25 Oct 2011

Harvard Business School Professor Richard Rosenbloom Dies at 78

Professor Emeritus
Richard M. Rosenbloom

BOSTON—Richard S. Rosenbloom, the David Sarnoff Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School and an authority on the management of technology and innovation, whose teaching and pioneering research had a significant impact at HBS and beyond for more than five decades, died on Oct. 24 in New York City. He was 78 and had been in declining health for the past two years.

A member of the HBS faculty since 1957, Dick Rosenbloom taught MBA courses on Advanced Production Problems, Competitive Strategy, Management of Technology, Manufacturing Policy, and Operations Management. He helped develop and teach a second-year MBA elective course on Technology, Business and the Modern Society. He also taught in the School's Program for Management Development (PMD), an Executive Education program that was offered to middle managers for many years.

A scholar with broad-ranging research interests, Rosenbloom focused on exploring the strategic uses of technology by corporations and the relationship between technological change and competitive strategy. Long concerned about the social consequences of technological change, he also investigated the applications of new technology to elementary education, urban redevelopment, and the national economy.

He published numerous books, articles, and papers on technology-related topics, including Technology and Information Transfer: A Survey of Practice in Industrial Organizations in 1970. Based on survey data collected from more than 2,000 scientists and engineers, the book describes the process by which technical information is communicated and used in the research and development operations of large industrial corporations. The book aims to enhance understanding of the factors influencing technical communications and how managers can strengthen the process.

From 1983 to 1997, Rosenbloom was co-editor of a series of books called Research on Technological Innovation, Management and Policy. The series reported on current research and thought shaping the strategic management of technology and innovation.

He also co-edited and contributed to the 1996 book Engines of Innovation: U.S. Industrial Research at the End of an Era, an examination of the impact of the competitive environment of the 1980s and 1990s on industrial research in the United States.

Richard Selig Rosenbloom was born January 16, 1933, the older child of the financial manager of a Springfield, Mass., furniture company. While attending the Springfield public schools, he developed an interest in chemistry, which he studied as an undergraduate at Harvard College.

Upon earning his bachelor's degree, Rosenbloom realized that his interests lay more in the management of science than pure science, and he enrolled at Harvard Business School. He earned an MBA with distinction in 1956 and a doctorate in business administration (DBA) in 1960, both from Harvard Business School. As early as 1959, he was teaching courses in Production and Operations Management in the School's MBA program.

In the 1960s, Rosenbloom focused his attention on public sector management, believing that some of the nation's most serious problems of productivity were caused by the policies of state and local governments.

He was an active participant in the interdisciplinary Harvard University Program on Technology and Society and chaired a faculty group that conducted research on the interrelationships of technology, business, and the city. He edited the program's 1969 publication Social Innovation in the City: New Enterprises for Community Development.

Rosenbloom was appointed director of the School's Doctoral programs in 1970 and two years later was named the first incumbent of the Sarnoff professorship. He advised and mentored many students as they proceeded with their doctoral research, including Clayton Christensen, now the School's Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration and himself a world-renowned authority on "disruptive technology" and innovation.

"Dick helped guide my research and kept my thinking sharp and my standards of evidence high," said Christensen, who later collaborated with Rosenbloom on a number of research projects. "I will be forever grateful for what he taught me about the substance and process of scholarship."

After finishing his term as head of the Doctoral Programs in 1974, Rosenbloom spent a year as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's business school, where he helped found the Jerusalem Institute of Management (JIM), an independent institution that trained Israeli executives. He remained active with the Institute for many years after that, frequently returning to Jerusalem to teach, conduct research, and meet with JIM's board of directors.

After his year in Israel, Rosenbloom was named Associate Dean for Research and Course Development at HBS, a post he held through 1980. During that same period, he undertook a multiyear study on the emergence of the home video industry. His examination of six firms that pioneered the development of home video recording technology showed how a handful of Japanese companies gained global leadership in the consumer mass-market videocassette recorder market in the 1970s.

Rosenbloom most recently investigated the histories of radical technological innovations and their consequences for the competitive positions of both established firms and those that exploit new technologies to enter markets.

In addition to his teaching, research, and writing, Rosenbloom served as a director of nine public companies in the United States, Great Britain, and Israel. He also was a consultant on the management of research and development and innovation to a number of industrial firms, including Xerox, where he worked as a senior advisor to two of the company's chief technical officers.

He advised the National Industrial Conference Board, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Planning Association, and other organizations on problems of education, innovation, and technology utilization. He was also the treasurer of Hebrew College in Newton Center, Mass.

Rosenbloom retired from the active HBS faculty in 1998, but continued to write and conduct research for many years as well as serve on the board of Arrow Electronics.

Before moving to New York City in 2002, Rosenbloom was a long-time resident of Cambridge, Mass. A bespectacled, energetic man who favored bow ties, he routinely walked to work as often as possible, a form of exercise and relaxation he once described as "one of life's great pleasures."

Married for 46 years to the late Ruth Friedlander, who died in 2003, Rosenbloom is survived by three children, Joshua of Lawrence, Kans., Danny of Brooklyn, NY, and Rachel of Cambridge, Mass.; and 8 grandchildren.

Services were held on Wednesday, Oct 26, in Brookline, Mass., followed by burial at Sharon Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Prof. Rosenbloom can be made to the Harvard College Fund Scholarship Program (Attn: Anne Funderburk), Harvard University, 124 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date.


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