Powerful Ideas for Worldwide Impact
“HBS faculty members pursue ambitious intellectual agendas, producing research that has a major impact: on business education, on management practice, and on society at large. As scholars, they focus on critical questions and solutions to real-world problems. As teachers, they introduce HBS students to the concepts, skills, and tools they will need to become effective leaders in demanding contexts.
With more than 200 faculty members conducting research around the globe, we are embracing the exciting challenges our times present. Both the pace and the scope of innovation have quickened. Society is asking business to do more, and to tackle problems that often require cross-disciplinary solutions. Our repertoire of research methodologies has expanded to include, for example, laboratory experiments and the analysis of big data.
Our faculty make the most of the freedom that the School’s internal funding of research provides. Individual scholarship has yielded groundbreaking concepts such as competitive strategy and the balanced scorecard. Faculty members also work collaboratively to address timely issues, bringing together insights from fields like marketing and economics in novel ways. HBS also sponsors School-wide initiatives. The output of these different streams of work includes publications, programs, courses, and conferences that broaden the School’s impact and reach.”

James R. Williston Professor of Business Administration
Former Senior Associate Dean for Research


A Research Odyssey

The research path traveled by Srikant Datar, the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration, illustrates the intellectual rewards that result from the freedom that HBS faculty enjoy to pursue evolving research interests. Datar’s work has influenced generations of HBS students and the practice of business.

Trained in mathematical economics and accounting, Datar began his career as a theoretician. After he joined HBS in 1996, his focus expanded to managerial accounting, with its emphasis on the issues managers face on the ground. His work in this field has continued unabated: Datar is coauthor of the leading cost accounting textbook, Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, now in its 15th edition, and of Managerial Accounting: Making Decisions and Motivating Performance.

It was during his fieldwork in managerial accounting that Datar first became intrigued by design and innovation as he explored cost-effectiveness in design for manufacturing. This interest intensified as he researched Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads with HBS Professor David Garvin and research associate Patrick Cullen. Published in 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis, this acclaimed book was the first comprehensive study of the MBA in 50 years.

Among the concerns Datar uncovered was an unmet need for innovative thinking and problem solving among managers. In response, he began to ponder his next research question: Can the skills that spur innovative thinking be taught and learned—and what does that process look like? Supported by an HBS Global Research Fellowship, Datar traveled the world sharing the findings from Rethinking the MBA and seeking out innovation-focused companies and thinkers. He distilled his findings to create Design Thinking and Innovation, a first-of-its-kind course now in its third iteration. Offered at the Harvard i-lab, the course is enriched by a mix of students drawn from across Harvard as well as from HBS.

Datar is continuing this line of research on several fronts. With HBS Professor James Sebenius, he is exploring the implications of design thinking for negotiations. He also has begun a long-term project on medical innovations that has already yielded new course materials. And he is seeking ways to apply design thinking to leadership development and the formulation of creative teams.


Global Research Fellows

HBS Global Research Fellowships support faculty members in research outside the United States over a semester or a year. Fellows during fiscal year 2014 were:

London, Shanghai, Sydney

Professors Joshua Coval & Leslie Perlow


Associate Professor Aldo Musacchio


Associate Professor Mikolaj Piskorski


A Century of Business Research

The Bureau of Business Research was founded in 1911 with the aim of deriving concrete, usable information within well-defined areas of inquiry—information that would be of immediate use in the curriculum, and that would demonstrate to companies the merits of cooperating with the fledgling school. The first bulletin, on shoe retailing, was published in 1913; unique for its time, it represented a “scientific” approach to the study of business, using a standard classification of accounts for retailers that HBS faculty had spearheaded. Within four months, there were more than 15,000 orders for the findings. A follow-up study in 1914 engaged more than 14,000 grocers, and reports in the ensuing years added wholesale shoe firms and grocers, retail general stores, hardware dealers and jewelers, and department and specialty stores.

Through these efforts, the School pioneered the idea of field research and laid the groundwork for an equally ambitious new undertaking: case collection.