When Nitin Nohria became the Dean of Harvard Business School in July 2010, he identified five priorities that would be addressed as a result of feedback from alumni, corporate leaders, faculty, and other stakeholders. These priorities were innovation, intellectual ambition, internationalization, inclusion, and integration. I recently had the opportunity to attend a breakfast hosted by Dean Nohria to hear about the changes that were made, and the results he has seen two years after implementation.

For starters, Dean Nohria talked about the opening of the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), and how it is fostering more collaboration across Harvard University as a whole. He also discussed the launching of the U.S. Competitiveness Project that aims to restore America’s place as a leader in the global economy.

One of the largest innovative changes implemented by Dean Nohria was the launching of the MBA curriculum Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD) which focuses on experiential, immersive, and field-based small-group experiences. There are three modules to this year-long course:

  1. Leadership Intelligence – This helps students develop an awareness of their leadership style. One activity involves videotaping students who are asked to provide negative feedback. Some students were so uncomfortable doing this that they either started off with the negative feedback right away, or went to the other extreme of spending all their time giving positive feedback and never getting around to the negative.
  2. Global Intelligence – Student teams are given the opportunity to work with 140 global partner organizations in emerging markets to create a new product or service. The student teams could be in Shanghai, Mumbai, Istanbul, and elsewhere, interviewing customers, suppliers, or visiting competitors. At the end of each day, they have a discussion with faculty members about what they have learned and the challenges they face.
  3. Implementation – In an (impressive) effort to close the gap between learning and doing, student teams are given three months to launch a new product or service. They are also provided with $3,000 in seed capital by the school. At the end of the exercise, teams debrief, evaluate, and reflect on what went well and what went wrong.

Many, including myself, are amazed at the substantial progress made on Dean Nohria’s five priorities in a short period of time. It is admirable to see a leader implement new strategic priorities so quickly and effectively. Dean Nohria has been described as someone who not only studies and teaches leadership, but who embodies the qualities of a leader in how he engages people and ideas. As I listened to his presentation, I was astounded by his commitment to innovation, collaboration, globalization, and his effectiveness as a leader. He is a true gift to the world of business and education.

*More information regarding the five priorities can be found on Harvard Business School’s website.


Christine Lin is the founder of Marvel Admissions. To learn more about how she can help you achieve your career goals, contact her at clin@marveladmissions.com.