Joshua Gans

Joshua Gans is Professor of Strategic Management and holds the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. He is the author of The Disruption Dilemma (MIT Press), Prediction Machines, and other books, and coauthor of Innovation + Equality (MIT Press).

  • The Pandemic Information Gap

    The Pandemic Information Gap

    The Brutal Economics of COVID-19

    Joshua Gans

    Why solving the information problem should be at the core of our pandemic response: essential reading about the long-term implications of our current crisis.

    COVID-19 is caused by a virus. The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a lack of good information. A pandemic is essentially an information problem: this is the enlightening and provocative idea at the heart of this book. If we solve the information problem, argues economist Joshua Gans, we can defeat the virus. For example, when we don't know who is infected, we have to act as if everyone is infected. If we actively manage the information problem—if we know who is infected and with whom they had contact—we can suppress the virus or buy time for vaccine development.

    Emphasizing that pandemic-induced economic crises are different from past recessions, Gans maps the phases of the pandemic economy and the information needed at each stage to enable recovery. He argues that we should insulate businesses from failure and workers from job loss, and describes economic policy approaches that would help achieve this. He discusses pandemic communication strategies, privacy and public health information, and methods for handling potential vaccine shortages. To innovate our way out of this crisis, Gans argues, we must think creatively and take the long view. Pandemics may be unpredictable, but they can be planned for, and this book provides a roadmap to do so.

    This is an expanded version of an eBook originally published as Economics in the Age of COVID-19.

    • Paperback $19.95
  • Economics in the Age of COVID-19

    Economics in the Age of COVID-19

    Joshua Gans

    A guide to the pandemic economy: essential reading about the long-term implications of our current crisis.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a firehose of information (much of it wrong) and an avalanche of opinions (many of them ill-founded). Most of us are so distracted by the everyday awfulness that we don't see the broader issues in play. In this book, economist Joshua Gans steps back from the short-term chaos to take a clear and systematic look at how economic choices are being made in response to COVID-19. He shows that containing the virus and pausing the economy—without letting businesses fail and people lose their jobs—are the necessary first steps.

    Gans outlines the phases of the pandemic economy, from containment to reset to recovery and enhancement. Warning against thinking in terms of a “tradeoff” between public health and economic health, Gans explains that containment gives us the opportunity to develop effective testing that will make it safe for people to interact. Once the virus is contained, we will need to pivot toward innovating, and, finally, we will come together to plan how to protect ourselves from future pandemics. He looks at policy tools that might aid an economic recovery, distinguishing between economic losses during a pandemic and a recession.

    Gans lays out the economic choices accessibly but with urgency, leaving politics out of it. Economics in the Age of COVID-19 is essential reading for anyone interested in the long-term implications of our current crisis.

    An open access version of Economics in the Age of COVID-19 for community commentary is available at https://economics-in-the-age-of-covid-19.pubpub.org/

  • Innovation + Equality

    Innovation + Equality

    How to Create a Future That Is More Star Trek Than Terminator

    Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh

    How to get more innovation and more equality.

    Is economic inequality the price we pay for innovation? The amazing technological advances of the last two decades—in such areas as artificial intelligence, genetics, and materials—have benefited society collectively and rewarded innovators handsomely: we get cool smartphones and technology moguls become billionaires. This contributes to a growing wealth gap; in the United States; the wealth controlled by the top 0.1 percent of households equals that of the bottom ninety percent. Is this the inevitable cost of an innovation-driven economy? Economist Joshua Gans and policy maker Andrew Leigh make the case that pursuing innovation does not mean giving up on equality—precisely the opposite. In this book, they outline ways that society can become both more entrepreneurial and more egalitarian.

    All innovation entails uncertainty; there's no way to predict which new technologies will catch on. Therefore, Gans and Leigh argue, rather than betting on the future of particular professions, we should consider policies that embrace uncertainty and protect people from unfavorable outcomes. To this end, they suggest policies that promote both innovation and equality. If we encourage innovation in the right way, our future can look more like the cheerful techno-utopia of Star Trek than the dark techno-dystopia of The Terminator.

    • Hardcover $24.95
    • Paperback $19.95
  • The Disruption Dilemma

    The Disruption Dilemma

    Joshua Gans

    An expert in management takes on the conventional wisdom about disruption, looking at companies that proved resilient and offering managers tools for survival.

    “Disruption” is a business buzzword that has gotten out of control. Today everything and everyone seem to be characterized as disruptive—or, if they aren't disruptive yet, it's only a matter of time before they become so. In this book, Joshua Gans cuts through the chatter to focus on disruption in its initial use as a business term, identifying new ways to understand it and suggesting new tools to manage it.

    Almost twenty years ago Clayton Christensen popularized the term in his book The Innovator's Dilemma, writing of disruption as a set of risks that established firms face. Since then, few have closely examined his account. Gans does so in this book. He looks at companies that have proven resilient and those that have fallen, and explains why some companies have successfully managed disruption—Fujifilm and Canon, for example—and why some like Blockbuster and Encyclopedia Britannica have not. Departing from the conventional wisdom, Gans identifies two kinds of disruption: demand-side, when successful firms focus on their main customers and underestimate market entrants with innovations that target niche demands; and supply-side, when firms focused on developing existing competencies become incapable of developing new ones.

    Gans describes the full range of actions business leaders can take to deal with each type of disruption, from “self-disrupting” independent internal units to tightly integrated product development. But therein lies the disruption dilemma: A firm cannot practice both independence and integration at once. Gans shows business leaders how to choose their strategy so their firms can deal with disruption while continuing to innovate.

    • Hardcover $25.00
    • Paperback $19.95
  • Parentonomics

    Parentonomics

    An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting

    Joshua Gans

    What every parent needs to know about negotiating, incentives, outsourcing, and other strategies to solve the economic management problem that is parenting.

    Like any new parent, Joshua Gans felt joy mixed with anxiety upon the birth of his first child. Who was this blanket-swaddled small person and what did she want? Unlike most parents, however, Gans is an economist, and he began to apply the tools of his trade to raising his children. He saw his new life as one big economic management problem—and if economics helped him think about parenting, parenting illuminated certain economic principles. Parentonomics is the entertaining, enlightening, and often hilarious fruit of his “research.”

    Incentives, Gans shows us, are as risky in parenting as in business. An older sister who is recruited to help toilet train her younger brother for a share in the reward given for each successful visit to the bathroom, for example, could give the trainee drinks of water to make the rewards more frequent. (Economics later offered another, better toilet training solution: outsourcing. For their third child, Gans and his wife put it in the hands of professionals—the day care providers.) Gans gives us the parentonomic view of delivery (if the mother shares her pain by yelling at the father, doesn't it really create more aggregate pain?), sleep (the screams of a baby are like an offer: “I'll stop screaming if you give me attention”), food (a question of marketing), travel (“the best thing you can say about traveling with children is that they are worse than baggage”), punishment (and threat credibility), birthday party time management, and more.

    Parents: if you're reading Parentonomics in the presence of other people, you'll be unable to keep yourself from reading the funny parts out loud. And if you're reading it late at night and wake a child with your laughter—well, you'll have some guidelines for negotiating a return to bed.

    • Hardcover $5.75
    • Paperback $15.95