Business Wisdom from Leading MBA Professors

Last Updated Apr 8, 2009 2:17 PM EDT

Every Wednesday, we feature discussions with professors from the world's leading business schools. As I began this regular series of interviews last October, the unraveling of financial markets around the world was becoming apparent to everyone from Wall Street to the proverbial Main Street. MBA students knew they would most likely see their job prospects change or diminish, and business school professors knew their courses and research would have to evolve.

Joseph Gyourko, finance professor and chair of Wharton's real estate department, helped us understand the meltdown in the real estate sector that absolutely crushed world financial markets and dramatically slowed economic growth. He discussed how the economic crisis would change the way real estate is taught to MBA students and how the real estate industry would be structured going forward.

UCLA's Dominique Hanssens discussed how economic downturns could actually be amazing opportunities for effective marketers.

According to Columbia's Rita Gunther McGrath, customers have a heightened sense of the value of the features of products and services they use--and what they want to pay for--during economic downturns. She also called for companies to not ax their new growth programs during recessions.

Paul Marshall of the Harvard Business School told us how the school's turnaround course became its most popular elective offering, even before the downturn. Marshall also stressed the importance of grasping subtle points of effective execution in managing turnarounds and assessed the career prospects for turnaround professionals.

Ely Dahan of UCLA/Anderson told us how MBA profs needed to adapt their approaches for the new economy and to better prepare their students for the job prospects they will encounter at graduation.

But even as the financial crisis took center stage, we discussed other ideas critical to business, the economy and society as a whole.

Clayton Christensen of HBS shared his views on the importance innovation in two critical sectors. Christensen explained how healthcare could be reformed by moving away from the outdated hospital model and embracing technology that enables nurses and other health workers to give the kind of care only doctors used to be able to provide. He also used his theories on disruptive innovation to explain what's wrong with the US educational system and lays out a new vision for teaching in the K-12 environment.

UCLA/Anderson's Dahan showed how his ideas on predictive decision models and the "wisdom of crowds" could be applied to last fall's presidential campaign.

Many organizations haven't embraced the most effective way to manage their employees, said Don Sull of the London Business School. Rather than manage via power or processes, corporate leaders need to craft high performing organizations via a web of mutual commitments. He also illustrated how companies can make that philosophy a reality in their daily workings.

Alicia Loffler of Northwestern's Kellogg School introduced us to some of the cutting-edge techniques her program uses to educate future healthcare professionals and assessed the future of the US biotech sector.

Chris Erickson of UCLA/Anderson described a new kind of globe-hopping MBA--taught in Los Angeles, Singapore and other cities--that is geared toward the globe-hopping executives of the future.

Henry Chesbrough of Cal-Berkeley's Haas School of Business explained new business models for innovators and illustrated how "open innovation" could be a great option for companies wishing to develop new products in tough economic times.

McGrath of Columbia showcased some of the ideas in her new book, Discovery Driven Growth. She explained the best ways companies can "frame" their growth objectives and then manage a consistent growth business development process. Then she explained the kind of people companies needed to bring into their growth initiatives.

We'll be back soon with more perspectives from the world's leading business educators and researchers.

  • Jeremy Dann

    Jeremy Dann is a Lecturer in Marketing at UCLA's Anderson School of Management and an innovation consultant and writer. He has been a contributor to several business and technology publications and is the founding editor of "Strategy & Innovation."