Sustainability (Apr 2020)

To Wait or Not to Wait? Use the Flexibility to Postpone Investment Decisions in Theory and in Practice

  • Azzurra Morreale,
  • Luigi Mittone,
  • Thi-Thanh-Tam Vu,
  • Mikael Collan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 3451
p. 3451


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Business sustainability and real options are closely connected, as real options are managerial flexibility that allows organizations to adapt to changes in their environment, thus making the organization more robust and economically sustainable. Studies in real options theory abound, yet there is still a lack of evidence on whether people make decisions consistently with the predictions made by real options models. We run a laboratory experiment to study the role of option value and the laboratory time required to resolve uncertainty in individuals’ decision to price and adopt an option to wait. Specifically, we compare decision makers’ choices in two investment scenarios: One with a short time to maturity (implying a low option value), and another with a longer time to maturity (implying a high option value). In the lab, both scenarios are implemented with the waiting time of twenty and sixty minutes. Our results show that decision makers deviate from the theoretical predictions, recognizing the benefit of waiting, when the value of the option is higher, or when the waiting time is shorter. Our study does not only bring more insights into real options adoption at the individual level, but also emphasizes the great potential of behavioral and experimental approach to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the real options literature.