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HBS Dean: School’s Biggest Challenge Is Lack Of Trust In Capitalism

HBS Dean Nitin Nohria

In an interview Tuesday (April 2) with The Harvard Crimson, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria said the biggest challenge HBS faces is a widespread lack of faith in capitalism — and he outlined steps the school is taking to reassure society that Harvard and the capitalist system are productive.

“We — as a school that has often been associated with business, which is closely associated with capitalism — need to ask, ‘What can we do to make sure that society’s trust in capitalism remains strong and can be rebuilt?’” Nohria said. He noted that HBS has added courses recently

“We are trying to find ways that we can engage our students in those kinds of conversations, all the way from having a second-year course called ‘Reimagining Capitalism’ that has become one of our most successful second year electives, to now trying to bring that material back into the first year of our MBA curriculum,” he said.


The Crimson article notes that Gallup has reported a shift in public opinion on capitalism that is especially pronounced among young Americans, with fewer than half of 18- to 29-year-old respondents having a positive view of capitalism in 2018 — a 12 percentage point decline in the past two years. Harvard Business School’s response will go beyond coursework, Nohria said, to include research and “projects on the future world” that go beyond the traditional scope of business schools.

“(The business school focuses on) research that relies on what can business do to address questions that historically people may have thought of as being in the public realm, whether it’s healthcare, K-through-12 education, workforce retraining,” he said. That includes directing resources toward economically under-developed and marginalized communities, he added.

“We’re now trying to ask the question, ‘How do we more seriously get engaged with the American heartland and think harder about parts of America that feel left behind?’ What we can do to bring more economic opportunity?” he said.


The Crimson, the daily student newspaper at Harvard, noted that the school has increased its efforts to proselytize its message and philosophy beyond Cambridge — and to counter the view of Harvard as a bastion of liberal elitism.

But Nohria said the school’s biggest area of concern now is addressing underlying distrust in the economic framework of the United States.

“It’s really important for business to regain the trust of society,” he said. “Harvard Business School needs to more proactively think about how to do that.”