During the meeting of the Board of GBSN on 28th January, I accepted a second term as the Chair of the Board. I am very grateful for the support of the board and their confidence to offer me a second term as Chair. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to work with Dan LeClair, CEO, the great team of GBSN colleagues and the GBSN community at large for another three years. As I begin my second term as Chair, I thought that I would share some reflections from my role on the Board of GBSN in this blog note.
I first got to know about GBSN almost twenty years ago when Guy Pfeffermann, the founder of GBSN came to describe his vision to me in Fontainebleau, France (I was a professor and Deputy Dean at INSEAD then). I was very impressed by both his vision and passion and immediately signed on INSEAD as one of the early members of GBSN (my former colleague from INSEAD, Landis Gabel is now a member of the GBSN Board). I joined Cornell University as Dean in 2012 and I promptly made the connection of the Cornell community to GBSN. I was very pleased when my colleagues at Cornell decided that joining GBSN as a member would be a good thing to do. When I finished my Deanship at Cornell in 2018, Guy, who had stepped down in 2017 and remains on GBSN’s Board, approached me about taking a more active role on the board of GBSN as Chair. I immediately agreed and I must say that the last three years have been very positive and rewarding.
GBSN was going through a leadership transition in 2018. Like any not-for-profit organization, the organization also had to increase funding support for its mission. The first priority for the board was then to steady the organization’s leadership at the top. Sometimes, there are good coincidences in life and (Guy and) I came to hear about Dan departure from AACSB during Fall 2018. I had known Dan while I was Chair of AACSB and had a tremendous respect for him and his abilities. I knew that he had played a key role in helping build up AACSB for more than 15 years. So my first task was to get the board mobilized into convincing Dan to join GBSN as CEO. I am very glad that he accepted and the results over the last two years under his leadership have been excellent. The team of GBSN also needed development with a few departures and some board members and I had to step in to actively manage the team for a major part of 2018. So looking back, hiring a great CEO (Dan) and stabilizing the GBSN team were the primary foci of the Board over 2018.
Dan joined GBSN as CEO in February 2019 and immediately went to work. The role of the board also changed to supporting and shaping the vision of Dan. After a review of GBSN’s portfolio of activities and interactions with several of its members, Dan put forward a unique vision for GBSN’s future as a purpose driven organization and network. Dan has articulated this vision very ably in multiple GBSN forums over the last 18 months and I encourage you to also read more about it. Dan also spent most of his first year to stabilize and grow the GBSN member network. The role of the board was focused on debating and discussing how to best grow the GBSN member network while keeping the organization aligned with its new vision and mission.
The board debated several key questions such as:
- What kind of schools do we invite as members of GBSN?
- How do we engage member schools in a synergistic manner to benefit both the members and the larger GBSN network?
- How should we engage with emerging schools which may not necessarily meet all the research criteria of more established schools?
- How should we engage with corporations? How do we enlarge the engagement of faculty, staff and students amongst our member schools?
- How do we increase the collective impact of the GBSN network?
Many of these questions continue to be discussed but I do think that a major part of 2019 was spent on addressing these important issues. Thanks to Dan’s leadership, the size of the GBSN network also almost doubled in 2019 and a few important new initiatives (such as a collaboration with Swift and the Case Center) were started during the same period.
At the board, we had assumed that 2020 would be spent on consolidating and expanding the new purpose driven vision of GBSN. However, the Covid pandemic certainly changed all of our plans. The focus of the board turned to ensuring the continuity of the organization and to organizational resilience. Dan and the GBSN team rapidly pivoted to remote working and this change also helped create new innovations such as the GBSN Beyond: Virtual Conference Reimagined. The GBSN annual conference had always been a major milestone for GBSN, especially for member engagement. With a physical in-person event ruled out, there was great initial concern that a major value-adding activity at GBSN would be threatened. However, the board was happy to see how Dan and the GBSN team rose to the challenge and came up with a broader and more impactful new virtual event that succeeded in engaging a diverse group of students, faculty and staff across both member and non-member schools. In the last board meeting of 2020, the board was pleased to note the steady communications and exchanges between Dan and the member schools – this certainly helped to strengthen the enlarged GBSN member network and keep the organization on stable financial footing..
As we start a new year, 2021, the GBSN board is hopeful that we should be able to leverage our organizational resilience and build on higher engagement with the member network. Over the course of 2020, Dan and I had conducted a series of in-depth interviews with deans of member schools and CEOs of selected business organizations about their views on the post-covid world. There was unanimity that the Covid pandemic is a tipping point for the world. Education certainly is moving towards a new normal where many ways in which we have operated before have to be rethought and bold experimentation to innovate in education has to be the norm. We have a lot to learn from each other and the GBSN board would like to see GBSN play a key supportive role in helping its members craft a better future for their respective communities. The GBSN board also would like to see many of the new activities (such as student treks and global entrepreneur networks) that were proposed in 2019 but put on hold due to the pandemic to be brought back and implemented.
The GBSN community is very special and the GBSN board is grateful for your collective support and engagement. Let us all commit ourselves to working in a purposeful and impactful manner to shape an inclusive and sustainable future for all.
Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He is also the President and Co-Founder of the Portulans Institute.