The $100M Facelift At Thunderbird School Of Global Management

Thunderbird School of Global Management Dean Sanjeev Khagram: “T-bird” now positioned to produce leaders who “advance cooperation worldwide to build lasting and equitable prosperity, working across industries and disciplines.”

Why is Thunderbird focusing on training leaders for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”?

Technology is transforming business processes, changing societal dynamics and influencing government policies. This new era requires a new kind of leader.

The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to enable mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now, a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, but results are not guaranteed. That’s why global leadership is critical. 

Looking back at the impact of earlier industrial revolutions, the benefits came with significant costs. Many people were left behind. The costs of those earlier industrial revolutions were high: slums, child labor, social deprivation, environmental destruction, and job loss. The Fourth Industrial Revolution offers incredible promise to engender sustainable prosperity and address planetary challenges, using new tools to ensure that everyone benefits from international trade and cooperation and to find solutions to our most pressing health, educational, and business challenges.

What is the underpinning of your new strategy? 

Right now, there is a backlash against globalization, open markets and free trade — and forces against a world that values the free flow of human and financial capital; goods and services; as well as ideas, cultures, and languages. Economic conditions have given rise to extreme wealth inequality and poverty. The brightest minds must work together to produce leaders that can respond to these global challenges.

On a personal note, my own history has influenced my life’s work. I grew up in Uganda, and in the early 1970s, President Idi Amin expelled 100,000 Asian Indians from the country, including my family. We were one of the wealthiest families in the country and lost everything overnight. We landed in a refugee camp in Italy before coming to America. Up close, I saw the inextricable links between political stability, business, and sustainable prosperity.

Why is tackling sustainability a priority?

Increasingly, firms understand the importance of sustainability as a core competence in their business practices. It is difficult to comprehend the impact of human activity on the earth. Emerging technologies will provide new ways to address global challenges, but it is important for leaders to know not just how to leverage them, but also how to mitigate new threats created by these new tools. Going forward, we need to acknowledge the incredible power that modern society possesses, and direct it toward finding a new and more sustainable way of living and of generating wealth. 

This is happening already with Fourth Industrial Revolution technology. For example, agriculture is embracing new technologies. An estimated 250 species of weeds have become resistance to herbicides. Farmers know that precision spraying can help prevent pesticide resistance and are now able to use automation and robotics to attack the weeds directly and spray efficiently. This precision technology eliminates 80 per cent of the chemicals normally sprayed on crops and can reduce herbicide expenditures by 90 per cent. 

Any last thoughts?

The future health and prosperity of society will be defined by how we lead and manage this era. Leaders who understand global issues at a deep level must advance cooperation worldwide to build lasting and equitable prosperity, working across industries and disciplines. Thunderbird is now best positioned to deliver on this mission.

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