We report the results of a field experiment that randomly placed unemployed young people as apprentices with small firms in Ghana and included no cash subsidy to firms (or workers) beyond in-kind recruitment services. Treated firms experienced increases in firm size of approximately half a worker and firm profits of approximately 10 percent for each apprentice placement offered, documenting frictions to novice hiring.
IGL Trials Database
IGL curates a database with randomised controlled trials in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth. Browse our list of topics, see it as a map, or use the search function below.
This study is focused on the relationship between borrowing constraints, access to cutting-edge technology and information about cutting-edge technology on the performance of U.S. online businesses. With the help of two large U.S. technology companies we will be able to randomize access to loans and free cloud computing credits (as well as information about the potential use of technology) to otherwise identical (generally small, but fast growing) firms, to see if they will have a causal impact on firm development.
We conducted two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the impact of government-guaranteed loans offered by the Chilean and Colombian governments. The public funds of these programs greatly expanded following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and offered loans to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to mitigate the negative impact of the shock. Through a collaboration with private banks, we launched two experiments which offered loans to a sub-set of the 10,072 Chilean and 3,079 Colombian small businesses that took part in our experiments.
This article reports the results of a randomized field experiment that tested the effects of a new business intervention among managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in England.
Individual managers (learners) were randomly assigned in clusters (companies) to either an intervention group (265 learners; 40 SMEs) receiving a novel virtual, blended training program designed to stimulate a change in management behavior or a no-intervention group (118 learners; 22 SMEs).
Measuring the returns of advertising opportunities continues to be a challenge for many businesses. We design and run a field experiment in collaboration with Yelp across 18,294 firms in the restaurant industry to understand which types of businesses gain more from digital advertising. We randomly assign 7,209 restaurants to freely receive Yelp’s standard ads package for three months. The scale of the experiment gives us a unique opportunity to assess the heterogeneity in advertising effectiveness across a variety of business attributes.
Effective workplace management plays a crucial role in determining employee performance, retention, and subsequently, overall firm performance. While conventional management strategies often emphasize hierarchical relationships, peer-to-peer management, or "managing across," represents a promising yet largely unexplored approach. This study aims to investigate the impact of peer-to-peer management training on various employee outcomes and identify the conditions under which the intervention proves most effective.
Whose problems do investors see as worth solving? I experimentally study how investors evaluate a startup idea based on the socioeconomic background of the founder, the target customer, and the (in)congruence between the two. I am also interested in how the socioeconomic background of investors themselves affect these evaluations. I aim to contribute to the research on diversity and inequality in entrepreneurial funding in which socioeconomic backgrounds have been relatively understudied.
Management strategies significantly influence worker productivity, retention, career growth, and the overall performance of a firm. Traditional top-down approaches have typically underscored the importance of supervisors in shaping managerial quality and employee performance. Much research suggests that training supervisors to effectively manage their subordinates may be a useful way to enhance supervisor-worker relationships and, in turn, boost firm productivity. However, these approaches may face two primary challenges.
In an RCT with US small businesses, we document that a large share of firms are not well-informed about bankruptcy. Many assume that bankruptcy necessarily entails the death of a business and do not know about Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where debts are renegotiated so that the business can continue operating. Small businesses are also unaware of a recent major reform that lowered the costs of bankruptcy procedures to enhance their protection.
Does growth training help entrepreneurs scale-up new ventures? Our field experiment answers this question using data from 181 Singapore-based, early-growth entrepreneurs drawn from a broad range of industry sectors. Treatment content focused on three growth-catalyst tools relevant for formulating and executing innovation-led growth: business-model design, leveraging external networks, building internal teams. Treatment format comprised interactive lecture sessions and workshops on these tools supplemented by personalized coaching in applying the tools to entrepreneurs’ specific challenges.
Failure is widely acknowledged as a critical component of the organizational learning and innovation processs. Learning from failure, in particular, seems extremely relevant in the context of entrepreneurship, where failure often emerges as the predominant outcome. Remarkably, most entrepreneurship training programs predominantly emphasize success stories of entrepreneurs, without leveraging the learning potential that come from stories of failure.
We examine the productivity effects of a generative artificial intelligence technology—the assistive chatbot ChatGPT—in the context of mid-level professional writing tasks. In a preregistered online experiment, we assign occupation-specific, incentivized writing tasks to 444 college-educated professionals, and randomly expose half of them to ChatGPT. Our results show that ChatGPT substantially raises average productivity: time taken decreases by 0.8 SDs and output quality rises by 0.4 SDs.
Entrepreneurs in developing countries face a series of diverse constraints to growth, including lack of access to business skills, markets, and finance. The binding constraints vary from firm to firm, implying that the returns to possible interventions are likely to be heterogeneous.
As more and more activities in the economy become digitized, analytics and data-driven decision-making (DDD) are becoming increasingly important. The adoption of analytics and DDD has been slower in small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) compared to large firms, and reliable causal estimates of the impacts of analytics tools for small businesses have been lacking. We derive experiment-based estimates of the effect of an analytics tool on SME outcomes, analyzing the randomized introduction of eBay’s Seller Hub (SH), a data-rich seller dashboard.
This study examines the influence of information constraints on firms’ efficiency in using digital technologies, focusing on business websites. Through two natural field experiments in the UK, we provide firms with benchmarked performance information on their websites. The experimental designs enable us to assess the salience of the information provided and heterogeneity linked to prior experience and catch-up potential.
We evaluate the impact of a training program aimed at improving the relational atmosphere in the workplace. The program encourages prosocial behavior and the use of professional language, focusing primarily on leaders’ behavior and leader-subordinate interactions. We implement this program using a clustered randomized design involving over 3,000 headquarters employees of 20 large corporations in Turkey. We evaluate the program with respect to employee separation, pro- and antisocial behavior, the prevalence of support networks, and perceived workplace climate.
We document interest in labor reallocation among small firm owners in Ghana; 60% and 41%, respectively, self-report willingness to hire or work for the average local firm owner. Firm owners also exhibit high willingness-to-pay for information on a random subset of hiring firms and jobseeking firm owners, during a Becker-Degroot-Marschak exercise. Conditionally random variation in access to this information generates immediate labor adjustments within and between firms, though rarely of firm owners themselves, and impacts firm closure 5-months post-intervention.
Drawing the attention of innovators to climate change is important for green innovation. We report an email field experiment with MIT using messages about the impact of climate change to invite innovators (SBIR grantees) to apply to a technology competition. We vary our messages on the time frame and scale of the human cost of climate change across scientifically valid scenarios. Innovator attention (clicks) is sensitive to climate change messaging. These changes in clicks also predict higher application rates.
Can a set of low-cost behavioural nudges encourage more small businesses to adopt productivity-raising digital technologies? This randomised controlled trial sought to test whether businesses could be nudged into using a cloud-based system to improve the efficiency of invoice processing. All participants in the trial were offered access to the system free of charge for a 12-month period, with a treatment group receiving weekly email reminders to make use of the system.
Effective managers play a vital role in successful teams by creating a positive and productive team environment, assigning tasks, setting clear goals and expectations, and facilitating communication and collaboration among team members. In this paper, we employ a distinctive experimental design to identify the marginal advantage of effective managers, and the specific attributes that yield the greatest benefits to team performance.
We study the allocation and productivity consequences of training production line supervisors in soft skills via a randomized controlled trial. Consistent with standard practice for training investments within firms, we asked middle managers – who sit above supervisors in the hierarchy – to nominate members of their supervisory team for training. Program access was randomized within these recommendation rankings. Highly recommended supervisors experienced no productivity gains; in contrast, less recommended supervisors’ productivity increased 12% relative to controls.
Although entrepreneurship training programs are designed to help necessity entrepreneurs acquire skills and capabilities to take entrepreneurial action, participants in these programs often fail to do so. In partnership with a local government agency, we conducted a randomized field experiment involving 165 entrepreneurs in rural Tanzania where in addition to providing technical-skills training, approximately half of the participants also received “growth mindset” psychological training.
Many school systems across the globe turned to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This context differs significantly from the prepandemic situation in which massive open online courses attracted large numbers of voluntary learners who struggled with completion. Students who are provided online courses by their high schools also have their behavior determined by actions of their teachers and school system.
Can artificial intelligence (AI) assist human employees in increasing employee creativity? Drawing on research on AI-human collaboration, job design, and employee creativity, we examine AI assistance in the form of a sequential division of labor within organizations: in a task, AI handles the initial portion which is well-codified and repetitive, and employees focus on the subsequent portion involving higher-level problem-solving. First, we provide causal evidence from a field experiment conducted at a telemarketing company.
Agricultural extension programs often train a few farmers and count on diffusion through social networks for the innovation to spread. However, if markets are imperfectly integrated, this may also inflict negative externalities. In a two-step experiment of an agronomy training program among Rwandan coffee farmers, we first randomize the concentration of trainees at the village level and then randomly select within each village. Knowledge increased, and yields were 6.7% higher for trained farmers.
We use a field experiment to test whether financial incentives can improve the quality of apprenticeship training. Trainers (firm owners) in the treatment group participated in a tournament incentive scheme where they received a payment based on their apprentices’ rank-order performance on a skills assessment. Trainers in the control group received a fixed payment based on their apprentices’ participation in the assessment. Performance on the assessment was higher in the treatment group.
Early-stage researchers (ESRs - PhDs and Post-docs) are repeatedly touted as an untapped source of high-potential entrepreneurship. However, most entrepreneurship initiatives have either focused on undergraduate students or on consolidated scientists (PIs and professors). We argue that attempts to translate these initiatives to engage early-stage researchers (ESRs) are missing the positive impact of entrepreneurship beyond the direct commercialization of scientific outputs.
We study the demand for government participation in China’s venture capital and private equity market. We conduct a large-scale, non-deceptive field experiment in collaboration with the leading industry service provider, through which we survey both sides of the market: the capital investors and the private firms managing the invested capital by deploying it to high-growth entrepreneurs. Our respondents together account for nearly $1 trillion in assets under management.
What is preventing entrepreneurs and managers from forming peer connections themselves? This paper argues that entrepreneurs may be under-networked because they lack the necessary social skills that allow them to match efficiently with knowledgeable peers.
We study direct productivity changes and spillovers after a randomized training program for the frontline workers in a Colombian government agency. While trained workers improved their individual production, we also find substantial spillovers that affected managers' productivity. We use email data and a survey to explore the mechanisms behind these spillovers and find that managers' increased output arises from reductions in the need to help lower level employees.