The Five Priorities of Nitin Nohria

Intellectual Ambition

The second priority is a recommitment to our intellectual ambition. At Harvard Business School, we have, since our founding, been committed to pursuing ideas that have power in practice. In fact, this commitment—to developing ideas with impact no just in academia, but also in practice and in policy—is a vital part of our identity and DNA.

HBS FACULTY HAS HAD A DISPROPORTIONATE SHARE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS IN MANAGEMENT

The results of this approach are extraordinary by any measure: whether it has been the launch of entire new fields of inquiry, such as strategy and organizational behavior, or the creation of a new way of thinking about enduring problems, such as new product development or disruptive innovation, or the development of powerful tools like the capital asset pricing model or the balanced scorecard, or outstanding work that redefines a field, such as business history and entrepreneurship, the Harvard Business School faculty has had a disproportionate share of the most important ideas in management over the last one hundred years.

The difficult problems facing the world today—whether healthcare, energy and environmental sustainability, global poverty and inclusive economic growth, or building a more robust financial system—all, by their very nature, offer new opportunities for the School to demonstrate the importance of an intellectual tradition that is committed to addressing major business challenges and opportunities. And, while no doubt our faculty will continue to develop great ideas individually, where I see particular promise for the School is situations where combinations of faculty—within Harvard Business School and across Harvard University—come together to collaboratively tackle an ambitious intellectual agenda.

THE WORK OF THE FACULTY SHOULD BE NOTHING LESS THAN INSPIRED

To the extent we can create mechanisms to foster these connections and make cross-faculty endeavors even more successful, we plan to do so. We have a number of initiatives underway, including in healthcare and social enterprise, that have demonstrated the value of harnessing faculty, student, and alumni energy on these key topics. We are supporting fledgling efforts in business and the environment, networked businesses, and the modern financial system, among others, where we are seeing clusters of faculty from a range of disciplinary backgrounds bringing creative thinking to contemporary management challenges. The work of the faculty should be nothing less than inspired, and we must enable them to bring their best and most innovative ideas to fruition.

Internationalization

A third priority is internationalization, a topic that continues to come up with remarkable frequency in any conversation. If we assume that innovative practices are often the basis for the formulation of new ideas in a field like management, today, in this Global Century, we must recognize that management ingenuity is found all around the world.

And once we do that, we also have to go back and test many of our long-held beliefs. Are the principles we have developed based on practices in any one country universally true when they are brought to bear in other countries? Are the models of leadership in which we’ve become accustomed equally valid in a global context? How do we become more sensitive to the idea of local contingency?

WILL LEVERAGE SCALE AND SIZE NOT BY GREATLY EXPANDING HARVARD’S PHYSICAL FOOTPRINT, BUT BY EXPANDING ITS INTELLECTUAL FOOTPRINT

Our strategy is to leverage Harvard Business School’s scale and size not by greatly expanding our physical footprint, but by expanding our larger intellectual footprint. We will never be more knowledgeable about Chinese business practice than a faculty member at Tsinghua University, for example. But we can be credibly knowledgeable about Chinese business practice and American business practice and European business practice, and we can bring that knowledge to bear in each of these locations as well as in the United States.

Our plan is to prudently develop the regional centers my predecessors were so perspicacious in starting, so as to facilitate the research and teaching activities that will enable us to form important relationships and develop and test new ideas across the globe. Ultimately, we’ll bring that knowledge back to HBS, and we’ll seek to provide an experience for our students and participants that is unmatched in its global breadth of analysis and understanding.

It’s worth noting here, too, that another important element of our global agenda is our reach. As you are well aware, Harvard is an almost mythical name in many parts of the world, including in emerging economies where the demand for management education is growing at an astounding rate. While Harvard Business School probably can’t satisfy that demand directly, I am intrigued by opportunities to support individuals and institutions as they develop their capacity for teaching business leadership…

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