Innovation in the Beer Industry
Due Monday 25 January
Hard Copy in Class
Please see this website for (generic) paper guidelines. Your paper should be proofread, cleanly printed with 11pt Times Roman or equivalent font, double-spaced with 1″ margins. Equally, prose should be appropriate to the context. You need a good topic, clearly stated (typically in the first paragraph, often in the first sentence) and concisely phrased. You should not use the passive voice except to vary the rhythm of your prose. A conclusion is not a paper summary – there is no good reason why you should waste the reader’s time by summarizing a short paper! And so on.
How did technology transform the beer industry in the 19th and early 20th century?
My basic claim is that beer was a high-tech industry in the United States of the 19th century. The pace of change slowed thereafter, but new technologies were still being brought into play into the 1930s, and firms today continue to refine these. Furthermore, the development of new business methods came later, as firms gradually realized ways to take advantage of an expanded production possibility frontier.(Note 1)
But don’t worry much about where the “high tech” time-line should be brought to an end. You need to be selective, and there’s plenty to look at in this earlier period.
So: focus on one innovation or set of closely related innovations. How did they affect the nature of the product? the cost structure of producers? the size of the market and the size of brewers? other elements of business strategy, such as product characteristics? This is merely an illustrative set of issues: not all of these questions are relevant for every innovation.
Remember that this is an economics paper. Use jargon to the extent that you know it. This is our initial paper, early in the term. So far we have not developed much theory to help you elicit causal links or to understand the implications of one or another aspect of market structure. Don’t fret over that. Rather, view this paper as a way to begin raising questions that we ought to address throughout the term.
Note: Management is itself a technology, and organizational innovations are necessary to realize the full benefits of “hard” technology.