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Priorities for 2019: A Conversation with Dean Nohria

For many decades, HBS has shown extraordinary thought leadership. Many concepts common to the language of global business have been introduced by HBS faculty members, ranging from John Litner’s Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), Bob Kaplan’s Balanced Scorecard, Michael Porter’s Five Forces, to Clay Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation. Now, HBS is set to do it again—this time, collectively. “The world’s problems today require increasingly interdisciplinary and international teams,” says Nohria. “We’ve always had incredible individual faculty members, but now we are focusing as well on tackling problems more collectively, such as through our U.S. Competitiveness, Managing the Future of Work, and Behavioral Finance & Financial Stability projects.” By having faculty members work closely with cross-cutting interdisciplinary teams, HBS hopes to play a distinctive role in tackling the key social issues of our time, ranging from climate change, health care delivery, poverty, to the future of education. Internationalization From Johannesburg to Shanghai, today HBS has a global network of 14 research centers, which the Harbus covered last month (“How Well Is HBS Internationalizing?” March 2019). This network has helped the School maintain a “glocal” footprint and remain uniquely connected to alumni and local leaders in business, government, and academia. “My predecessor, Kim Clark, was the one who built the first research center in Hong Kong,” says Nohria. “As Dean, it is a humbling experience, as you are really building on the work and wisdom of your predecessors.” Under Dean Nohria, HBS has further expanded its global focus. Whereas three decades ago, less than 10% of approximately 250 field cases produced annually by faculty were global, today, that number exceeds 50%. “We now have more than half our faculty members doing research all over the world,” he says. Inclusion From the outside, HBS is sometimes seen as an institution that welcomes professionals from a narrow set of industries with a culture of conformism. This is a myth. The demography of HBS has become more varied in every way. “In terms of gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, also in terms of economic diversity because of financial aid, HBS has had an increasing ability to attract a far more diverse set of students over time,” says Dean Nohria. Indeed, about half of MBA students now receive fellowships, amounting to roughly 28% of total MBA tuition fees (almost $30 million) in financial aid. Yet there are issues to tackle ahead. One of these, the Dean recognizes, is political diversity. “Political diversity is an area we need to pay more attention to. We need to think about how to make this a source of opportunity instead of a source of division,” he says. The goal, at the end of the day, is to encourage a culture at HBS in which students can celebrate and create inclusive organizations. Integration The last pillar is integration with the broader Harvard community. From a cartographical perspective, HBS has always been isolated from the broader Harvard campus by the Charles River. Yet there is much to be said for how “Harvard Business School” starts with “Harvard.” “A lot can be gained from embracing and leveraging One Harvard. Why not embrace how ‘Harvard’ is the first name of HBS—how can we benefit from being a part of Harvard and contribute back to the University in the same way?” says Dean Nohria. The 2011 opening of the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) unleashed a resource that is now open and widely used by the full Harvard community. Other programs, including the Harvard Business Analytics Program, are being launched in partnership with Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In short, Harvard Business School is making conscious efforts to integrate with the broader Harvard community. The Verdict The world has gotten more divisive and less inclusive. The role HBS will play in addressing such concerns will undoubtedly be large. With every new initiative, students and faculty of HBS become better prepared to tackle such challenges. Yet amidst wide-ranging change, at least one thing stands the test of time: HBS educates leaders who make a difference in the world.

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