Tag: Research Centers



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. 




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.


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