Tag: Research Centers



Olin

The Center for Analytics and Business Insights, along with the Bauer Leadership Center, hosted a seminar March 26-27 on values-based/data-driven decision-making. The seminar, which hosted nearly 50 executives from a variety of local data-centered companies—including Wells Fargo and Teradata—was a huge success.

Seethu Seetharaman led the morning session for participants in a March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.

Seethu Seetharaman, director of CABI, kicked off the event with a discussion on hypothesis testing.  Seetharaman, W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing, brought statistics to life with riddles and brain teasers. With a group filled with professionals working with statistics daily, Seetharaman’s brain teasers still expanded their knowledge and truly kept them on their toes. A quick example of a brain teaser to try at home:

“A light flashes red 75% of the time and green 25% of time. You have to predict what the next flash will be. Is it reasonable to use a biased coin weighted to flip toward red 75% of the time to predict the next flash? Or is it more reasonable to just predict red?”

Seethu Seetharaman and Stuart Bunderson teamed up on the March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.
Seethu Seetharaman and Stuart Bunderson teamed up on the March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.

The answer is actually no. The likelihood of having the coin and the light flash the same color is slim because there are two separate events. The two events will only align 62.5% of the time, so it’s safer to predict red from the get-go with its 75% probability. 

The first afternoon was followed up by Stuart Bunderson, director of the Bauer Leadership Center. Bunderson, George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance, discussed values-based decision-making, incorporating values and ethics in business, while backing them with statistical evidence.

Bunderson amusingly warned the data-focused audience, “We are now entering the domain of moral philosophy… we answer which outcomes we should be striving to achieve through discussion and mindful reflection, informed by theoretical frameworks.”

Bunderson continued, asking, “What are values?”

Values are beliefs about preferred “end states.” They can be explicit or implicit, but regardless, represent the fundamental building blocks of an individual’s character or organization’s culture.

Values are all about the why of a business: the how represents tactics and execution, the what are objectives and KPIs, while the core why are values and the mission. The why drives the what and the how.

At the end of the session, Seetharaman’s statistics-heavy lecture paired perfectly with Bunderson’s value-based message. The audience collectively resonated with the idea that a business is firmly, at its core, driven by values.

However values must guide decisions made and then must be secondly backed by statistics. You must be able to understand your KPIs while still keeping true to your business’s mission.




Bart Hamilton

Nearly three years ago, Barton Hamilton was preparing to moderate a panel discussion at Olin’s first family business symposium, among the earliest manifestations of the school’s fledgling family business initiative.

Three symposia and $9 million later, Olin has launched a full-fledged research center dedicated to the issues surrounding family-owned business—with Hamilton taking the lead as its first director.

Dean Mark Taylor appointed Hamilton to the post effective February 2 and with that appointment, the Koch Center for Family Business is officially launched. Sure, Hamilton said, there’s a lot of work to do moving forward.

But he’s thrilled to be part of realizing the vision of the Koch family—which includes two WashU alums and St. Louis real estate developers—who underwrote Olin’s sixth research center.

“The Kochs told me this is part of their legacy,” Hamilton said. “I feel great responsibly to be a steward for their legacy and do what I can do to make the vision a reality.”

A focus on research

Elke and Paul Koch, BSBA ’61, JD ’64, MBA ’68, and Fran and Roger Koch, BSBA ’64, MBA ’66, launched the focus on family business in 2016 with a $1.09 million donation to Olin Business School. The donation paved the way for a family business initiative featuring regular symposia on the subject, a course on family businesses, student practicum projects with family business owners and a student club.

The effort was, in part, also driven by interest from students, who approached former Dean Mahendra Gupta about the subject and later presented him, at his request, with a full-fledged outline and justification for the program.

Hamilton—who is also the Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management and Entrepreneurship—said the foundation laid by the family business initiative will remain in place and expand.

The secret sauce of the new center, however, will be research into the unique dynamics that drive family businesses and their power, representing 64 percent of the US economy.

“We want to know the secrets to success that Cargill and Enterprise have, but there’s a lot of companies in the $50 million to $200 million range that are the backbone of a lot of communities,” Hamilton said. “Those are also businesses that face a lot of challenges and we want to understand what those challenges are and figure out how we can help them achieve more success.”

For example, are family businesses more successful in the long run than non-family businesses? They’re not thinking about the next quarter, they’re thinking about the next generation. Yet, there is a tradeoff: How do family businesses introduce new ideas and innovation when the tendency may be to do things the way they’ve always been done?

Another area ripe for research: What is the interaction between family dynamics and business dynamics? As families grow, how do they provide dividends and wealth to an expanding slate of brothers, sisters and cousins, while continuing to invest in the growth of the business?

He is excited by the prospects for what research can tell us about family business, how it can help family business owners improve and how it will guide students who will be owners of, customers of, clients of and partners to family businesses.

“This is something we can be distinctive in,” Hamilton said. “We’re putting our flag on the map and telling the world that this is something that’s important to Olin and to Washington University.”

Next steps

One advantage of a funded research center, Hamilton said, is the ability to purchase data and fund research on a scale unavailable before. Data into family-owned and closely held businesses is hard to come by, often requiring a lot of manual effort to compile.

In fact, two of his own research projects are still a long way from publication because of the mammoth effort involved in collecting and analyzing the data. One project is looking at the differential performance of CEOs in family businesses, depending on whether the CEO came up from within the family, came up in the business (but were not family members) or came from outside the business altogether.

Hamilton said the family business symposia will continue, as will a class in family business led by adjunct professor Spencer Burke, principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, who has served as the initiative’s de facto leader since its launch.

Other steps ahead for the Koch Center for Family Business include searching for and identifying promising research projects, identifying staff administrative support and recruiting a board of advisers for the center.

“The Kochs want us to be a research leader in this area,” Hamilton said. “There’s not much that’s been done given the importance of this to the economy.”




Emily Pitts

“Stop tip-toeing around these difficult topics,” said Emily Pitts, principal of diversity and inclusion at Edward Jones, as she began her Women and Leadership talk.

Pitts has been in the financial industry for 33 years and as an African American woman, it wasn’t difficult for her to recognize that the industry isn’t historically diverse. Pitts’s drive and ability to overcome adversity was striking and admirable. Her passion for the finance space was tangible as she reflected on her time at Edward Jones.

Even still, she sees room for change.

In order to raise the company’s awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion, Pitts first had to open up about her past struggles within the workplace. Pitts shared with her boss the brutal incidents of racism that had affected her at work. Her unbelievable honesty and vulnerability created a launching pad into her diversity role.

Pitts wasn’t satisfied with just sharing her own experience. She wanted to change the face of the company.

She urged the company to discuss difficult topics that people are often “tip-toeing around,” such as how men and women interact in the workplace, how employees can be their authentic self, and the reality of visible and invisible barriers at work. Pitts believes that breaking into these difficult topics is the first step toward change.

However the conversation doesn’t stop there.

Pitts managed to create a cross-cultural development program. Edward Jones noticed that it was attracting diverse talent, but having trouble retaining employees. Pitts had the answer: With this new development program, Pitts gave anyone who may feel out of place a community.

This space created a system of mentoring and support that allows Edward Jones employees to face challenges together and work to improve the company from within. Pitts reminds us that “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to pick the music.”

Pitts wants to transform Edward Jones into a place of belonging. Emily Pitts displays incredible strength and resilience in her ability to take her personal struggles and translate them into change in workplace diversity and inclusion.




Mimi Wang, MBA ’19, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

In October, a student team representing the Center for Experiential Learning visited Quito, Ecuador. Quito is a city built on mountains and in the valleys with breathtaking views in all directions, no matter your location.

The angel of Quito is a famous statue located on top of one of the tallest mountains and is visible from everywhere in the city.

Left: The angel of Quito sits atop a hill and is visible anywhere in the city. Right: The view from the angel’s vantage point.

There is so much to do in Quito that our sightseeing day was jam-packed. The center of the world, located at latitude 0º0’0”, features a variety of exciting sites. We visited two main attractions during our time in Quito.

Team members Stephanie Feit, MBA ’19),
Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20, and Mimi Wang, MBA ’19,
line up for a demonstration of some of the
increased gravity effects at the center of the earth.

The first site was built around what was originally considered the center of the world, and includes a large park with museums, restaurants, and monuments. The second was built at the true center of the earth, calculated using a modern, military-grade GPS. At this site, our team took a tour and learned about ancient indigenous cultures and some of the natural phenomena that happen along the equator line.

After a day of sightseeing, we stopped at a chocolate shop and cafe, where we had some tea and coffee. Cacao beans are grown in and around Ecuador, so it has the best chocolate and some of the best coffee in the world.

The view from the coffee shop
is quaint, and the drinks are delicious.

We also dined at Quitu, a restaurant that puts modern experimental cooking twists on classic Ecuadorian food. Quitu is unique in that it sources all of its food locally and organically. Interesting menu items include broccoli rabe cooked in cucumber and rabbit soup, fresh fish in zucchini sauce, deep fried guinea pig (called cuye), and pork tongue in a soy-like sauce. All of the dishes were served on distinctive plates made of driftwood, cross-sections of tree stumps, or rocks. Our meal there was a lively occasion appreciating authentic Ecuadorian cuisine.

We loved having the opportunity to explore and experience Ecuadorian culture outside of our time spent with our client in October. Now that we are home again, we look forward to composing our final deliverables and helping our client going forward.




Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

In October, the Center for Experiential Learning sent a team of student-consultants to Quito, Ecuador, to advise the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito: The Agency of Economic Promotion.

The startup or incubation ecosystem is a complex and unpredictable environment that fuels technological progress, the ecosystem in which the seeds of the most innovative and revolutionary technologies are planted and cultivated. The opportunity to step into and examine this environment has been—so far—the highlight of my academic career.

Entering the landmark historical building in which ConQuito operates, the team was welcomed by ConQuito members to their impressive co-working space. Designed with the vision of merging the past with the future—the historical significance of the building and ConQuito’s efforts to engender a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship—the co-working space symbolizes ConQuito’s goal to cultivate the seeds of innovation to pave the way to economical improvement in Ecuador. Our client ConQuito is a pioneer of promoting innovative and entrepreneurial activities that stimulate the economy.

Working with a team of welcoming, collaborative, and dedicated professionals has served to increase the team’s motivation and interest in this project. The team’s objective is to provide the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito with a recommendation that optimizes the strategy for fostering a culture of innovation, ingenuity and progress.

The CEL practicum is the culmination and application of all the business concepts I have learned in Olin Business School. The experiential value of a real-world consulting project has shaped my future career aspirations. It has given me the assurance that I want to pursue a career in consulting.

Pictured above: Enrique Crespo, director of innovation, ConQuito (the CEL client); David Paquette, MBA ’19; Stephanie Feit, MBA ’19; Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20; Mimi Wang, MBA ’19; Laini Cassis, MBA ’19.