HBS Dean: Business Plays 'Meaningful' Role In Society

Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School, in WBUR's studio (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School, in WBUR's studio (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Following a decade of financial upheaval and scandal, it’s a time of reflection for American business schools. Questions abound over ethics and business practice.

But a new generation is coming in.

Nitin Nohria became Harvard Business School’s 10th dean in July 2010. Born in India, he earned a Ph.D. from M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. He’s focused much of his writing and study on corporate accountability, leadership and sustainability.

Though HBS graduates are still leaving in droves to take jobs in the financial world, Nohria touts the fact that increasing numbers are going into social enterprises and small start-ups.

“I think what people want of us is leaders who can contribute to all of these different types of organizations in society,” he told On Point host Tom Ashbrook on Wednesday. “Frankly, there’s nothing in the world that I can think of that is going to get meaningful solutions…without business playing a meaningful role.”

Nohria was joined on the show’s panel by Sally Blount, the new dean of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and Rich Lyons, the dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Serving society – and doing well by doing good, as the saying goes – may be a noble aspiration. But Ashbrook asked Nohria if there is truly a “market” for path-bending leaders who are not going to take the traditional path into banking or consulting.

“So as the world is looking for business leaders to bring their imagination to solve some of the most important problems that we know that governments alone can’t solve, we have people who are devoting themselves to finding solutions to clean water, to education, charter schools,” Nohria said. “We have students who literally go out and help society in all walks of life, and I think that’s what business schools must be known for.”

This program aired on October 13, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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