From Matthew Yglesias’s column in Slate:
In theory, executive compensation schemes linked to stock market performance are supposed to focus managers on the long view. But in practice, the opposite seems to be the case. In an impressive paper published in April 2013, Alexander Ljungqvist, Joan Farre-Mensa, and John Asker found that publicly traded firms systematically under-invest compared to privately held ones. The effect is larger in sectors where stock market swings are more closely tied to quarterly earnings reports, indicating that what they call “managerial myopia” is likely the culprit. In other words, when you pay executives to increase the share price, they focus on increasing the share price—even when that means focusing on headline numbers in the next quarterly financial report rather than on the long term.
Changes their orientation, in other words. If you read this closely, you can see the effect of incestuous amplification: “Of course our strategy is working! Can’t you see the share price going up every quarter?”
To paraphrase Yglesias’s argument, companies that don’t obsess on quarterly profit growth open up a range of options. If you read his entire column, you can see that the real secret of Amazon’s continued success is that it uses these options to operate inside customers’ and competitors’ OODA loops.