01 Dec 1996

Faculty Symposium Honors McArthur

by Daniel Penrice


A faculty symposium, "Breaking New Ground: Initiatives in Management Education, 1980 - 1995," was held October 9-11 at HBS to honor former Dean John H. McArthur for the many initiatives in research and course development he instituted during his tenure. Eight 80-minute sessions featuring the presentation and discussion of papers written to mark the event were conducted as a tribute to McArthur's academic leadership. During these sessions, HBS faculty participants assessed the progress of their own research and course development efforts, learned more about one another's work, and engaged in sometimes vigorous debate about pivotal issues.

The "tip of the iceberg" is how Professor Thomas K. McCraw, one of the principal organizers of the symposium, described the event's program. "A tremendous amount of important research and course development took place during the McArthur years," said McCraw, who chaired the group that Dean Kim B. Clark had asked to plan the event. "Only a small fraction of that work could be captured in this symposium," he added. "We had 8 sessions, but we could easily have had 25."

Despite the need to exclude so much material, McCraw believes that the papers presented at the symposium paint a rich portrait of the many "remarkable contributions" to management education made by Dean McArthur. "All of these essays," McCraw noted, "tell what happened in a given field, what the central ideas were, and where the field might go from here. And, of course, they talk about John McArthur's role, which was powerful and often decisive in these initiatives."

In McCraw's view, the topics chosen for discussion in "Breaking New Ground" illustrate two especially noteworthy outcomes of the McArthur initiatives in management education: the synergy between research and teaching and the collaborative and cross-disciplinary nature of the work. "You can look at some of these efforts," McCraw pointed out, "and ask, 'Is this research or is it course development?' And the answer is, it's both. In an ideal world, research and teaching reinforce each other, although it's sometimes hard to accomplish this in practice. Yet, in the examples we discussed in our symposium, it worked brilliantly." The principal reason for that high degree of success, McCraw concluded, was the cross-disciplinary nature of the work undertaken. "It involved HBS collaborators from many fields talking constantly with each other and working to produce new research, new cases and courses, and new ways of thinking about business."

The papers presented at the "Breaking New Ground" symposium will be collected and published at a later date. The following is a list of the papers' authors:

Business History
Professor Thomas K. McCraw and Assistant Professor Nancy F. Koehn

Competition and Strategy
Professors Adam M. Brandenburger and Michael E. Porter

Technology and Operations Management
Professor Robert H. Hayes and Associate Professor Marco Iansiti

Global Financial Systems
Professor Robert C. Merton and Associate Professor Peter Tufano

Organizations and Markets
Professors George P. Baker III, Carliss Y. Baldwin, and Michael C. Jensen and Associate Professor Karen Hopper Wruck

Ethics, Economics, and Organizations
Professors Thomas R. Piper and Lynn Sharp Paine

Service Management
Professor James L. Heskett and Associate Professor Gary W. Loveman

Professors Teresa M. Amabile and Howard H. Stevenson

The McArthur Years: Academic Advances at HBS

John McArthur's tenure as Dean of HBS saw dramatic advances in research and course development at the School as well as a major expansion and revamping of the MBA curriculum.

In the course of two wide-ranging curriculum reviews, one in 1982 - 83 and a second lasting from 1991 to 1994, the School broadened the focus of many traditional courses, developed scores of new ones, and revised the structure and fundamental emphases of the entire MBA Program. New and revised courses incorporated innovative ideas developed by HBS faculty in key areas such as information technology, strategy, leadership, ethics, and the international economy. The new MBA Program, with its year-round calendar, features a greatly increased emphasis on skill-building and field-based learning delivered within a more integrated, cross-functional context.

Part of what made the McArthur initiatives in management education so successful is that the School dramatically increased its investment in research and course development: from $10 million in 1980 to more than $50 million in 1995. HBS faculty members cite the former Dean's long-term vision, his skill at matching people with resources, and his ability to bring faculty together from various disciplines as key factors in the remarkable achievements of the McArthur years.


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