01 Sep 2013

Leading the Way

Nohria and Hess on preparing the School to meet the challenges of a changing world
Re: Ralph James (MBA 1982); Robert Kaplan


This month, Harvard University unveiled The Harvard Campaign, which aims to strengthen the University's financial foundations and enable new investments and initiatives. As part of this endeavor, The Harvard Business School Campaign—set to launch in April 2014—aims to find new ways to engage with alumni as it seeks to fulfill the School's mission of making a difference in the world. While details will be announced next spring, Dean Nitin Nohria and John Hess (AB 1975, MBA 1977), CEO of Hess Corporation and chair of The Harvard Business School Campaign, met recently to discuss the upcoming five-year campaign and what it means for the future of the School, as well as the need for HBS to educate leaders who will help solve the complex challenges facing the world today.

The Campaign

Nitin Nohria: The Harvard Business School Campaign offers us an opportunity to think strategically about how we continue to set the standard for business education. What must we do to ensure we remain an institution that educates leaders who make a difference in the world 10, 25, or even 50 years from now?

This is a mission the world desperately needs us to fulfill. Business has the power to transform institutions across all sectors of society, and it plays a critical role in addressing complex, entrenched challenges like health care, education, and the environment. Our faculty can help here; working together, the ideas they develop have the potential to influence thought leaders and to reshape management practice. Our alumni, too, have a crucial role to play. HBS graduates are in every part of the economy, in every industry, and in every geography of the world. To the extent we leverage this collective expertise and experience, I believe we can effect change.

That's one of the many reasons why I am so delighted to work with John in his role as Campaign chair. He truly understands the value of business to society and how our graduates can have a lasting, positive impact on their organizations and on their communities. John has long been a thoughtful advocate and supporter of both Harvard Business School and Harvard University, as well as a leader in the worlds of business and social responsibility.

John Hess: My experience at HBS was transformational. HBS faculty pushed me to think differently about leadership and how to solve problems, and I was inspired by the passion of my classmates and the energy of our class discussions. In my conversations with HBS students, I feel that same energy and enthusiasm. Students today are so appreciative of this educational opportunity and excited about touching countless lives and making a true difference in the world.

I believe that's critical, because the business world is facing a crisis of confidence. We all must work to regain the public trust. HBS is committed to educating and developing leaders—as Nitin has described, people of both competence and character, and people who create prosperity for society.

The Importance of Innovation

NN: The 20th-century model of capitalism and democracy working together created prosperity for about a billion people around the world. The challenge ahead is to ensure that the other 8 billion people on the planet are brought into this circle as well.

Our ability to educate leaders who can meet that enormous challenge depends on how well we innovate. We have a remarkably strong foundation on which to build, but we also must keep pushing forward and finding new ways to stay ahead of a rapidly changing business world. In recent years, the School has begun advancing a number of new initiatives, including the i-lab, the field method, and online education. These are not the kinds of initiatives that we can implement incrementally. Their impact comes from the focus we bring to all our endeavors: an understanding of what makes us distinctive, a commitment to our mission, and the courage to lead. As anyone involved with any of these endeavors can tell you, this is an intense process, and one that requires investment on many levels.

JH: Keeping our leadership position in business education is critical. I believe that an investment in the School is ultimately an investment in a better world—one led by alumni who build more effective, sustainable institutions and organizations and inspire hope and opportunity in communities around the world.

Nitin has set out an ambitious agenda for the School—exactly what is needed to educate the next generation of leaders in business and the world. HBS educates some 900 of these problem-solving leaders and thousands of executives every year. Leadership is about getting results, and the School is on a great trajectory.

The Importance of Engagement

NN: One of the things we've heard from our graduates is that HBS can play a powerful role in creating mechanisms for alumni to connect with each other and the School on impor-tant and timely issues and topics. We are working hard to explore ways to do this at a level and with a degree of intimacy that we've never been able to achieve in the past. My hope is that by the end of 2014, we will have a good pilot that demonstrates how we might do alumni engagement in a very different way.

JH: I believe that energizing the alumni community is vital to the School's mission. It is critical that each of us as leaders takes responsibility to do all we can to support HBS at this time. The School's more than 78,000 alumni play an integral role in pushing forward to improve the world we live in. I'm honored to be working with Nitin and the School's great leadership team—including Ralph James (MBA 1982) and Professors Rob Kaplan (MBA 1983) and Bill Sahlman (MBA 1975, PhDBE 1982)—to meet this challenge. I'm also excited to meet with my fellow alumni around the world and to hear their ideas about how HBS can continue to make a difference.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1977, Section A

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