I am an assistant professor in Strategy & Innovation at Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology.
My current research focuses on the origin, development, and deployment of innovative and entrepreneurial talent. I have several projects examining different populations of innovators and the demand-side forces, such as globalization, that could influence the supply of innovators and entrepreneurs. My main research stream uses data on MIT bachelor's graduates to study the career choices, human-capital accumulation, and long-term productivity of elite scientists and engineers.
I was an assistant professor at Harvard Business School from 2012 to 2017 and a visiting scholar at MIT Sloan School of Management from 2016 to 2017. I received a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 and a BA in mathematics and mathematical economics from Colgate University in 2007.
My email address is: pian.shu at scheller.gatech.edu.
Competition and Social Identity in the Workplace: Evidence from a Chinese Textile Firm
Innovating in Science and Engineering or "Cashing In" on Wall Street? Evidence on Elite STEM Talent
(Previously circulated under the title: “Are the 'Best and Brightest' Going into Finance? Skill Development and Career Choice of MIT Graduates.”)
November 2016 [pdf]
Abstract: Using data on MIT bachelor's graduates from 1994 to 2012, this paper empirically examines the extent to which the inflow of elite talent into the financial industry affects the supply of innovators in science and engineering (S&E). I first show that finance does not systematically attract those who are best prepared at college graduation to innovate in S&E sectors. Among graduates who majored in S&E, cumulative GPA strongly and positively predicts long-term patenting; this result is robust to controlling for choices of major and career. In contrast, GPA negatively predicts the probability of taking a first job in finance after college. There is suggestive evidence that S&E and finance value different sets of skills: innovating in S&E calls for in-depth knowledge and/or interest in a specific subject area, whereas finance tends to value a combination of general analytic skills and social skills over academic specialization. I then provide evidence that anticipated career incentives influence students' acquisition of S&E human capital during college. The 2008–09 financial crisis, which substantially reduced the availability of jobs in finance and led to a worsening labor market in general, prompted some students to major in S&E instead of management or economics and/or to improve their academic performance. This response to the shock is driven by students with below-average academic credentials who were freshmen at the peak of the crisis.
Foreign Competition and Domestic Innovation: Evidence from U.S. Patents
(with David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, and Gary Pisano)
November 2016 [pdf]
Abstract: Manufacturing is the locus of U.S. innovation, accounting for more than three quarters of U.S. corporate patents. The rise of import competition from China has represented a major competitive shock to the sector, which in theory could benefit or stifle innovation. In this paper we empirically examine how rising import competition from China has affected U.S. innovation. We confront two empirical challenges in assessing the impact. We map all U.S. utility patents granted by March 2013 to firm-level data using a novel internet-based matching algorithm that corrects for a preponderance of false negatives when using firm names alone. And we contend with the fact that patenting is highly concentrated in certain product categories and that this concentration has been shifting over time. Accounting for secular trends in innovative activities, we find that the impact of the change in import exposure on the change in patents produced is strongly negative. It remains so once we add an extensive set of further industry- and firm-level controls. Rising import exposure also reduces global employment, global sales, and global R&D expenditure at the firm level. It would appear that a simple mechanism in which greater foreign competition induces U.S. manufacturing firms to contract their operations along multiple margins of activity goes a long way toward explaining the response of U.S. innovation to the China trade shock.
Are "Better" Ideas More Likely to Succeed? An Empirical Analysis of Startup Evaluation
(with Erin L. Scott and Roman M. Lubynsky)
October 2016 [pdf] Revise & Resubmit, Management Science
Press Coverage: HBS Working Knowledge
Abstract: This paper studies the uncertainty associated with screening early-stage ventures. Using data on 652 ventures in high-growth industries, we examine whether experienced entrepreneurs, executives, and investors can predict the outcomes of early-stage ventures by reading succinct summaries of their business ideas without meeting the founding teams. We find that the predictability of venture outcomes varies with the intensity of research and development (R&D) in the sector. In R&D-intensive sectors, such as life sciences, the ideas that elicit more positive evaluations are significantly more likely to reach commercialization and/or to raise substantial funding; this pattern does not hold for ventures in non-R&D-intensive sectors such as enterprise software. Our results suggest that, despite the many uncertainties associated with innovating at the technological frontier, early-stage ventures in R&D-intensive sectors can be screened effectively using information on their non-human capital assets. In contrast, such information is not sufficient to screen ventures in non-R&D-intensive sectors.
The Long-Term Impact of Business Cycles on Innovation: Evidence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
July 2012 [pdf]
Abstract: I explore a novel channel through which short-term economic fluctuations affect the long-run innovative output of the U.S. economy: college graduates’ initial career choices. I develop a two-period Roy-style model to show that shocks to initial career choices could affect long-term patent production by changing graduates' long-term occupational affiliation or changing their acquisition of inventive human capital. Using a newly constructed data set on the patenting history of all individuals obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1980 and 2005, I find that cohorts graduating during economic booms produce significantly fewer patents over the subsequent two decades. A one percentage point decrease in the unemployment rate in the year of scheduled graduation on average decreases the future annual patent output of a cohort by around 5%, or approximately 2.5 patents per year for an average-size cohort. Economic conditions at the time of graduation do not affect the number of graduates who patent or their characteristics. The decrease in patent output of cohorts graduating during booms is a result of lower inventive output from inventors with relatively low GPAs, and marginal patents receive fewer citations than the average and median patents. I find no evidence that initial economic conditions affect inventors' long-term occupational affiliation, suggesting that the effect on patent production is primarily due to differences in inventors' long-term level of inventive human capital.
Research in Progress
Instructor, Technology and Operations Management (first-year required MBA curriculum), Harvard Business School
This course enables students to develop the skills and concepts needed to ensure the ongoing contribution of a firm's operations to its competitive position. It helps them to understand the complex processes underlying the development and manufacture of products as well as the creation and delivery of services.
Instructor, Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development II (first-year required MBA curriculum), Harvard Business School
During FIELD II Global Immersions , students work in small, diverse teams to help solve customer challenges for Global Partner organizations around the world. Using the process of human-centered design, each student team completes a project to help their Global Partner develop or improve a product, service, or experience for a segment of its customers. They will travel to their Global Immersion location for eight days, during which they will meet with their Global Partner, spend time with local consumers testing preliminary ideas and developing new ones, and present their findings to senior management at the Global Partner organization.