Entrepreneurial Solutions for Market Failure - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Entrepreneurial Solutions for Market Failure

Course Number 1585

Professor Joseph Bower
Winter; Q3; 1.5 credits
14 sessions

Course Overview

This course aims to help students identify opportunities for entrepreneurship in fields where the market is not providing solutions that seem needed. There is need that is not yet demand, or demand, but no supply. If entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without reference to exisiting resources, then these needs ought to provide opportunity for entrepreneurs. By examining the structure of industry in three different fields and studying the progress of entrepreneurial efforts in those fields, the course shows how concepts developed in core parts of the MBA curriculum can be used to unpack the problems in those fields so that the ingredients of profitable business models can be studied and developed. There is a field course in Quarter 2 that provides an opportunity to apply these ideas in the development of a business plan, or test them in the context of a field report.

The course builds on research for the HBS Centennial Business Summit: The Future of Market Capitalism Professors Dutch Leonard, Lynn Paine and I conducted over the past 4 years. In that work business leaders called out important forces - tectonic in scale - that threatened the enabling conditions for capitalism. That same research revealed a widespread view that governments would find it difficult for political and economic reasons to mitigate those problems. In turn, it seemed that business did have the skills and resources to deal with some of them, and therefore, ought to move forward and lead. When we looked for examples of firms doing exactly that, we found them. And that was the catalyst for this course.

Course Content and Organization

The course is organized in three modules. After the opening class in which we consider the efforts of China Mobile to deal with rural poverty, we consider Alternative Energy, Health Care, and Consumer Finance in turn. The first class of each module is based on a note that summaries the history, the organization of demand and supply, and the players in the industry. The course assumes that many students will have studied cases in these industries and even taken courses that focus intensively on the industry. Or students will have worked in the industry. Subsequent classes examine case studies of companies whose strategies attempt to deal with problems in the performance of those industries. The final class is devoted to drawing lessons from comparison of the three sectors.

There are four ways in which the written requirements for the course can be met: a draft business plan, a series of 4 blogs (to be described), a team presentation to the class, or other written work negotiated with me. Those taking the field course are exempt from this requirement.