Tag: Professional MBA

Clockwise from top left: Anne Marie Knott, Anjan Thakor, Dennis Zhang, Andrew Knight.

Give everyone in your startup organization a voice, but not necessarily a vote. Watch the companies with a high “research and development quotient.” Discover purpose and foster a purpose-driven workforce. Learn how to mitigate racism in the sharing economy.

These snippets of wisdom were among the guidance four Olin Business School faculty members offered at a Century Club event on January 24. The TED talk-styled event drew a standing-room only audience to Emerson Auditorium as the four professors shared ideas about “making business better” drawn from their research. (Missed it? Watch the recorded live stream of the event.)

Olin visitors, alumni and students heard from Andrew Knight, professor of organizational behavior; Anne Marie Knott, Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business; Anjan Thakor, John E. Simon Professor of Finance; and Dennis Zhang, assistant professor of operations and manufacturing management. Dean Mark Taylor described the slate of speakers as “an A-team of talent” in the Olin faculty.

Andrew Knight: “Effective Leadership for Startup Teams”

Knight threw the audience a curveball as he described a hard-driving, entrepreneurial, often abrasive, black-turtleneck-wearing, innovative executive. No, he wasn’t talking about Steve Jobs. He was talking about Elizabeth Holmes, now disgraced founder and former CEO of defunct blood-testing firm Theranos.

“This grandiose leadership style is not necessarily an ingredient for building a successful startup company,” Knight noted, citing his and other research in the field. “Your first act of leadership is building a team.”

“Entrepreneurs develop strong feelings of psychological ownership over their companies,” he said. “When we have ownership over something, we’re motivated to invest in it.”

But Knight contrasted psychological ownership over a firm with collective ownership: “If you don’t have a ‘we,’ you can’t have an ‘ours.'” The key, however, is for startup leaders to understand how to balance systematic “help-seeking” with the need to offer explicit and effective guidance on where the contributions from other team members are needed—and where they’re not.

“The most effective leaders are ambidextrous,” he said. “On the one hand, they give people a voice, but a voice is not a vote.”

Anne Marie Knott: “How Innovation Really Works”

Knott offered a startling slide: Let a $1,000 investment in the market ride from the early 1970s until today and the value will have risen to nearly $80,000. But roll that same investment year-over-year into companies with a high “RQ”—a measure of the return on R&D investments—and you’d have returned almost 10 times as much.

Her deep dive into the value firms place on R&D spending came as she looked at Nobel-prize winning research on the primary reasons for growth in the economy—traditionally increases in the labor pool, the quality of labor and the availability of capital.

“When you think of Nobel theories, you think they’re remote, they have nothing to do with me,” Knott told the audience. “I want to convince you that you play a role in this.”

In fact, one of the greatest predictors of corporate growth is RQ, a creation borne of her research and featured last year in a Harvard Business Review cover story.

“Where does growth come from? Historically, economists believe it came from growth in the labor force, growth in the quality of labor and capital. But those three things only account for 37 percent of growth,” she said. “The role of knowledge is to make you more productive with any level of capital and labor. And where does knowledge come from? It comes from R&D.”

Knott tracked GDP growth along with R&D spending and found a corresponding rise in both in the 1950s, while she found a decline in R&D spending in the 1980s that never picked up. The conventional wisdom says R&D has just gotten harder.

“I’ve developed a more optimistic explanation. My explanation is that companies have gotten worse at R&D,” she said. “That may not sound more optimistic, but you want me to be right.”

Anjan Thakor, “Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization”

“The first question I get when I talk about higher purpose is ‘what do you mean?'” Thakor told the audience. One of his best definitions came simply from the story of an employee at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia.

Short version: A relatively low-level employee took the initiative to drive eight hours on behalf of hotel guests who had left their clothes at home. For the longer story, check out Thakor’s piece on Live Mint.

“When we talk about higher purpose, it’s really a pro-social contribution,” Thakor said, summing up his research and a recent HBR cover story. “It’s the intersection of purpose with your business decisions. It’s deeply connected with your business. It’s about who you are and where you came from, but most importantly, where you’re going.”

Businesses have risen from ruins because of their ability to recognize and capitalize on purpose, Thakor said. They have excelled and grown. But they don’t do it at the expense of making a buck—a point that aligns well with Olin’s brand promise: We create values-based, data-driven leaders who are prepared to change the world, for good.

“Pursuing a higher purpose cannot be a charity,” Thakor said. “It’s key that whatever higher purpose you come up with, it has to be authentic—and it’s discovered. It’s not invented.”

Dennis Zhang, “Discrimination in the Sharing Economy”

Lyft. Uber. AirBnB. They’re market leaders in the sharing economy and almost everyone has heard of them, even if they haven’t used them. And as Zhang pointed out, most everyone has heard that they’ve been plagued by charges of discrimination and racism—charges virtually unheard until around 2016.

Since then, Zhang and his research partners have looked at the reasons and, through their study, found solutions. The basics are derived from earlier research that says discrimination is more likely to happen when we don’t know enough about the individuals we are working with. The more we know, the less we discriminate.

“People discriminate not because they’re inherently racists, but because they do not have enough information about each other,” Zhang said. “They base decisions on group averages. So what’s the solution? To provide more information about individual (AirBnB) guests.”

Indeed, he found in an experiment with AirBnB, using newly created (and fictitious profiles), hosts tended to accept significantly fewer accommodation requests from people with African American-sounding names—28.7 percent versus 47.8 percent for requests from potential guests with “white” names.

However, add a single positive review from another host and the difference virtually vanishes. “When we have a positive review, things change,” he said. “Acceptance rates dramatically increase and stabilize around 58 percent.”

Pictured above: clockwise from top left: Anne Marie Knott, Anjan Thakor, Dennis Zhang, Andrew Knight.

The work of building and improving the WashU business school has been rewarded with an uptick in most of our rankings throughout the 2018 ranking season, with rare exception.

Several of the rankings saw substantial increases, including the 18-place jump in the Financial Times‘ global MBA ranking and the nine-place increase in the FT‘s business schools of the Americas ranking. We also saw a substantial increase in The Economists‘ global MBA ranking.

In a few rankings, we saw declines—a clear indication that the work goes on, or that we must keep vigilant in order to stay competitive with peer schools. The Poets & Quants undergraduate ranking, for example, included participation by more competitive schools than we saw in the ranking’s first outing two years ago.

Global Rankings

Ranking 2017 2018 (Change)
Which MBA?
43 37 (+6)
Financial Times
Global MBA
68 50 (+18)
Financial Times
Top MBA for Women
N/A 4 (-)
Financial Times
Executive MBA Shanghai
7 6 (+1)

US Rankings

Ranking 2017 2018 (Change)
Bloomberg Businessweek
Domestic MBA
36 32 (+4)
Bloomberg Businessweek
Global MBA
N/A 37 (-)
Financial Times US
28 23 (+5)
Financial Times Americas
All Programs
17 8 (+9)
Poets & Quants
2 3 (-1)
Princeton Review
7 7 (-)
Princeton Review
22 18 (+4)
TFE Times
Master of Science in Finance
N/A 4 (-)
US News & World Report
21 23 (-2)

Copy of Robert S. Brookings portrait that hangs in the lobby of the Alumni House.

The Robert S. Brookings portrait hangs
in the lobby of the Alumni House.

For more than a century, the histories of WashU business education and the Brookings Institution in Washington DC have been intertwined. Robert S. Brookings, the St. Louis businessman, philanthropist, and WashU board president who built the Danforth campus and elevated the university to the world stage, was also passionate about the intersection of business and government policy education.

That passion, in fact, led to the establishment in 1916 of the precursor to today’s Brookings Institution, which was for a time a part of Washington University.

President John F. Kennedy recognized the need to bridge policy and business when, in 1962, he greeted Brookings attendees to the White House: “My experience has been that those businessmen who have worked in Washington, who have held positions of responsibility, who know something about the public responsibilities of those who hold executive office, are a good deal more understanding and a good deal more successful in their business work later on.”

Today, we begin the process of taking the Brookings-WashU partnership to another level. Construction begins this month to expand Olin’s space at Brookings from 2,000 to 12,000 square feet—a significant undertaking with implications for what we can offer. The new space bears the iconic street address of 1776 Massachusetts Avenue NW, overlooking the main Brookings building across the street.

Space is tough to come by in Washington and a larger footprint means we can serve more students who are waitlisted for our master of science in leadership, our certificate programmes in public leadership and policy strategy, and our executive education courses.

In fact, if this space had been available last year, every waitlisted student would have been able to participate in a Brookings programme, according to Ian Dubin, assistant dean and director for Brookings Executive Education. And while that will help us expand our offerings to DC-based students, it will also bring us closer to another goal of mine: making sure every Olin student has a Brookings experience.

“This space is going to allow us to really grow what is the real advantage we have, which is this opportunity for immersion,” Ian said recently. “The global MBA program will soon begin, Olin’s Mumbai students will be coming, BSBA students will be coming.”

In addition to the construction work, I’ve also recently elevated the role that Lamar Pierce, Olin professor of organization and strategy, plays at Brookings. He now adds Associate Dean for the Brookings-WashU partnership.

“We believe this new space better reflects the important and lasting partnership between Brookings and Washington University,” Lamar said recently. “The new classrooms, which look out over Brookings and Dupont Circle, will provide state of the art instructional spaces for both our executive education and for the many Olin programs with Washington residencies.”

Optimistically, we expect to complete the expansion around late April or early May, but definitely in time for the arrival of more than 115 full-time MBA students in July, when they begin their round-the-world global immersion in Olin’s revamped two-year programme.

As we approach Robert S. Brookings’ 169th birthday on January 22, it’s fitting that we take note of this important milestone in the partnership between Olin and his namesake institution, the world’s premier think tank in arguably the world’s most important global capital.

Jason Wilson

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is the first of those vignettes.

Chronicle Coffee opened in north St. Louis City in 2013, sleek with sea-foam walls and civil rights-era photos, adorned with hefty schoolhouse chairs and overstuffed leather sofas.

Jason Wilson, EMBA ’08, spun off the new java joint from his thriving Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, which had stores in affluent neighborhoods in Clayton, Missouri, and St. Louis’ Central West End.

But the corner of Blumeyer and Page avenues in north St. Louis was not an affluent area. It was a community in need of a little TLC, a location where Wilson saw opportunity—but perhaps not the kind of opportunity entrepreneurs typically seek out.

“We wanted to fill this void of a food desert and offer quality products on the north side of St. Louis,” Wilson said. “But the data suggested I should not do that.”

The median income in the area was lower than Wilson was used to serving. Population density was lacking. Foot traffic on the street was sparse. “I had to look at other data points that were more civic minded,” he said. “What else is important?”

He looked at the value of creating a community center in a building that served clients of subsidized housing. He explored the ways Wi-Fi internet would help customers, how community programming might build traffic, how a gathering spot for conversation would enliven the neighborhood.

For a while, Chronicle Coffee looked like it might work. “The folks that buy coffee love the fact that I’m in north St. Louis,” Wilson told a local food magazine at the time. “I’ve also been received pretty well by the immediate community.”

Then, in August 2014, Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri. Sales nosedived. Before the year was out, the store failed.

“I took a major hit. In business, revenue minus expenses equals profit. That’s the rule,” Wilson said. “But I wanted to help people out. Am I wrong?”

Leadership decisions, for good

Wilson’s story is emblematic of a growing philosophy of leadership baked into the strategic plan Olin Dean Mark Taylor has rolled out to the business school. Since his arrival at Washington University in December 2016, he has spoken often about creating an academy of leaders who are prepared to make values-based, data- driven decisions. Yes, business is business. ROI is important. But true business leaders understand that the bottom line is not the only gauge of success. Staying true to individual, corporate, and societal values must figure into the equation.

“We want our people to think more broadly about their role,” said Stuart Bunderson, co-director of Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center and the George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance.

“How can our leaders be maximally responsive to all their stakeholders?” he said. “There is not a small set of values that is important. What’s more important than making a buck? Figure that out and take action based on those values.”

In the end, Wilson’s store failed, but a positive result emerged: His coffee is served at Grounds for Change, the coffee shop in the Brown School of Social Work’s newest building, Hillman Hall. Originally attracted by Wilson’s mission, they were sold on the high-quality coffee and beans. “It’s because I went on the north side and tried to do that.”

In the quiet of the holidays, when activity has slowed and we have a moment for reflection, we like to take a look back at the stories on the Olin Blog that had the most traffic during the year. It’s a nice way to see what resonated with readers who came across our stories directly from the blog, through our email newsletters, or on social media.

Highlights ranged from the passing of some beloved individuals in the Olin family to a highly favorable global ranking to some attention-grabbing research by Olin faculty. Here’s the Top 10 list for 2018.

10. Distinguished alumni: Leaders, benefactors, civic activists

Olin’s four distinguished alumni grabbed the No. 10 spot in the countdown for the most-read blog posts in 2018. Alumni recognized this year graduated as far back as 1984 and as recently as 2008, across sectors such as banking, hedge-fund management, entrepreneurship, and business strategy.

9. We’re going big and bold with the new MBA

Dean Mark Taylor launched a monthly blog column called Desk of the Dean in 2018. In this edition, he grabbed national attention with the news that WashU Olin would make a daring move into a reimagined, globally immersive full-time MBA experience. Two weeks after 2019’s new MBA students arrive in late June, all of them will depart for an around-the-world immersion in global business. The summer semester continues with a week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Then two weeks in Barcelona. Then 17 days in Shanghai.

8. Olin study: Women better survive heart attacks with female docs

New faculty member Seth Carnahan and his research colleagues sent a quake across healthcare media—and general interest news outlets as well—with a study indicating that female heart attack patients have significantly higher survival rates when women doctors treat them in the ER. In fact, in the researchers’ sample, 1,500 fewer women would have died—women who were treated by male doctors—if their survival rate was the same as women treated by female physicians. Media around the globe picked up the story.

7. Alum’s donation launches ‘business of the arts’ minor

In the midst of the mirth and merrymaking at Olin’s second Shakespeare event, Dean Mark Taylor took a moment to recognize distinguished alumnus Rich Ritholtz, BSBA ’84, and his wife Linda, for their $1 million donation that will launch a new business minor, open to any WashU student, at Olin Business School. “Creating a minor in the business of the arts at this time in our history would send a powerful message that Olin is on the move, preparing our students to think critically and act boldly to meet the challenges of 21st century business,” Taylor said.

6. Funny side, hard edge: Your boss’s behavior matters

Olin postdoc Zhenyu Liao was part of a research team that examined the benefits of a sense of humor among corporate leaders and concluded that a jokester in the big chair can be a mixed blessing.

5. Jon Flaxman: HP executive, Olin benefactor

The surprise passing of HP Inc.’s COO in March stunned the Olin community. It had come just months after he had welcomed a group of WashU students touring Silicon Valley on a career trek to tech-related companies. The National Council member had given richly to Olin — and not just financially. Students and faculty spokes of his mentorship. Since his death, HP established an endowed scholarship in the name of Jon and his widow Lauri. The $1 million gift increased 10 percent with additional donations from family and HP colleagues.

4. New faculty: Olin’s newest instructors and researchers

Not surprisingly, the roll-call of new faculty pierced the Top 10 for the second year in a row as Olin brought in a bumper crop of new instructors in the past 12 months.

3. Koch Family endows Family Business Center, 2 professorships

Two brothers, two spouses, and five WashU degrees between them. St. Louis’s Koch brothers, Paul and Roger, along with their wives, Elke and Fran, donated $12 million to Washington University — $9 million of which toward a research center dedicated to family businesses and a chaired professorship in family business. “There’s a lack of perception about how many family businesses there are and what role they play,” Paul Koch said, following the announcement. “There’s also a lack of perception about the complexities of family businesses.”

2. FT: Olin 4th globally among MBA programs for women

A new ranking from the Financial Times lauded schools for their commitment to programs that serve women, placing WashU Olin behind programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley and just ahead of Harvard’s.

1. Nicholas Dopuch, 88: Transformational figure for Olin, accounting research

A stalwart figure among the Olin faculty for many years, Professor Dopuch’s passing affected innumerable students, alumni, administrators, and current faculty. It’s worth noting the numerous comments posted in tribute on this blog post, from all over the world, some posted as recently as a few weeks ago.

What will make headlines from Olin in 2019? Don’t wait to find out: Follow us in real time on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn (and of course, submit to the Olin Blog). See you next year!

Abigail MacDonald, MBA ’18, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

Back row: Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ingrid Claussen, innovation manager, Rosario Board of Trade;
Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19. Front row: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18;
Ana Galiano, Austral University, Rosario – School of Business Sciences dean; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.

St. Louis is known as one of the best agricultural technology ecosystems in the world. With great agriculture universities, world-class research centers, interested investors, and thoughtful infrastructure, St. Louis is a perfect example of a successful ecosystem.

This fall, a team of graduate and undergraduate students at Olin Business School took a deeper dive into agtech ecosystems to learn about the importance of those essential institutions, groups, and entities necessary to have a successful ecosystem. We partnered with Austral University in Rosario, Argentina, and the Yield Lab, located both in St. Louis and Buenos Aires, to look at two different agtech ecosystems. As part of this process, we traveled to Buenos Aires and Rosario in early October.

Wheels up

Before leaving for Argentina, the team conducted research and interviews in St. Louis. We were excited to share their findings with the partners at Austral University in Rosario and the Yield Lab upon arriving in Argentina. We had a full schedule once we touched down in Argentina, and all of us were focused on the goal of the trip: to understand the key drivers of the agtech ecosystem in Rosario and to learn about how it has evolved over time.

Rosario is located in the province of Santa Fe, which is in the heart of soy country in Argentina, making it a perfect place for an agtech ecosystem to emerge. St. Louis is also located in a heavily agricultural region. The team spent some time driving between the cities of Rosario, Cordoba, and Santa Fe. Ultimately, this traveling gave us the opportunity to see the countryside of Santa Fe and how it closely resembles the agricultural region around St. Louis.

On our second to last day in Rosario, our team visited Molinos Agro, a large local soy crushing facility in San Lorenzo (just outside of Rosario). We had spent most of the week learning about the agtech ecosystem from the beginning of the value chain with startups creating new farm technology or genetically engineering seeds.

A fuller view

As a result, visiting Molinos Agro was especially helpful in that it gave us a glimpse into the middle-end of the value chain. The soy beans came into this facility as raw materials and left as either soy mill or soy oil. This was a great experience for our team, as it allowed us to see the effects that startup technology can have on an entire industry.

Our week in Argentina was filled with activities. Throughout the visit our team had the opportunity to interview with accelerators, startup founders, large local corporations, government agencies, investors, and the Rosario Board of Trade. These interviews provided great insights into the Rosario agtech ecosystem. Upon returning to St. Louis, the team has been hard at work to learn more about the Rosario ecosystem and to create a gap analysis between the two ecosystems. This gap analysis will provide insight into the necessary pieces of a successful agtech ecosystem.

Based on our experiences thus far, taking on a CEL practicum project is a lot of work, but it provides students with experience in industries in which they may have never considered working and helps students to develop useful skills in consulting, teamwork, and critical thinking.

Pictured above: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19; Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.