January 21, 2022

Dean Datar’s Bold Agenda for HBS

Amid the global pandemic, Srikant Datar became Harvard Business School’s new dean on January 1, 2021 and set about introducing an ambitious agenda for HBS focused on two initiatives: 1) businesses’ engagement with their wider societies and 2) accelerating application of digital technologies, data science, and design thinking to every aspect of business operations.

In his first 12 months, Datar covered much ground. His affinity towards digital technologies has helped the program adapt quickly to the remote and hybrid learning required by the pandemic. However, with the heightened awareness of racial inequities in the United States, Datar launched a technology focused listening campaign in which he talked with nearly 1,000 HBS constituents and then ran the contents of those conversations through natural-language-processing tools to identify unbiased themes, ideas and attitudes. Embedded in his mission to address inequality, inequity, climate change, and other threats, Datar leveraged his academic work in design thinking to go beyond incremental change. To that end, HBS is creating the Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society. Several of the institute’s activities reflect the boldness of HBS’s agenda:

  • HBS has become the first academic partner of OneTen, a business-led initiative whose mission is to “hire, promote, and advance one million black individuals who do not have a four-year degree into family-sustaining careers” within the next decade
  • Through its “impact-weighted accounts project” HBS is seeking ways to measure and value climate change and carbon-neutral goals beyond the normal financial-accounting metrics. One example is researching the secondary financial impacts of product recalls, which are much more than the obvious cost of repairing the product. Secondary effects such as lost revenue, increased public relations, and increased employee training are uncovered, and the impact-weighted methodology reveals the financial effects to the income statement
  • HBS plans to deploy researchers to Heartland mid-America where de-industrialization has been most harmful and where the presence of digital technologies and life sciences has been less pronounced. These researchers will then search for promising entrepreneurial innovations and opportunities and connect those founders with HBS faculty from either the Boston location or the West Coast Silicon Valley research center to support their enterprises
  • New models of social enterprise where HBS will explore systemic changes that could enhance the impact of organizations on society. The HBS MBA experience provides several opportunities to get involved in the social enterprise initiative including: independent team projects with reimbursement grants, impact investing coursework and the Impact Investment Fund, and funding support for participating in either the Summer Fellows or Leadership Fellows programs

In HBS’s MBA classrooms, Datar envisions several bold changes as well:

  • Hybrid classrooms that can promote collaboration between returning alumni “sitting in” alongside current MBA candidates for a refresher course or introduction to a new field
  • Technologically enhanced teaching theaters and tools that can hold hundreds of learners, several times the size of a current MBA section
  • Evolving Harvard Business School Online, which has the potential to enroll orders of magnitude more students than the school serves annually now (about 1,900 MBA candidates and 12,600 executive-education participants)
  • HBS is working with Amazon Web Services to determine how the school could use all its content to devise an Amazon- or Netflix-like “recommendation engine.” This could unlock the ability to deliver lifelong learning to MBA graduates in support of their changing careers. The vision is feasible within 5 to 10 years — an option for admitted MBA students enrolling later this decade

For a review of the entire bold HBS agenda, click here. If you’re inspired to start your business school application journey, contact Admitify today!