Kristina McElheran

Assistant Professor

Phone: (416) 287-7408
Location: IC 270


Kristina McElheran joined the University of Toronto in 2014 after five years at the Harvard Business School and one year as a visiting scholar at MIT. She has long been fascinated by the changes that information technology has been fuelling in the inner workings of firms and in the economy, more broadly. Trained as an economist, Kristina conducts empirical research on the link between information technology, firm performance, and the organizational and market contexts that enable firms to thrive in the digital age. Her work has been featured in Management Science, the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Harvard Business Review, and Communications of the ACM.

Kristina’s teaching focus is on corporate strategy, with an emphasis on the linkages between strategy formulation, strategy execution, and capability development within firms. She has a passion for studying and teaching about the process and strategy of innovation and, more recently, how firms are responding to the “big data” craze.

Prior to her academic career, Kristina worked for two start-up technology companies in Silicon Valley. The first, Risk Management Solutions, has become a leading provider of products and services for managing risks associated with natural disasters. The second, Exemplary Software, provided collaborative web-based supply chain management solutions.

Kristina’s PhD (2009) in Managerial Economics and Strategy comes from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She also holds a Diploma in Economics (1999) from the London School of Economics, as well as a Master's degree (1994) in International Development Policy and a Bachelor's degree (1993) in Political Science from Stanford University.

She is looking for new and creative ways to measure how firms use Cloud-based technologies to collect, manage, and leverage data. There is a growing disconnect between how much firms spend on technology and what they are using. We desperately need to bridge the gap to sustain good research. A hurdle is that we need huge numbers of observations and the ability to link to performance metrics (e.g., sales, productivity, etc.). Standard data sets like the Census data and Harte Hanks are helpful but not innovative enough to identify this activity.

Connect with Kristina on LinkedIn


Ph.D. in Managerial Economics and Strategy (2009)
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University
Dissertation: Market Position and Organizational Structure in Information Technology Investment
Committee: Shane Greenstein, Scott Stern, Ranjay Gulati, Leemore Dafny

Diploma in Economics, with credit (1999)
London School of Economics

A.M. in International Development Policy (1994)
A.B. in Political Science, with distinction (1993)
Stanford University

Undergraduate studies in political philosophy and French (1988-1991)
B.A. in French, summa cum laude (awarded 1993)
Albion College


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2013–present)
Visiting Scholar & Digital Fellow, Initiative on the Digital Economy 
Sloan School of Management

Harvard University (2018–present)
Visiting Researcher, AI Robotics and the Future of Work
Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

Boston University (2018–present)
Fellow, Technology & Policy Research Initiative

Research Interests

Kristina’s research focuses on the use of IT and data in firms, with an emphasis on organizational design and strategy, including delegation, vertical integration, diversification, competition and supply chain linkages. She enjoys Special Sworn Status at the U.S. Census Bureau but is constantly looking for new and better data on the types of IT investments and IT-related practices that firms are pursuing and how they structure themselves to take advantage of them.

Research themes: Innovation and technological change, digitization, information technology, corporate strategy, organizational economics, managerial decision-making, industrial organization.

Awards & Grants

Kauffman Knowledge Challenge Grant, joint with Erik Brynjolfsson (2018)

Kauffman Knowledge Challenge Grant, joint with James Bessen, Michael J. Meurer, and Robert Seamans (2018)

NBER Digitization Working Group Research Grant (2018)

Best paper nominee, Strategic Management Society Conference, Oslo, Norway (2018)

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2017)

SSHRC Insight Grant (2017)

NBER Entrepreneurship Working Group Research Grant (2016)

SSHRC Institutional Grant, University of Toronto (2016)

Connaught New Researcher Award, University of Toronto (2015)

Finalist, Best Paper Award, Workshop on Information Systems and Economics [WISE] (2015)

Finalist, Oliver E. Williamson Best Conference Paper Award, ISNIE Annual Conference (2014)

U.S. – Israel Binational Science Foundation Grant, joint with Naomi Hausman (2013)

Finalist, Best Dissertation Award, Technology & Innovation Management (TIM) Division, Academy of Management (2010)

Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management (2008)

Finalist, Best Student Paper – TIM Division, Academy of Management (2008)

Phi Beta Kappa, Stanford University (1993)


Find Research and set up alerts 

The Rapid Rise of Data-Driven Decision Making,” (with Erik Brynjolfsson), American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 2016, 106(5), 133-139.

Do Market Leaders Lead in Business Process Innovation? The Case(s) of E-Business Adoption,” Management Science, 61(6) June 2015, 1197-1216. Lead article.

Delegation in Multi-Establishment Firms: Adaptation vs. Coordination in I.T. Purchasing Authority,” Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 23(2), Summer 2014, pp. 225-257. Lead article.

Book Chapters

“Pitfalls of Data-Driven Decisions: Cognitive Biases and Data-Driven Decision Making” (with Megan MacGarvie), November 15, 2016. The HBR Guide to Data Analytics Basics for Managers (e-book). Harvard Business Publishing, Cambridge, MA.
Submitted/Circulating Working Papers
“Firm Organization in the Digital Age: IT Use and Vertical Transactions in U.S. Manufacturing,” (with Chris Forman). 2nd round at Management Science.
Economies Before Scale: Learning, Survival, and Performance of Young Plants in the Age of Cloud Computing” (with Wang Jin). Nominated for best paper, Strategic Management Society Special Conference, Oslo (2018) and SMS Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (2019) SSRN working paper series. 
“Data in Action: Data-Driven Decision Making in U.S. Manufacturing” (with Erik Brynjolfsson). Center for Economic Studies Discussion Papers #CES 16-06, U.S. Census Bureau.
The Effects of Technology Adoption on Firms, Supply Chains, and Rivals” (with John Bai, Wang Jin, and Ryan Williams). SSRN working paper series.
Economic Measurement of AI” – presented at the NBER Economics of AI conference, Toronto, September 2018. Video link.

Other Publications

“Data Analytics: From Bias to Better Decisions”, with Megan MacGarvie, Rotman Management Magazine, fall 2018. Video link.
Taking a Value-Chain Perspective on Innovation,” Sloan Management Review, online October 25, 2016.
“Data-Driven Decision Making: Closing the Skills Gap,” Interview by Karen Christensen in Rotman Management Magazine, fall 2016, pp. 107-110.
The Rise of Data-Driven Decision Making is Real but Uneven,” (with Erik Brynjolfsson) Harvard Business Review, online February 3, 2016. 
“Decentralization vs. Centralization in IT Governance: It’s Not as Simple as You Might Think,” Communications of the ACM, no. 11, November 2012, pp. 28-30
“The Short Life of Online Sales Leads,” (with James B. Oldroyd and David Elkington) Harvard Business Review 89(3), March 2011, p. 28
“Productivity Leadership and Strategic Investments in Innovation: The Adoption of E-Business Capabilities,” Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, George T. Solomon (Ed.), 2008