01 Jun 2017
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Developing Insight that Has Power in Practice

Re: Jan Rivkin; Raffaella Sadun; Robert Kaplan

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The commitment to research that influences pedagogy, theory, and practice is inherent to HBS’s identity. The first field study, conducted in 1911 under the School’s Bureau of Business Research, comprised a comparative examination of the costs of operating a retail shoe business. The resulting report helped companies devise strategies to manage inventories, increase profits, and cut waste.

Though much has changed over the ensuing century, the drive remains the same. “We aspire to be both rigorous and relevant,” says Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for research. “That’s the promise of HBS. The world’s problems are becoming increasingly complex and don’t lend themselves to one type of research. Our faculty employ constantly evolving methodologies to address topics of critical importance.”

The digital transformation of society has led faculty members to explore research questions in innovative ways using data mining, people analytics, crowdsourced solutions, and other modes of investigation. Additionally, more than 30 faculty members are engaged in ambitious field experiments, often facilitated by HBS’s network of global research centers and offices.

Interest in field research is rising. For example, Raffaella Sadun, the Thomas S. Murphy Associate Professor of Business Admin istration, interviewed managers at some 10,000 organizations in 20 countries to examine why management practices differ across nations, industries, and companies.

HBS faculty also work hand in hand with organizations in the field to find solutions to complex problems, often with actionable results. Among them is Robert S. Kaplan, senior fellow and the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Emeritus, who has collaborated with 100-plus health care centers to develop value-based accounting to help lower costs of health care delivery.

The ability of faculty members to study these and other business issues that are both relevant and resonate with their intellectual passions, unencumbered by the need to apply for grants, is a rarity in academia. Providing this opportunity and ensuring the School remains a leader in research that influences practice is a top priority. Donor support of pathbreaking research through the HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation plays a critical role in making it possible for HBS faculty to deepen their understanding of global business practice.


“Without support for research, we wouldn’t have the insight to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. It enables us to tap into new methodologies and develop ideas that have power in practice. HBS has an ambitious intellectual agenda, and I believe, in many ways, the most exciting years of research at the School lie ahead.”
Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for research

“Without support for research, we wouldn’t have the insight to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. It enables us to tap into new methodologies and develop ideas that have power in practice. HBS has an ambitious intellectual agenda, and I believe, in many ways, the most exciting years of research at the School lie ahead.”
Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for research

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