Business Leaders at Harvard Share Views on Crisis

Last Updated Oct 14, 2008 2:52 PM EDT

Top business leaders speaking at Harvard Business School predicted the current financial crisis will not be overcome quickly, and that the U.S. faces even greater long-run challenges including the need to develop alternative energy and diminishing competitiveness on the global stage.

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates told his audience that consumer sentiment has never been so low. "So no matter how quickly this gets fixed, you're still going to have an economic cycle with a fairly significant recession."

As part of the School's centennial activities, TV moderator Charlie Rose interviewed several prominent graduates: John Doerr, venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE; Anand G. Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.; Meg Whitman, past president and CEO of eBay; and James D. Wolfensohn, chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, LLC, and past president of the World Bank.

Read Harvard Magazine's reporting on the event or view the video. Some highlights:

  • John Doerr: The souring economy has not dampened investments in entrepreneurship, science, and innovation, which give hope for future growth. But the financial crisis is but a "minor blip" compared to climate change and global warming.
  • Jeffrey Immelt: Look for an era of increasing cooperation and regulation between the private sector and government, reversing three decades of little interaction. Problems such as health care and global warming are too large not to require cooperative actions.
  • Anand G. Mahindra: Confident about the strengths of America, Mahindra said people should expect the U.S. economy to rebound quickly--especially if "credible" leaders promote that belief.
  • Meg Whitman: Securing alternative energy should be this country's moonshot, with government acting as partners to industry and as a rallying point for US citizens.
  • James D. Wolfensohn: Having borrowed $800 billion last year alone and facing a $10 trillion debt, America must rely on innovation and technology rather than wealth to solve problems. US students should study in Asia as well as in Europe because "It's no longer a transatlantic world."
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.