Nancy F. Koehn

James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration

Unit: General Management

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Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact.  She is currently working on a book about the most important lessons from five leaders’ journeys, including Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Rachel Carson.  Her most recent book, Ernest Shackleton:  Exploring Leadership , (2012), examines the important leadership lessons in Shackleton's legendary Endurance expedition. 

Koehn is also the author of Oprah (Brand) Renew (2011);Oprah:  Leading with Heart (2011); The Story of American Business:  From the Pages of the New York Times (2009); Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (2001) and The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (1994), as well as a contributor to Creative Capitalism:  A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and other Economic Leaders (2008); Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind (2004); Beauty and Business (2000); The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995 (1999); Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions (1997); and Management Past and Present: A Casebook on American Business History (1995). She has written and supervised cases on  Starbucks Coffee Company, Ernest Shackleton,Oprah Winfrey, Bono and U2,  Whole Foods, Stonyfield Yogurt, Wedgwood, Estée Lauder, Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, Celeste Walker, Marshall Field, Dell Computer, and other leaders and organizations.

Koehn consults with many companies and speaks frequently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival and the World Business Forum.  She has appeared on "American Experience," "Good Morning America," Bloomberg Televison, CNBC's "Moneywheel," "The NewsHour," A&E's "Biography," CNN's "Money Line" and many other television programs. She writes regularly for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and the Harvard Business Review Online and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio and the BBC.   In 2012, Poets and Quants ranked Koehn as one of the World’s 50 Best Business School Professors.

Koehn is a director of Tempur Sealy International and the clothing retailer, Fashion to Figure.

Before coming to HBS, Koehn was a member of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences for seven years, first as a graduate student in history and then as a lecturer in the History and Literature concentration and the Department of Economics.  A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard.

Koehn lives outside Boston and is an avid equestrian.

Featured Work

Publications

Books

  1. Ernest Shackleton, Exploring Leadership

    Broadly speaking, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was not successful; he never achieved any of the goals he originally set for himself. But when confronted with crushing adversity, he inspired his crew to work together to survive against incredible odds. While stranded on an ice floe 1,200 miles from civilization, Shackleton's discipline, fortitude, and heroism overcame months of hardship and peril to get all his men to safety. Here, in this brief eBook, Harvard Business School professor Nancy F. Koehn writes that his is an example from which every leader in today's unstoppable turbulence can learn.

    Keywords: Risk and Uncertainty; Leadership; Cooperation;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. Ernest Shackleton, Exploring Leadership. New Word City, 2012. Electronic. View Details
  2. Oprah, Leading With Heart

    Harvard Business School professor Nancy F. Koehn provides an inspiring example of a leader who leads not just from the head but the heart. Her name: Oprah Winfrey. Here, in this brief eBook, is how she built a media empire and the lessons you can apply to your own work and life.

    Keywords: leadership; entertainment; Leadership;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. Oprah, Leading With Heart. New Word City, 2011. Electronic. View Details

Journal Articles

  1. For Obama, Where Has Lincoln Gone?

    The 2012 presidential race was not only the most expensive in history, it was also one of the most closely contested elections the country has known. President Barack Obama inherits the very serious challenge of trying to reunite a divided nation in which political paralysis has seemingly become the frustrating and often destructive new normal. It's a tall order, but history tells us this problem is not insurmountable.

    Keywords: leadership; Leadership;

  2. The Driver in Ford's Amazing Race

    In "American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company" (Crown Business: $26), Bryce G. Hoffman recounts the turnaround in careful, often gripping detail. Make no mistake, this is a story, not a structured analysis of Ford's transformation. Those looking for how-to lists will be disappointed. Instead, Mr. Hoffman offers Mr. Mulally's vision for saving — and permanently changing — a giant American company. The author explores how Mr. Mulally and his team executed this vision, and what this meant on the dynamic, risky stage of the auto industry.

    Keywords: Business History; Transformation; Manufacturing Industry; Auto Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "The Driver in Ford's Amazing Race." New York Times (April 1, 2012), BU7. View Details
  3. Making Choices: Aspects of the History of the Harvard Business School MBA Program

    Keywords: Higher Education; History; Decision Choices and Conditions; Boston;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Thomas R. Piper, V. Kasturi Rangan, and Richard S. Tedlow. "Making Choices: Aspects of the History of the Harvard Business School MBA Program." MBA Leadership and Learning (1992). View Details

Book Chapters

  1. Gates: The Right Place at the Right Time

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Gates: The Right Place at the Right Time." In Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Other Economic Leaders, edited by Michael Kinsley and Conor Clark. Simon & Schuster, 2008. View Details
  2. Business History

    Keywords: Business History;

    Citation:

    Koehn, N. F., T. K. McCraw, and H. V. Nelles. "Business History." In The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995, edited by T. K. McCraw and J. L. Cruikshank. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999. View Details
  3. Josiah Wedgwood and the First Industrial Revolution

    Keywords: History; United Kingdom;

    Citation:

    Koehn, N. F. "Josiah Wedgwood and the First Industrial Revolution." In Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions, edited by Thomas K. McCraw. Harvard University Press, 1997. View Details
  4. Michael Milken

    Citation:

    Koehn, N. F. "Michael Milken." In Management Past and Present: A Casebook on the History of American Business, edited by Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Thomas K. McCraw, and Richard S. Tedlow. South-Western College Publishing, 1996. View Details
  5. Patricia Ostrander

    Citation:

    Koehn, N. F. "Patricia Ostrander." In Management Past and Present: A Casebook on the History of American Business, edited by Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Thomas K. McCraw, and Richard S. Tedlow. South-Western College Publishing, 1996. View Details

Working Papers

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal

    Keywords: general management; Corporate Change and Sustainability; leadership; turnaround; Howard Schultz; leading change; Starbucks; Change; Decision Making; Entrepreneurship; Ethics; Growth and Development; Innovation and Invention; Leadership; Management; Organizations; Risk and Uncertainty; Strategy; Value; Retail Industry; Service Industry; North and Central America; Asia; Europe; South America;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 314-143, June 2014. View Details
  2. Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal

    Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal analyzes the turnaround and reconstruction of Starbucks Coffee Company from 2008 to 2014 as led by CEO and co-founder Howard Schultz. The case offers executives and students an opportunity to examine in depth how Schultz and his team saved Starbucks from near-collapse, by both executing a deep, comprehensive return to its core values and, at the same time, investing in a range of new products, customer experiences and organizational capabilities designed to make the company fit for enduring success in a turbulent global economy. Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession, the case also considers the impact of unprecedented important shifts in consumer spending and confidence as well as new competitive forces on Starbucks' transformation. The case concludes by examining Schultz's own leadership journey, the lessons he learned personally during Starbucks transformation, and how he is using these lessons—within Starbucks and on the national stage—to redefine the roles and responsibilities of a public corporation in the 21st century.

    Based on extensive interviews conducted with Schultz and other Starbucks executives from 2011 to 2014, the case offers a range of vital lessons on leadership, organizational transformation, restructuring, strategy, innovation, entrepreneurial vision, and customer service.

    Keywords: Howard Schultz; Starbucks; transformation; turnaround; Change; Decision Making; Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development; Leadership; Organizations; Problems and Challenges; Risk and Uncertainty; Strategy; Value; Consumer Products Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Retail Industry; North and Central America; Europe; Asia; South America; Middle East; Latin America;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Kelly McNamara, Nora N. Khan, and Elizabeth Legris. "Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal." Harvard Business School Case 314-068, June 2014. View Details
  3. Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm

    Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm is the story of one entrepreneur's vision and journey to create a market-leading, environmentally responsible business founded on the principles of product quality, organizational alignment and sustainability. A former environmental activist, Hirshberg built Stonyfield Farm, (an organic yogurt maker based in New Hampshire), up from a seven cow-operation into a business that in 2010 had $360 million in annual revenues. The narrative pays particular attention to the early, turbulent years of the yogurt company and the excitement and uncertainty of entrepreneurial life.

    The case also details the innovative marketing the company created to expand its customer base, the means it devised to cultivate and maintain customer loyalty, and the strategies it employed to penetrate the highly competitive yogurt and dairy categories nationwide. Throughout, readers will encounter the challenges that Hirshberg, his colleagues and his family confronted as they (all) worked to create a business with a firm commitment to both sustainability and high quality—a commitment rooted in Hirshberg's dedication to spreading the "gospel" of organic production to consumers.

    Keywords: development stage enterprises; entrepreneurs; experimentation; leadership; management by objective; technology; values; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Nora N. Khan. "Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 314-019, September 2013. View Details
  4. Bono and U2 (TN)

    Teaching Note for 809148.

    Keywords: Growth and Development Strategy; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Transformation; Technology; Business Model; Arts; Entrepreneurship; Leadership; Music Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Nora N. Khan, and Elizabeth Legris. "Bono and U2 (TN)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 811-091, March 2011. (Revised December 2012.) View Details
  5. Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm

    Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm is the story of one entrepreneur's vision and journey to create a market-leading, environmentally responsible business founded on the principles of product quality, organizational alignment, and sustainability. A former environmental activist, Hirshberg built Stonyfield Farm (an organic yogurt maker based in New Hampshire) up from a seven-cow operation into a business that in 2010 had $360 million in annual revenues. The narrative pays particular attention to the early, turbulent years of the yogurt company and the excitement and uncertainty of entrepreneurial life. The case also details the supple, innovative marketing the company created to expand its customer base, the means it devised to cultivate and maintain customer loyalty, and the strategies it employed to penetrate the highly competitive yogurt and dairy categories nationwide. Throughout, readers will encounter the challenges that Hirshberg, his colleagues, and his family confronted as they all worked to create a business with a firm commitment to both sustainability and high quality—a commitment rooted in Hirshberg's dedication to spreading the "gospel" of organic production to consumers.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; entrepreneurs; values; development stage enterprises; innovation; management by objective; experimentation; emerging technologies; Mission and Purpose; Management Style; Values and Beliefs; Social Issues; Organizational Culture; Environmental Sustainability; Business Growth and Maturation; Entrepreneurship; Business Startups; Innovation and Invention; Food and Beverage Industry; New Hampshire;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Nora N. Khan, and Elizabeth W. Legris. "Gary Hirshberg and Stonyfield Farm." Harvard Business School Case 312-122, March 2012. (Revised October 2012.) View Details
  6. Bono and U2

    This case traces the 30-year development of the rock band U2 and the development of its four members as artists, business leaders, and humanitarians (with particular attention paid to lead singer Bono's global humanitarian work). The case examines the beginnings of the band among four school friends and follows the development of the enterprise as a business and as a powerful social and cultural force in its own right. It also investigates the individual journeys of the band members during moments of great success and significant challenges. The case pays particular attention to the four men's evolving identities as musical artists and to the tradeoffs that have accompanied their fame and larger social commitments. The case takes up the evolution of the global music industry in the face of rapid technological and organizational change, examining how U2 and colleagues navigated such change, built a very powerful brand, and created a successful business model. The final part of the case traces lead singer Bono's involvement in political and humanitarian causes and the potential power of such a model as a framework for artistry, entrepreneurship, and effective leadership in the 21st century.

    Keywords: Arts; Business Model; Social Entrepreneurship; Globalized Markets and Industries; Leadership; Brands and Branding; Personal Development and Career; Social Enterprise; Music Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Katherine Miller, and Rachel Wilcox. "Bono and U2." Harvard Business School Case 809-148, April 2009. (Revised April 2012.) View Details
  7. John D. Rockefeller and the Creation of Standard Oil

    Reconstructs the entrepreneurial journey of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and one of the most famous business figures in history. Traces his early career as a retailer in Cleveland through his decision to enter the oil industry in the early 1860s to his creation of Standard Oil. Pays particular attention to the critical decades of the 1870s and 1880s when Standard Oil and the larger oil business were growing at white-hot speed. Told through the words of both scholars and first-hand participants, examines Rockefeller's (controversial) strategy for securing and maintaining Standard Oil's market dominance, his organizational innovations within the company, and his responses to a myriad of competitive threats. Also, provides a close look at Rockefeller's life outside his office, including his role as a husband and father. Closes with a contemporary analysis of the ethics of Rockefeller's actions.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Ethics; Business History; Innovation and Invention; Growth and Development Strategy; Personal Development and Career; Competitive Strategy; Energy Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Katherine Miller. "John D. Rockefeller and the Creation of Standard Oil." Harvard Business School Compilation 807-110, February 2007. (Revised March 2012.) View Details
  8. Madam C.J. Walker: Entrepreneur, Leader, and Philanthropist

    Madam C. J. Walker, who has been credited as the first self-made African-American woman millionaire, created a hair-care empire after years spent as a laundress in St. Louis, Missouri. Decades before the Civil Rights movement, her company gave employment to thousands of African-American women and marketed its products around the world. Madam Walker was active in the social and political causes of her day, and used her position as a successful entrepreneur to promote philanthropy and self-advancement in the African-American community.

    Keywords: Leadership; Business History; Race Characteristics; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Entrepreneurship; Personal Development and Career; Gender Characteristics; Giving and Philanthropy; Saint Louis;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Anne Dwojeski, William Grundy, Erica Helms, and Katherine Miller. "Madam C.J. Walker: Entrepreneur, Leader, and Philanthropist." Harvard Business School Case 807-145, March 2007. (Revised April 2011.) View Details
  9. Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance

    Provides an opportunity to examine leadership and entrepreneurship in the context of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition, a compelling story of crisis, survival, and triumph. Summarizes Shackleton's career as an officer in the British Merchant Marine, his work on several prominent Antarctic missions, and the competitive nature of polar exploration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also examines Shackleton's planning and advance management of what he hoped would be the first-ever trek across the Antarctic continent. Details the events of this epic voyage aboard the Endurance. Readers have the opportunity to examine how, after the vessel became trapped in ice and the crew abandoned ship, the commander shifted his objectives and responsibilities from completing an historic march to ensuring the survival of all 28 expedition members. Considers Shackleton's efforts to maintain his team's morale, loyalty, and commitment in the face of extraordinary mental and physical trials during almost two years in the Antarctic.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; History; Leadership; Crisis Management; Management Practices and Processes; Groups and Teams; Behavior; Antarctica;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Erica Helms, and Philip Mead. "Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance." Harvard Business School Case 803-127, April 2003. (Revised December 2010.) View Details
  10. Oprah Winfrey

    The case explores the entrepreneurial journey of Oprah Winfrey, examining how she built an audience for one of the most successful television shows in history; how she created the company, Harpo Productions, that produces that show as well as other media offerings; how she leads and manages her organization; and how she has chosen to use the authority and other fruits of success to make a significant social as well as business contribution. The case uses interviews with Winfrey and her team to analyze how the business model and strategy of the company has changed-in the context of a dynamic marketplace, rapid technological innovation, and Winfrey's own evolving conception of her purpose and path.

    Keywords: Business Model; Entrepreneurship; Leadership; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mission and Purpose; Personal Development and Career; Strategy; Media and Broadcasting Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Erica Helms, Katherine Miller, and Rachel Wilcox. "Oprah Winfrey." Harvard Business School Case 809-068, April 2009. (Revised May 2009.) View Details
  11. Starbucks Coffee Company in the 21st Century

    The case explores the opportunities and challenges confronting Starbucks in the early 21st century. For more than 15 years, Starbucks has grown swiftly and successfully, helping create a large, dynamic market for specialty coffee, building one of the world's most powerful brands and forging a new business model based on industry disrepair and responsible global citizenship. In 2008, Starbucks leadership faces a range of issues-inside and out of the company-related to that success. This case examines these issues in the context of a changing economy, increased competition, evolving consumer priorities, and the organization's place on the larger global stage.

    Keywords: Business Model; Economy; Growth Management; Brands and Branding; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Competition;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Marya Lisl Hill-Popper Besharov, and Katherine Miller. "Starbucks Coffee Company in the 21st Century." Harvard Business School Case 808-019, June 2008. View Details
  12. Candy Land: The Utopian Vision of Milton Hershey

    Explores the life, work, and achievements of Milton S. Hershey. Analyzes his entrepreneurial achievements, including the creation of the Hershey bar, the founding of the business, and the development of the mass market for chocolate. Also investigates the broader contributions that Milton Hershey made to a sustainable, mutually beneficial social contract between business and community.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Leadership; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Creativity;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Erica Helms. "Candy Land: The Utopian Vision of Milton Hershey." Harvard Business School Case 805-066, April 2005. (Revised October 2007.) View Details
  13. Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War

    Analyzes Abraham Lincoln's leadership during America's greatest crisis, the 1861-1865 Civil War. Using Lincoln's own words, the case traces the development of the 16th president's leadership philosophy, ethics, and skills in the years leading up to war.

    Keywords: History; Government and Politics; War; Leadership Style; Ethics; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War." Harvard Business School Compilation 805-115, March 2005. (Revised May 2007.) View Details
  14. John Mackey and Whole Foods Market

    Traces the history of organic agriculture from its pre-industrial roots to the present day, and examines the growth of Whole Foods Market in the context of the broader growth of the organic industry. Also investigates John Mackey's role as a founder and leader of the largest natural-foods retailer in the world.

    Keywords: Leadership; Food; Entrepreneurship; Agribusiness; Retail Industry; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Food and Beverage Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Katherine Miller. "John Mackey and Whole Foods Market." Harvard Business School Case 807-111, April 2007. (Revised May 2007.) View Details
  15. Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance (TN)

    Teaching Note to 803127.

    Keywords: Leadership Style; Entrepreneurship; Personal Development and Career; Moral Sensibility; Groups and Teams; Managerial Roles; Crisis Management; Goals and Objectives; Antarctica;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance (TN)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 807-014, January 2007. View Details
  16. Bumble and bumble: Building a Successful Business in Beauty and Fashion

    Explores the creation and subsequent rise of Bumble and bumble, a trend-setting hair-care company. Analyzes the vision and achievements of the founding entrepreneur, Michael Gordon, and charts the evolution of the company within the $230 billion global beauty industry. Focuses on the development of the Bumble brand, its strategic importance in the market for premium hair-care products, and its cultural significance within the company. Also, takes up the acquisition of Bumble and bumble by the Estee Lauder Companies and the implications of this ownership structure for organizational priorities and performance.

    Keywords: Corporate Entrepreneurship; Brands and Branding; Mergers and Acquisitions; Business Strategy; Financial Condition; Business Growth and Maturation; Success; Distribution; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Fashion Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Erica Helms. "Bumble and bumble: Building a Successful Business in Beauty and Fashion." Harvard Business School Case 806-084, February 2006. View Details
  17. Howard Schultz and Starbucks Coffee Company

    Investigates the entrepreneur's strategic initiatives to develop a mass market for specialty coffee in the 1980s and 1990s. These initiatives included the development of premium products, rapid expansion of company-owned stores--each with attractive retail environments and responsive customer service--and, especially, the creation of a strong brand. Also devotes considerable attention to how Schultz built the Starbucks organization, examining the consistent emphasis that he and his colleagues placed on the company's relationship with its employees, how Schultz financed Starbucks' early expansion, how vertical integration ensured quality control, and how--strategically and operationally--the company managed its phenomenal domestic and international growth after 1993.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Groups and Teams; Brands and Branding; Growth Management; Employee Relationship Management; Consumer Behavior; Organizational Design; Leadership Style; Customer Relationship Management; Competitive Advantage; Vertical Integration; Food and Beverage Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Howard Schultz and Starbucks Coffee Company." Harvard Business School Case 801-361, February 2001. (Revised September 2005.) View Details
  18. Money and Banking in America

    Provides a concise overview of the critical role that money and the nation's banking system have played in the development of the U.S. economy. Tells the story of money and banking in the United States, from the earliest settlements in the colonial era through the 20th century. Focuses in particular on the importance of paper money in the colonial era, the central role that banks played in issuing and regulating the money supply in the 19th century, and the transition to a national money supply in the years after the Civil War.

    Keywords: History; Money; Banks and Banking; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Stephen A. Mihm. "Money and Banking in America." Harvard Business School Video Case 805-088, December 2004. View Details
  19. Marshall Field and the Rise of the Department Store

    Analyzes Marshall Field's efforts to develop a market for mass retailing in late 19th-century Chicago. Examines Chicago's expansion in the 1860s and, within this context, how Field struck out on his own to, build a wholesale and retail business. Concentrates on the efforts of Field and his partner Levi Leiter to build a large regional and, later, a national market for their distribution business and the significant financial, managerial, and strategic challenges they faced. This case analyzes how Field and his partners built a strong, meaningful brand for the company.

    Keywords: Fluctuation; Industry Growth; Corporate Strategy; Entrepreneurship; Brands and Branding; Society; Distribution Industry; Retail Industry; Chicago;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Marshall Field and the Rise of the Department Store." Harvard Business School Case 801-349, February 2001. (Revised December 2002.) View Details
  20. Entrepreneurial History: A Conceptual Overview

    Analyzes HBS cases on five entrepreneurs and the companies they built: Josiah Wedgwood, Henry Heinz, Marshall Field, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, and Michael Dell. These five cases and their accompanying teaching notes comprise a course module on entrepreneurial history that is intended for business school faculty teaching entrepreneurship, business history, brand marketing, or general management. Investigates five individuals in different industries, all trying to make new markets for their products during moments of great technological, managerial, demographic, and perceptual transitions. Acting within a particular historical context, each of the five people succeeded in creating mass demand for new products by earning consumers' trust and loyalty. To accomplish this objective, each also built a best-of-class organization capable not only of meeting customers' needs profitably at a specific moment, but of continually anticipating and responding to these preferences as they developed and the broader environment changed.

    Keywords: Transition; Demand and Consumers; Competition; Business History; Entrepreneurship; Customer Focus and Relationships; Business Strategy; Society;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Entrepreneurial History: A Conceptual Overview." Harvard Business School Background Note 801-368, February 2001. (Revised October 2002.) View Details
  21. Estee Lauder and the Market for Prestige Cosmetics

    Opens with a brief history of the U.S. cosmetics market and its rapid development in the 1920s. Also recounts Lauder's initial involvement in the sector, making skin care products and selling them in Manhattan beauty parlors during the Great Depression. Pays particular attention to the period after World War II, when widespread socioeconomic shifts were altering women's possibilities--perceptual and material. For Lauder, such shifts presented important business opportunities. Invites students to analyze how the entrepreneur exploited these opportunities by building quality products, a powerful brand, and a best-of-brand organization. Closes with a discussion of the other brands that Lauder and her colleagues created, those that it acquired in the 1990s, and the importance of specific organizational capabilities in sustaining market leadership in the global, intensely competitive market for prestige beauty products.

    Keywords: Fluctuation; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Market Entry and Exit; Entrepreneurship; Luxury; Business Strategy; Society; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Estee Lauder and the Market for Prestige Cosmetics." Harvard Business School Case 801-362, February 2001. (Revised February 2002.) View Details
  22. Henry Heinz: Making Markets for Processed Foods

    Outlines many of the supply-side innovations, such as improved transportation, communication, and technological developments, that greatly expanded the productive capacity of the United States in the late 19th century. Explores a range of demand-side shifts, including rising incomes, population growth, and urbanization, that changed consumers' wants and needs. These developments, taken together with those on the supply side, altered the nature of the American economy, ushering in widespread industrialization, markets of unprecedented size, and consumption on an entirely new scale. Investigates how, within this context, H.J. Heinz created a successful food-processing business in the last three decades of the 19th century.

    Keywords: Demand and Consumers; Competitive Advantage; Corporate Strategy; Entrepreneurship; Supply and Industry; Innovation and Invention; Food and Beverage Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F. "Henry Heinz: Making Markets for Processed Foods." Harvard Business School Case 801-289, February 2001. (Revised August 2001.) View Details
  23. Economic Gains from Trade: Comparative Advantage

    How nations trade and whether they benefit from it are two of the oldest and most important questions in political economy. In the 170 years since David Ricardo formally developed the theory of comparative advantage, it has become one of the principles most widely accepted among professional economists. Despite this wide acceptance in the professional community, the basics of international trade are still poorly understood by many policy makers and casual commentators. This note introduces the theory of comparative advantage. It is divided into four sections. The first presents a short history of the concepts behind comparative advantage. The second develops a simple model with several examples to demonstrate the gains that result from trade between nations. The third briefly covers several extensions of the simple model. Finally, two traditional objections to free trade are reviewed. A rewritten version of an earlier note.

    Keywords: Business Model; Microeconomics; Trade; Cost Management; Business and Government Relations;

    Citation:

    Kennedy, Robert E., and Nancy F. Koehn. "Economic Gains from Trade: Comparative Advantage." Harvard Business School Background Note 796-183, June 1996. (Revised November 1996.) View Details
  24. Williams-Sonoma, Inc.--1990

    Howard Lester, chairman and CEO, has just completed a second offering of common stock in Williams-Sonoma, Inc. ($218.2 million 1989 sales). Having targeted $500 million in retail sales, Lester's challenge is to: 1) prioritize growth investments in five existing catalog and store retailing concepts, and 2) align corporate retailing strategy with internal structure and consumer demand. The case presents historical data on the company, its industry, and competitors to support analysis.

    Keywords: Corporate Strategy; Alignment; Customer Value and Value Chain; Competitive Strategy; Retail Industry;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Michael Dearing. "Williams-Sonoma, Inc.--1990." Harvard Business School Case 797-019, July 1996. View Details
  25. Patricia Ostrander

    Analyzes the career of former money manager Patricia Ostrander. Focuses on Ostrander's purchase of stock warrants issued in connection with the 1985 leveraged buyout of Storer Communications and on her later indictment and conviction for accepting unlawful compensation. At the broadest level, the case examines the financial, economic, legal, and moral consequences of capital market activities in the 1980s.

    Keywords: Leveraged Buyouts; Ethics; Capital Markets; Managerial Roles; Outcome or Result; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Donald J. Edwards, and Antonio F. Weiss. "Patricia Ostrander." Harvard Business School Case 795-016, October 1994. (Revised April 1996.) View Details
  26. Ciba Consumer Pharmaceuticals' Acutrim: Challenges and Opportunities in Today's Diet Industry

    Since its introduction in 1983, Acutrim has been a major player in the U.S. appetite suppressant market and in the broader diet industry. This case focuses on the strategic, regulatory, marketing, and financial challenges this product and the rapidly changing diet industry pose for Ciba Consumer Pharmaceuticals as part of a large public corporation. Within this context, the case is intended to introduce students to the $33 billion diet industry and to elucidate some of the economic, cultural, and psychological factors that help shape the market for diet products, low-fat and health entrees, and a wide variety of foods in prosperous economies.

    Keywords: Product Marketing; Market Design; Industry Structures; Public Ownership; Problems and Challenges; Opportunities; Food and Beverage Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., and Rebecca Voorheis. "Ciba Consumer Pharmaceuticals' Acutrim: Challenges and Opportunities in Today's Diet Industry." Harvard Business School Case 795-043, December 1994. (Revised March 1996.) View Details

Other Publications and Materials

Media Appearances

    Research Summary

  1. Overview

    My research focuses on effective leadership and how leaders craft lives of purpose, worth and impact. Using the lens of history, my work examines how individual leaders from business, government and other walks of life accomplish important missions; navigate failure, calamity and great turbulence; use their emotional intelligence to help them do all this; and inspire others to be better than they would otherwise have been. I am particularly interested in how leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Shackleton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,Howard Schultz and Rachel Carson consciously learn, grow and change as they lead. All of my research and teaching, including my HBS course on the history of leadership, is concerned with these issues.

    Keywords: Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times; venture capital; private equity; Emotional Experience of Leaders; History of Leadership; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; History; Service Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Health Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Advertising Industry; United States; Europe;

  2. Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times

    Nancy F. Koehn's research examines effective leadership in turbulent times through the lens of history.  Her latest book, The Story of American Business:  From the Pages of the New York Times (2009), sketches some of the most important people, events and larger forces from the past 150 years of U.S. business history.  She is the author of Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (2001) and The Power of Commerce:  Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (1994) as well as a contributor to six other books. She is currently working on book about the most important lessons from leaders through history, including Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Shackelton. Rachel Carson, and Frederick Douglass.  She has recently written numerous articles about these individuals and the lessons they offer for leaders today.  In 2011, she completed a film about Abraham Lincoln's relevance today titled, "Lincoln's Journey:  Lessons for Leadership."

    Keywords: Emotional Experience of Leaders; History of Leadership; Effective Leadership in Turbulaent Times; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; History; Service Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Health Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Advertising Industry; United States; Europe;

    Teaching

  1. Overview

    I am currently teaching a Harvard Business School MBA elective course course called "Power and Glory in Turbulent Times: The History of Leadership from Henry V to Steve Jobs." This class, which I developed two years ago, examines the effectiveness of leaders who lived and worked in moments of widespread disruption. The course aims to understand the choices they made; including the strategies they used, the values they lived by and the tradeoffs they accepted as they created significant power in companies, communities, and nations. It also focuses on the impact, immediate and long-term, that each of these individuals had, and how this impact was related to their animating missions. Particular attention is paid to what it means to lead forcefully in times of ongoing turmoil and to the relevant lessons that these leaders offer for our own moment, in the early 21st century. Finally, the course strives to draw credible inspiration from these individuals and the contexts in which they acted. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to examine the choices each leader made, the path he or she traveled, the values and objectives he or she nurtured, and the larger stage on which that person acted. This perspective provides a broad understanding of the long-term impact of leadership and innovation on business, government, and society. The leaders studied include Shakepeare's Henry V, Winston Churchill, Alexander Hamilton, Josiah Wedgwood, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Heinz, John D. Rockefeller, Milton Hershey, Madam Walker, Estee Lauder, Gloria Steinem, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rachel Carson, Gary Hirshberg, William Tyndale, Robert Moses, Bono, Howard Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, Katherine Graham, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ernest Shackleton.

    Keywords: History of Leadership; venture capital; private equity; Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times; Emotional Experience of Leaders; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; History; Service Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Health Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Advertising Industry; United States; Europe;

  1. Selected in 2012 as one of the World's Best Business School Professors by Poets and Quants.

Media Appearances and Interviews

28 Oct 2014
WGBH: Boston Public Radio
21 Oct 2014
WGBH: Boston Public Radio
14 Oct 2014
WGBH: Boston Public Radio
07 Oct 2014
Boston Public Radio
18 Sep 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
16 Sep 2014
Boston Public Radio
02 Sep 2014
Boston Public Radio
18 Aug 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
17 Aug 2014
New York Times
12 Aug 2014
Boston Public Radio
06 Aug 2014
Harvard Gazette
04 Aug 2014
NPR: All Things Considered
30 Jul 2014
NPR: On Point
29 Jul 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
21 May 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
23 Apr 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
10 Apr 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
26 Mar 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
10 Mar 2014
WGBH: Greater Boston
07 Mar 2014
WGBH: Innovation Hub
27 Feb 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
05 Feb 2014
Boston Public Radio
29 Jan 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
14 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
13 Jan 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
07 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
02 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
02 Jan 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
24 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
19 Dec 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
17 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
10 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
04 Dec 2013
Marketplace Business
16 Oct 2013
Harvard Business Review
31 Oct 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
30 Sep 2013
Fast Company
01 Sep 2013
National Geographic
15 Aug 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
31 Jul 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
17 Jul 2013
Marketplace Business
05 Jun 2013
Fortune
05 Jun 2013
WGBH News
07 Jun 2013
SmartBrief on Leadership
02 May 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek
25 Apr 2013
Bloomberg TV: Market Makers
03 Mar 2013
Marketplace Business
01 Mar 2013
WGBH News
18 Feb 2013
Minnesota Public Radio
14 Feb 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
05 Feb 2013
Boston Public Radio
29 Jan 2013
PBS
26 Jan 2013
New York Times
01 Dec 2012
Barron’s
09 Nov 2012
Washington Post
28 Oct 2012
New York Times
15 Oct 2012
American Public Media: Marketplace
30 Aug 2012
American Public Media: Marketplace
10 Aug 2012
Investors Business Daily
29 Apr 2012
In the Balance
01 Apr 2012
New York Times
15 Jan 2012
New York Times
04 Dec 2011
New York Times
22 Oct 2011
New York Times
03 Oct 2011
Washington Post
08 Aug 2011
WGBH-TV
13 Jan 2011
Economist