01 Dec 2001
Q&A: John Quelchby Deborah BlaggTopics:
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
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
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
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
— Deborah Blagg (send e-mail
to the author)