Tag: Research Centers


The Data for Good conference is an event for members of the business community at large. The concept of the event focuses on how businesses can move forward using data while also staying true to values that promote good in the world.

During this event, Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights (CABI) shared its framework for developing data-driven strategies for the benefit of St. Louis companies looking to create their own sustainable prosperity in their communities and in the region as a whole.

The pillars of this conference are also core to the Olin MBA program. We are on a mission to discover a more values-driven approach to data and help shape the next generation of business leaders with “good data” leadership in mind. The conference asks us how we can move beyond using data for good as a concept and discover first-hand how data can be used to responsibly solve critical business, civic, and social issues.

Why has “data for good” become a call to action?

Business has reached a particular moment in history where the amount and quality of data available is unprecedented. Vast quantities of data pass through organizations every day, ready to be collected and used to their advantage.

Yet, businesses also stand at a crossroads in terms of how to best make use of data and how to maintain longevity. Corporate data responsibility is still in its formative years as leaders are realizing that not all data is created equal. Data can be used in negative ways, and misused data can expose a company to harmful attacks and breaches of privacy. What we realize is that we need leaders who are trained to understand the power and responsibility associated with the enormous amount of data available today.

In order to use data for good, businesses must become more aware of the changing landscape around the collection and utilization of data. Consumers are more educated on this issue than ever, and they have increasingly high expectations for how companies treat their information. And alongside consumer changes are public policy shifts. Regulations are being crafted all the time to outline data management ethics that protect consumers and provide guidance to businesses.

How can an online MBA program create better data leaders?

The same values-driven pillars that are guiding the Data for Good conference also guide us at Olin.

Students in Olin’s MBA program learn about social and civic goals at the same time as they practice creating positive business outcomes. They learn, from the beginning, to think of themselves as leaders of social change as well as leaders of prosperous businesses. They learn what it means to be a responsible business leader.

At the CABI research center, our research projects all have a “data for good” focus and aim to solve complex community and societal issues. For example, one of those projects was aimed at combating the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. This is a current and demanding issue, one that surrounds many of our students’ hometowns and counties. During the project, we utilized advanced analytics and data modeling techniques very similar to those used in a business setting. The same strategies used to create growth in a business are used to create momentum for change.

The outlook we espouse is that successful leaders can take a consistent approach to very different goals, problems, and intended outcomes. That outlook involves first setting up a clearly defined objective or set of objectives. What do you want to achieve? What is the ideal scenario and the next ideal?

See the full 2023 symposium

The full 2023 Data for Good Symposium

From there, students learn to determine which key results must be achieved to realize those objectives. How will we know if we have succeeded? Then, with those core pieces of information at their disposal, leaders can establish the specific activities they can perform or initiate that are likely to enable those desired results.

What does data have to do with this methodology? Well, at each point of the strategy, data and technology can be used to help: to help guide the process, help speed things along and add insight. Most importantly, each step we take with data is guided by the objectives and values we’ve set up already; this is how we know what our priorities are.

Culture is key to the courses we teach and how we teach them. The word culture comes from the same French and Latin roots as the word cultivate; this is an action word — cultivation requires a continuous, careful force. This is how we think about crafting culture at Olin. 

We nurture a culture of leading with values. Everything — from the questions we ask to the data-driven actions we take — must be guided by values. Tools are there to help us, but we must first know how to use them for good. And we want to share the knowledge to carefully wield those tools with not just our students but also our community.

Pictured above: Olin’s Seethu Seetharaman, director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights and W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing, outlines a data-driven process the center developed to guide economic development decisions in St. Louis. The presentation was at the March 2023 Data for Good symposium.

Pictured, left to right, first row: John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, St. Louis Cardinals; Lal Karsanbhai, CEO, Emerson; Sue McCollum, CEO, Eagle Brands and Double Eagle Distributing; Nina Leigh Krueger, CEO, Nestlé Purina Petcare. Second row: Bob Chapman, chairman and CEO, Barry Wehmiller; Michelle Tucker, CEO, United Way; Aaron Powell, global CEO, Pizza Hut

Claire Dempsey, a student associate for Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

This spring, 40 students embarked on a journey of reflection about who they are and how they want to show up as leaders in society. Since its inception in spring 2012, the Defining Moments course has guided more than 600 students through the trajectory of a leader’s character, leadership framework and career through the lens of “defining moments.”

The course also helps aspiring business leaders examine how they can prepare themselves to face their own defining moments with insight and integrity.

Beginning in January 2023, students welcomed leaders from a diverse set of organizations, including Pizza Hut, Nestlé Purina PetCare and the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Facilitated by Kurt Dirks and Bill Bottom, students examined beliefs, principles and values that best define them as leaders. For many students, this experience served as a capstone in preparation for graduation.

Reflecting on the insights shared by Aaron Powell, global CEO of Pizza Hut, one student remarked: “Powell’s presentation gave me a sense of direction for my next steps. Specifically, his philosophy of learning my superpowers, leveraging them and doing what makes me happy caused me to reflect on my own strengths and what makes me happy.”

It’s important to enjoy your work

Despite the differences across industries, there were definite trends among the lessons that leaders shared. Like Powell, Bob Chapman—CEO and chairman of Barry Wehmiller, a global supplier of manufacturing technology—also emphasized the importance of enjoying your work.

“I was impressed with Chapman’s dedication to the people in his organization, especially 20 or 30 years ago, when people metrics and people-centered businesses were not as popular as they are now,” another student said. “The most interesting thing I learned is that working is clearly still fun for him. At almost 80 years old, he’s figured out how to sustain an incredible passion for his work for the last 40 years. If I could find some sort of leadership role where I can be as excited and passionate as he is, I think I would (succeed) as a leader.”

As spring comes to a close, students in this semester’s Defining Moments class look forward to learning more about overcoming real-world challenges and coming into their own as values-based leaders.  

Learn more about Defining Moments and other leadership initiatives sponsored by the Bauer Leadership Center here.

Course overview

The Defining Moments course considers the trajectory of leaders’ character, leadership and career through the lens of “defining moments.” It also examines how aspiring business leaders can prepare themselves to face their defining moments with insight and integrity. The course examines these questions by learning from senior business leaders who visit and talk about their “defining moments.” The conversations are supplemented with cases and readings on leadership and character.  Throughout the discussions, students are encouraged to think about and articulate the beliefs, principles and values that will define them as a leader. For many students, it provides a capstone as they get ready to graduate.

Spring 2023 presenters

Pictured at top, left to right, starting on the top row.

  • John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Lal Karsanbhai, CEO, Emerson, MBA 1995
  • Sue McCollum, CEO, Eagle Brands and Double Eagle Distributing, JD 2014
  • Nina Leigh Krueger, CEO, Nestlé Purina Petcare, MBA 1994
  • Bob Chapman, chairman and CEO, Barry Wehmiller
  • Michelle Tucker, CEO, United Way
  • Aaron Powell, global CEO, Pizza Hut, BSBA 1993

Many executive education programs focus on building tools for effective management and leadership. Owners of closely held businesses, however, have a different set of concerns—specifically, how to be a strategic and purposeful owner.

For the first time, Olin Executive Education is offering the course “Building Strategic Ownership” via the Koch Center for Family Business. Registration for the January 11-12 course is open now.

“Strategic ownership over a longtime horizon is difficult.” said Peter Boumgarden, Koch Professor of Practice for Family Enterprise and director of the Koch Center.

Peter Boumgarden

“In a world of quarterly returns, thinking with time horizons of decades or more requires a different set of skills. While many owners have refined their ability through experience over time, having the opportunity to learn from others on this same path and simultaneously be informed by what we know from the research on best practices can be incredibly powerful.”

The course will work with owners to build competence and capability. It will focus on bringing together owners from different sectors and sizes, and then helping them work to define their unique purpose of ownership. With this purpose in mind, the group with work together and with faculty to build ownership competence specific to this goal, and to then think about how they might work to craft a portfolio aligned with this objective with an extended time horizon.

In Boumgarden’s view, the best way to approach the course would be to come as a team, mixing family owners with senior leaders and members of the board.

“It takes a village to do this work well,” he said. “Most of the organizations who would benefit from this course have a bundle of individuals—family and nonfamily, owners and employees—who must coordinate how they approach building an organization for sustainability. The value is crafting owner competence as a collective.”

The organizers encourage teams of two to three from the same business to register, and those teams will receive tuition discounts on the $2,200 course. The course is designed for single owners or senior leaders of a closely held business and leadership teams. A team could consist of two family members and a board member, for example, or a senior nonfamily leader.

“By the end of the program, you’ll be better positioned to create long-term value for the firm in the position you are capable of­—that of a strategic business owner,” Boumgarden said.

Click here to watch a short video about the course.

Kouvelis honored at the MSOM conference in Munich in late June 2022.

Evan Dalton, head of digital marketing for WashU Olin’s Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation, wrote this for LinkedIn. It is republished here with permission.

The MSOM Distinguished Fellow Award is widely regarded as the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a research scholar in the field of operations management. This rare distinction, akin to a lifetime achievement award, recognizes outstanding scholarship and research accomplishments throughout one’s career.

This year, the award has been given to Panos Kouvelis, Emerson Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain, Operations, and Technology and director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation at WashU Olin Business School. According to the MSOM Society of INFORMS, “The award was created to recognize individuals for significant research accomplishments and exceptional scholarship in the operations management field through sustained research excellence in their activities.”

Kouvelis has had an illustrious career in operations management research thus far, with eight books and more than 135 refereed journal publications. He has been ranked in the top three for operations management research in several categories, including total number of published papers (#3) and publications in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (#1). His work has also been recognized with a 2016 Fellow of POMS Award and a 2020 published laudatio in Production and Operations Management honoring his career.

MSOM Distinguished Fellows are selected by their professional colleagues via a nomination process. A couple of Kouvelis’ peers had the following to say about his research contributions:

“[Panos’] earlier work was definitely more manufacturing planning and scheduling in nature…but then he has broadened his work to cover global supply chain designs, facility networks, supply contracts and multi-party coordination, and the interface between marketing and manufacturing. This is a very ambitious coverage, but Panos was able to produce very high-quality outputs in all these areas.”

“In supply chain risk management, he has worked on the integration of operational hedges and financial hedges. … In supply chain finance, he has worked on the integration of operational and financial decisions, and especially the role of short-term financing of inventories on the efficiency of supply chains. … he is among the few operations management scholars to integrate trade finance instruments … and other hedging devices.”

“I am deeply humbled and honored by this recognition,” Kouvelis said. “I would like to thank the award committee, my professional friends who nominated me, and the MSOM community for giving me an environment of inspiring ideas, intellectual challenges, research rigor standards, and the venues to disseminate my work. I am proud to be a member of the MSOM community, and to have had the opportunity to contribute to the field of operations management research in my own small ways.”

Pictured above: Kouvelis honored at the MSOM conference in Munich in late June 2022.

Couple behind bakery counter.

Olin’s central course on family business is “Ownership Insights: Strategic Leadership of the Family- and Employee-Owned Firm.” In this course, Spencer Burke, Eugene F. Williams Jr. Executive in Residence, and I (Peter Boumgarden) have spent the last few weeks identifying the choices owners face in their business and their respective impact on firm performance. 

Peter Boumgarden

One framework for ownership decisions centers around Josh Baron’s helpful conceptualization of the five choices that owners can make in their business. It is nicely captured in his book, Harvard Business Review Family Business Handbook, which we both recommend. Josh argues that owners have the power to:

  • Design the type of ownership you want (Design)
  • Plan for the transition to the next generation (Transfer)
  • Use effective communication to build trusted relationships (Communication)
  • Structure governance to make great decisions together (Decide)
  • Create an ownership strategy to define success (Value)

In this blog post, I want to show how this framework translates into teaching our students to understand the consequences of ownership decisions in the family firm.

Ownership choices and value constellations

One of the things I most appreciate about Josh’s tool is the clarity by which he brings out the potential choices in play for owners of organizations.

Amongst all of these five choices (design, transfer, communicate, decide, value), what I get most excited about with private enterprise is the possibility of intentionally defining value—or success—in different ways than those in other ownership forms. Our course, in particular, seeks to extend this work by formally filling out all the influences on ownership choices, from changing demographics and its impact on the family tree and succession to differences in cultural psychology across regions and how it shapes what is considered fair in different spaces. You can see the full framework below.

One of the critiques of family business as an ownership form is found in research by Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen. Using the World Management Survey (WMS) as a tool, the researchers argue that family businesses with family CEOs are less well run than many other ownership forms in the market (dispersed shareholders, private equity controlled, etc.). A great deal of the power of this work is that companies that are independently scored high on these 19 dimensions empirically perform better on many measures of company financial performance than companies who score lower.While I like this research a great deal, if you dig into the “World Management Survey” items (here is a survey from retail, for example), it also becomes clear that these are not value-free items. Let’s look at three examples in particular to illustrate the point, with the item identified first, and the description of the top score identified after:

  • CONSEQUENCE MANAGEMENT – Top Score: A failure to achieve agreed targets drives retraining in identified areas of weakness or moving individuals to where their skills are appropriate.
  • TARGET INTERCONNECTEDNESS – Top Score: Corporate goals focus on shareholder value; they increase in specificity as they cascade through business units ultimately defining individual performance expectations.
  • RETAINING TALENT – Top Score: We do whatever it takes to retain our top talent.

Many of us can see why companies like this might perform well and perhaps be the kinds of companies we might want to invest in or work for. But, for the sake of argument, let’s consider another company wedded to a different set of values along these exact dimensions.

  • CONSEQUENCE MANAGEMENT – “At Company X, we set clear goals for our people but build in a care for people when they don’t perform at expectation, knowing that circumstances sometimes sit outside one’s control.” 
  • TARGET INTERCONNECTEDNESS – “As owners of Company X, we desire strong shareholder performance, as that is in our financial interest. That said, we want to ensure that multiple stakeholders of the business, from you as employees to the communities we sit within, matter a great deal. As such, if we add value for those other groups and this sometimes occurs at the expense of shareholder value, we will still consider that a good year.”
  • RETAINING TALENT -”We want you to perform well here. That said, we know that this might not be the fit for your forever. As such, if this company is not the best place for you, we want you to know that we care about you enough to want to find the best fit for you moving forward, even if that place is not here.”

I bring up these points of comparison not to suggest that the latter is a better way of performing, but rather to show how you could see an owner setting up their business like this and thus defining value in a very different way. In many ways, our economy functions in healthy ways when it is represented by companies reflecting a wider plurality of value positions, and not all of the same ownership model (private, public, PE owned, family owned, employee owned, etc.)

The lived philosophy in family and private enterprise

We have seen many of these differences reflected in the comments from class speakers, someof whom have already shown up and others to come in the next few weeks:

  • Matt Villa (2nd Gen), Villa Lighting
  • Ross Millman (4th Gen), Millman Lumber
  • Elizabeth Niedringhaus (2nd Gen), SSE
  • John Jennings, St. Louis Trust and Family Office
  • Mike Lefton (2nd Gen), Metal Exchange Corp
  • Ryan Plotkin (2nd Gen), M-D Building
  • Kristi Humes (2nd Gen), Tacony Corp
  • Eric Gilbert (2nd Gen), Anova Furnishings
  • Ted Briscoe (Multi-Gen), Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners
  • David Weiss (1st Gen), Podiatry Growth Partners 

This summer, I was on a long run with a good friend, Chris Bolyard. Located in the Maplewood neighborhood of St. Louis, Chris’ butcher shop, Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions, is one of Food and Wine’s Best Butcher Shops in America. On the run, Chris and I got to talk about whether he would ever open multiple shops or grow his enterprise outside of St. Louis. We had a few mutual friends who had done similar things with their restaurants, so you could see what might be appealing. While Chris didn’t outright say he wouldn’t do those things, it became clear that this was not a fundamental priority for his business. He saw the strain this would have on his family, his lifestyle, and perhaps even his ability to keep the same quality standards across the operations.

Chris’ north star is on product quality and serving his neighborhood customers over and above rapid growth and expansion. To take it a step further, even if he did move to multiple locations, it is clear that Chris does not aspire to be Tyson Foods. So, would it be fair to compare Tyson Food to Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions? No, for in many ways, these two are running in fundamentally different races.

Ownership strategy to define and drive value

The trap that a family business center like ours needs to avoid is believing that our mission is to tell our audience a set of sugary truths we think they want to hear. This belief might lead us to make claims that are empirically hard to justify (“Family ownership of any form is the best ownership form in the world, in all times and all places”) . As a research based institution, this is not a path we should or will follow. 

At the same time, the challenge for many business schools in the world is we too often have bought into an overly narrow, quantitative, and academic view of value (“shareholder value”, “ROIC,” “IRR,” “professionalism”) and have a hard time seeing what other constellations of value choices can be just as compelling. At the Koch Center, we hope to explore some of these distinct concepts of value and the strategic implications of organizing around such structured purposes.

There are significant challenges for most family businesses: the incentives of family shareholders, the challenges of maintaining family harmony through different business ups and downs, a family which grows faster than a business, fairness in succession of ownership, control, and management, amongst others—many of which we address in the course and the programming of the Center. With that said, what is compelling about the closely held business, whether family, employee or privately owned, is the opportunity to define a distinct set of values, and then organize a strategy and structures around such ends. Doing this well is hard work. At the Koch Center, we hope to contribute to this important task through a mix of academic clarity and educational expertise for those within and outside the halls of Washington University.