The Things They Do Teach You at Harvard Business School

Posted: 11 April 2011, in Blog

Famously, Mark McCormack, founder of International Management Group (IMG) wrote his seminal book about what they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Part of the joke is that he went to Yale. The principal message of the book is how to add “street-smarts” to a business education.

The latest Harvard Business Review looks at crises in contemporary capitalism and how to fix them. The list covers the usual suspects; the financial crisis, failure of governance and regulation, the divergence between the developed West and the emerging East and the corresponding global increase in populist politics/uprisings and increased stresses on economies and social welfare systems. Governments are flapping and the pain is being felt disproportionately by the poor – not the mega rich. There may be trouble ahead!

One suggestion from Dominic Barton, of McKinsey & Co is to change capitalism from a quarterly based system to something longer in perspective. The idea is to make executives behave like founder – owners who take (some) years to build a profitable and sustainable business. This may seem like pie-in-the-sky and not a lot of the analysis is new:

“……… and finance must jettison short-term orientation ……..revamp incentives ……to focus on the long term. …executives must serve the interests of all stakeholders …….public companies must address dispersed and disengaged ownership by bolstering boards’ ability to govern like owners……………..”

I was reading this and pondering if our sector’s governance capacity and short termism are strengths, weaknesses or both. Maybe it is time to bring in some fresh (private sector) perspective to give us their insight into our world. I suggest therefore that the Coalition should develop a “Social Enterprise Friendship Society” for our members and our private sector buddies. Its action learning and B2B interaction basically, but for a new age.

Capitalism has generated both astonishing prosperity and devastating misery. To fix things, we need to redesign the social contract between business and society. So, lets get our new Society to have a bash at coming up with appropriate entrepreneurial solutions and innovations. The purpose of this society would be a free exchange of technical, business, financial, environmental, ethical, corporate responsibility and social mission “street-smarts”.

The thing about new networks is that they don’t suffer from the group think of older, more conformist networks. New networks tend to discuss “why”, “why not” and “how about” and that has to be a good thing – for all of us. Using the power of social media and the web could make this a game changer for us.


NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition.