01 Jun 2000

Q & A: Gustavo Herrero

Executive Director, HBS Latin American Research Center
by Garry Emmons


Gustavo A. Herrero (MBA '76) heads the Latin American Research Center (LARC), located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The School's third off-campus research facility, the LARC will officially open in August with a research conference in Buenos Aires that will be attended by Dean Kim B. Clark, various HBS faculty members, and leading Latin American scholars and business practitioners.

What are some of the region's important business issues?

It is difficult to speak of Latin America as a single unit. That said, perhaps a common denominator is that many Latin American countries have chosen democratic regimes and have adopted market-based stabilization programs, opening up their economies to foreign trade. And just as in the United States, another strong and exciting phenomenon has been the impact of the new economy throughout the region.Despite these advances, challenges remain. Due to persistent market imperfections -- the WTO has yet to make its mark, and industrialized countries have been slow to dismantle their protectionist schemes -- unemployment and current account deficits continue to be problems in many countries. High real interest rates plague the region, and capital markets are thin. The sale of national companies to foreign multinationals weakens regional stock markets even further. Corruption is another issue that must be confronted in most countries.

What is the purpose of the LARC?

Our mission is to help the School's faculty enhance their knowledge of Latin American management issues, thereby enriching the HBS curriculum, advancing the education of tomorrow's business leaders, and creating a broader understanding of the global economy.

How will the Center accomplish its goals?

The LARC will assist HBS faculty as they write cases, conduct research, and engage in course development work. Our primary objective is to help the faculty leverage their time effectively. We'll have two senior research associates, one based in Buenos Aires and the other in Brazil; it's possible we might have a third researcher based in Mexico at some point in the future.

We'd also like to help the faculty identify management issues, such as privatization or post-stabilization volatility, that are prevalent in Latin America (and perhaps elsewhere) but are not commonly experienced in the United States or Europe.

A third element of our mission is one that I find particularly gratifying: We will be helping HBS to collaborate with academics from the region. The first step in that direction is the Colloquium on Participant-Centered Learning, which will take place at HBS July 16-28. We will convene sixty Latin American academics, who will be trained by HBS professors in case-method teaching, field-based research, and case writing.

What challenges and rewards do you foresee for the LARC?

Latin America is a vast region, and its countries are quite different, but I think our presence will be welcomed by everyone. Our willingness to do research in the region and the fact that we want to collaborate with local academics will gain us a lot of goodwill. The payoff for HBS faculty will be a better understanding of developments in the region and an increase in the amount and quality of teaching materials about Latin America.

Latin American academics will gain exposure to teaching methods that have proven to be very effective in graduate business education in the United States; they will also learn how to conduct field-based research that best supports the case-method approach to teaching.

Tell us about the role of the Center's advisory boards.

The LARC has two advisory boards. One is the Latin American Faculty Advisory Group, composed of ten HBS faculty members and led by Professor Howard Stevenson. This group provides us with guidance regarding the LARC's research agenda and assists us in our communication with HBS faculty. It is also playing a key role in planning our August research conference.

The other is the Latin American Advisory Committee, composed of fourteen prominent Latin American business leaders from seven countries who are friends of the School. This group, chaired by Erling S. Lorentzen (MBA 6/ '48), advises us on areas of research from the Latin American perspective and, through networking, facilitates its development. Both groups are very important to us.

What drew you to this job?

For some time, I've been planning an early retirement from business so that I could get involved in academic activities. I realized that working with HBS at the LARC was an excellent way to achieve that goal.

I believe my prior experience as a CEO of leading local firms will probably help open up some doors, although the School's name is the most powerful door opener you can imagine!

What are your impressions so far of your job?

I've been struck by how HBS has encouraged us to approach our development as we see fit, which allows us great room for creativity and for personal and institutional growth.

I'm impressed by the School's resources and its talented staff. To support its off-campus research centers, HBS has formed a Global Research Group of experienced, multilingual case writers who are ready to travel anywhere in the world to satisfy research demands.

That's just one example of the School's thoroughness. I can't think of any institution that can match HBS in its commitment to excellence in global business education and leadership.


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