TMCnet Feature
August 31, 2020

Harvard Business School Alumni Ragnar Horn On The Cultural Evolution Of The Renowned Institution

Thoughts of Harvard Business School elicit daydreams of ivy-clad walls, intricate crests, academic prowess, and a student body devoted to propelling excellence. Internationally renowned as a leading educational institution, Harvard Business School proudly fosters the confidence, leadership, theory, and practical knowledge to turn eager students into future industry leaders. With notable and famous alumni including the likes of Michael Bloomberg (News - Alert), Mitt Romney, and Robert Kraft, Harvard Business School’s roster boasts a whos-who of corporate CEO’s, Congressional representatives, and thought leaders. Impressive in breadth of wealth and prestige, perhaps the most notable facet of the illustrious school lies in the comprehensive evolution of diversity, inclusion, and internationalization. Ragnar Horn, class of 1989, returned to his alma mater in 2016 to see the birth of a culturally diverse, socioeconomically varied, and progressive institution.

            The Five I’s

            In 2010, Nitin Nohria became the tenth dean of Harvard Business School. With previous engagements as the institution’s Senior Associate Dean Of Faculty Development, Head Of The Organizational Behavior Unit, and co-chair of the Leadership Initiative, Dean Nohria proved himself to be a paramount addition to the school’s leadership. Through liasing with students, faculty, and community members, Dean Nohria developed, implemented, and maintained Harvard Business School’s innovative “Five I’s” agenda. Formed to propel the institution into the future, and to reshape the business school as an inclusive and forward-thinking world leader, the “Five I’s” agenda focused on modernizing the school’s place in the world.

            The agenda promoted a culture of inclusion, wherein individuals from all walks of life could proudly further the institution’s causes. These pillars led to increased interest for attendance from individuals of all backgrounds, diversified educational opportunities, and an focus on innovating the Harvard experience.

            Ragnar Returns To Harvard

            A 1989 graduate of Harvard Business School, Ragnar Horn, current Chairman at Taconic AS, visited his alma mater in a visit that turned out to be transformative. During his visit, Horn recognized many differences in the overall atmosphere at Harvard, the study body population was increasingly diverse, with individuals attending the institution from all socioeconomic and professional backgrounds, and cultural identities. This diversity also included a vastly increased female population, with 43% of that year’s class being female, and a diverse population of international students. In 2016, almost 40% of MBA students were born outside of the United States, while roughly 35% of the faculty were born outside of the U.S.

            In addition to growing diversity in the student and faculty population, Horn saw a more comprehensive integration between Harvard Business School, and other Harvard University sectors. Recognizing the importance of Harvard Business School’s commitment to cultural evolution, Horn understood the benefit of reconnecting with the school. As a fan of the Dean’s ongoing mission statement, Horn joined the Harvard Business School Global Leaders Circle in 2017 - believing in the positive and innovative changes continuously taking place at his alma mater, Horn joined the Harvard Global Advisory Board in 2019.

            Implementing Evolution

            Dean Nitin Nohria’s doctrine not only held impressive ideas, but it also precipitated the implementation of actionable change  - upon the creation of the “Five I’s” agenda, Harvard Business School adopted several new practices: from educational requirements intended on broadening cultural understanding, to online learning innovation that allowed non-traditional students to pursue meaningful degrees, the practical applications of the “Five I’s” agenda has manifested ongoing positive change.

            Within the revamped MBA program, students now undertake a mandatory course titled “Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development.” This course is designed to provide students with opportunities to gain an understanding of practical leadership skills across international industries. Bolstering stronger leaders through educational opportunities like the FIELD course allows Harvard Business School to provide soft skills, in addition to the technical skills required for newly emerging leaders.

            In addition to this course requirement, the school launched the Harvard Innovation Lab. This comprehensive initiative fosters inter-department and community-based collaboration, bringing innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders together through a tech-based infrastructure. The Harvard Innovation Lab features physical spaces for students to collaborate, and workshops to bolster the entrepreneurial spirit. For alumni, the Innovation Lab offers Launch Lab X, an accelerator for alumni projects to move through the stages of business development, from inception to launch.

            Finally, to increase opportunities for non-traditional students to excel within degree studies, the school launched Harvard Business School Online. The institution’s digital platform combines tech-based innovation with a focus on high-quality education, providing all students with a Harvard-quality education on their bespoke timelines. Unlike many other digital learning programs, Harvard Business School’s online model features immersive activities that change every few minutes, keeping students engaged. This online experience is also social, allowing students to collaborate on projects, ideas, and viewpoints to mimic traditional in-class spirited debates and social learning models. Learning from the perspectives and experiences of peers, students engaged in the Harvard Business School Online model benefit from the interactive platform.

            As higher education continues to be sought after by young adults looking to prepare themselves to enter various industries, higher education institutions look for ways to evolve. Championing diversity, a comprehensive experience, and inclusivity, renowned schools like Harvard Business School are implementing measures to lead bright students to success. Traditionally renowned as a leading learning institution, Harvard’s commitment to evolution is a testament to the school’s continued focus on the student experience, success, and the power of education.

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