Changes at HBS, 2020-2021

Much like my list of lessons for what I learned at HBS, I also wrote five predictions for what might change.

The Five Predictions

  1. HBS cases will include more complexity and less historical data.
  2. HBS will allow and encourage digital tools in the classroom — without compromising the presence of students.
  3. In five years, each HBS student will feel empowered to take individual, independent action to improve the experience.
  4. In five years, HBS students will all go through the process of making something that did not exist before.
  5. In five years, HBS won’t (necessarily) be a two year experience.

Prediction 1: Partially True

The real time vs. classic case nature depends on each class. This was 100% true for Entrepreneurial Sales, taught by Mark Roberge and Lou Shipley. They often did "live cases" where a protagonist would walk us through a series of the challenges they'd faced, with the data they had at the time. We got to do that for Tesla, Toast, and Katie Couric Media, amongst others. Other classes were willing to add additonal class sessions to talk about topical issues.

Prediction 2: True!

HBS has been very Zoom-focused this year, so technology is no longer a no-go. This has been a really interesting change, and only happened because of a pandemic. I've been able to regularly use a Remarkable, breakout rooms result in a lot more small group discussion, and we use voting buttons way more. I find it more engaging in many ways. Unfortunately, you do lose the ability to have a conversation before/after class.

Prediction 3: True!

This one is fascinating to me. While HBS used to treat itself as a performance for students, it no longer does so.

I think a mix of the massive shifts required by the pandemic and the social justice issues becoming more prominent show that not everything can be controlled top-down. Everyone is much more humble and receptive to feedback on how to improve the experience.

Prediction 4: Partially False

I believe this regressed in the last five years, but perhaps for good reason.

HBS used to have a class called FIELD, and FIELD 3 was all about having a startup. If you were a startup person, you didn't really have enough time to do it right. If you weren't, you were forced to play startup. I'm not sure I'd mourn that loss.

That said there are now specific "FIELD" prefix courses, where an expert teaches a specific skill. I think this is likely a better option than my original prediction.

Prediction 5: False

I was way off on this. I still think it'd be a great idea (and I loved having my HBS experience split apart across five years). There is a new degree program that is a joint MBA/MS, which appeals to some of the same people who might want a one year experience. Anyway you slice it though, I was definitely wrong.