HBS Alumni In The Global Economy
The June edition of the HBS Alumni Bulletin focused on Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni operating in the global economy. As a 1973 graduate with a Master Degree in Business Administration (MBA), I was pleased to be one of those featured. Other featured alumni include Sunil Bharti Mittal (Owner/President Manager Program 27, 1999) who is the Founder, Chairman and Group CEO of Bharti Enterprises, one of India’s leading business groups with interests in telecom, retail, financial services, realty and agri-products, and Mark Fields (MBA 1989), Executive Vice President of the Ford Motor Company.
Founded in 1908, HBS is often referred to as the “West Point of Capitalism” due to the many CEOs and top managers who received their formal training in business at the school. In 1920, HBS innovated the case method of research and teaching where students literally sink or swim entirely on the basis of their ability to persuade peers that their analysis and recommended course of action is the right one for the company in question. At HBS, class participation and how well students can communicate their points are everything. Every day for two years, students are given three cases per day to read and analyze, and then discuss with their fellow classmates the next day in class. Students who are the most convincing and able to turn the class in a new direction and win everyone over to their analysis receive the highest grades.
Given the historical position of HBS in the American economy, it’s natural for HBS to lead the effort to embrace the new global economy. At HBS, this has been a two-decades-long journey that could be called “Building a Global Curriculum at HBS.” When I was a student at HBS in the early 1970s, most of the case studies were based on materials that were developed using US company experiences in the context of the United States. According to Krishna Palepu, the Ross Graham Walker Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for International Development who arrived on campus a bit later in 1983, “we never acknowledged that the concepts and theories we were teaching students really were based only on U.S .data. We were teaching them as if they were universal theories.”
In the decades since Plepu and I were at HBS, however, major shifts in geopolitics and business have caused HBS to reshape the way it thinks about management education. China has transformed itself from a poverty-plagued backwater into an economic powerhouse. After the end of the Cold War, the USSR fractured into 15 sovereign states. India, Brazil, and other developing nations have shaken off decades of economic stagnation to achieve remarkable growth. World trade has advanced to the point that capital and products now flow freely around the globe.
All these changes powered an explosion in global creativity and transformed opportunities for MBA graduates. “It became clear that innovation was no longer taking place only in the United States, and that there were different kinds of innovations in different places,” says Palepu.
Under Dean Nitin Nohria, who became the dean of HBS two years ago, the internationalism of HBS has taken on a new sense of urgency. Shortly after becoming dean, Nohria made advancement of the School’s international strategy one of his top five priorities. “Today, HBS would be derelict in its mission if it weren’t preparing the leaders it educates to succeed in a global context,” says Nohria.
How global is HBS today? Consider the following:
• 34 percent of the MBA Class of 2013, representing 68 countries, were born outside the United States.
• 41 percent of all research produced in 2011 was global in scope and included 181 global cases.
• There are more than 78,000 HBS alumni living in 167 countries.
• 42 percent of the HBS faculty, representing 43 countries, were born outside the United States.
• HBS now has seven global research centers: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, and Palo Alto.
• 900 first-year students at HBS traveled abroad in January to do field projects in 10 countries. 116 second-year students traveled to 6 countries for the school’s January Immersion Experience Program.
• HBS will conduct 23 programs outside the United States in its 2012 fiscal year: China, 9; Europe, 5; India, 7; and Qatar, 2.
The June edition of the HBS Alumni Bulletin coincides with the opening of an HBS classroom in Mumbai, India. The 82-seat amphitheater-style facility, modeled after those on the HBS campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the new home for an expanding roster of executive education programs offered to Indian business leaders.