Tag: Brookings Executive Education



Cliff Holekamp

One day, we may think of the Holekamp family as the Johnny Appleseed of Olin’s startup ecosystem.

Thanks to a $500,000 gift from Cliff Holekamp and his father Bill Holekamp, known as the Holekamp Seed Fund, Olin now offers up to 20 grants a year of $1,000 to students who need a small injection of capital to get a startup business off the ground.

“I’m just interested in having all of our entrepreneurship students take action on their ideas and that they have the support to pursue a passion,” said Holekamp, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship at Olin.

The idea for the Holekamp Seed Fund grew out of his experience with startup competitions, which typically hear from a variety of student proposals, but only reward one or two with funding. “The thought is to flip that around,” Holekamp said. “What if we were to think of it as seeding a large number of students with small checks? It’s about moving a student to action.”

It’s Holekamp’s dream that these relatively small grants will stimulate an even more vibrant startup scene on the WashU campus. The outline for the Holekamp Seed Fund suggests that the next Varsity Tutors, Schoology, or ePharmix—established firms that launched as student-run startups—will get their first investment from Olin.

He only asks for two things of the students.

First, he expects students to demonstrate a serious commitment to launching their idea. Applications won’t be judged on the potential long-term viability of the idea, but rather on how passionate the student is about giving the idea a go.

One reason for that stipulation? Eventually, students may learn their idea isn’t viable. Or, perhaps, they’ll uncover a better, more promising opportunity along the way. “Entrepreneurship should be liberating,” Holekamp said. “It shouldn’t be a cage.”

Second, Holekamp will ask recipients of the $1,000 grants to consider paying them forward after they’ve had a chance to pursue their own idea. Though not a requirement, he hopes students will consider pledging $200 a year over five years back to the seed fund or to the Olin Annual Fund.

“I’m not aware of any other schools doing something with this ‘pay-it-forward’ element,” he said. “I know of schools that do loans or give out cash prizes.” The component of building a vibrant startup community on campus was important to the Holekamp family’s conception of the idea.

“The idea behind this fund is wonderfully innovative—befitting Cliff, his family, WashU and the entrepreneurial spirit of the St. Louis community,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “This fund will provide a nudge to student entrepreneurs and it may well entice them as successful alums to likewise lend a hand to students who follow them. It’s an innovation win-win.”

Students can apply on the Holekamp Seed Fund website with the expectation that they will have a face-to-face interview with Holekamp. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, so students can apply at any time. A three-person panel—Holekamp; his father, Bill; and Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, and principal at Cultivation Capital—will review applications. They’ll be assuring the applications come from Olin students who are ready to incorporate as a business and can demonstrate a personal commitment to the idea.

Applicants must have completed at least one semester in an Olin graduate program or course, or they must be a rising junior who is majoring in business or has participated in an Olin entrepreneurship course.

“It’s enough to get them motivated, get started, get incorporated and begin creating something,” Holekamp said. “Sometimes the hardest milestone is the first—going from nothing to something.”




More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Virgil famously said, “Fortune favours the bold.” In today’s vernacular, he would have said, “Go big or go home.” At Olin, we’re going big. And we’re going bold.

We’re doing it by launching a sweeping renovation of the full-time WashU Olin MBA. Students who arrive in mid-2019 will be the first to embark on what is arguably the most global MBA programme anywhere in the world.

Two weeks after they arrive for orientation and introductory classwork in late June—yes, that early—every first-year MBA student will depart for an around-the-world immersion in global business. And I’m not speaking metaphorically. The summer semester continues with a week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Then two weeks in Barcelona. Then 17 days in Shanghai.

Students will dive deeply into the fundamental principles of business management in the context of each country’s local economy. Morning classes move to afternoon projects as students roll up their sleeves and apply their knowledge, doing research and analyzing real-world business problems with local executives. This isn’t academic tourism. It’s not a St. Louis class transferred to Spain or China. It’s serious work gaining cultural intelligence about global business and leadership issues.

When students return to St. Louis, they’ll be equipped to continue their core classes in strategy, economics, accounting, marketing, finance, and operations—but with global context and the perspective of several economic systems. Plus, they’ll have forged deep bonds with their classmates, a foundation to support, grow and advance one another throughout their Olin careers.

Additionally, students can accelerate their programme under our new model, moving more quickly to the job market, or pair their MBA with a specialized master’s degree.

Why embark on such a sweeping change to Olin’s flagship program? The answer, quite simply, is that we must practise what we preach. The world is shrinking. Leadership challenges are expanding. As we urge students to do, we must anticipate what the market will demand in the future—then think big and act boldly to confront the challenge. Tinkering around the margins won’t do.

We paired that principle with data. We informed our work with the help of Boston Consulting Group, which researched the needs of students and companies in the future. They interviewed current students, prospective students, faculty, corporate recruiters, and more, generating data about the requirements of a redesigned MBA programme.

In some ways, we’ve been building to this for a while. Recent MBA classes have had expanding global opportunities through the Center for Experiential Learning and the Brookings MBA capstone experience. This spring, we plan to pilot some of the global components of the redesigned curriculum, though details are yet to be ironed out.

On the Olin website now, there’s more detail available about our MBA renovation—designed with BCG, taught by world class experts on three continents, one truly global MBA. It is a renovation, I firmly believe, that will be favoured by fortune—for Olin and our students.




In one of Olin Business School’s newest magazine ads, white text pops from a field of rich red in type that evokes a sense of strength and wonder. Just a few words, strategically aligned on the page, draw the reader into a story of unknown origin—and clear gravity.

“When the cost of goods comes at a cost … we pause.”

Within that pause, Olin invites readers to consider the consequences of the decisions they’ll make and the preparation WashU offers for a business world demanding principled, evidence-based leadership.

Within that pause lies the mission of Olin Business School, its promise to students and the marketplace, and the pillars that underpin our strategic plan.

And from within that pause comes the bold voice of Olin Business School’s new brand identity, articulating what we are, what we stand for, and how our strategic plan sets us apart among the world’s top schools.

“We’re making a bold claim on what’s always been in our DNA: That we develop business leaders who create change, for good,” said Dean Mark Taylor, architect of Olin’s strategic plan. “It’s important for all of us to take ownership of this idea so we can clearly articulate our point of view on business education, attract the right kind of talent, and be a distinctive voice in the marketplace, as drivers of global change.”

See the video below to get a better understanding about how Olin will position itself with its brand messaging.

Launching the new Olin brand

Marketing & Communications prepares for the brand launch event.

Marketing & Communications prepares
for the brand launch event.

The formal announcement of Olin’s new brand strategy came today in a schoolwide event drawing together faculty and staff. With video presentations, digital signs, a champagne toast, and speeches from the dean and a faculty leader, participants heard how the business school will use its brand messaging to talk about the elements of our strategic plan, our vision, our mission, our values, and our strategic priorities.

Dean Taylor stressed the importance of our strategic pillars — particularly the idea that Olin develops values-based, data-driven decision-makers.

“The truth behind those words isn’t new at all. We’ve taken a deep dive into how we want to think and talk about ourselves,” he said, adding to the crowd of faculty and staff assembled for the event “it’s vital that we all take ownership of our brand.”

The crowd applauded after watching the brand identity video (see above).

Stuart Bunderson, co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center and Olin’s George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance, reinforced the message: “We want every Olin student to say first, what do the data say and second, what values are at play here” when they are making business-oriented decisions.

After the speeches and a champagne toast, Olin employees dispersed to pick up swag bags, enjoy street food from a group of food trucks on Snow Way, romp at a selfie station, and take headshots that may be used in Olin branding campaigns down the road.

More details about the branding

The messaging comes together in a simple positioning statement that boldly declares who we are and how we’re different from other top business schools: “As a premier educator of business professionals, Olin Business School champions better decision-making by preparing and coaching a new academy of leaders who will change the world, for good.”

We do this through our pillars of excellence, the elements that drive our approach to preparing leaders:

  • Values Based and Data Driven
  • Globally Oriented
  • Experiential
  • Entrepreneurial

The brand work also offered an opportunity to address another niggling challenge: Our school’s eight-word, 55-character name. New guidelines offer a more streamlined identity: “WashU Olin Business School,” captured in a more casual brand “mark”—a variation on the formal logo—that we will use as a “nickname” for the school when the full name is also visible elsewhere.

We’ve also taken care to ensure that Olin’s brand aligns with the WashU master brand. The university is often the front door to the business school, so it’s important that the two entities align. Our story starts with the core idea of the master brand, but extends that idea in a relevant and meaningful way.

More information about the strategic plan and the brand messaging strategy is available on the Marketing & Communications section of Campus Groups, where visitors can download logos, templates, and fonts, as well as see guidance on the use of our brand and our colors.




Consider the parent playing the role of air traffic controller with his or her child’s busy schedule. First, there is homework for the kid to finish in the next hour. Then comes soccer practice followed by a piano lesson for the ensuing two hours.

“If the parent knows the deadlines and the kid just does their work, it’s the best of both worlds,” said co-author Stephen Nowlis, the August A. Busch Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. “But if the parent is trying to get work done on their time …

“The big picture is, setting all these deadlines seems like a good idea. But too many deadlines makes you use your time less efficiently.”

Nowlis

That was the central finding of an eight-test study published May 15 in the Journal of Consumer Research titled, “When an Hour Feels Shorter: Future Boundary Tasks Alter Consumption by Contracting Time.” The boundaries in question are upcoming appointments, meetings, tasks, etc. And the researchers found that people facing them: (a) perceive they have less time than in reality; (b) perform fewer tasks as a result; and (c) are less likely to attempt extended-time tasks that can be feasibly accomplished or more lucrative.

When up against such an upcoming appointment, people tended to procrastinate on the long-time chore such as writing that report and reverted to working on shorter-time tasks, as in making a work call or typing up a quick synopsis. Or they’d skip both entirely to focus on the simplest of work forms, like answering emails …  or scheduling more boundaries.

“It’s something we can all relate to,” said Nowlis, who started this project when co-author Gabriela N. Tonietto of Rutgers was a PhD candidate at Olin and co-author Selin A. Malkoc of Ohio State was an Olin colleague. “It could be anything. You have a deadline, and what do you do with your time? We don’t think about it as much from the perspective of consuming it, but, realistically, time is something we probably consume as much if not more than any other resource. So how are we consuming our time?”

The researchers conducted more than eight tests over a two-year period beginning in 2015 involving 2,300-plus participants to see how people in various situations arrived at budgeting scheduled and unscheduled windows of time. Among the tests included in the Journal of Consumer Research study were:

  • Using the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) survey platform, 200 participants — split evenly between those with an upcoming appointment and those with a free schedule — were asked to pick between a 30-minute chore paying $2.50 and a 45-minute chore paying $5. They had an hour’s time. But the participants with an upcoming appointment felt they had 7.82 fewer minutes in their hour to commit to their chore than the people with an open schedule.
  • At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, 134 passengers were asked to take a 15-minute survey — about half of the passengers had 30 minutes before boarding, the rest had one hour. Some 26 percent of the people facing a shorter window agreed to participate, compared to 46 percent of the passengers with four times the allotted survey window.
  • At Washington University, 158 undergraduates were told they had either a strict, five-minute window until their appointment or an implied boundary with “about five minutes to do whatever you want.” In the same five-minute period, the latter group accomplished 2.38 tasks compared to 1.86 tasks by the hard-timeline group.

“How do you best manage your time? How much scheduling do you need?” Nowlis said. “These are interesting questions.”

Their study provided some answers for trying to prevent issues. Basically, it counsels people to schedule wisely: Maybe leave a chunk of the work day open to accomplish extended-time tasks.

“If you have some big tasks, too many scheduled things will affect your productivity,” Nowlis said. “A lot of scheduling is fine for shorter tasks.

“So find the environment that works for you.”

This piece ran originally in The Source from WashU public affairs.




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.

Update 7/25/2018: Thakor and Quinn were interviewed, along with DTE Energy CEO Gerry Anderson, for the HBR Podcast on turning purpose into competitive, profitable performance. Listen to their conversation.