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Knowledge@Australian School of Business

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Asian Partners: How Korea is Overlooked in Coming Fourth

South Korea – officially the Republic of Korea – has Asia's fourth-largest economy and is Australia's fourth-largest trading partner, a relationship in which Australia enjoys a significant surplus. Yet Korean was omitted as a priority language in the Australian government's future blueprint, the Asian Century White Paper. Chung-Sok Suh, from the Korea Research Institute at the Australian School of Business, is at the heart of efforts to expand collaboration with our affluent regional neighbour. He notes existing ties but sees plenty of scope for improvement and further opportunities. Companies need to understand that Korean business culture is different to that of Japan or China.

23 May 2013

Rank #1

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Accounting in Progress: Have Rising Standards Improved Earnings Quality in China?

A lack of transparency in the accounts of listed Chinese companies has long sounded warning bells for outside investors, particularly in the context of an insider economy with weak legal enforcement and low investor protection. But China has made great strides in adopting international financial accounting standards during the past 20 years. Researchers from the Australian School of Business have found this progress has improved earnings quality, though not across the board. In some cases, improving quality in one aspect of earnings has been at the cost of sacrificing another. Poor corporate governance is still a pressing concern.

23 May 2013

Rank #2

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Cognitive Dissonance: John Sterman on Understanding Climate Change

Climate change is a complex problem. Even bright minds become confused when simultaneously presented with consequences that are potentially catastrophic and the feeling that there’s nothing they can do about it. But there are ways of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it's how we think about global warming that seems to be impeding action. John Sterman, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael J. Crouch Visiting Professor at the Australian School of Business, has been studying why people have difficulty understanding the dynamics of the climate. He sees a way to reframe the issue and has devised simulation tools to assist in forming opinions and policies consistent with people's values. Sterman recently spoke with Knowledge@Australian School of Business.

20 Mar 2013

Rank #3

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Unskilled and Unaware: Finding a Cure for Over-Confidence

In a study of particular relevance to managers, Andreas Ortmann, a professor of experimental and behavioural economics at the Australian School of Business, has found that people at the lower end of the competence spectrum in any environment tend to over-estimate their talents in comparison to those around them. They are over-confident and unaware of it, a potentially disastrous combination in team leaders. But Ortmann says that with the right feedback, all but the least competent people can be calibrated to recognise their actual skills level and perform better as a consequence. And even the least competent can be helped, though it may take a lot longer.

20 Mar 2013

Rank #4

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Captured By Carbon: Why An Emissions Trading Scheme Needs a Floor Price

The Australian government plans to link its fixed-priced system for tackling climate change to the emissions trading scheme (ETS) of the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, the Europeans are wondering whether a straight and predictable carbon tax such as Australia's would not have been more efficient for them in the first place. The EU's floating carbon price has fallen to levels where it's more profitable for some businesses to keep polluting than to invest in green technology and it's apparent that too many emissions rights have been issued. Regina Betz, joint director at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the Australian School of Business, says an effective ETS needs to include a floor price for carbon to limit intervention from politicians and thereby provide certainty for business.

20 Feb 2013

Rank #5

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Driving Down Costs: Toyota Takes Lean Efficiencies Beyond Japan

Until recently, Toyota had long been the world's top car-maker and it rose to that position by using lean production methods. Its Toyota Production System, which pivots on continuous improvement and respect for people, became a best-practice management phenomenon, copied by many in a wide range of sectors. But questions have arisen over such silver-bullet theories of business excellence. And what happens when a proven and spectacularly successful method is moved to a different business environment outside Japan? Researchers from the Australian School of Business have been exploring the upshot of Toyota's manufacturing shift to Thailand, a lower-wage economy with less consideration for its labour force.

19 Sep 2012

Rank #6

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Grey Matter: How Managing Other Affect Brain Power - Positively!

Corporate players often list managing others as one of their greatest challenges, but new research from the University of New South Wales shows the upshot may be a bigger hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Being a manager potentially may ward off common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's. The research is thought-provoking for policymakers as they attempt to keep mature individuals in the workforce longer to tackle the dilemmas of an ageing population. And senior staff may want to think again about the prospect of early retirement.

7 Feb 2012

Rank #7

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Cognitive Overload? How Big Brother Manages Too Much Information

Can't think straight? Chances are you have cognitive overload. Work roles that require multi-tasking and switching between modes of communication can overstretch brainpower. Telltale signs are altered speech patterns and blinking more slowly. Now new technology, based on research from the University of New South Wales, is helping managers select the right candidates for jobs and identify when workers are overloaded. In call centres, the smart software can even reallocate work. Not everyone will be comfortable with "big brother" watching, but experts say this is one way of avoiding the fallout from too much information.

15 Dec 2011

Rank #8

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The Rise of Ethnography: How Market Research Has Gone Gonzo

With the emergence of ethnography as a means of tapping consumers' mindsets, suddenly market researchers are digging a whole lot deeper. Focus groups still work but hanging out with the target group while the gang interacts with products (and peers) and imparts insights can deliver more powerful revelations. Once destined for far-flung exotic locations, today's ethnographers also are venturing into the corporate jungle to present their findings on urban sub-cultures. There are compelling reasons for smart marketers to go gonzo.

26 Oct 2011

Rank #9

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Anger Management: There's an Upside to Seeing Red at Work

Work can be frustrating and enraging at times, but emotional outbursts are generally off limits. However, new research from the Australian School of Business shows tempered anger in the workplace can have a positive effect. Venting may clear the air or have a catalytic impact, signalling a matter of importance. It could even be a necessary "evil", just part of the job. But before letting fly, be mindful that things may turn sour if it's out of control – and the cause of the outrage will affect how it's perceived.

14 Oct 2011

Rank #10

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Social Media Recruitment: How to Put the Writing on the Wall

Social media offers a powerful platform for organisations to find and communicate with prospective employees and vice-versa. Its popularity is growing fast, with about 80% of recruiters these days checking out candidates' "credentials" on social sites. However, employers are still figuring out the best approach. Beyond its viral possibilities, drivers for engaging through social media vary, with reasons including cost saving, branding and exploring the "fit" of wannabe employees with the corporation. Experts warn it's easy for both parties to be fooled by the immediacy and informality of the medium. That's why plenty of forethought and a strategy are essential.

29 Aug 2011

Rank #11

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Happiness Is ... A Career Move

When switching jobs, the lure of a bigger pay packet for new recruits is not as powerful as many employers may think. And, in these days of talent and skills shortages, dangling the carrot of work-life balance may not work either when it comes to making new hires. Security and on-the-job stimulation are the major motivations for people making a career move, according to new research from the University of New South Wales. While some industries are more inclined to employee turnover, and big organisations have better chances of retaining their staff, there's also a gender divide. Blue-collar women workers are more likely to stay put than male counterparts or female professionals.

16 Aug 2011

Rank #12

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Green IT: A Cost-cutting Strategy Beyond Switching Off the Screensaver

Companies have barely scratched the surface when it comes to making information technology (IT) "greener". Research shows only one in six Australian organisations has gone beyond the basics, yet the trailblazers claim substantial savings and reputational benefits await those who make more than cursory moves, such as switching off screensavers. Most organisations have no idea how much powering up IT costs in the first place, and there's a tendency to let the issue rest with the IT department. Top-down management, integrated effort and, importantly, measurement can save the planet and the bottom line, experts say.

27 Jul 2011

Rank #13

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Multinational Managers: Spotting the Difference Between Locals and Global Citizens

The new breed of "global citizen" is puzzling for multinational managers. When posted to new territories, managers who are trained to accommodate cultural differences often find co-workers do not fit the stereotype. New research uncovers a more nuanced landscape where many – but not all – employees eagerly "acculturate" to working for a foreign company. Risks are both in imposing an organisation's home culture or going too far with localising by adapting to the host country's ways. And, from learning to expect the unexpected, benefits may extend across the whole company.

8 Jun 2011

Rank #14

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Aged Care Revolution: The Next Generation of Stay-At-Home Grannies

Baby boomers are expected to age differently and to be "old" for longer than previous generations. But, with an aged care system that's "creaking to the point of collapse", policymakers and providers have their work cut out for them. A shake-up is expected following a set of recommendations for caring for older Australians, due to be released by the Productivity Commission shortly. While plans to accommodate ageing in place – living at home until you die – may not come up well on a cost-benefit analysis, they are in the comfort zone for a generation that's used to getting what it wants and look set to go ahead.

8 Jun 2011

Rank #15

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Restructuring: The Hard Truth About Sell-offs Vs. Lay-offs

Companies that sack staff are more likely to go bankrupt or be taken over than those that restructure by divesting under-performing parts of their business, according to new research from the Australian School of Business. Firing staff does not always turn up cost savings or efficiency improvements, and it dents the morale of those left behind and the opinions of shareholders. With lay-offs becoming increasingly popular in Australia – mainly due to the changing nature of the workforce – a rethink may be in order for corporate chiefs as they confront potentially make-or-break decisions.

31 May 2011

Rank #16

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Global Warming: How to Win the Argument About Climate Change

With a carbon tax proposed to come into effect in mid-2012, the loud voices of Australia's climate change sceptics are again on the rise, highlighting the disconnect between the scientific community and the public and media perception of the damage inflicted by increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Despite mounting evidence of global warming, there are numerous reasons why sceptics have been able to stay in denial, according to two University of New South Wales professors. Here they pinpoint the difficulties in communicating the "diabolical problem" and how to overcome them.

31 May 2011

Rank #17

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Salary Crunch: What is the Price of Wage Transparency?

Whether or not wages should be kept confidential is a perennial hot topic. Even if an organisation keeps quiet about remuneration differences between staff, what people earn has an uncanny way of being revealed. And the likelihood is that employees with similar workplace responsibilities who are paid less than others will become de-motivated. A new study from the Australian School of Business finds that wage transparency can have negative effects on productivity and the quality of work. But experts say there are ways to manage this sensitive issue.

31 May 2011

Rank #18

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Electronic Medical Records: A Case of Better Healthcare or an Invasion of Privacy?

Electronic medical records may save many lives and slash the cost of healthcare, but there's also a sinister risk that personal medical histories may land in the wrong hands. With the amended Healthcare Identifiers bills now passed by the Australian parliament, privacy advocates continue to air concerns, including their alarm at the suggestion that Google – already the subject of a Federal Police privacy investigation – could one day be the keeper of everyone's health info. Legal experts claim the new laws are fundamentally flawed. It's important to get the rules right first time, they say, because once the information escapes, there's no chance of a recall.

31 May 2011

Rank #19

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Securitisation: How Innovation is Leading the Revival

The securitisation market all but came to a halt in the global financial crisis. Following the US sub-prime meltdown, residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) were on the nose for investors who considered them opaque and high-risk, with some insisting they should be banned. One of the problems was how RMBS risks were rated, being based on defaults in the underlying investments, rather than the volatility of the market. But the shock of the crisis not only raised questions, it kicked off innovation. With a securitisation revival underway, it seems reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.

31 May 2011

Rank #20