The Insights We Need to Educate Leaders

The Insights We Need to Educate Leaders

September 20, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


[MUSIC PLAYING] It’s very exciting when
something’s been puzzling you, and you realize that
it’s a research question. Suddenly you say,
I can study that. My job is actually to
study these curious things. Once you get an idea,
there is this moment of joy where you know you’ve landed on
something that is potentially really interesting. You’re going to learn,
potentially other people are going to learn too. Harvard Business School
is really the place that allows you to think big. People around you want
to think about big ideas. The really good days
are when hours just pass by and you are
thinking about a problem or you’re writing or
you’re working with data and you’re just using
100% of your brain. Those are the times when I think
we’re probably the happiest. Harvard Business School
enables you to do paradigm shifting research to introduce
an entirely new framework, an entirely new way of
solving big problems. The problems and challenges and
opportunities facing the world are becoming more and
more complex over time. A problem like climate
change or health care is not going to lend itself to
progress through the insights of a single type of research. And so we’ve got people
doing experiments in the field, people
doing experiments in the laboratory, business
historians, economists, field-based researchers,
action researchers. What I do is called
action research. I engage closely
with organizations, work with the managers and the
leaders to introduce new ideas. For the last six
years, I have been working with up to 100 different
health care institutions around the world. The principle goal is really to
lower the cost of health care. We can show the doctors
the cost of doing a complete medical treatment. And then they start
to see opportunities to lower the cost. I collect very
detailed information for many, many firms. You immerse yourself
in the data. And you try to
discover something that has not been discovered
before that can change the way organizations run. We have data on
neonatal ICUs in India. And we’re seeing that places
that are better managed have lower mortality rates. And so I’m trying to
help lower mortality rates by teaching
chiefs of labor unit how to be better managers. My research interests stem from
my own experience growing up. The way we came to this country
is by my father’s efforts with a multinational firm, first
in India, then in Hong Kong, then in New Jersey. And so I’ve always thought
of myself as in some sense a product of the global
reach of these companies. I think my own
father’s experience in those organizations made me
think hard about how they work and how they contribute
to the world. Recently, there’s been a
rash of US companies trying to merge with foreign
companies as a way to leave the United States. They’re doing it
largely for tax reasons. My research is really
about understanding how we can fix the
system so that they don’t have the perverse
incentives to do those things. I’m a curious
behavioral scientist who studies the psychology
that drives our decisions. Probably about half of the
research Francesca and I do ends up being conducted
in a laboratory. We’re trying in the lab to
think about how do people work? What are the triggers that will
make people feel happy, make people feel sad? Francesca and I have
been doing this research on rituals for probably
five or six years now. We looked at how people
experience consuming food differently depending
on whether they engage in a ritual versus not. Some people might say what does
this have to do with business? Little rituals predict
team performance. A manager who has
employees who aren’t happy or who are struggling
can actually institute rituals to
improve morale on the team and improve performance
in the workplace. Harvard Business School
is like the Beatles. We write all of
our own material. And that gives us a degree
of intimacy and familiarity with the material that no other
faculty in any other school can have. The case method
by which we teach is also a way in which
we conduct research. Because we have that
distinctive way of teaching, we also are constantly out
there writing documents, trying to understand and
analyze and teach about what’s going on in reality. You start with whatever
intellectual question you’re fascinated by. I did one case
with Stefan Thomke, who is in our technology and
operations management area. We knew that there had been
extraordinary turnaround at LEGO. The company had gone from
the brink of bankruptcy to being the most successful
toy company in the world. How do you do that in
a short period of time? The CEO of LEGO was
extraordinarily generous. Told us to come over to Denmark. We spent a couple of days
interviewing the management team, trying to understand
what had really enabled the turnaround of the company. The factory itself was
an extraordinary thing. It was like being inside
Willy Wonka’s factory. I kept looking for
the Oompa Loompas. We used the case of LEGO
in our core strategy course to understand why a
company has begun to fail and what you must do in
order to put in place a firm foundation for the company
and then grow it over time. While students kind of
think about us as hey, they’re about impacting
me, in reality, we’re are about impacting you. We’re about impacting our
scholarly communities. We’re about impacting the
world of practice, which can be policymakers or executives. We have a wide range of
people we’re trying to impact. And our research helps us
impact all those audiences. We want to make sure that
we’re addressing the concerns of practicing general managers. And their problems don’t
respect the boundaries of our academic disciplines. So we really engage across
the boundaries of the school. The people at HBS bring
in new and different ways of looking at the same problem. Here, you’re constantly
faced with interactions with people that have
firsthand experience of what happens within organizations. And this is fascinating. I’ve been doing this
type of research now for more than 30 years. I’m well past a
normal retirement age, but this work is
just so rewarding. And that’s enough to keep
me off the golf course. Our mission is to
educate leaders to make a difference in the world. How do you do that? You’ve got to bring them
new, valid ideas that are useful to them. And research produces those
ideas, those insights. So without research,
we literally could not fulfill the mission. We would not have the insights
we need to educate leaders. [APPLAUSE]