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Problem Solving Book

Problem Solving: Harvard Business School Alumni Making a Difference in the World

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The book reveals every walk of life of HBS’s alumni is to create real value for society

What could be better than meeting with college friends after years and sharing the impact they have made in their life? To build and strengthen lasting connections may sound familiar to most alumni but what if it’s more than that. Many successful friend circles or college clubs manage to keep a track record of their contribution to society. Harvard Business School (HBS)’s alumni are among them. They are thriving, leading, and maintaining the ever-growing HBS community.

Known as a training ground for the world’s great business leaders, a new book is describing the positive role Harvard Business School has been playing for more than 100 years. Book called ‘Problem Solving: HBS Alumni Making a Difference in the World,’ shares how HBS’s more than 86,000 alumni are using their leadership and problem-solving skills to tackle education, health, environment, poverty, inequality, and myriad other challenges.

The book shines a light on a facet of HBS

Authored by Russ BanhamShirley Spence, and Howard Stevenson, the book spells the many ways that alumni are taking action as corporate leaders, social entrepreneurs, impact investors, nonprofit professionals, public servants, generous philanthropists, and good citizens quietly contributing to their communities.

Problem Solving is the culmination of almost four years of research conducted by a small project team from 2015 through 2018 in collaboration with HBS alumni, students, faculty, and staff. The book reviews HBS’s commitment to social responsibility since its founding in 1908 and acknowledges the 2019 commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative. It describes how today’s MBA experience continues the tradition of tackling business and social problems, illustrates five problem-solving strategies observed across more than 1,100 stories of alumni social impact: finance for social purpose, capacity building, product and market innovations, social and political mobilization, and government policy and legislation.

Howard measures the alumni impact on society

As an alumnus of HBS’s MBA and DBA programs and faculty member for 40 years, the author Howard Stevenson observed this phenomenon first-hand. “As a student and faculty member, I knew that our deans were personally committed to tackling some of society’s most pressing problems. They were powerful role models. I also observed my former classmates applying their skills for social good and saw opportunities to personally contribute”. “When I became dean of external relations, traveling the globe and meeting with thousands of alumni, I was struck by how many were making important contributions to their communities and their chosen causes—in many different ways and often without fanfare.” Stevenson adds that Problem Solving is dedicated to all HBS graduates “living the mission” as they work to make their communities, their countries, and the world a better place by addressing urgent needs, tackling the root causes of problems, and effecting system-wide change.

How the book has been shaped?

Problem Solving’s broad and deep knowledge base is based on a survey of 13 MBA classes spanning from 1955 to 2015, more than 200 interviews, and extensive archival and secondary research. The final result, developed, designed, and produced in cooperation with Southwestern Publishing House, is a coffee table style book with 300 plus pages of text brought vividly to life with photographs and quotations. It covers more than 200 stories from around the world and provides a sampling of alumni impact in education and life-long learning, health and wellness, community and economic development, energy and the environment, and arts and culture. “These stories are just the tip of the iceberg,” Stevenson stressed.

Shirley Spence, the project director, and author explains that they had ambitious goals for this book from the outlet. They also wanted to recognize the individual and collective impact of today’s alumni in many different fields and to provide a conduit for alumni to learn from each other and to share their experiences with students. For a broader audience, she hopes that Problem Solving will help to promote a more positive view of business and capitalism at a time of growing public mistrust.

Russ Banham, author, and veteran financial journalist concluded, “It’s well documented that Harvard Business School has produced some of the world’s greatest business leaders. But it is remarkable to see how HBS alumni use their skills, experience, relationships, and other resources in many different ways to tackle social problems and advance the causes and organizations they care about. The breadth of the impact is extraordinary.

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