01 Dec 2018
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Research Is the Foundation

HBS faculty members pursue research that serves as the foundation of the School’s educational programs and influences business practices worldwide.

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Supporting Faculty Research Endeavors

When Tsedal Neeley joined the HBS faculty in 2007 as an assistant professor, she was already deeply interested in the impact that corporate common language practices have in global businesses.

“I had an ambitious research agenda,” says Neeley. “Companies now span more languages, geographies, and cultures than ever, requiring workers to communicate effectively to deliver results. I wanted to understand how a radical language change can bridge differences and facilitate cross-border collaboration.”

Neeley led a team of 13 HBS researchers to study the global high-tech giant Rakuten’s globalization process for five straight years following an English mandate for thousands of its Japanese employees.

Photo by Susan Young

Photo by Susan Young

“We traveled to eight countries with tremendous assistance from the HBS global research centers,” she notes. “We collected over 650 interviews, 3,000 survey responses, and 20,000 documents. The project’s scope would have been nearly impossible in the absence of HBS’s support for ambitious research objectives.”

Earlier, in her doctoral studies at Stanford, Neeley had interviewed several teams who cited language as a source of anxiety, resentment, and divisiveness in their geographically dispersed colleagues. Yet she couldn’t find a single article of the hidden-in-plain-sight impact of language on the promise of global collaboration.

“In my view,” says Neeley, now a full professor in the School’s Organizational Behavior Unit, “language is the most fundamental means by which people interact in any organization.”

Her research—published in her award-winning 2017 book, The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations (Princeton University Press)—“wouldn’t have happened without the HBS infrastructure and internal funding I’ve received here,” Neeley says.

Because HBS research funds supported her study, Neeley was free to report her findings in a completely uninhibited and unprecedented way. “When your work is not funded by outside sources,” she stresses, “all you owe to anyone is truth and knowledge.”

Neeley hopes her book—along with recent Harvard Business Review articles, academic articles, cases, an online learning global collaboration simulation, and insights she shares as a professor in the MBA and Executive Education programs—continues to make language a mainstream factor for managers and scholars alike. She notes, “It’s the kind of far-reaching influence only HBS can enable.”

“I had an ambitious research agenda. Companies now span more languages, geographies, and cultures than ever, requiring workers to communicate effectively to deliver results. I wanted to understand how a radical language change can bridge differences and facilitate cross-border collaboration.”
—Tsedal Neeley, Professor of Business Administration

 

Private Capital Project

Private capital is just that—private. As a result, little information is available to researchers hoping to study a $4 trillion industry with far-reaching impact on the global economy—a shortfall the Private Capital Project expects to address by collecting and curating previously unavailable data. “One of our initiatives involves creating a platform that will combine big data with tools from artificial intelligence to study the heuristics used by early-stage investors in high-potential ventures,” says Professor Ramana Nanda, who serves as the project’s co-director with finance professors Victoria Ivashina and Josh Lerner. The work will catalyze a range of outcomes, including new course development and faculty collaboration, in addition to influencing business practice.

 

Ethan Bernstein was recently named the Edward W. Conard Associate Professor of Business Administration.
(photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

Ethan Bernstein was recently named the Edward W. Conard Associate Professor of Business Administration.
(photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

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Associate Professor chairs established during The HBS Campaign

 
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