Are Overconfident CEOs Better Innovators?

David Hirshleifer, Angie Low, and Siew Hong Teoh

Journal of Finance, August 2012


Previous empirical work on adverse consequences of CEO overconfidence raises the question of why firms would hire overconfident managers. Theoretical research suggests a reason, that overconfidence can sometimes benefit shareholders by increasing investment in risky projects. Using options- and press-based proxies for CEO overconfidence, we find that over the 1993-2003 period, firms with overconfident CEOs have greater return volatility, invest more in innovation, obtain more patents and patent citations, and achieve greater innovative success for given research and development (R&D) expenditure. Overconfident managers only achieve greater innovation than non-overconfident managers in innovative industries. Our findings suggest that overconfidence may help CEOs exploit innovative growth opportunities.

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