruptions occurring in book-selling, newspapers and television.

Entrepreneurs are often told a particularly strategy is THE WAY to success. Examples include being lean, disruptive or going from zero to one. Gans demonstrates that when it comes to strategies entrepreneurs face many choices but have limited resources. This requires them to focus on one particular strategic approach. They are free to consider a set of choices that aligns with their own personal characteristics and vision with there being no right choice but a right process of arriving at that choice. Illustrated with years of experience advising start-ups, Gans demonstrates that by being focussed and also coherent start-ups can find the best path forward for commercialising their ideas.


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Joshua Gans is a Professor of Strategic Management and holder of the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto (with a cross appointment in the Department of Economics). Since 2013, he has also been Area Coordinator of Strategic Management. Joshua is also Chief Economist of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab and the start-up, Revlo. He is also a Research Affiliate at the Center for Digital Business at MIT. Prior to 2011, he was the foundation Professor of Management (Information Economics) at the Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne and prior to that he was at the School of Economics, University of New South Wales. In 2011, Joshua was a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research (New England). Joshua holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University and an honors degree in economics from the University of Queensland. In 2012, Joshua was appointed as a Research Associate of the NBER in the Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program.

At Rotman, he teaches MBA and Commerce students Network and Digital Market Strategy and Entrepreneurial Strategy. He has also co-authored (with Stephen King and Robin Stonecash) the Australasian edition of Greg Mankiw’s Principles of Economics (published by Cengage), Core Economics for Managers (Cengage), Finishing the Job (MUP) and Parentonomics (New South/MIT Press). In 2012 he published, Information Wants to be Shared (Harvard Business Review Press), and in 2016, The Disruption Dilemma (MIT Press).

Scholarly Publishing and its Discontents was published in 2017.

While Joshua’s research interests are varied he has developed specialities in the nature of technological competition and innovation, economic growth, publishing economics, industrial organisation and regulatory economics. This has culminated in publications in the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, RAND Journal of Economics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Public Economics, and the Journal of Regulatory Economics. Joshua serves as an associate editor of Management Science and the Journal of Industrial Economics and is on the editorial boards of the BE Journals of Economic Analysis and Policy, Economic Analysis and Policy, Games and the Review of Network Economics. In 2007, Joshua was awarded the Economic Society of Australia’s Young Economist Award. In 2008, Joshua was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Australia. Details of his research activities can be found here. In 2011, Joshua (along with Fiona Murray of MIT) received a grant for almost $1 million from the Sloan Foundation to explore the Economics of Knowledge Contribution and Distribution.

On the consulting side, Joshua is managing director of Core Economic Research and an Academic Associate with The Brattle Group. In the past, Joshua has worked with several established consulting firms including London Economics, Frontier Economics and Charles River Associates. He has also been retained by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Federal Trade Commission where he worked on expert testimony in several abuse of market power cases as well as on issues in telecommunications network competition. Overall his consulting experience covers energy (gas and electricity markets), telecommunications, financial services and banking, pharmaceuticals and rail transport.

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