When people ask me about the impact of the global pandemic on Harvard Business School (HBS), I tell them that it has been the gateway to our future. This may sound counterintuitive, but rather than grinding us to halt, the pandemic required us to find new ways to achieve our mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world. It propelled us into a future full of possibilities we otherwise might never have imagined. Over the past year, our vision for that future has crystallized in the form of exciting new initiatives that have the potential to reshape management practice and the very role of business in society.
We began the academic year focused on welcoming our entire community back to campus. The vagaries of COVID-19 notwithstanding, we were determined to restore the vibrancy and dynamism of our campus while building on the knowledge and skills we had gained in hybrid learning and remote work. Our new normal will be to take what we’ve always done well—teaching and research—and infuse it with new tools and platforms to extend our reach and accelerate our impact.
To achieve this vision, we must embrace digitalization to a much greater extent. The digital transformation effort we launched is exploring how we can use data and technology to fundamentally rethink aspects of our organization and activities. It’s a long-term goal, but we are already pursuing three opportunities that could yield near-term results, including lifelong learning for alumni, supporting a digital research infrastructure, and expanding the reach and impact of our ideas, courses and cases.
Just as we are focused on digital transformation, it’s clear that digital technologies and data science, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, are disrupting operations and business models around the world. The Digital, Data, and Design Institute at Harvard (D^3) launched last year provides HBS and other schools in the University with a powerful foundation for accelerating research on big, multidisciplinary problems. Several teams of faculty have already launched labs, each pursuing insights to large, complex problems. Their work will position us as a global leader in reshaping the landscape of the digital-first world and the role of business in that transformation.
Another major development for the School has been the announcement of the Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society (BiGS). Business has long been an engine for prosperity in the world, but more is needed (and expected) if we are to address challenges like economic inequality, racial equity, or climate change. We are excited to deepen, accelerate, and amplify the work we do in this arena through research, teaching, convening, and dissemination.
As you’ll see in this report, these major new undertakings are becoming interwoven in the day-to-day work of the School. Our ambition to bring groundbreaking management insights into the classroom has never been greater and we continue to do the demanding work of improving equity and inclusion for all members of our community, which is so critical to our collective success.
I look forward to sharing further updates with you in the year ahead.
Dean of the Faculty