John A. Quelch, Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for International Development, became the leader of the School's Global Initiative last August. A veteran HBS faculty member who recently spent three years as Dean of the London Business School, Quelch brings to his new role a broad expertise in global business practice, especially in the area of international marketing.

Working with the Global Initiative's executive director Kathleen Cooke Ryan and a steering group of senior faculty, Quelch has spent his first few months on the job getting a sense of the current scope of the School's international activities and assessing the degree to which the initiative is serving faculty research needs. "This is a brand-new position, and I don't have an official job description," he notes. "That frees me up to do a lot of exploring."

To date, that exploration has involved meetings with forty HBS faculty members involved in a wide variety of research endeavors. "If Harvard Business School only knew what Harvard Business School knows," Quelch observes with a wry smile. "There is so much going on at this place — so many fascinating research projects all over the world — that keeping current with what one's colleagues are up to is a major challenge. Some part of my job, I expect, will be just to play a role in connecting the dots."

Could you describe the mission of the Global Initiative today?

HBS has been involved in international activities throughout its history, but the fundamental purpose of the Global Initiative is to ensure our intellectual leadership through the development of research and course materials that are truly international in scope and impact. We're interested in identifying and researching the most important international management problems that business leaders will face in the future.

How do the HBS research centers in Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere fit into this effort?

The research centers you mentioned — along with a new European Research Center in Paris and a satellite office of the Asia- Pacific Research Center that will open soon in Tokyo — are the primary tools for achieving the initiative's objective. The centers enable faculty members to meet key research contacts, they provide assistance in the generation and gathering of data, and they assist in the preparation of cases. The centers' executive directors are not passive implementers; their feedback and ideas are helpful in shaping our intellectual agenda, as is the counsel of our regional advisory boards, which include many HBS alumni.

Another critical function is the centers' role in connecting our faculty with talented academics in regional business schools. One aspect of this effort is our annual Colloquium on Participant-Centered Learning, which brings faculty and business school leaders from universities in emerging economies to HBS to learn about case and course development and teaching. It's a two-way street: We are extracting intellectual capital from other countries to enhance our research and case writing, but we are also transferring our pedagogical experience to them.

What are the other means that advance the initiative's goals?

The initiative actually has a bearing on the activity of almost every department of the School. For instance, in MBA and Executive Education admissions, we are interested in applicants who will enrich our classroom discussions with a wide range of international perspectives. We are also evaluating the degree to which our faculty members — whether they are from the United States or elsewhere — bring an understanding of international contexts and cross-border issues to their teaching and research. We would like Baker Library to be a truly international resource, and we are looking at Harvard Business School Publishing's international reach as well. As we move forward, we are asking three questions: How global are we? How global should we be? and How do we get there?

What drives this push to increase international outreach?

In today's business climate, it is naive and arrogant to assume that all best-practice takes place in the United States. With the globalization of markets, a trillion dollars in foreign exchange move through the markets each day. The telecommunications revolution is a huge factor, as is the vast increase in cross-border migration and air travel, notwithstanding recent events. As a leader in business education, the School has to be at the forefront of understanding these phenomena and what they mean, not only to U.S. managers, but to managers worldwide.

Student demand is another important factor. This year's entering MBA class is 33 percent international. That presents a strong mandate and a fantastic opportunity to provide an educational experience that takes full advantage of the richness of this international diversity in the classroom.

You made reference to the impact of the events of September 11. How have they affected the School's international outreach?

The University has not issued a blanket policy on international travel, and our faculty have been making their own wise judgments in that regard. My view is that the terrorist attacks underscore the importance of international understanding and coalition building. If there was a danger of the United States falling into an isolationist mode, that possibility has certainly been eliminated by these events. As the country resolves this crisis in conjunction with others, how U.S. business conducts itself in a global context will be more important than ever.

What are some accomplishments you'd like to see over the next few years?

Our ability to establish and maintain contacts with practitioners and academics in emerging economies is crucial if we are to contribute to international understanding. We have begun some exciting initiatives in executive education in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, and my colleague Warren McFarlan has run several programs in conjunction with Tsinghua University in Beijing that have been very well received. I would like to see this kind of outreach continue to flourish, especially where it adds to our faculty's capabilities.

I have great hopes for our ability to address international business issues on a broad scale. One concept we're working on involves sponsorship of annual mega-conferences that will bring together academics from many disciplines, practitioners, and leading policymakers to discuss fundamentally important themes. One of these is planned for 2003, which marks the twentieth anniversary of Ted Levitt's watershed Harvard Business Review article on the globalization of markets. The gathering will acknowledge the impact of that paper, assess the accuracy of its forecasts, and look to future trends.

It's that kind of big-picture thinking that we're after. We can measure the success of the Global Initiative by numbers, such as: How many professors are using the research centers? How many site visits are arranged? How many cases are produced? But it is most important for us to foster our faculty's ability to expand their expertise beyond the United States to examine key phenomena as they cut across all regions of the world. A real sign of our success will be the number of faculty whose work draws on the support of all the research centers.

— Deborah Blagg (send e-mail to the author)


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