Tag: Brookings Executive Education



Anjan Thakor is an economist with purpose—and the business world is catching on. Thakor’s research covers wide ground, from corporate finance to banking and corporate governance. However, the John E Simon Professor of Finance’s most recent endeavor got more personal: How can an organization connect its employees to its overall purpose, encouraging them to dive in and give their all along the way?

Along with Robert E. Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Thakor’s wisdom is featured on the cover of the Harvard Business Review’s July-August edition.

Thakor and Quinn begin by introducing readers to Gerry Anderson, president of DTE Energy, who struggled to engage his employees following the Great Recession of 2008. Having been taught that good economics mean treating employees first by their own self interest, Anderson was reluctant to use empty rhetoric about meaning—much like many firm leaders Thakor and Quinn investigated.

However, the researchers tell, a shift in focus that challenged employees to embrace purpose turned out to be a major success. Thakor and Quinn’s research seeks to provide a framework company leaders can use to develop, embrace, and implement a purpose that drives their organization.

Thakor

The biggest problem Thakor and Quinn find is that the companies they consult for wait until a point of crisis to find a company purpose. Encouraging a break from the “cynical ‘transactional’ view of employee motivation,” though, can be taken at any time—the sooner, the better. The researchers set up an eight-step process for finding, implementing, and connecting a purpose for employees—one that includes such steps as “envision an inspired workforce,” “recognize the need for authenticity,” and “connect the people to the purpose.”

The most important theme that runs through these eight steps? Be authentic, real, and passionate. Thakor and Quinn have seen companies thrive and fail—and they know the perils of a haphazard campaign based on feel-good words and uninspired drivel. Purpose, for them, is something entirely different. It’s a sense of passion—a vision for a corporation that inspires employees, turns them into leaders, and treats them as intelligent, autonomous human beings.

The work Thakor and Quinn are asking companies to undertake is not easy—it’s part of a process that involves humility, openness, and risk. But these researchers believe in the beauty of an impassioned, purpose-driven company—and they’re hoping to change the business world, for good.




Graduation for the 2018 master of science in leadership class at Brookings.

Joining the members of the 2018 master of science in leadership class from
the Olin Brookings Executive Education programme.

I think everyone who works at WashU gets the question from friends and acquaintances, “Does work slow down for you over the summer?” For Olin faculty and staff members, I’m guessing the quick answer is “No.”

Granted, the day-to-day activities, interactions and even locations may be different in the summer months than during the academic year, but from my viewpoint, the Olin team’s focus on supporting the mission of the school remains strong throughout the year.

Since the final chords of Pomp and Circumstance ended in spring, Olin faculty and staff have been hard at work encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation on a global stage, promoting Olin in worldwide media, growing our academic and research programs, expanding services for our students, connecting with alumni around the world…and teaching me the finer points of the backyard game of cornhole (I hear washers is the next game I need to learn.).

My busy Olin summer began with a May 31 conference on “New Approaches to Biomedical Innovation,” a workshop arranged by Anjan Thakor that drew participants from around the world. I was privileged to introduce the keynote speaker, Greg Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative.

Soon after, I had the opportunity to appear on a BBC business news programme to discuss the importance of the MBA. Indeed, my time with Aaron Heslehurst on “Talking Business” included some sparring over the relevance of the MBA when many tech entrepreneurs have built businesses without such a credential.

But it also offered the opportunity to widely share the Olin name and our commitment to identifying and cultivating our students’ potential—and our unique approach to preparing leaders equipped to synthesize huge amounts of data through a values-based lens.
Promoting our name, our reputation and our thought leadership also gives us the opportunity to participate in the national debate, as when American Public Media’s Marketplace programme recently turned to Olin’s Asaf Manela for his perspective on proprietary trading in a story about The Volcker Rule.

I also had the opportunity to visit Brookings for another joyful event, a graduation ceremony for recipients of the master of science in leadership program through our joint Brookings Executive Education programme. It was the first time that the President of the Brookings Institution and a Dean from Washington University participated in a graduation ceremony together in nearly 100 years.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

The themes of leadership and career preparation continued in Tel Aviv in late June, where I participated in a panel discussion on “Producing Ideas and Talent of the Future” at the Israel Summer Business Academy with Steve Malter and Aaron Bobick, dean of WashU’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and Provost Holden Thorp.

Next month, my whirlwind summer concludes with a trip to Shanghai to visit EMBA students in our programme with Fudan University. That journey will include a number of visits with China-based alumni, who remain important ambassadors for Olin as they launch, build and flourish in their careers.

While there is great Olin energy around the world—from growing degree programs, research activities and practicum projects on at least five continents, I am excited that the momentum continues to build in St. Louis as we grow our capacity to serve our students and alumni.

I’ve very much enjoyed meeting some of the new people that have recently joined Olin and I look forward to continuing to get to know more Olin faculty, staff and students…perhaps over a game of washers.

On the topic of backyard fun and games, I hope you have a chance to connect with friends and family over the summer months. The best moment for me this summer has been spending time with my first grandchild, Madeleine, in Sydney, Australia.

I’ve already started recruiting her for Washington University Class of 2040.

“The Desk of the Dean” appears monthly.




Jennifer Whitten

Jennifer Whitten will join Olin as associate dean and director of the Weston Career Center on July 9. Jennifer comes to Olin from Arizona State University, where she is the director of career services and  instructor in the MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

At ASU, Jennifer managed career support for a portfolio of four MBA platforms, 10 masters’ platforms and alumni career services. Under her leadership, the W. P. Carey Career Center has seen significant increases in student engagement and employment percentages as well as growth and expansion of employer relationships and activities.

Aside from a stint in Arizona state government focused on creating a career management program for over 35,000 state employees, Jennifer has spent nearly two decades in higher education, serving undergraduate and graduate students in both academic advising and career development and placement roles.

By coming to Washington University, Jennifer is returning to her Midwestern roots and she will bring with her the experience and drive to lead a nimble Weston Career Center team that is focused on preparing our students not only for their first job but for their careers well into the future, connecting with our strong alumni network, and expanding the opportunities available to our students through proactive business development.

I am grateful for the efforts of the Weston Career Center Director search committee chaired by Senior Associate Deans Steve Malter and Patrick Moreton as well as the valuable feedback from many members of the Olin community throughout this search process. I also want to say a special thank you to Karen Heise for her excellent work serving as the interim director of the Weston Career Center.




Welcome to the debut of “The Desk of the Dean,” a monthly feature of the Olin Blog by Dean Mark P. Taylor. This column will appear on the first Wednesday of each month.

A few weeks ago, I met a group of St. Louis-based Olin alumni for cocktails, all of whom now work in the healthcare industry. As one does at a cocktail party, they asked how things were going at Olin: “What are you working on?”

I have an answer to that question, which I follow with a question of my own. Sometimes, I think my question surprises our alumni, but I’ll get to that shortly.

When I’m casually asked about our plans for Olin, I’m aware nobody really wants a PowerPoint presentation or a dense review of Olin’s strategic plan over hors d’oevres and a glass of wine. They want the big picture, the 30,000-foot view: Where are we headed?

As dean of a highly ranked business school, I’m confronted with this scenario fairly often—at the gate awaiting a flight, in the queue at the cinema, even on an elevator. What kind of business school would we be if I weren’t prepared with an elevator pitch for just these moments?

Mine goes something like this: At Olin, we’re enhancing our programme to cultivate business leaders with solid analytical skills, grounded in a strong value system, who can change the world, for good. We’re creating a programme that will prepare innovative, entrepreneurial leaders with a global perspective on business. We’re taking Olin from good to great.

And that’s when the alumni get my question: What can Olin do for you?

We are not bashful about asking our former students for something—particularly their donations or their time. So, when I ask this question of our alumni, I find that they’re frequently surprised. But over the nearly 600 days since I became dean, I’ve also found this question resonates.

They want to know they graduated from an institution that has continued to produce market-ready graduates long after they earned their diplomas. So, I know we’re on the right track when I get a parent’s letter praising Konnie Henning, associate director of academic and student affairs, for how she coached a student through difficult times to see her graduate and enter a thriving career.

Alumni want to know their alma mater produces path-leading research to give them a competitive edge and help them peer around the corner ahead of emerging business trends. So, I’m confident we’re on the right track when our faculty publishes 79 papers in top academic journals in a single year. Their goal 42 percent greater than last year.

I feel the same when global agribusiness company Syngenta invites Ling Dong and Durai Sundaramoorthi to present their groundbreaking, Olin Award-winning research that will help farmers optimize their seed choices based on weather, soil and geographic conditions.

In short, our alumni want to know their diploma is actually worth more than it was when they earned it. I’m fond of saying a WashU education is not a bond to be cashed in. It’s an equity that can grow and pay dividends. A degree from WashU’s Olin Business School should mean something when our alumni ask for that next pay raise or apply for the next promotion.

That’s what we’re working on at Olin.

Pictured above: The reception at Third Degree Glass Factory ahead of the luncheon honoring the 2018 Olin Emerging Leaders in April 2018. Exactly the sort of event where I answer these sorts of questions about the direction of Olin Business School.

“The Desk of the Dean” appears on the first Wednesday of the month.




Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, wrote this post on behalf of Bauer Leadership Center.

Last week, the Bauer Leadership fellows discussed the challenges and responsibilities of a leader. All fellows are MBA students serving as Center for Experiential Learning team leads for a project within their practicum program. In this role, they need to manage relationships with their teammates, mentors, and clients.

To navigate these winding roads successfully, they collaborated and role played tough situations to understand how to solve problems and create impact as a leader. To extend this conversation beyond the meeting walls, I wanted to share their words of wisdom here to continue building values-based leaders here at WashU.

Communicate Early; Set Goals; Manage Expectations

Many fellows discussed coming into a team with prior friendships with other members. Established relationships can be difficult to break, especially if you are coming into a role as a superior with a team of fellow students. It is important to set the goals up front for you as a leader and other team members in various roles to give them freedom and leadership.

This allows everyone to have responsibilities where they can shine. It also grounds you with a sense of authority and respect.

And these conversations go beyond the team, too. Each group has a mentor to guide them through the practicum. They are there for guidance and to provide a more experienced perspective, but making sure they are doing this properly can be difficult.

Taylor Ohman, previous CEL team lead and BLC Fellow, said it well: “This is the Center for Experiential Learning—the point is to work through the struggles and learn how to do better.”

With this in mind, its important for this mentor to let students solve problems to learn and grow in this safe space.

Take on the Responsibility of the Team

As one of the fellows said it, be a “leader servant.” Leaders will get much of the praise when things go well—and all of the brunt if they don’t. If another teammate is having an off week, it is on the leader to pick up the slack.

And if nitty-gritty administrative work needs to be done, it is important for the leader to pick up on it to allow the rest of the team to focus on the parts that matter most to them. As a leader, it is your job to bring the best out of your team.

Sometimes, that means doing the not-so-glamorous work and taking the fall when things go wrong. But it’s also important to know how to bounce back.

Adapt, Improvise, and Shift Plans, If Needed

Of course, you can set goals and take on hard responsibilities, but some things just might not go as you thought—and that’s OK. As a leader, it is critical to learn how to act on your feet and continually manage performance.

If someone is not performing up to par, discuss it with this person in a direct, mature, and decisive manner. Improvise on what their responsibilities are to provide tasks that can be benchmarks for success. Every team member will work differently, so work to understand these differences to create a cohesive team dynamic.


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