Should economists intern in business?

I make that suggestion.

Economists continue to describe entrepreneurs as solving problems of resource allocation, when in fact business executives worry internally about talent development and culture. They worry externally about strategy in a complex environment.

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8 Responses to Should economists intern in business?

  1. collin says:

    It is a reasonable point but what constitutes the right internship or job experience?

    1) I find most interns to be mostly busy work corporate ladder climbers that pretend to work with keyboard trolls. I assumed it was good training for somebody who accomplished little but shows on their powerpoint what they accomplished. (TBH I have seen less interns than years past and I am sure there are very good hardworking ones.)

    2) Shouldn’t economic PHd (especially labor ones) do low end keyboard troll or working jobs as well? There is a lot work here as well and merely resources. (Given the current US economic situation of 4.1% unemployment, this is becoming a bigger piece of corporate talent.)

  2. Bill Drissel says:

    > in fact business executives worry internally about talent development and culture. They worry externally about strategy in a complex environment.

    … and cash flow!

    Bill Drissel
    Frisco, TX

  3. Richard Fulmer says:

    Perhaps having economists in academia do more research under contract to government and private companies would help ground them in the real world.

    A couple of nits to pick:
    1. You seem to equate entrepreneurs and business executives in the first paragraph in the “Naïve and anachronistic” section of your paper. Business executives tend to be more managerial than entrepreneurial.
    2. In the second paragraph of the same section you state that it’s “impossible to isolate and measure any one person’s marginal product.” While that’s true, my experience has been that anyone joining a team can quickly decide whom to ask when he or she has questions. Moreover, in a week or two, the new team member can pretty accurately divide the other members into three groups: those who are the main workhorses, those who are competent contributors, and those who are just along for the ride.

  4. JohnB says:

    That’s a false dichotomy: “talent development and culture” is “resource allocation”. In creative-, sales-, or tech-oriented businesses, the human talent is the most important resource the business has.

  5. Perhaps the most important insight of C20th economics — transaction costs — came from a young economist asking business folk how they made their decision to produce inside or buy from outside the firm. More of that might be useful.

  6. Jay says:

    How distinct is strategy from resource allocation? If you tell me what a company is willing to spend money on, I can take a pretty decent guess at its strategy (and vice versa).

  7. Ryan says:

    Such a great idea. I went straight from college into the PhD. Some of my peers had worked in business (usually consulting) between college and PhD and I envy them. Unfortunately the profession makes it very costly to do this *after* the PhD; returning to academia is nearly impossible without fresh research. Maybe people who have sabbaticals should use them for this.

  8. Scott Gustafson says:

    One of the requirements for my thesis was that it solved a real world problem for a customer and that they implemented the solution. We called it research rather than an internship.

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