Jan W. Rivkin

Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration
Unit Head, Strategy

Jan W. Rivkin is the Bruce V. Rauner Professor and chair of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School. His research, course development, and teaching efforts examine the interactions across functional and product boundaries within a firm – that is, the connections that link marketing, production, logistics, finance, human resource management, and other parts of a firm. His work analyzes, first, how such interactions constrain managerial behavior and, second, how managers use cognitive devices and organizational design to cope with decisions whose ramifications span boundaries.

Rivkin's scholarly work has appeared in journals such as Management Science, Organization Science, the Strategic Management Journal, the Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, and Research Policy. Much of this work uses simulations of complex adaptive systems to examine the theoretical implications of cross-cutting interactions. His empirical work on the topic employs a mix of large-scale statistical studies, field research, and case studies.

Rivkin also co-chairs HBS's project on the competitiveness of the United States.  In that role, he has worked with a faculty team to explore steps that leaders--especially business leaders--can take to improve the ability of firms in the U.S. to win in the global marketplace and support American living standards. His work in this domain focuses on (a) how managers choose to locate business activities in the United States or elsewhere and (b) how business leaders can best work with educators to improve America's schools.

Rivkin currently teaches the core business strategy course in the first year of the MBA Program.  Until recently, he taught strategy in HBS's Advanced Management Program as well as an MBA elective that he developed, Advanced Competitive Strategy: Integrating the Enterprise. The elective course aims to improve students’ ability to integrate across the parts of the companies they will manage. It gives students a body of concepts for thinking about cross-cutting interactions, a set of tools for making decisions with boundary-spanning implications, and in-class practice with such decisions. A comprehensive description of Advanced Competitive Strategy is available to fellow educators via Harvard Business School Publishing.

In support of his teaching and research, Rivkin has completed case studies on Airborne Express, BMG Entertainment, Dell, Delta Air Lines, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Husky Injection Molding Systems, LEGO, Lycos, Microsoft, Ryanair, Whirlpool Corporation, and Yahoo, among others.

Rivkin received his Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard. Earlier, he studied chemical engineering and public policy at Princeton and obtained a M.Sc. in economics from the London School of Economics on a Marshall Scholarship. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, Rivkin led case teams and managed client relationships at Monitor Company, a strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rivkin and his wife live in Newton, Massachusetts with their two sons.


IN 2005, A START-UP company from California called ET Water Systems decided to move its manufacturing operations to China. At the time there was a general exodus to Asia in search of lower costs, recalls Mark Coopersmith, the firm’s chief executive. ET Water Systems, which builds sophisticated irrigation devices for businesses, quickly started losing money, not least because it had so much capital tied up in big shipments of goods which took weeks to cross the oceans. Innovation suffered from the distance between manufacturing and design, and quality became a problem too.

Wall Street Journal

Ben Worthen, Anupreeta Das

Dell Inc.'s journey from computer king to buyout candidate reflects the difficulty of abandoning what propelled it to prominence: a finely tuned supply chain that could quickly assemble and deliver custom-ordered computers at a lower cost than the competition. Now the question is whether going private would present the best way for Michael Dell, the company's founder and CEO, to move the company forward with a focus on corporate customers, rather than consumers.

Harvard Magazine
September-October 2012

An interview with Michael E. Porter, Lawrence University Professor, and Jan W. Rivkin, Rauner professor of business administration and head of HBS’s strategy unit. Read the complete article, Can America Compete?


Anne VanderMey

Is there any hope for America's political process? Not much, was the answer from the group of Harvard Business School faculty gathered in Washington D.C.'s Newseum in June 2012. Same thing from a panel of D.C. heavy hitters who also showed up for the event, including a sitting U.S. Senator and the director of policy for the AFL-CIO.