Chairman’s Corner

The World After Covid-19

We are witnessing a mixed picture on the Covid crisis today. Many developed nations are relaxing the restrictions put in place over the last year, while some other emerging markets such as India and Brazil are still caught in the midst of a raging Covid crisis. While we see hope and light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, the contours of the world after Covid-19 remain to be decided.

Last year, Dan LeClair, CEO GBSN and I reached out to deans from schools in countries like Nigeria, England, Mexico, Egypt, China and the United States with an invitation to speak with us. We invited them to pause, look up and ahead; to see past the immediate emergency and to think about what the future might look like in a world after Covid-19. The deans were generous with their time and many agreed to introduce us to business leaders who were willing to have a similar conversation. Our discussions with these business school and private sector leaders have been compiled into a book that has just been published by GBSN and is available on Amazon. I would like to invite you to purchase a copy of the book (Kindle version available for $9.95 with all proceeds from the sale of the book going to benefit GBSN) and read the interviews which were both deeply personal and also insightful. Three important themes emerged from our discussions:

Human – and Humane – Leadership 

We were struck by how vulnerable our interviewees were willing to be. Their answers to personal questions, such as how their own leadership might change and what shifts they’d already seen in their own lives, were deeply considered and freely shared. Some were pursuing new hobbies; others found solace in exercise and time in nature. Most were spending more time with their families than they had in years, reconnecting and learning about the people who matter most. But they had not lost sight of those beyond their immediate circles: there was a real sense of connection and compassion with not just employees, but their employees’ families and communities more broadly. Somehow, they held rapid change – that acceleration necessitated by Covid-19 – and small, personal moments together.

Globalization vs. Turning Inward

Geo-politics was a crucial part of our conversations. Globalization and the shifting role of supply chains emerged as strong themes. Asia’s role as a growing power was repeatedly highlighted; some interviewees suggested that Europe could harness the crisis to re-establish itself as a force to be reckoned with, while others believed Europe was going to be left behind by the Asian giants. The US’s inward turn unsettled many.

“Our thought leaders wanted to know whether the world would work together, or pull apart; they were struck by just how sharply and fast the existing lines between the “haves and the have nots” had leapt into focus.”

Just about a year on, it is sobering to see how much those fault lines have widened, and saddening to realize how much pulling apart has occurred; today we see wealthy nations are racing ahead with vaccination programs while their poorer counterparts are left floundering.

Teaching with Tech

All the leaders we interviewed agreed that the pandemic had accelerated digital transformation. Suddenly, companies had to coordinate work in a physically dispersed environment. The Covid-induced change was profound in education, where technology has had less of impact than many experts predicted in previous years. A major topic in the interviews was the role of platforms, such as Zoom, in ensuring continuity of asynchronous teaching and learning when health restrictions made residential learning impossible. Schools were forced to shift quickly, almost overnight, to deliver instruction, facilitate peer-to-peer engagement, and offer project-based experiential learning, all in a virtual environment. Faculty had to learn new digital skills and schools had to develop new models and capabilities. 

Many of the leaders in education and business talked about how surprised their colleagues were to learn so much of their work can be accomplished without being together in the office. Faculty, in particular, began to discover ways of using technology to make education more efficacious as well more efficient. It could also, some interviewees suggested, contribute to more openness and diversity.

Where our GBSN Network Fits in

We expect that these conversations will help all of us in the GBSN network to facilitate innovation and change in management education and development. GBSN’s mission has always been about education benefiting society. But it’s not just about education alone. Covid-19 has attracted attention to two other ways that business schools make a difference: through research and community engagement. Leaders commented about the general responsibility to help organizations survive – and not only their own. Many businesses deployed students and faculty to address local challenges brought on by Covid. For example, from the beginning many business schools collected, compiled, and communicated about data and information to support policy and business decisions. Students and professors have also worked on projects to help local SMEs pivot online, and to restart the local economy.

As discussed in many of the interviews, Covid-19 has elevated the need for organizations to work together to achieve important objectives. This is especially true when it comes to international initiatives, as travel between countries has been more restricted. GBSN has played and can play an important role in facilitating this collaboration.

GBSN is getting stronger by building more connections between members. A large family isn’t very powerful if nobody talks to each other. By offering international competitions, monthly member gatherings, and learning communities, GBSN is building more and more connections between members that will continue to strengthen the network’s capacity to achieve the mission. 

Looking Ahead

The world after Covid is still under construction, but we hope insights from the interviews will encourage and enable us to “build back better”, as they say. Regardless, we believe the true value of these interviews is that they capture the moment: the views during the crisis about the unknown future to come. Our memories are surprisingly short and soon it will be easy to forget how we felt and the future we envisioned during that stressful time. We also hope the interviews serve as inspiration and guidance to leaders everywhere, especially about managing in a crisis.  

This blog is based on Chapter 1 of the book “The World After Covid-19” authored by Soumitra Dutta and Dan LeClair.


Soumitra Dutta
Soumitra Dutta, dean of Johnson (JGSM).

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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta

Leadership is About Asking the Right Questions

When I was dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell, I was often asked the question “what is the most important trait of a leader?” I am sure that you have also most likely been asked this question or have seen others answer this question. It is tempting to answer this question by giving views like, “a leader needs to be visionary and should inspire others” or “ a leader has to be humble and serve the community” or “a leader needs to be disciplined and focused on execution”. None of these views are wrong and each one is a legitimate answer to the question posed earlier.

After having spent 30 years as an academic in leading global business schools, having served in senior administrative positions in schools in Europe and the USA for over 20 years and having interacted with hundreds of business leaders, I have formed my own opinion also. I believe today that the most important trait of a leader is not to have the right answers but to be able to ask the right questions. I believe that no one has all the right answers. If one is fortunate, one has perhaps some of the answers correct. But if one is able to ask the right questions, and if one is humble enough to seek answers to them, the chances are higher that the leader will be able to successfully engage with his/her community, motivate people and guide the organization towards sustained success.

A leader has multiple responsibilities in a business school (or for that matter, within any organization). One of these important roles is to establish the direction of the school. An important question in this regard is “what is the purpose of our school?” Answering this question is never easy as a business school is a connected ecosystem of multiple stakeholders. Some might view the purpose of a school to be to provide a good education to students. Others may view it as to provide jobs and careers to students and alumni. Yet others may see the important goal of a business school to have an impact on society at large. There are obviously other possible answers to this simple but important question. The leader of the business school may have to seek the input of different stakeholder groups to determine the “right” answer to the question for her school. The answer(s) that the leader chooses sets the mission and vision of the school and influences other subsequent actions within the school’s strategy.

We are living through a unique phase of recent human history. The Covid pandemic has forced a rethink of education and many aspects of our professional and personal lives. Technology adoption has accelerated significantly and is changing education profoundly.

“New models in education are emerging and the precise future nature and form of delivery of education is not clear. The leader of a business school may not know what the future of education looks like, but it is essential that the leader is able to ask the right questions.”

No two business schools are alike and so the important questions may vary from school to school.

  • How will our programs move online and to what degree?
  • Which student groups should we aim to reach via technology?
  • Should we embrace teaching delivered remotely by visiting faculty outside our core faculty groups?
  • How can technology be used to support lifelong learning?
  • Can we use technology to do online assessments for students who are not enrolled in our school?
  • How can we use technology to make our programs more inclusive?
  • How should the content of what we teach given what we now know about a people-centric view of the economy?

The list of questions can be long and it is the responsibility of the leader to not only pose the right questions, but to also identify the right subset of important questions to focus on.

A leader cannot have the right answers to all important questions. A good leader will recognize the limitations of his/her knowledge and will actively seek inputs from others to help define the questions better and assess what the right answers could or should be. At times, there may be no “right” answer to a question or situations where considerable uncertainty exists about the answer(s) to choose. There are tools such as scenario analysis which can be useful in such situations, but the most important element is the willingness of a leader to acknowledge that she/he does not have the answer(s) and to consult with key stakeholder groups to arrive at a consensus on the best possible answer(s) to the question(s) on hand.

Many important questions need to asked today by business school leaders as we start the slow process of coming out of the Covid pandemic and reshaping business school education for a sustainable and inclusive future. Determining which questions to ask is the first and important challenge for a business school leader. If you get this right, you have already overcome the most important challenge of leadership and made significant progress towards your goals.


Soumitra Dutta
Soumitra Dutta, dean of Johnson (JGSM).

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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta

Reflections from the GBSN Board

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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu

Chairman’s Corner: A Year Full of Hope Ahead

I trust that you have enjoyed a good holiday break and are now enjoying a great start to the new year.

2020 has been a strange year in more ways than one. Of course, the health crisis triggered by the Covid-19 crisis triggered a dramatic set of consequences around the world. Many lives were unfortunately lost and I am sure that most of us know of friends or family members who succumbed to the Covid virus. The economic crisis hit hard and many countries are still struggling to recover. Experts estimate that global poverty levels have risen eradicating hard-earned progress made over several years. Certain groups of the population, especially minorities and women have been disadvantaged and their causes pushed in some instances back by a decade or more. The closure of schools has also impacted learning, especially for young children and the importance of inclusivity in learning has come to fore of the agenda of school leaders. While the vaccine has provided hope for overcoming the Covid-19 crisis, the path ahead is still uncertain given rapid mutations in the virus and the continuing spread of the Covid virus in many countries. Behaviors are hard to change and frequently politics has also hindered the adoption of good health practices. Political leadership has been wanting in many regions and cracks in global cooperation have become visible.

In the midst of this gloom, one can also find many good developments and stories of hope. Humanity has come to the forefront. Business and government leaders have realized that people matter more than economics. We can only hope that many of the actions and policies put in place last year to help the under-privileged continue and become part (in an appropriate form) of our future policies. Digital acceleration has also happened. Experts note that the changes that would have normally required 5 years or more happened in 5 months or less. This was certainly true for education moving online. Few could have imagined a scenario in which all (or most) education would have moved online rapidly in a few weeks. Strangely, this successful rapid shift also demonstrated our tremendous innate capacity to innovate. The power of global collaboration and new technologies (such as the rapid decoding of genetic sequences) was also visible in the speed with which the Covid vaccine was created and prepared for launch. At a more micro-level, faculty were forced to rethink their curriculum and pedagogy. The end result has been positive in terms of new investments in learning, catalyzed by the different demands of online teaching. As part of the work-from-home philosophy, most of us also spent precious more time at home with family, often much more than we had done in several years.

As we start a new year, we should do so with hope and not regret. We should seek to use the resilience we gained from last year to make us stronger for the future. We should not seek to return to education models from the pre-covid period, simply because they are familiar. It may make life simpler for us to revert back to “how things were” but that would not be the right choice to make. We should be inspired to come up with a new “human-centric” vision of education that is more responsive to the needs of society and business. We should seek to use the power of the platforms provided by our schools to increase the positive impact of our institutions on our communities.

“We should actively seek to spread the gift of education to more. This can be our important contribution to help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have to recommit ourselves and our institutions to creating a better future – one that is more inclusive and sustainable.”

The next months will be a time to build on this hope. It will also be a time to reconnect with colleagues and friends and work on these important goals together. Thank you for being a valued member of the Global Business School Network. We are very grateful for your many contributions and wish you and your communities good health and the courage to take on bold and impactful new initiatives in the new year.


Soumitra Dutta, dean of Johnson (JGSM).

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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta

Sharing Best Practices in the New World of Blended Learning

The 2020 calendar year has brought many novel experiences in teaching for most faculty. Our campuses have been closed for months and we have been forced to move our classes online. Teaching online has brought into stark reality the complexities of delivering high quality learning experiences remotely. Not only did we have to adjust to a new technology, we had to cope with the realities of teaching and learning in home environments. My wife (who is also an academic) and I had to create separate spaces for our own teaching and online meetings. Luckily we had enough spare rooms in our home and no young children or pets at home to be able to do so easily. I know that many other faculty colleagues struggled to balance their personal situations with the demands of online teaching. A similar situation was also true for students. Most students had to balance their personal and learning contexts. I had many situations when my EMBA students brought their young babies along with them to class. I welcomed them and also at times involved their children into the class proceedings as appropriate. We experimented, we adjusted and we innovated to be able to do our best in a difficult situation.

Over the fall semester (2020), many universities including my own (Cornell University) switched to blended teaching. We have garnered a few important lessons about the spread of Covid on campus. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher education outlined the five important lessons in this regard[1]:

  • With precautions in place, classrooms and other formal on-campus spaces aren’t important vectors of viral spread
  • Off-campus social gatherings are the top drivers of coronavirus at colleges
  • The spread isn’t entirely off campus, residence halls are also sources of infections
  • Entry and surveillance testing for students and faculty are critical
  • College-student outbreaks can lead to infections and deaths among more vulnerable people in the community

With Covid vaccines on the horizon and with no major outbreaks of Covid caused by blended teaching, academic leaders are now looking to the horizon where academic life returns to a “new normal”. There is general consensus that the widespread use of remote learning and its relative (and for some observers, surprising) success has made it clear that teaching will evolve to a more blended format even as the fear of Covid infections recedes to a small and manageable threat. If blended learning is indeed the future of academic institutions, then faculty will need to invest in new skills and curriculum to become excellent in the new normal. This is where GBSN hopes to play an important role in helping upgrade faculty skills and spread good practices amongst faculty of how to excel in blended teaching and learning.

The need and desire for learning and development has been around for as long as humanity exists. Thousands of years have nurtured methodologies and practices across the world and has given rise to the profession of teachers and professors, facilitators and coaches. With the Covid crisis, many of the profession’s assumptions have been challenged, and now pedagogy has to be re-thought and new practices have to be developed. GBSN will be launching in mid-January 2021 a series of ten webinars is to help interested faculty to join the journey of developing new and exciting ways to teach and develop the futures of students.

GBSN, in collaboration with some partners will be conducting a series of workshop-style webinars illustrating practices at leading institutions across the world and beyond. Each seminar will present a variety of practices on particular aspects of online learning and development – such as managing student engagement and stimulating case discussions. Together we will take the time to explore the nature and dynamics of each of these practices, learn how to develop them, inquire on technology and processes and build a portfolio of progressive practices that will allow faculty to succeed in a blended education environment. The option to obtain a GBSN certificate by those faculty who have participated in all ten workshop webinars will also be available.

This is a unique opportunity for faculty from GBSN member schools to participate in an active and stimulating discussion on how to maintain, adapt and even improve pedagogy leveraging the emerging technology landscape. We will not be looking at the latest high-tech examples, but at practical methods and approaches that are easily accessible across regions globally.  

Please look out for details in the coming days and do feel free to reach out to me or to Dan LeClair, CEO of GBSN if you would like to contribute and participate in the workshops. This is yet another way in which we can come together as a community and help build better futures for our institutions and our students.


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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta


[1] https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-5-biggest-lessons-weve-learned-about-how-coronavirus-spreads-on-campus

Chairman’s Corner: A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The GBSN team has been busy organizing and running the GBSN Beyond experience which will culminate in a virtual conference in the coming days (Nov 9-13). Due to the Covid crisis, we could not hold our usual in-person annual event this year, but the crisis also presented us with a unique opportunity to be bold and to innovate in how we engage the GBSN community. The traditional annual event has morphed into a highly creative and engaging experience over several weeks that is bringing together more than 1500 students, faculty and administrators from nearly 150 member and non-member institutions. I would like to thank Dan LeClair, CEO of GBSN and the entire GBSN team, especially Nicole Zefran for their creativity, dedication and commitment in designing and executing on the GBSN Beyond experience.

As part of the culminating virtual conference, we shall have several keynote speakers including influential faculty thought leaders, deans and senior administrative leaders from important global institutions. I hope you will have a chance to listen to some of them and engage with them on how we can collectively shape the future of education in the midst of the global Covid crisis. I have also been invited by GMAC, a close partner and sponsor (thank you!) of GBSN Beyond to moderate a discussion with a group of more than 40 deans and directors of global business schools. This is a unique opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with academic leaders who are in the midst of steering their institutions out of the crisis and towards a better future.

Looking Backwards. Learn from the Past to Confidently Move Forward.

This current year certainly has been a very special year – one which I am confident no one anticipated. The global economy is trying to cope with a unique pandemic and educational institutions are at the heart of the challenge. Business school leaders have to deal with the complexities of a multi-faceted crisis – affecting the health of our communities, the core operations of learning and the finances of our institutions. With a possible vaccine in sight over the next six months, some are hopeful in seeing a small beam of light at the end of the tunnel. However, much uncertainty reigns as the second wave of the pandemic has recently triggered a series of second lockdowns in multiple countries.

I am curious to hear more from the deans about what they have learned from their experiences over the recent crisis. Have they been impressed by the resilience of their communities, by how different groups have come together to help each other? Have they been surprised by the ability of their faculty, some of whom might have been appeared as technology Luddites to adopt new remote learning platforms and successfully teach their courses online? Have they had to deal with mental health and other stress related issues for their students, faculty or staff? How did they reassure their students that the world was not collapsing around them and that they would still have bright futures? How did they maintain transparency and trust in the community in the face of uncertainty and fear? How did they manage their own selves, their own levels of stress and work-life balance? What would they have done differently had they known what they know today at the start the crisis?

Looking Forward and Planning for the Future.

I am sure that there will be rich reflections in the panel on looking backwards with these questions. Of equal if not greater interest are questions related to looking forward. Do the deans see light at the end of the tunnel and if so, in which time frame? Will the model of education change in a post-Covid world and if so how? Will our schools grow in size or shrink as market demand for our programs and services change? Will the content of what we teach in our programs change and if so, how will our faculty adjust to these changes? Will the business models of business schools change and if so how will resource allocation strategies change? Will technology disruption finally hit education and business schools? How will be best prepare our students to be well rounded business leaders to help create a sustainable future for all? What will the successful business school of the 21st century look like and feel like? Are there any other black swans that may hit us in the future and how to cope with such extreme situations?

“It is important to look backwards, learn from the past, and to confidently move forward with hope and positive energy. It is often said that in every crisis, lies a valuable opportunity. The current crisis is no different. We have had to collectively face considerable uncertainty and stress over the last months but we can still glean positive lessons from our experiences.”

This is what I also tell my students when I teach them remotely. I tell them that they can either complain about how online teaching many not be as good as an in-person classroom experience or they can embrace the reality of online teaching and experiment about how to best do online networking and learning, a phenomenon which will be important for them in their professional lives.

The GBSN Beyond experience is no different. Rather than dwell on the disappointment that the traditional in-person GBSN annual event could not be organized this year due to the Covid crisis, I commend Dan LeClair and the team for taking the challenge to redesign the whole event and create a longer and whole new GBSN event experience. While the traditional GBSN event attracted around 150 to 200 attendees in any recent year, more than 1500 participants are active in the GBSN Beyond experience. While few students participated in the traditional in-person event, we have several hundred students participating in the GBSN Beyond experience. The formats of panels and activities is also richer such as with the inclusion of new faculty workshops and student forums. The Covid crisis has stimulated the GBSN team to innovate and create a better experience in many ways. Even when we revert back to an in-person format in future years, it is very likely that the lessons from this special year will stay on with us forever, creating new extensions to the in-person event and offering new engagement experiences during the year.

GBSN has changed, for the better – thanks to the crisis. As they say, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste!


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.

Email: sd599@cornell.edu; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta

Chairman’s Corner: The State of Global Innovation

The results of the 2020 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII), released on September 2nd provide a timely window on the state of global innovation (you can read the report at: https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/Home ). I founded the Global Innovation Index (GII) 13 years ago, and over the last decade, the GII has evolved into a valuable benchmarking tool that facilitates public-private dialogue and that helps policy-makers, business leaders, and other stakeholders to evaluate their innovation progress on an annual basis. The GII is co-published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD.

See the video on the most innovative nations for 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0xt4IeRxSc&list=PLsm_LOEppJaxgH71j7-ICT42P2-EVPdeG&index=3&t=0s 

According to the 2020 GII rankings, for the 9th consecutive year Switzerland tops the ranking, followed by Sweden, U.S., U.K and Netherlands. The Republic of Korea joins the top 10 for the first time  and follows Singapore (9th). The top 10 is dominated by high-income countries. The geography of innovation continues to shift, the GII 2020 shows. Over the years, India, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam are the economies with the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over time. All four are now in the top 50.

For the last four years, the GII has also published a ranking of the world’s top 100 science and technology hotspots. In 2020, Tokyo-Yokohama is the top performing hotspot again, followed by Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou, Seoul, Beijing, and San Jose-San Francisco. The U.S. continues to host the largest number of hotspots (25), followed by China (17), Germany (10), and Japan (5). The top 100 clusters are located in 26 economies, of which six – Brazil, China, India, Iran, Turkey, and the Russian Federation – are middle-income economies.

Moving from containment to recovery, COVID-19 is impacting innovation. In the last few months, the COVID-19 crisis has catalyzed changes to the way we live, work and learn that we never thought were feasible. We are connecting with each other in ways that are unprecedentedly innovative: and this is just the start. 

As we transition from containing the crisis to recovering from it, policymakers worldwide need to make innovation a top priority in economic stimulus efforts. It is crucial that support for innovation becomes more broad and that it is conducted in a countercyclical way, meaning that as spending on innovation by businesses decreases, governments must work to counteract this with expenditure boosts.

See my video on innovation in a post-covid world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v7Ys2zL-iU&list=PLsm_LOEppJaxgH71j7-ICT42P2-EVPdeG&index=12&t=0s 

In a time of active interest in innovation in education, I am very pleased that GBSN is innovating by reimagining its annual conference and is excited to present: GBSN Beyond. Instead of a two-day in-person event, GBSN Beyond involves three parallel track experiences culminating in a virtual event, November 9-13. These experiences engage Students, Faculty, and Administrators at institutions of higher learning and partner organizations in the weeks leading up to November 9th. The culminating event will bring these groups together through a program including short keynote addresses, presentations, workshops, and social activities. Such global and inclusive engagement would not have been possible without the active use of technology to innovate and re-imagine engagement with the different stakeholder groups of the GBSN ecosystem.

I have written in this GBSN blog series about the necessity for innovation in business education. There are many obstacles to leading the transformation of business education—its infrastructure, traditions, and culture were built for previous industrial revolutions. GBSN Beyond helps schools to address these challenges and explore the critical role of business and entrepreneurship education in our global future. GBSN Beyond is an important way in which the GBSN community can come together and innovate as we look forward to a post-covid world in the not too distant future. Let us all do our bit to experiment, innovate and help create the future.


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 of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Hybrid by Default: The Future of Education has Changed

Summer is almost over and the fall semester is about to start for most universities. I am reminded of this as I prepare to teach Cornell EMBA students this coming weekend in August. I teach online for now, but the future of how teaching will evolve this academic year is not clear. I fear that I am not alone. Most students, faculty and business school deans that I have spoken with in recent weeks have expressed both considerable uncertainty and concern about how teaching and learning during the semester will evolve.

In over three decades of academic life, I cannot recall a similar moment when such uncertainty and fear has hung over universities across the world. On one hand, the pandemic continues unabated in many parts of the world including in populous countries such as the USA, Brazil and India. There are concerns that while death rates have stabilized or decreased in most areas, clusters of infections are starting to appear in younger populations. This raises the risks of fatality or long term health damage among students. There are also additional concerns about transmission of infections across the key groups of an university ecosystem – students, faculty, staff and the surrounding town population. The situation in the USA is especially complicated both by the soaring infection rates and the specific positions adopted by the current administration. Compounding the situation is a growing anxiety about the implications of the pandemic on the financial health of universities and colleges. Many universities and colleges are suffering from significant budget shortfalls and it is not clear if this financial pain can be sustained beyond this academic year.

I hope that most of you read the Chronicle of Higher Education and subscribe to its many free newsletters. The Chronicle of Higher Education has done a stellar job in collecting and publishing information about the plans of different universities in response to the Covid crisis. In particular the Chronicle of Higher Education has complied information about the Fall plans of over 3000 universities in collaboration with Davidson College. As of 6th August 2020, the Chronicle finds that only 2.5% of universities plan to open fully in person for the fall semester while another 21% plan a fall semester that will be “primarily in person”. At the other end of the spectrum, 4.7% of universities plan to go fully online and 24% plan to be operating “primarily online”. It is noteworthy that a full quarter (26%) of the universities have still not disclosed what they plan to do for the Fall.

Waiting during the summer lull may seem easy to do, but things will only get harder in the coming weeks. Colleges with plans to open for instruction in person are being questioned about their decision as being motivated more by financial reasons as opposed to anything else. Pressure from alumni and parents is building on the leaders of universities to prove that they are taking the health and well being of their communities seriously. Interested readers can view a recent MSNBC interview with President Daniels of Purdue University about his plans to open for the fall in person.

While college leaders plan and hope for the best during the fall, a bigger question remains about how the pandemic has changed future of education. While many aspects will evolve, one important change is that the nature of education and learning will become hybrid by default. Online education has traditionally been treated with skepticism by many faculty. Many research studies have shown that online education does not offer the same quality of learning as face to face classes. In many cases, such as courses with labs and experiments, it is not easy to move the instruction online.

The Covid crisis has forced colleges and universities to move to fully online instruction over the last months. Some may yet continue in a fully online mode for parts of the next academic year. However, looking ahead beyond the pandemic, it is very likely that education will not revert back to the “way it was before the pandemic”.  Education will evolve to become hybrid in nature integrating the best what in-person instruction can offer and the unique aspects of what online education can provide. Some of these changes, such as flipped classrooms were already starting to appear before the Covid pandemic but these trends will accelerate now. While a small minority of faculty were doing flipped classes before, the vast majority of faculty will integrate such approaches and shift to a different mode of learning and class discussion.

We are entering a phase of rapid learning and experimentation in hybrid education. Learning platforms will evolve at a rapid pace as technology providers invest more in this growing domain. As business schools and colleges deal with the uncertainties and challenges of starting a new academic year, academic leaders need to also start evaluating what a hybrid future looks like for their institutions. This will entail a questioning of all aspects of their learning and business models. For one, schools will need to invest much more into building their digital competencies. New technology platforms will have to be built and integrated. Essential digital skills will have to be taught to faculty, staff and students. New partnerships will have to be formulated with technology leaders and startups. Further investments in buildings and other capital projects will have to be questioned and measured against the benefits of new technology investments. The benefits of access and reach provided by technology will have to be leveraged to reach new markets and launch new programs. Lifelong learning can be made into a reality and not just remain a slogan. The changes are many and the ultimate beneficiary should be the student who becomes a lifelong learner.

The future of learning is hybrid. Let’s embrace and create the new future together.


Soumitra Dutta

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 of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Chairman’s Corner: Thriving in Technological Disruption with Outside-In Innovation

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One of the subjects that I discuss with business students is how organizations respond to disruptive change, especially disruptions caused by technology. The short answer is – very poorly. Clayton Christensen was one of the early business researchers who rose to prominence in the mid 90s by pointing this out in his award winning book “The Innovators Dilemma.” One of Clayton’s key findings was that industry leadership changed each time there was a disruptive change in the underlying technology.

There are several reasons for this phenomenon of industry leadership passing from the incumbent to the challenger in the face of technological disruption. Clayton expressed the reasons succinctly and brilliantly with his framing of the Innovators Dilemma. The core insight in the Innovators Dilemma was that industry leaders usually resisted investing in disruptive technologies (even if sometimes the new technologies were created within their own organizations) as they tended to allocate resources to current clients who kept demanding increasingly sophisticated  features in products based on the current technology. As a result investments were not made by incumbent leaders in the new disruptive technology which was adopted and developed more aggressively by new challengers. When the new disruptive technology became mature for large scale adoption, customers shifted to the new challengers who had the best expertise in the new technology. The prior incumbent leaders lost their leadership positions as they could not meet customer needs with the new disruptive technology and industry leadership shifted from the incumbent to the challenger.

The above insight was radical in the 90’s and early part of this century when many industry leaders struggled and often lost their leadership in the face of disruptive technologies – remember Kodak and digital photography as one example of this traumatic shift? Over the last decade, as the pace of technological disruption has become faster, firms have realized that the best way to innovate in the face of technological disruption is to acquire the innovation from outside – by acquiring startups and forging relationships with new partners. Cisco was one of the first tech companies to essentially replace its corporate innovation strategy from internal R&D to external R&D acquisition through mergers and acquisitions. Over the recent past, this focus on learning and innovating from the outside has largely been accepted as the fastest and most reliable way to bring disruptive new products and technologies into the organization.

So where do we stand in business schools in the face of technological disruption? In response to the Covid crisis, we have just witnessed a rapid acceleration of the deployment of digital technologies in our teaching programs. Business school leaders now concede that online education will be a very important component of their future program portfolios. However, the disruptions being caused by digital technologies is much more than just in the shift of teaching delivery to the Internet. Digital technologies are enabling schools and universities to question some basic assumptions of their current business models and raison d’etre. For example, there are significant assumptions made about time and place in the business models of most business schools. Given the importance placed on students being physically co-located for most of the program duration, we have seen schools make significant investments in brick and mortar buildings and design infrastructure to support a form of learning and program experience which is capital intensive and requires the co-location of faculty and students. Now technology can potentially make these constraints  of time and place irrelevant. What will be the business school experience look like if the constraints of time and place are removed? How will the scale of learning in our schools be impacted if physical co-location is no longer a strict necessity? What will our budgets look like if we no longer have to make the significant investments in brick and mortar buildings?

To take another example, the business model of most business schools and universities is that of vertical integration. Schools today typically do all of the following key activities: create and deliver knowledge, assess the acquisition of knowledge and deliver a certification of the knowledge acquired to the student. What if technology allowed us to unbundle these three elements? What if we allowed our students to acquire knowledge from anywhere? What if we agreed to assess the knowledge of not just students enrolled in our school but that of any student who asked us for such an assessment? These are important questions and the answers a school chooses will have implications for almost every part of the business model of the school. For example, the role of faculty and the important investment that all schools make in hiring the best research faculty may have to be rethought. Technology now allows us to pose these questions and come up with credible alternative business models.

How will we as business school leaders respond to the many questions and challenges posed by the forces of disruptive technological change? If we can learn some lessons from other industry sectors that have gone through this disruption process, one insight is important – we will not succeed in innovating at a fast enough pace to leverage all the new possibilities if we only focus on innovating from the inside. If we are to apply some lessons from other industries, we have to look outside our schools for disruptive and innovative business models. We have to look at edtech startups that are innovating in learning models with new technologies and we have to partner with firms such as the tech giants to create new learning partnerships. We have to be bold to launch new innovative models and to experiment and learn in rapid cycles. We will have to resist the pressures to continue to invest in current programs and current customer segments. We will have to be bold to venture into new programs and new customer segments which may look very different initially as compared to our current student profiles. Doing this will not be easy and there will be significant cultural barriers to overcome.

Outside-in innovation is the way of the future for business schools. The sooner you adopt this mantra and excel at it, the higher your chances of thriving as a leader in the face of technological disruptions.


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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 of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

A Good Time to Experiment…Boldly

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Business school leaders have been through a stressful Spring semester. A positive start to the second decade of the new millennium rapidly deteriorated into a scenario which few had imagined was possible, let alone planned for. In response to the growing Covid-19 pandemic, strict confinement restrictions were imposed by many governments and all non-essential activities were suspended. With student health and well-being  rising as most important goals, business schools leaders had little choice but to suspend on-campus teaching and send students back to their homes.

What could have been a chaotic disruptive change actually happened much more smoothly that what most had anticipated. Faculty, including those who had long resisted online teaching, moved their teaching to new video platforms such as Zoom with relatively little pain. While students sorely missed the in-person campus experience, most adjusted relatively well to live-virtual teaching. Most business schools also set up major initiatives to support the transition of faculty and students to online learning. Indeed, business school leaders deserve our thanks for having managed a difficult transition to large scale online learning.

As summer starts and the focus shifts to the reopening of economies and of our campuses, business school leaders are realizing that the process of opening up safely may be harder and more trickier than the act of closing campuses. Significant uncertainty remains about the further spread of the Covid-19 virus. The USA and Europe have successfully flattened the curve but these regions risk increased numbers of infections as their economies open up over the next weeks. At the same time, the virus is continuing to spread exponentially in many emerging markets, including key countries such as Brazil and India. There is also a high risk that infection rates could increase significantly in Africa in the coming weeks and months. One lesson that we have learned over the last months is that in the absence of a vaccine, no region is safe if the virus is spreading rapidly in another region.

Despite progress, a Covid-19 vaccine remains several months away, most likely 12 to 18 months away. In such a scenario, business school leaders have to formulate multiple scenarios for the fall semester and possibly the entire next academic year. While some universities and schools have already decided that they will hold the next academic year online, others are keenly observing Covid-19 trends and waiting to decide their precise course of action. Multiple scenarios are often being formulated – one business school dean mentioned that he and his management team had formulated 7 scenarios of possible responses in the fall. For each scenario, business school leaders have to decide on multiple decisions including the amount of blended teaching to include, the type of courses to move online, the maximum number of students to allow in classrooms and the seating arrangements to be used for teaching. Life is certainly not easy for business school leaders and they can hardly afford to rest on the laurels of having managed a successful transition to online teaching a few months earlier.

Many faculty are hoping that once the Covid-19 pandemic fears go away, we can return to our good old trusted ways of in-class teaching. Many business school deans are hoping that travel fears subside and international students enrollment figures rapidly return to their pre-Covid highs. In short, many are just waiting for life to return to the “old normal”. However, this is a misplaced expectation. An expectation that is almost certain to be proven false. This is an important conclusion from the interviews of business school deans and CEOs of businesses that Dan Le Clair and I have been conducting over the last 6 weeks on their views of life after Covid-19 (some of the initial interviews are available on the GBSN website at: https://gbsn.org/worldaftercovid19/). Unanimously, the interviewees have told us that they see Covid-19 as a major global tipping point. They have told us that they see the world changing significantly for all key stakeholders in the years ahead – governments,  businesses, universities and society. While the contours of the precise changes in our professional and personal lives are not yet clear, we have to prepare for possible major changes.

What does this mean for business schools? This means that as we struggle to rise to the challenge of successfully reopening our campuses safely and restoring our program activities, we also have to experiment about what will change in the months and years ahead. As teaching moves into blended formats, we need to experiment about what works and which new formats remain to be discovered. What most faculty have done this Spring is to have simply moved their in-class lectures to a video platform. Few have taken the time to rethink the learning experience for their students in an online format. Can we learn from literary and arts festivals where innovative approaches are often used to engage with large numbers of people? Can we learn from film and television productions about how to create effective online experiences?

At the program level, we also have to ask some hard questions. Though the MBA has proven to be remarkably resilient over the last few decades, is the current format and structure the right one for the future, a future where mobility is very different and virtual interactions are more commonplace? We have often built the business models of our schools based on certain high priced programs. Are these price points sustainable? Or will we have to rethink our program structures and price points radically? On a different dimension, we have to question how business education is best delivered. Is the current campus structure the best option? What else is possible? Can we learn from the experiences of other sectors which are going through a radical re-evaluation of physical space, such as commercial real estate? The list can go on much longer. The questions are hard. The answers are not obvious. Nevertheless, we have to ask the questions. Good leadership is about asking the right questions. The only way to answer these hard questions is to engage with people to come up with possible responses and then to experiment.

Business school leaders should identify the important questions for their organizations as they face a post-Covid future. They should engage with key stakeholders and plan for controlled experiments to evaluate which answers may point the way to the right direction. An open mind will be important to consider all relevant options. Organizational agility will be critical to pivot when necessary and act on the desired action plans.

Now is indeed a good time to experiment, and to do so with conviction and urgency. The real test for business school leaders will not be how they survived the Covid-19 crisis but how they prepared their schools for the future.


 width=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 of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

 Email: sd599@cornell.edu; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soumitra_Dutta

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