November 2, 2010
These 100 days have flown by, and I have to be honest—I am still not fully settled in. The last of my boxes and furniture only arrived in Evanston last week, and my suitcase has been packed and on planes with me every week. But despite the frequent travel and hectic pace of the transition, I find myself deeply energized and excited by the challenges and victories that lay ahead. I’m feeling more convinced than ever about the critical role that business schools need to own and embrace in preparing leaders for the 21st century and the unique role that Kellogg can play in that task.
Through research, business schools need to keep pushing knowledge about the performance of markets and the practice of management forward. We need to understand more about how we, as a global society, can maximize the benefits of free market capitalism in creating wealth and social well-being, while minimizing its very real limitations. We need to keep pushing ourselves to learn more about how to build effective organizations—organizations that will create the jobs and provide economic support and productive purpose to the lives of the seven billion people who will soon inhabit this planet.
Through our teaching, business schools need to energize and inspire the next generation of organization builders. Throughout history, no leader, no matter how charismatic or visionary, has ever affected positive change without building a strong organization behind him or her. It is in building robust teams, organizations and communities in all sectors that we unify human action and facilitate the flow of progress over time. It is only through this medium that free markets take form and that the daily economic toil of human life is given context. At business schools, it is our social obligation to equip tomorrow’s organization builders.
Through engagement with our broader society, business schools must reinvigorate and lead discussions around the values and meaning of business. Too many people simply don’t understand, or have forgotten, that the practice of business has the power do so much good, when properly directed. At its heart, business is about identifying and empowering the ideas that unify human action and facilitate the flow of progress over time. The conduct of business begins with a person or group of people with an idea—an idea for which other people are willing to give their money, time or other means of exchange. Management is about the task of building strong organizations around that big idea, that common purpose, and bringing increased value to human kind in doing so. And this is a mighty task.
As Adam Smith long ago observed, what uniquely separates humans from all other animals is our “propensity to truck”—to barter and exchange. It is our ability to help each other in the task of living, so that through the process of exchange we free up our unique human capacities not only to make money but—more importantly—to produce magnificent works of art, architecture, and design; write provocative books, blogs and articles; and discover and make affordable technologies that deepen and enrich the human experience.
As I look ahead, I am in awe of what our global society is capable of producing together, and I am ever more committed to equipping Kellogg for its role in this task. To do this, we need to engage in deeper dialogue with today’s best leaders and thinkers across all sectors about values and meaning in the marketplace and the thoughtful practice of management. At the same time, we need to attract and educate tomorrow’s leaders—the organization builders of the 21st century—who will guide our society in realizing that potential across all sectors of society.
As I complete these first 100 days, I thank all of you who have followed my blog. This site has served as a wonderful medium to help acquaint people connected to Kellogg and Northwestern with me as I have reflected on management education in these early days. Moving forward, I will continue to blog—albeit a little less frequently—leveraging this platform as a means to spark continued discourse, debate and discovery.
And so the journey continues…
I welcome your comments, feedback and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org